Scrimmage: “A practice match held for practice purposes.”

A definition that pretty much says it all. So, let’s be totally ridiculous and pick it apart, give it meaning that it doesn’t deserve, and get all worried about our fortunes for the upcoming season. After all, isn’t that what most of the VolNation do as a full-time hobby?

Can Nick Stephens (#17) gain the reigns of what would make his choice of coming to UT worthwhile? Photo from GoVolsXtra.com

Behind closed doors, Dooley’s boys entertained no one but themselves in the Spring’s First Scrimmage on April Fool’s Day (a nice touch of scheduling by Dooley just in case everything went horribly bad).

Apparently, the offense started poorly against a defense that has more experience playing with each other, but in the end, the offense perked up against the defense that reportedly got a bit too high on themselves.

Senior QB Nick Stephens was 3-for-9 passing for 6 yards. Junior college transfer Matt Simms was 6-of-20 for 83 yards and a TD, and freshman Tyler Bray was 8-of-13 for 69 yards and a score. WR Zach Rogers caught a 22-yard TD pass from Simms near the end of the scrimmage.

Stephens said, “I think I’m putting too much pressure on myself right now. I’m going to be the first person to say that, no matter what anybody else says. I just didn’t play loose today, like I did the first couple three practices. It’s something I correct, and I’ll get better.”

I’m not surprised that Nick The Gunslinger is feeling his self-imposed pressure. The pressure IS SQUARELY on Stephens – it’s his senior season, his final chance to become what he has aspired to – a starting QB for a major college. It’s now or never for the redhead from Flower Mound, Texas.

The big play of the scrimmage was tailback Tauren Poole‘s 60+ yard scamper for a touchdown. Poole had 94 yards on 9 carries. Dooley said, “(Poole’s) kind of been a real steady hand at the No. 1 spot. He’s got a lot of work to do as a runner, to be a good runner and a durable runner and an effective runner. But right now, he’s our most productive runner.”

Poole is a lot more than that for the fortunes of the 2010 Vols. He is the replacement for Montario Hardesty now that Bryce Brown, the heir-apparent to restoring Tennessee’s running game to being a dominating force in the SEC, has all but left town.

Backup RBs David Oku and Toney Williams had 23 yards on 14 carries and 12 yards on seven runs.

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On the defense, everyone’s pick to become the next quasi-Eric Berry had a Big Day on a Big Play. Free safety Janzen Jackson intercepted a Matt Simms pass that had Coach Dooley calling it “just a great, phenomenal play.”

New LB Austin Johnson (a former FB) intercepted a Tyler Bray pass. In addition to the INT, Johnson had eight tackles and a sack. DE Jacquez Smith had six tackles. Other defensive players recording tackles were starting LB Herman Lathers (seven tackles and a sack), reserve LB Shane Reveiz (6), reserve DE Willie Bohannon (6), DT Montori Hughes (5), and DE Chris Walker (4 with 2 sacks).

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All scrimmage stats can be found at UTSports.com.

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What does all this mean? Impossible to gauge, and probably nothing more than what it is – a first scrimmage where a new team under a new head coach and staff is trying to discover themselves.

One thing that is refreshing to hear is that Coach Dooley is putting emphasis on special teams’ play. Sounds like Derek is adopting the timeless traditions of Tennessee Football just in time.

Also, new Defensive Line Coach Chuck Smith isn’t knocking the importance of the pass rush and sacking the quarterback, but his emphasis was stated eloquently this past week: “If we don’t stop the fun, we can have no fun.”

Amen.

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Four more practices are scheduled for this coming week followed by three more practices the next week. Then it’s the Orange and White game on April 17.

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