Young Tennessee defense starting to make strides

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee’s inexperienced defense is starting to show signs of progress.

After getting beaten up front in a scrimmage a week earlier, Tennessee’s defense responded by outplaying the offense Saturday as the Volunteers prepared for the April 12 Orange & White Game that closes spring practice.

This is a particularly important spring for Tennessee’s defense because it lacks proven performers. Senior linebacker A.J. Johnson is the only returning starter from last year’s front seven.

“I liked their energy,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “I liked their effort. It was much better than previous weeks, but (there’s) still a long way to go.”

On offense, Justin Worley and Riley Ferguson appeared to get more work than Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman, though Jones didn’t indicate whether anyone had separated himself in the four-man quarterback competition. Jones did say that he saw “too many ups and downs” from his quarterbacks throughout the practice

The 10:45 a.m. practice took place in front of hundreds of students and faculty members. At the end of the practice, Jones had the students come onto the field and shout as music blared in an attempt to distract his kickers during field-goal attempts.

“It’s a great feeling, especially since it’s not 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock,” linebacker Curt Maggitt said. “A lot of students like to wake up a little later. They had to wake up early, and we still had a good crowd. And they stayed the whole time. That was important to us. We feel appreciated.”

After practice had ended, Jones spoke to the students and invited a few of them to introduce themselves and perform a dance. Jones later got his players to dance and even showed off a few moves of his own.

“I’ll give him a B-plus,” Ferguson said of his coach’s dance technique.

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