KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It’s only fair to grade Tennessee’s Orange and White Game on a curve considering the Vols have had to endure so many injury absences and didn’t want to reveal anything new to upcoming opponents. Still, there were some notions to glean from the culmination of Tennessee’s spring practice on Saturday.
The Vols are in as good of shape at quarterback as they’ve been in recent memory. Senior Josh Dobbs completed 5-of-9 passes for 116 yards with an interception. However, his pick should have been caught by tight end Jason Croom, as it hit him in the chest. Croom, however, showed promise as he reeled in a 20-yard completion later in the game.
Sophomore Quinten Dormady completed 10-of-15 passes for 95 yards, including a nice touchdown pass on a fade route to junior college transfer Jeff George and a 39-yard completion to rising sophomore Preston Williams. With a depleted receiver corps, George and Williams led the way. George caught four passes for 28 yards. Williams caught three passes for 77 yards. Rising junior Jalen Hurd looked fresh and quicker than ever on a 7-yard run that was also called dead early by the referees. He could be on the verge of a monster season.
Tennessee’s defense had five sacks, although the whistle was blown very early to prevent full contact. Safety Todd Kelly Jr.’s interception was typical. The rising junior just always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Rising sophomore defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie didn’t quite live up to the hype. However, redshirt freshman Darrell Taylor showed toughness and some flash. He left the field briefly with what looked like a left leg injury but returned in strong fashion. The defensive end returned to beat senior offensive tackle Dontavius Blair on a pass rush drill.
There’s nothing wrong with an average grade in coaching for a spring game that essentially means nothing. Tennessee’s coaches said they weren’t going to show anything new in the Orange and White Game and they didn’t. The only thing slightly innovative was a run-pass by junior running back Alvin Kamara, which went incomplete. Kamara will have an expanded role this season, but there’s no reason to show opponents any of that in April. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s new blitz packages also were kept under wraps.
The Vols got through the spring game with only one injury, a sprained ankle suffered by offensive lineman Brett Kendrick. They entertained the crowd and kept the sky-high anticipation churning. More importantly, Tennessee picked up three commitments. It wasn’t really a game, but it was a good day for the Vols.