Injuries will impact format of Tennessee's spring game
Apr. 24, 2015
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The injuries limiting Tennessee throughout spring practice will affect the format of Saturday's Orange & White Game.
Tennessee is short on players at certain positions, most notably running back and the defensive line. Because of the lack of depth, Volunteers coach Butch Jones has said Saturday's exhibition at Neyland Stadium will be more of a "spring event" than a spring game. The game pits the offense against the defense, with each side earning points for notable accomplishments.
Tennessee will work out in front of well over 100 former Vols, a group that is expected to include Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
The game is expected to include two 15-minute quarters and two 12-minute quarters with a running clock throughout all four periods. Although there will be some 11-on-11 scrimmaging, Jones is including other activities such as a quarterback challenge and one-on-one matchups between linemen or between receivers and defensive backs.
"We're still going to go out there and compete just like every other day," offensive tackle Kyler Kerbyson said. "It's going to be more like a practice than a scrimmage. We compete every day during that, too. The one-on-one drills, the situational stuff we're going to do is going to be very competitive."
Tennessee's been forced to get creative because of injured players.
Before spring practice began, Jones announced nine players would be sidelined and several others would have only limited contact work as they recover from injuries. Since the start of spring practice, injuries have knocked out defensive back Rashaan Gaulden, wide receiver Cody Blanc and defensive end Corey Vereen. Alvin Kamara is the only healthy scholarship running back, and even he missed a week with a thigh bruise.
"The guys who are limited, they're still out there coaching us younger guys and making sure we all understand what we're doing," linebacker Cortez McDowell said. "They're like extra coaches for us."
The early enrollments of freshman quarterbacks Quinten Dormady and Jauan Jennings have given them a head start in the competition to back up starter Joshua Dobbs. By trying out offensive linemen at multiple positions, the Vols have given themselves more options at that spot. They've gained depth at safety, where Evan Berry and Todd Kelly Jr. have made strides while backing up returning starters Brian Randolph and LaDarrell McNeil.
The Vols sense there's optimism surrounding the program and a belief that they can return to prominence after ending a string of four straight losing seasons last fall.
"It's definitely a different feeling," Kerbyson said. "We're not feeling like nobody's watching us. We're feeling like everybody's on us. We've got a target on our backs now."