KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It has been a while since Mike DeBord had reason to show up for a press conference smiling, but Tennessee’s feel-good team spirit has rubbed off on the Vols’ veteran offensive coordinator.
DeBord’s quarterback completed his first 11 passes in the 55-0 win over Tennessee Tech, and plays were executed just as they had been drawn up against the FCS Eagles.
“I thought we ran good stuff, and our guys did a great job executing,” said DeBord, who last season directed the Vols’ most prolific run game since 1989. “It was great to see, because we had wanted to get off to a good start.”
DeBord had plenty of observations heading toward Saturday’s noon SEC East Division showdown against Kentucky.
Here are five of them:
Dormady saw his first extended action as a back-up quarterback, entering the game at the midway point of the second quarter and completing 9-of-13 passes for 109 yards.
“I thought he did a really nice job, handled some protection issues we had versus certain blitzes they were giving us, changed the protection and did a nice job when he threw the ball to Tyler Byrd,” DeBord said. “They were in Cover 2 and he had to throw to the inside guy there, so I thought he did a really nice job of managing the game and throwing the football.”
Offensive Line improvement
For the first time this season, Tennessee did not allow a sack.
“We moved Coleman Thomas to center and Dylan Wiesman to guard, but others were the same as the week before and continuity up front is something we hadn’t had,” DeBord said. “To have more of that is important to our play.”
DeBord said he was impressed with how Jack Jones — a guard by trait — performed when he was given reps at center last Saturday.
“One of the first things he said he was he was 100 percent with snap location,” DeBord said, “because in practice he hadn’t been. Obviously that’s big for our offense.”
The John Kelly difference
Kelly has sparked the team like no other player this season, with his inspiring style of running.
“His style of play was good, getting down the field to get blocks when he didn’t have the ball,” DeBord noted. “What’s interesting on that TD run he had, go back and look at the other 10 guys, look at the excitement they had for him when they ran down the field to celebrate with him.
“Coach (Robert) Gillespie has done a great job bringing John along. John understands the entire offense, protection-wise. We talked about him in training camp and how much better he had gotten. I think his teammates rallied around him … when you play with emotion, that excites guys.”
The value of reserves playing
“There’s nothing like game experience,” DeBord said. “You can practice all you want, and practices are very important, and the way we practice is very important with the tempo and all that, but when you get out there in that game, it’s totally different.”
Freshman receiver Brandon Johnson, who tied for the team lead with five catches, was one of the primary benefactors.
“I think all of our young guys that were getting reps, they learned a lot through that process,” DeBord said. “So it was good to see them get the ball in their hands. They learned some style of play type of things they can improve upon.”
Asked if he would consider running the I-Formation with John Kelly, the normally stoic veteran coordinator raised an eyebrow and allowed himself half of a smile.
“I’m glad somebody has a sense of humor around here,” he replied.