KNOXVILLE (MCT) – More than 68,000 fans clad in orange, packed the lower bowl and the shaded parts of Neyland Stadium on Saturday for the annual Tennessee Orange and White Game to see what Volunteers have for the 2014 season.
One thing is certain, with his first year under his belt, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones will have some offensive weapons entering his second season with the Big Orange.
The headliner of this spring game was freshman wide receiver Josh Malone from Gallatin, Tenn. who had 181 receiving yards and three touchdowns on just six catches.
With 5:29 left in the first quarter, quarterback Josh Dobbs connected with Malone for a 49-yard touchdown strike that showed some quarterback to receiver chemistry.
So in the third quarter when Dobbs found the freshman again for a 79-yard touchdown it was apparent this Malone kid could go get it.
"(Malone) has pretty much been doing that all spring," Butch Jones said. "He has kind of went through the maturation process of a wide receiver the last three or four practices with the sore legs and sore hamstrings and I think the grind academically but Josh is a competitive young man and very very talented."
Dobbs had impressive stats passing the ball, thanks partly to Malone, going 6 for 9 with three touchdowns but his ability running the football was what stood out more individually.
With 2:46 remaining in the first quarter, Dobbs broke loose for a 59-yard scamper that showcased his speed and elusiveness.
"I thought he managed the offense and made some plays with his legs and even the quarterback challenge," Jones said. "I thought he took some steps forward and that was good to see today."
On the ground for the Vols, one running back who impressed was the freshman from Hendersonville’s Beech High, Jalen Hurd, who rushed for 66 yards on 11 carries while scoring a first quarter touchdown.
But with all this success on offense in a spring game, the defense was exposed as largely ineffective.
"Unacceptable defensively," Jones said. "We are very thin there but we will welcome 18 new additions in June."
When Dobbs was using his legs to make plays the Vol defense was showing Jones what they needed to work on.
"The biggest thing that I was disappointed with that we need to take big strides is our tackling and we have spent an inordinate amount of time this spring in terms of tackling," Jones said.
Some positives defensively for Tennessee was the play by Riyahd Jones with eight solo tackles and sophomore defensive back Davaun Swafford who had a sack fumble on quarterback Riley Ferguson for a loss of six yards.
Another defensive highlight in this predominantly offense happy day was an interception by Malik Foreman on Ferguson in the fourth quarter.
The Orange and White game was a chance for the Tennessee coaching staff to see what their players could do with a big audience but also to show where work is needed.
"Overall a very, very productive spring. A very challenging spring," Jones said.