Freshman WR Malone Steals The Show In Vols' Spring Game

Snags Six Catches For 181 Yards And Three Touchdowns

Saturday, April 12, 2014 - by Larry Fleming
Tennessee wide receiver Josh Malone goes after a pass during the Vols' Orange and White spring football game Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee wide receiver Josh Malone goes after a pass during the Vols' Orange and White spring football game Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
- photo by Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On a crystal clear day for Tennessee’s Orange and White spring football game at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, the score(s) were a bit blurry, but had the same result.

A point system used to reward offensive defensive plays – big and bigger – came into play and the White finished with a 129-100 advantage.

With old-fashioned math applied, the White put up 66 points before an announced crowd of 65,548, second-largest turnout in the 54-year history of the game. The 1986 game drew 73,801 and folks close to the program had hoped for about 80,000 for this one.

The 66-0 score is misleading. The Orange played strictly defense. The White only played offense.

Regardless, it was a good day.

“Thank you Vol nation,” coach Butch Jones said. “Great environment and a great illustration to our players of what they represent on a daily basis.”

While fans wanted to see how the Vols looked in general, many of the 137,096 eyes in the stadium were trained on sun-splashed Shields-Watkins Field with hopes of seeing players that hopefully can help take the Vols’ football fortunes on a dramatic upward trajectory.

There were several standouts that caught the fans’ collective eye, none more so than freshman wide receiver Josh Malone, who was simply sensational.

Malone, a 6-foot-3-inch, 202-pounder from Gallatin, grabbed six passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns covering 49, 6 and 79 yards. He averaged 30.2 yards per catch.

“(Malone) adds a whole other dynamic to our offense,” Jones said. “He can be as good as he wants to be. I said in the offseason, we have to throw a 5-yard pass and turn it into a 20-yard gain. That was missing from our offense last year.”

The 49- and 79-yard scoring strikes to Malone were thrown by quarterback Josh Dobbs, who had a good day in a four-player battle for the starting job – Dobbs also hit Justus Pickett, a running back transfer from Maryland, on a 16-yard scoring play.

Nathan Peterman threw the 6-yard scoring toss to Malone.

Malone’s play caught the attention of defensive back Justin Coleman.

“I kind of seen it in Malone, but I didn’t really expect him to do that well,” Coleman said. “He did his thing out there and made a couple of plays.”

Sophomore receiver Marquez North is out to prove that his freshman season was no fluke.

North, a 6-4, 221-pounder from Charlotte, N.C., who made a significant impact on the Vols’ offense in his freshman season, caught five passes for 106 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown reception from Justin Worley to close the first-half scoring.

Malone and North were key figures in the Vols’ offense showing vastly improved explosiveness in the passing game, something the unit didn’t have on a consistent basis in 2013.

“I am confident in all of them (receivers),” North said. “They are freaky talented and I’m just excited to see where it goes.”

And what was North’s impression of Malone in a game-type situation?

“He is a humble guy and has a good work ethic,” he said. “But he is going to take off.”

Dobbs looked like he was in mid-season form. With a tough and challenging freshman campaign behind him, Dobbs appeared confident under center and displayed a strong, accurate arm and shiftiness when forced to run.

The 6-3, 203-pound sophomore from Alpharetta, Ga., completed 6 of 9 passes for 199 yards. He rushed twice for 59 yards, all of them coming on a touchdown run where he bobbled a low snap, picked up the football and picked his way through the defense for the score.

“It was a good performance,” Dobbs said. “I felt like I did a good job executing the plays, and I have to make sure I continue to do that. (Throwing three TD passes) was good. I take pride in myself. This was a good day of taking steps forward and it was another great step forward for us as a unit.”

Said Jones, “Josh has had a productive spring, but I thought he really stepped it up today.”

And then there was Jalen Hurd, a highly touted freshman running back from Hendersonville. He looks like the real deal.

The 6-3, 221-pound Hurd ran like a veteran and led the White in rushing with 66 yards on 11 carries, with a long-gainer of 15 yards. He scored on a 4-yard burst in a 24-point first quarter.

“I thought he had some hard-earned yards,” Jones said of Hurd, who, like Malone, as a freshman is not made available to the media. “Jalen continues to progress, but I thought there were a couple of times he didn’t pick his heals up and went down on a shoestring tackle. In this league you can’t have that. Jalen is going to be a special player for us.”

Hurd had a 27-yard pass reception, giving him 93 all-purpose yards in the game.

All four quarterbacks – Dobbs, Justin Worley, Riley Ferguson and Peterman – got plenty of snaps throughout the game that dropped the curtain on spring practice.

The four combined to complete 32 of 45 for 514 yards and six touchdowns. The Vols averaged 16 yards per completion.

Worley went 11-of-13 for 151 yards, including the TD strike to North in the first half.

Ferguson was 7-of-12 for 83 yards and he connected with Cody Blanc for a 19-yard touchdown in the third quarter to cap an 88-yard, seven-play drive, third-longest on the day.

Ferguson was sacked three times.

The Worley-to-North score ended a 93-yard, nine-play drive that took 6 minutes and 7 seconds off the clock. Dobbs’ 59-yard touchdown run quickly ended a five-play, 89-yard march in the first quarter.

Peterman completed eight of 11 passes for 81 yards and the touchdown to Malone.

“Speaking for all four of us,” Worley said, “we’re just trying to take ownership of the offense.”

When asked for the umpteenth time about the quarterback competition, Jones said, “Ongoing. No timetable. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen, but we still have a long way to go.”

Consistency in the passing game was the primary reason the Vols’ offense amassed 762 yards of total offense.

Giddy fans watching have to be reminded this was a spring game. There are stern regular-season challenges ahead, starting with Utah State on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. in the season opener.

Defensively, defensive back Riyahd Jones led the unit with eight tackles, all solo hits, and also broke up a pass. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin finished with seven and linebacker Kenny Bynum and freshman walk-on Colton Jumper of Chattanooga’s Baylor School, each had six.

Spring Game Notes

A moment of silence was held for legendary PA announcer Bobby Denton, who died earlier in the week at the age of 73 after a short battle with cancer. A the end, the crowd rose in unison and honored Denton with a standing ovation.

The White team, by winning, earned a steak dinner. The Orange settled for hotdogs and beans.

The White took a 26-25 lead in the Orange and White series. There have been three ties.

Fourteen receivers caught at least one pass and eight had multiple catches.

An estimated 25,000 fans came to the stadium early and took part in Fan Day activities.

Ex-Vol quarterback Sterling Henton kept the stadium hopping with his first-class DJ performance. The most surprising thing about Henton is that he was still screaming into the microphone and dancing on the stage as the game wound down.

Spring practice awards were handed out:

Al Wilson Leadership Award: Curt Maggitt.

Harvey Robinson Offensive Player Award: Kyler Kerbyson.

Andy Spiva Defensive Player Award: Corey Vereen.

John Stucky Award (Skill):  Marquez North.

John Stucky Award (Power): Joe Stocstill.

Special Awards:

Gen. Robert Neyland Award: Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who twice served as the Vols’ offensive coordinator.

Lindsey Nelson Award: CBS broadcaster Tim Brando.

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)

 



Dade Middle School Girls Win NGAC Championship

The Dade Middle School Lady Wolverines beat Ringgold Middle School 37-34 last Saturday to earn the 2016 NGAC girls basketball championship.  Tori Williams led the team with 12 points and was named MVP.  Meghan Schauer had nine points and Jayda Woods had five.   The team is coached by Regina Logan.   (click for more)

Lee University Hosts Events During Thursday's Doubleheader

A couple of major events are scheduled for Walker Arena on Thursday evening when the Lee University basketball teams host the University of West Alabama in a Gulf South Conference doubleheader beginning at 6 p.m.   The world famous Gym Masters from Southern Adventist University will be making their annual appearance at halftime of the men’s game. It is a great time to see ... (click for more)

WWTA, Grimes, Clem Lambasted At Boyd Public Forum

Over 50 people turned out Tuesday night on a meeting called by County Commissioner Tim Boyd over issues with the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA), and many took turns lambasting the agency, director Cleveland Grimes and attorney Chris Clem. Commissioner Boyd said at the end of the hour and a half session at the East Ridge Community Center, "If less ... (click for more)

City Facing Millions In Catchup Costs For Fire And Police Pension Fund

City Council members were told Tuesday they are facing millions of dollars in catchup costs for the fire and police pension fund. Pension fund officials said the city will need to invest some $1.6 million per year more with the fund to keep up with the latest state requirement. Frank Hamilton said the fund has been at a level of about 60 percent of obligations, but that needs ... (click for more)

Rick Smith Should Not Be Paid To Leave

Taxpayers of Hamilton County should take note that a majority of the members of the school board are getting ready to give Rick Smith the buyout that he wants.  Do you agree that someone should be paid for taking the coward's way out?  Rick Smith should be fired for cause. Not paid to leave.   If you don't want the board members to pay him off, call or ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Grab The Reaching Hand

Three of Tennessee’s largest four cities are now searching for school superintendents. Jesse Register retired last June and, after botching the first attempt, Nashville city leaders are intensely helping the Board of Education in a search for the best candidate. In Knoxville and Chattanooga the superintendents have resigned, both under a cloud, and now the leaders of the ‘2.0’ initiative ... (click for more)