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Jones cites improvement in Tennessee's approach, quarterback play in closed scrimmage

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee is figuring out the proper way to respond to its coach's criticism.

Volunteers coach Butch Jones had said Monday that he didn't like his team's consistency, and he canceled that night's scheduled player interviews as a result. He also criticized the efficiency of his quarterbacks later in the week.

Jones saw plenty of improvement in both areas Saturday during the team's first scrimmage. The scrimmage was closed to the media, but Jones and selected players spoke to reporters afterward. Jones said he liked his team's approach and mindset.

"I thought we grew up a little bit," Jones said. "I thought we matured a little bit."

One sign of maturity was the improved performance from the quarterbacks, two days after Jones said the Vols weren't playing "winning football" at that position. Senior Justin Worley and sophomores Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman are competing for the right to start the Aug. 31 opener against Utah State after combining to throw 12 touchdown passes and have 16 passes intercepted last season.

"I think all of them are improving," Jones said. "I think Nate Peterman really took some very important steps moving forward today, and so did Justin Worley. Justin's starting to play with much more confidence, more command of the line of scrimmage. We still need more, but I see that overall development starting to happen."

Worley made seven starts last season before undergoing season-ending thumb surgery. Dobbs started four games and Peterman made one start.

"We'd been missing some of the easy throw-and-catch, pitch-and-catch balls that are normally completed," Worley said. "I think it just required a little bit more focus, a little bit more time with the receivers. We've got it corrected. The coaches have faith in us, that we can make all the throws. We've just got to go out there and execute."

Jones noted that the Vols still had too many penalties and missed tackles. He added the Vols also must improve their conditioning, particularly along the defensive line.

Players earning praise from Jones after the scrimmage included defensive lineman Derek Barnett, running back Jalen Hurd, linebacker Dillon Bates and safeties Brian Randolph and Devaun Swafford.

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