Tough day for the Vols' quarterbacks

Tennessee’s quarterbacks suffered through a rough day Thursday in the Vols’ first scrimmage of the spring.

Neither one of the top two combatants competing for the job completed 50 percent of his passes, and the veteran of the group, senior Nick Stephens, was just 3-of-9 for 6 yards. Junior college newcomer Matt Simms was 6-of-20 for 80 yards. True freshman Tyler Bray finished 8-of-13 for 69 yards.

Simms and Bray both threw interceptions, but they also tossed touchdown passes.

Throwing the ball on time, something that’s plagued Stephens in the past, has hampered him this spring.

And to be fair, the Vols have taken their lumps in the offensive line this spring. They’re going with five first-time starters and have struggled mightily in pass protection. True freshman Ja'Wuan James at tackle and redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield at guard are starting.

“You always hope they will play better than they do,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said of his quarterbacks. “Some of them have a little more anxiety because it’s the first scrimmage, and they want to do well. It’s important to learn to just relax, play and let the game come to you.”

The offensive highlight of the scrimmage was running back Tauren Poole ripping off a 67-yard touchdown run. Simms threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Zach Rogers on the next drive.

The defense had a big day rushing the passer, but giving up the big play has been a concern this spring.

“I think what is evident out there is we have a lot of new faces,” Dooley said. “Developing that chemistry with both units is going to take a lot of time. We saw a little bit more (chemistry) on the defensive side because there are more familiar faces. They’ve been out there together and encouraged each other.

“On offense … a lot of new faces. That’s going to be a work in progress.”