Practice has started and the Vols are already in full pads. With football season approaching, I thought you may like to read these comments from Chris Low of ESPN:
What’s new: What isn’t new? Derek Dooley is the Vols’ third head coach in as many seasons. He brought in Justin Wilcox from Boise State to run the defense, meaning Wilcox will be the Vols’ third different defensive coordinator in as many years. Jim Chaney was retained from Lane Kiffin’s staff and will coordinate the offense. The difference is that Chaney will call the plays this season, whereas Kiffin was the play-caller a year ago. This will be the fourth straight year that a different coach has called Tennessee’s offensive plays. David Cutcliffe had those duties in 2007, Dave Clawson in 2008, Kiffin in 2009 and now Chaney.
Sidelined: Four signees are still waiting to be cleared academically — defensive tackle John Brown, linebacker Martaze Jackson and defensive backs Eddrick Loften and Marcques Dixon. Redshirt freshman defensive back Naz Oliver is out while rehabilitating an ACL tear. Senior defensive end Ben Martin had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will be limited.
Key battle: Junior Cody Pope will start out No. 1 at center, but junior college newcomer Darin Gooch and senior Victor Thomas, who moved over from defensive tackle, will also take their shots this preseason.
New on the scene: Get ready to see a ton of new faces in orange this fall. True freshman Ja’Wuan James is the starting right tackle, and redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield is the starting left guard. The Vols are eager to see what true freshman Jacques Smith can do at defensive end. True freshman receivers Da’Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter look like they have what it takes to be big-play threats, and pair of true freshmen may wind up handling the kicking chores — Michael Palardy as the place-kicker and Matt Darr as the punter.
Breaking out: Junior tailback Tauren Poole never got a chance last season. He wasted away on the bench while Bryce Brown got all the second-team snaps behind Montario Hardesty. Hardesty’s in the NFL now, and Brown’s back in Kansas. Poole has endured and is hungry to make up for lost time. Several of his teammates felt like he should have been playing ahead of Brown last season.
Don’t forget about: Senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz has feverishly worked his way back from a knee injury that ended his season a year ago in the fourth week. From a leadership, knowledge and production standpoint, Reveiz is one of those guys who’s extremely difficult to replace.
All eyes on: Junior quarterback Matt Simms. He’s the starter going into preseason camp, and Dooley has made that clear. Simms, who started his career at Louisville before stopping over at El Camino (Calif.) Community College, has gone out of his way this offseason to be a leader. Now, he’s got to prove it on the field and fend off a challenge from true freshman Tyler Bray, who went through spring practice. Bray has a nice upside, but still has some maturing to do before he’s ready to lead a team.
Quoting: “I think people on our team feel good about our program, and that’s important. If the team doesn’t feel good about where you are and the plan to get where you want to be, then you’ve got real problems. But I feel like our team does feel that way.” — Tennessee coach Derek Dooley