For the third time this spring, the Tennessee Volunteers took to Neyland Stadium for their Saturday practice. It was the twelfth of 15 spring practices for the Vols and was the last practice in Neyland before the Orange and White game on April 20.
"The spring game is going to be critical when we actually get bodies in the stands and see how they perform," Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said. "I really liked the way our players approached today. I could feel the energy.
"I could feel the intensity right from the get-go in our meetings, to warm-ups and that's a step in the right direction. We're going to be a football team that our fan base is going to be proud of the way we play, the way we represent this institution and this state."
The Tennessee offense struggled with turnovers early on during the practice, which featured many different situational scrimmage scenarios, but was able to find a consistent rhythm in the last half of practice against the defense, tallying multiple touchdowns on a variety of plays.
"We had a couple too many turnovers in the red zone," junior quarterback Justin Worley said. "I thought after those drives we responded well, and we came out and executed different situations. Basically just came out and responded to adverse situations, and I think all the offensive coaches were happy to see that."
A standout performer from Saturday's scrimmage was redshirt freshman running back Alden Hill. Hill found his way into the endzone via powerful runs and catching the ball out of the backfield. His development through these spring practices is a good sign for the Vols' rushing attack that does not have a go-to running back yet.
"Without a doubt, Alden Hill has showed up huge this spring," Vols redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Peterman said. "I was on scout team with him last year and to see his improvement from last year to this year is unreal, and I think it really comes down to his work ethic in the weight room. He's there every night doing extra steps.
"I'm really proud of Alden and really happy for him."
Hill feels that his biggest improvements this spring have come with his work on the "little things."
"I'm playing smart, physical," Hill said. "I've always worked on little things, being physical, but I think just coming out here and being a little more comfortable. I have the talent, but I know last year I was a little nervous on the scheme of things, but I've been repping a lot, getting practice and working on the little things.
"Guys will tell you I've been working since I was on scout team. I'm hungry for the position whether it's five guys in front of me or one."
At the very least, the Vols will need Hill for depth behind senior Rajion Neal, who is coming off a 2012 campaign in which he ran for 708 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Marlin Lane had been splitting reps with Neal with the first-team offense, but Lane has not been with the team since Tuesday's practice.
"Marlin continues to be out for disciplinary reasons," Jones said. "We hold our players to a very high standard of accountability here at Tennessee no matter what it is — the way we play, the way we win off the field, the way we go to class, it's just a high level of accountability in all aspects."