JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley lamented the administrative mistakes the Volunteers made in Saturday's first training-camp scrimmage.
For a defense that's switching schemes, that's forgivable less than two weeks in preseason practice.
For an offense returning nearly all of its personnel from last season, though, it's disconcerting, but the Vols believe that experience is an asset in responding to those simple mishaps.
"Since we are more mature now, we can put it right behind us and get right to the next play," receiver Da'Rick Rogers said after Saturday's scrimmage at Science Hill High School. "That's what we did today. I feel like it helped us."
Rogers cited some false starts and illegal shifts after the scrimmage, and Dooley added "knick-knack" penalties and "substitution issues" to the administrative mistakes. Those types of smaller issues have been unfamiliar territory for the offense this month after the unit returned everyone but tailback Tauren Poole. Even with a handful of new faces, practices have been more about fine-tuning techniques and installing familiar items from the playbook than introducing new plays and learning them on the fly.
Receivers know where to line up, the offensive line knows its assignments and quarterback Tyler Bray is more engaged in his role in all of it. It's helped to cut down on some of the little issues and allowed the offense to hit the ground running in its preseason preparations. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has another idea on the reason for it.
"I find the advancement of our offense is coming more from understanding one another's personalities," he said last week. "I think we know these kids better. They know us. They know it's not personal when we're getting in their hiney, and I think when you're a young player and a new coach is yelling at you, you've got to understand it's not personal.
"I think our team, in their maturity, understands it's not that way, and they're accepting coaching pretty good right now."
Chaney said the Vols will practice about another week before honing in on which players will fill what roles and creating an offensive identity. The former Purdue coordinator noted his team's "intriguing" physicality running the ball and his unit's vertical speed. The pieces at his disposal are familiar, and he might have more now than he's had at Tennessee.
"It goes without saying if you doing something more and more and more, you'll get better at it," he said. "We are advanced that way. We understand the concepts a little better, but I think we know one another better, which is what I like the best.
"It's easier to coach guys you know."
And it's easier for players to perform when they know what to do.
"We were clicking today," Bray said Saturday. "Receivers were where they needed to be, the line blocking and picking up blitzes, the running backs were running the ball and I was just trying to get it to them."
More familiar options might not mean more offensive complexity, though, Chaney said.
"I think their brains are better and they understand better, so with that there's more [of the] playbook and there's more schemes that are available to you," he said. "I think you've got to be real careful of that. The aptitude of teams will dictate the depth of how deep you go in the playbook.
"Everybody thinks because they're experienced they can grasp more. I think they do things better because they're more experienced. I don't necessarily know that guarantees the aptitude raises."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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