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Young Vols defense starting to make strides

April 5th, 2014 3:07 pm by STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer

Young Vols defense starting to make strides

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee's inexperienced defense is starting to show signs of progress during spring football practice.

After getting beaten up front in a scrimmage a week earlier, the defense responded by outplaying the offense Saturday.

This is a particularly important spring for UT's defense because it lacks proven performers. Senior linebacker A.J. Johnson is the only returning starter from last year's front seven.

"I liked their energy," coach Butch Jones said. "I liked their effort. It was much better than previous weeks, but (there's) still a long way to go."

On offense, Justin Worley and Riley Ferguson appeared to get more work than Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman, though Jones didn't indicate whether any of them had separated himself in the four-man quarterback competition. Jones did say that he saw "too many ups and downs" from his quarterbacks throughout the practice

The 10:45 a.m. practice took place in front of hundreds of students and faculty members. At the end of the practice, Jones had the students come onto the field and shout as music blared in an attempt to distract his kickers during field goal attempts.

"It's a great feeling, especially since it's not 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock," linebacker Curt Maggitt said. "A lot of students like to wake up a little later. They had to wake up early, and we still had a good crowd. And they stayed the whole time. That was important to us. We feel appreciated."

After practice had ended, Jones spoke to the students and invited a few of them to introduce themselves and perform a dance. Jones later got his players to dance and even showed off a few moves of his own.

"I'll give him a B-plus," Ferguson said of his coach's dance technique.

The Volunteers conclude spring practice with the Orange and White game on April 12. 

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