By Frank Gale
The 2013 Orange/White Game is in the books and for now, the immediate hopes and dreams of Team 117 could rest on an improved defense. It is also going to depend on offensive players that either missed the game with injuries or are not yet on campus.
Normally, I would be ready now for the real season to start and hating the wait for the season to get underway. Not this year. With a new coaching staff needing as many practices as possible to prepare for the upcoming campaign and players still on the mend, I am thankful that there is still time.
Coach Butch Jones said after the scrimmage that the success for the upcoming season will be directly related to the work the players put in this summer. Certainly, neither Justin Worley nor Nathan Peterman was able to separate and become the odds on favorite to lead the Vols. That certainly could open the door for incoming freshmen Joshua Dobbs or Riley Ferguson to find their way onto the field this fall.
Last Saturday was a fun-filled day for those that attended the early festivities and then the game.
There were celebrities like a cast member from Duck Dynasty, plenty of former Vols and even upbeat music with former Vol Arian Foster doing the honors as a D.J.
The actual Orange/White Game left the announced 61,000 in attendance with more questions than answers. Because of a lack of depth, a different scoring method was employed as the offense went against the defense.
The kicking game featured kickers with no defense, even on the field. I guess we will just have to wait until fall to evaluate the special teams that, in recent years, have been less than special.
Perhaps when freshman report in June and the injured heal, things might be better. I know that Coach Jones has employed the slogan “Rise to the Top." After Saturday’s scrimmage, that “rise” might be a bit painful, at least in the near future.
To be fair, the offense had a few positive moments during the day. Alden Hill rushed for more than 100 yards, while Cody Blanc turned a short swing pass into a 58-yard touchdown. There were a few other pass plays, but for the most part, the offense struggled against what appears to be an improved defense.
The front four could be one of the surprises this coming season.
Daniel McCullers’ weight loss certainly enhanced his mobility. He could have a very special senior season on Rocky Top. Pressure by the front four could make a suspect secondary be better than expected.
There have been so many positives surrounding the program since Butch Jones arrived at UT. He has welcomed back the former players and wants them to be around team 117. He has instilled enthusiasm into his current players and excited the fan base, which was evident by the second largest crowd for a spring game — ever. The attendance is even more amazing after the past two seasons.
The fans that attended the game last Saturday saw first hand just how steep the climb to the top is going to be. Hopefully, the Big Orange Nation will be patient and allow Coach Jones to rebuild the program the right way; built "Brick by Brick" to withstand the test of time.
So, continue to wear the orange with pride and enjoy the long ride to the top. It’s coming and it will be great when that final brick is finally in place. Go Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)