April 16, 2008

Like G.E., UT's G-E puts charge in offense

This smile was more than just appreciating the end of another grueling practice. Gerald Jones couldn't stop grinning -- think Jack Nicholson as the Joker -- Tuesday inside Tennessee's Neyland-Thompson Sports Center for a much different reason.

For the first time this spring, Tennessee's sublime wideout took snaps under center in the new system of coordinator Dave Clawson, who tailors his offense to maximize his top weapons.

Bigger still, Jones' close friend, All-America defensive back Eric Berry, ventured across the line of scrimmage to brush off his quarterback skills. Both Berry and Jones worked with UT's quarterbacks during their warm-up period and got some more work in full-scale drills.

"Oh man, that puts a big smile on my face to see him (Berry) get to come over to the offense and make big plays," said Jones, lauded as UT's top all-around playmaker on offense. "You know he can do it. We call him 'Superman' because he can do the unthinkable. It's exciting to see."

While Jones worked a handful of times in 2007 and repeatedly victimized LSU in the SEC Championship game with stints at quarterback, Berry was last a signal-caller in a playoff loss to Marist (Ga.) High School in 2006.

Initially, Berry, who ran two plays during practice, thought teammate and starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton was joking when he told him to prepare for his offensive unveiling.

"(Crompton) told me in the locker room (before practice), and I didn't believe him. I just laughed," said Berry, whose breakout debut campaign included 86 tackles and five interceptions. "But then Coach Clawson came up and told me."

The duo's potential prominence in the Vols' offense generated quite a stir on Tuesday. Think G.E. -- General Electric/Gerald and Eric -- for the current that charged optimism into a practice that head coach Phillip Fulmer decried as sub-par.

"Eric Berry, we got a few plays for him and got a few plays for Gerald Jones," Fulmer said of his burgeoning sophomore stars. "Same as we've done in the past, we're going to try to get the ball to good players and get the ball in their hands."

For his part, Jones wants the opportunity to get the ball in his hands and get rid of it -- he's anxious to show he can be an effective passer as well as runner.

"Hopefully (let me throw). We better. They'll let me throw a little hitch or something," Jones said, the grin seemingly permanently affixed across his face. "Right now we just put in plays with me and Eric back there. Hopefully we'll put some pass plays in there as we progress through the season. …

"Oh yeah, I told them to let me throw the pill. All I gotta do is warm this thing (arm) up."

Neither Berry nor Jones was sure if they might take snaps together in the offensive backfield, but both considered it a daunting proposition.

"I think that would be very difficult (to defend both him and Berry), especially with Eric back there because he's a big threat off the jump," said Jones, who caught 11 passes and rushed eight times in nine games last season. "And I can make some pretty good plays, too. Us back there together, it will be real nice."

Added Berry, "I think it would be pretty tough to defend. We go against each other every day in practice in one-on-ones, blocking drills and tackling drills. He always tells me to just make each other better. If we were on the same side together that would be pretty crazy I would think."

Berry, like Jones, couldn't stop smiling.

The Vols, like G.E., are showcasing their "imagination at work."

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