KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Orange and White Game might not feature much of an actual game, in the literal sense of the word.
There will be 2 units on the football field, wearing different-colored jerseys, and the scoreboard will reflect a winner and a loser.
But the real contest will come within the position groups, and Vols fans and media are sure to take note of those who impressed, and those who did not.
Tennessee has no less than 18 players “nicked up,” and coach Butch Jones isn’t likely to take any chances with them for the sake of an in-squad exhibition.
There will be plenty to keep an eye on, most notably the quarterback competition.
That’s a good place to start this list of 5 things to watch for in the Orange and White Game.
1. Quarterback competition
Junior Quinten Dormady led the spring drills, with redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano running a close second and redshirt sophomore Sheriron Jones and freshman Will McBride having their moments.
Scrimmage repetitions on Saturday will be limited, but Jones said he’s staging a quarterback competition that will feature “a twist,” and it will be worth watching.
The quarterbacks’ accuracy and athleticism should be evident, as will their ability to handle the pressure of a large crowd at Neyland Stadium.
2. Offensive line dimensions
It doesn’t sound too interesting, but seeing is believing. Tennessee’s offensive line really is in better shape, and Saturday’s eye test should prove that.
Rising senior Jashon Robertson, in particular, looks more the part of preseason All-SEC pick, having shed much of his gut in 3 months since the 2016 season ended.
Fans will also want to feast their eyes on the crown jewel of the 2017 signing class, freshman Trey Smith. Smith was the No. 1 overall recruit in his class as ranked by ESPN.com, and he is every bit the 6-foot-6 and 313 pounds listed.
3. Jauan Jennings’ effort
There might not be a more indispensable player on the team than Jennings, an explosive junior wide receiver from Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Jennings’ off-field issues are well-documented, but so have his on-field heroics. According to coaches he kept his focus through spring drills.
Jennings is sure to put on a show on Saturday, whether it’s making leaping catches or blowing up a defensive back with a ferocious lead block.
Tennessee fans can only hope Jennings stays between the lines in the offseason and remains in good standing heading into fall.
4. Butch Jones’ whereabouts
The head coach? Yep, he gets pretty animated and takes a hands-on approach to most everything.
Jones already has a sunburn, so if his face looks red don’t assume it’s because he’s angry.
It will be interesting to see where Jones spends his time at the game, and which players he singles out for praise/criticism/coaching. The bet here is that Jones stays on top of his young receiving corps.
5. Nigel Warrior’s improvement
The last time Warrior got this much exposure it was at South Carolina, when he bit on screen action and got beat deep for what proved to be the winning touchdown in a pivotal loss.
Warrior wasn’t ready when his number was unexpectedly called last season, but he has spent the offseason making sure that never happens again.
According to defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and Jones, Warrior had the best spring football session of any Volunteers player.
Warrior is fast and explosive, and the son of Tennessee legend and NFL All-Pro Dale Carter is turning out to be every bit as good as many expected.