Excitement is in the air in Knoxville Tennessee, as new head coach Lane Kiffin and the Tennessee Vols are on a crash course for football 2009. All SEC teams finished SEC Media Days last week, and that means that fall camp is not too far behind. Tennessee opens camp on Tuesday August 4th in Knoxville. The Vols will open camp without a few of the players that played well in spring practice. Freshman running back Toney Williams and Senior wide receiver Austin Rogers both suffered ACL injuries and will miss the entire 2009 season. Denarius Moore, Tennessee’s lone long ball threat at wide receiver last season could miss a few games with a foot injury and star wide receiver/G gun QB Gerald Jones is still healing from a post spring wrist surgery and will miss all of fall camp.
Those are the few negatives however for a program that needs more positives as the new coaching staff moves forward and cements themselves as the new guard. Of course the freshmen class will be added to the roster for fall, highlighted by number one prospect Bryce Brown who is already on campus and impressing his head coach both in workouts and in the classroom. Joining Brown and the other freshmen are a couple of quarterbacks. Mike Rozier, a former Boston Red Sox pitcher and son of a football coach from Texas joins the team to provide depth and work toward future starter status. Rozier is walking on to the football team and paying his own way through school. Also joining the quarterback ranks is junior college transfer Nick Lamaison. Lamaison will have four years to play three. The 6’1’’ 200 lb quarterback should benefit most from new strength and conditioning coach, “Stone Cold” Aaron Ausmus’ weight program as he works his way into the playing rotation. Speaking of adding weight, Junior QB Nick Stephens is back from a hand injury that kept him out of spring practice and he has added 15 lbs of muscle. Coach Kiffin has named both he and Senior Jonathon Crompton as number one quarterbacks going into fall camp.
The next two weeks the Blazer Chronicles will have some interesting information for you from directly inside the Tennessee program. Each year the University of Tennessee holds “Football School” which is called Big Orange Football Warm-up and More. The class is a two day, two hour per week class that gives fans inside information directly from those that are a part of the program on a daily basis. The classes are Tuesday August 4th and Tuesday August 11th from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Fans can contact the University to buy tickets, if they are not already sold out. This year some of the speakers that have been announced are Athletic Director Mike Hamilton, who will discuss the historic coaching change, Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney and DL coach and Recruiting Coordinator Ed Orgeron. Tennessee broadcast legend John Ward almost always makes an appearance as well.
Two last quick and interesting notes coming out of SEC Media Days:
The Tennessee Athletic Department has purchased billboard space that will go up the first week of August to promote the new era of Tennessee football. The billboards will feature new head coach Lane Kiffin and superstar junior defensive back and new Heisman trophy candidate, Eric Berry. (You can check him out at Berry4Heisman.com) The interesting aspect of these billboards is that they will go up not only in Knoxville, but in the Atlanta metro area and in south Florida.
For uniform enthusiasts the Tennessee Vols plan on wearing the orange pants that they wore for the UCLA game in 2008 at road games in 2009 and when the Vols travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide, the Vols will wear their Orange jersey tops. It is unknown to me at this time if that will be an “all orange” look or if the Vols will wear the traditional home white pants with two orange stripes when they take on Alabama.
We will end this week’s blog with a preview of the Vols first game against Western Kentucky.
The 2009 season begins on Saturday September 5th when the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers come into Neyland Stadium to take on the Tennessee Volunteers and new head coach Lane Kiffin. The Hilltoppers are from Bowling Green Kentucky and are new to the Sun Belt Conference. This season marks the first season that the Hilltoppers are eligible to win the Sun Belt Championship and eligible to play in a FBS Bowl Game. David Elson begins his 7th season at the helm of the Hilltoppers who had had 12 straight winning seasons heading into 2008 which saw a much tougher FBS schedule and led to a 2-10 season. The Hilltoppers have lost eight straight road openers and have lost all eleven games played against current SEC members by an average score of 37-5.
The Hilltoppers should start a redshirt freshman at quarterback in 6-3 190 lb Kawaun Jakes. If he does start, he will be helped up the middle by a senior center and senior running back in Lloyd Pressley and Tyrell Hayden. The offensive line was banged up in 2008 as no single player played all 12 games at one position. The receivers for the Hilltoppers are an athletic group led by senior Jake Gaebler who is only 25 catches away from being WKU’s all-time leader. The top five defensive linemen are gone and two deep has 4 redshirt freshmen. The line backing group is just the opposite, as four out of the top 5 tacklers return at the position. OLB Senior Blake Boyd has NFL quality. The defensive backfield returns 6 players that started games in 2008 and they add Tulsa transfer Dexter Taylor who flirted with the QB position last season.
The Blazer Chronicles feels safe predicting a win for the Volunteers in this match-up. Head Coach Lane Kiffin should have his Volunteers ready to make a statement. If the offense can move the ball on beat-up defensive line of the Hilltoppers, the Volunteers should control all aspects of this game. The double-breasted prediction: Tennessee Volunteers 42 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 3