Head coach Phillip Fulmer believes he saw plenty of progress on both ends of the equation.
“I think it went really well,” he says. “It’s been a process. It hasn’t happened overnight, and you wouldn’t expect it to.”
The fact Tennessee's offense turned in its best performance of the spring in its last performance of the spring – last Saturday's Orange & White Game – suggests considerable progress was made, and that is encouraging.
Fulmer notes that the spring game “was a good indication (of what happens) when you operate, protect and throw on time.”
If there was a disappointing aspect of the offensive performance in the O&W Game, it was that Tennessee didn't run the ball a little more often and a little more efficiently. Tailbacks Arian Foster (1 carry for 8 yards), Lennon Creer (10 for 59) and Tauren Poole (12 for 52) combined to rush for just 119 yards.
“I’d like to have run the football better,” Fulmer says. “If Arian had stayed in the game I think we probably would have seen some more big runs.”
On the other hand, Fulmer was quite pleased that the No. 1 offense, led by Jonathan Crompton, completed 13 of 20 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns. The head man would love to get that kind of production from the aerial attack in the fall.
“I’d like to see us run the football better,” he says, “and have the same efficiency in the passing game.”
Fulmer thought Tennessee's players would adapt quickly to new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, who joined the Vol staff in January after a highly successful stint as head man at Div. 1-AA Richmond. Fulmer also thought Clawson would make a quick adjustment to the players.
So far, so good.
“I think it went really well,” Fulmer says. “He’s a football junkie like I am. We had a scrimmage the other day and I had four pages of notes. There wasn’t one thing as we went through them that he took any exception to. I love that. We can sit there and discuss and argue; there are a lot of good things to come out of that as we go along and as we continue to put this together.”
Although Clawson covered 90 percent of his West Coast Offense during the spring, the Vols did not utilize all of the new material.
“We probably got 70 percent of it in,” Fulmer says. “There are a lot of things they have heard this spring that we really haven’t had a chance to work on.”
Given the challenge of getting new players comfortable with a new coordinator and a new scheme, Tennessee accomplished a lot during spring drills. Still, Fulmer is sad to see it end.
“I’d like to have about 30 more days of spring practice,” he says. “It’s the best time. Some of the guys are just now starting to understand how to play the game, and now it’s over.”
Fulmer and his staff will scarcely see the players between now and August, when the team re-assembles for preseason drills. That means the Vols must be responsible for staying in shape and out of trouble during the next three months.
“I just told the guys that now Phase 3 starts,” Fulmer notes. “Summer is so crucial for us. The leadership has got to grow.”