KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee coach Butch Jones still doesn’t know quite what to make of his team as it exits spring practice.
Cam Sutton scored on a 20-yard fumble return as the Orange team defeated the White 54-44 on Saturday in an Orange & White Game noteworthy for all the players missing due to injury.
Before spring practice Jones announced nine players would be sidelined entirely and several others would be limited as they recover from injuries. Four others got hurt as practice progressed.
“You try to have a great grasp of where your football team is after 15 practices, but it’s really hard because you take those 13 individuals off the field and we’re a different football team,” Jones said. “What we really had to concentrate on is really the individual improvement with everyone in our football program.”
The game pitted the offense against the defense, with the defense representing the Orange and the offense wearing White. The scoring system awarded each unit points for notable accomplishments.
Joshua Dobbs went 5 of 8 for 94 yards and a touchdown in front of an announced attendance of 63,016. Dobbs is Tennessee’s clear-cut starting quarterback, with freshmen Quinten Dormady and Jauan Jennings competing to back him up.
“Everyone’s playing with more confidence, which is great to see,” Dobbs said. “Guys are definitely excited heading into the summer and on to the season.”
Dormady was 5 of 11 for 96 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown to Josh Malone. Jennings was 1 of 5 for 5 yards, but he rushed for 58 yards including a 45-yard touchdown run. Freshman Sheriron Jones will join the competition for the second-team role when he arrives this summer.
The spring game also revealed depth concerns surrounding Tennessee’s receiving corps without Von Pearson, who was suspended indefinitely Friday after police named him as a suspect in an ongoing rape investigation in which no charges have been filed.
At one point Saturday, Tennessee took a break from 11-on-11 scrimmaging and instead showcased seven one-on-one matchups between wide receivers and defensive backs. None of those matchups resulted in a completion.
“We have to find some receivers who can catch the football and advance the football,” Jones said. “I was not particularly pleased with that area, but they’ll get it right.”
Here are some other notable events from Tennessee’s spring game.
DISCUSSING PEARSON: Jones made his first public comments on Pearson since the receiver’s suspension. Although police have named Pearson as a suspect, he hasn’t been arrested or charged. “There are consequences for choices and actions,” Jones said. “We constantly educate our players. It’s not an illustration of our football program. We have tremendous, tremendous kids in our football program. I’m disappointed, but we have to move forward.”
MEDLEY’S LEG: Although he missed a 33-yard field goal, Aaron Medley showed his leg strength by making a 55-yarder.
AWARD WINNERS: Dobbs won the inaugural Peyton Manning Award given for offensive leadership and Sutton won the Al Wilson Award for defensive leadership. Guard Jashon Robertson was named the most improved offensive player. Defensive back Rashaan Gaulden was named the most improved defensive player.
MANNING’S RETURN: The weekend featured the return of many notable former Tennessee athletes, including Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and retired Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. Manning and Helton also watched Tennessee associate athletic director and former Vols quarterback and shortstop Condredge Holloway get his No. 1 baseball jersey retired before the baseball team’s game with South Carolina. Manning announced Friday he and his wife are making a $3 million donation to Tennessee to benefit the Volunteers’ football program and his scholarship endowment.
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