The much-anticipated 2009 season began in earnest for the Tennesee Volunteers on Tuesday.
Practicing for the first time since April, the Vols received a taste of what life is going to be like under Lane Kiffin.
The Vols will not workout in full pads until Saturday, but considering the physicality of today's practice, the players probably should have worn pads.
Kiffin had the young Vols team practicing at full speed without pads. That's typically a no-contact situation, but not today. Kiffin is trying to instill a sense of toughness and physical play from day one. That didn't happen in the previous regime.
One thing that is certain going into Fall practice, the only guaranteed starter on this team is Eric Berry. According to Kiffin, the other 21 starting positions are wide open.
Of course, we can guess who will start at just about every position, but that task will be much lot harder than it has been in the past.
Before this season, talk of true freshmen like Bryce Brown, Nu'Keese Richardson, and Janzen Jackson would be limited at best. The previous regime was not big on playing true freshmen. However, this could be the best group of raw talent the Vols have had in quite some time.
Brown and Richardson had their bright moments today, but it was their first official practice playing at the next level. The bright moments will need to continue.
Two other true freshman, RB David Oku and WR Marsalis Teague, are expected to contribute as well. If these four can have a great spring, this might just be the talent the Vols need to get back into the national limelight.
Freshman WR James Green is still awaiting clearance from the NCAA to play, and once cleared, he could become another vital piece to the WR corps.
The offensive line seems to be fairly deep. But there is still a question mark at right tackle. Aaron Douglas, Jarrod Shaw, Cody Pope, and William Brenfield are currently vying for that slot.
With Brown, Oku, and Montario Hardesty at running back, there should be plenty of hardy competition going on in the Vols' backfield over the coming weeks.
Of course, the Vols' quarterback position has grabbed everyone's attention. I believe Jonathan Crompton has the inside track to win that job. I know that sounds ludicrous considering last season's disaster with him at the helm, but Nick Stephens is behind the eight-ball coming off of a broken wrist and surgery in the spring.
Sophomore transfer Nick Lamaison and incoming freshman Mike Rozier probably will not figure in the QB competition at all, but with Kiffin, you never know.
On the defensive side, Monte Kiffin is banking on a great secondary and a stellar defensive line to carry the Vols.
Rico McCoy anchors a young linebacker corps that is easily the weakest link on that side of the ball. Nick Reveiz, who is coming off a surprising 2008 campaign, could take one or the linebacking spots.
Wes Brown and Montori Hughes should be ready to go in the middle on the line.
In addition, Chris Walker and Ben Martin might have the inside track at defensive end.
Dennis Rogan played some at free safety today and could be a prime target for a position change from cornerback.
Freshmen trio Janine Jackson, Prentiss Waggner, and Art Evans could all logically compete for a wide-open cornerback slot. These are no ordinary freshmen, though. Jackson is a five-star DB, and the other two were ranked 33 and 46 respectively.
Overall, there are plenty of slots to be filled, and there are talent players waiting to fill them.
It may not be the official "football time in Tennessee," but it's close enough for me.
There is only 31 days until kickoff!