Name: Orange & White Game
Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network Alternate/SEC Network+
Location: Neyland Stadium

The final team in the SEC to stage its spring game, coach Butch Jones and Team 119 will take the field Saturday to provide fans with a first glimpse of what we’ll see this fall.

Will the Vols contend for an SEC East title? Is the team a year away? We won’t know until November, most likely. But there are a few initial lessons we’ll glean about the team’s trajectory Saturday.

Here are five things the team needs to accomplish during its spring game.


Tennessee’s outlook for 2015 depends largely on whether the Vols can remain healthy at several thin positions.

We’ve seen this spring just how much a few injuries at running back, offensive line and linebacker can affect the team, and should anything happen to quarterback Joshua Dobbs, it could be even worse.

Luckily, none of the injuries limiting a myriad of important Vols this spring should be an issue come fall practice. But the team can’t afford any major injuries Saturday, and above all else, if UT exits the game healthy, it’s a good day.


Darrin Kirkland Jr. Dillon Bates. Shy Tuttle. Evan Berry.

Those are just four of the young defensive players on which Tennessee will rely in 2015. There are others as well.

Injuries have affected practice time or scrimmage time for many of them, and there’s a chance that will continue to be the case Saturday. But that puts even more of an emphasis on those young defensive standouts who are able to take the field for the game.

The biggest questions on defense are up the middle — defensive tackle, middle linebacker, safety. And most of these young guns happen to play in those spots. Tennessee’s coaches know these guys well enough by now, and need to put them in position to grow in Saturday’s “game,” because pretty soon it counts for real.


Tennessee’s maligned offensive line allowed 43 sacks last year, 122nd of 128 FBS teams.

The Vols’ offensive line has been piecemeal this spring at best as the team contends with injuries and off-field trouble, which is not what you want when you’re trying to make such a big forward leap at the position.

One big positive: for as much as new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord gets criticized for being ill-suited to serve as a quarterback developer, he’s got a lengthy track record as an offensive line coach, a sneaky benefit to his hiring.

Despite the fact that we won’t see Tennessee’s true starting offensive line Saturday — or a few of its best pass-rushers, like Derek Barnett — the Vols need the offensive line to wall off a higher percentage of pass rushers working against what should be a very vanilla defensive “game plan.”

If UT can’t look better Saturday under those circumstances, it’s going to remain a vital issue into the fall.


As well as Dobbs played after replacing Justin Worley in ’14, his resume includes just nine college starts. That’s barely an SEC schedule, much less an entire season.

We all know Dobbs is brilliant, but I wonder if sometimes that influences the narrative surrounding his ’15 season in that we all just assume he’ll be able to read defenses before the snap and throw receivers open.

Dobbs’ best asset remains his athleticism, and he’s still a work in progress as a true passing quarterback. That’s no knock on the junior, but as smart as he is, he needs all the experience he can get simulating true game conditions. (Jones clearly recognizes this, recently proclaiming his team must improve its passing game “in a hurry.”)

We’ve seen Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott appear in total command of the Bulldogs’ offense in their entertaining spring game. We’ve seen Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson begin to flash his outsized potential at A-Day. We’ve seen LSU’s still-growing quarterback tandem shred a second-team defense with some huge plays.

What can Dobbs do Saturday? And more importantly, how will such a coachable, strong student use this sort of mid-term to get better for this fall?

Oh, and figuring out the backup — Quentin Dormady and Jauan Jennings are the current options — wouldn’t hurt.


A major tenant of the Jones/DeBord offense is, you guessed it, tempo.

The coaches have remarked this spring that a) the offense needs to speed up in ’15, and b) the team has practiced very, very fast.

I’d like to see some fruits of that labor in Saturday’s game in the form of Dobbs and company operating the offense with efficiency and getting to the line of scrimmage in timely fashion between snaps.