Whitehurst: Tennessee Another Big Test

"We're excited. It's been a while, it seems like a new season already to be honest. It's good for us to get the jitters out and get things going again. We look at this as the start of the 2004 season to be honest," said Charlie Whitehurst about the Tigers' return to practice this week.


What are some of your initial thoughts on Tennessee?
Whitehurst: Well, they're always a powerhouse. They are big time SEC school and we are excited about playing them. This is an exciting time for us right now. From reputation, I know they are right up there with LSU and Georgia, and we'll have to be our game to beat them. We are playing a great team in a great stadium, so it should be a lot of fun.

You guys are going to have a month off in between games. How do you maintain that edge after not having played in so long and how do you combat the same thing from happening last year in the blow out against Texas Tech?
Whitehurst: I think we've learned our lesson. If we haven't then something is definitely wrong here. This is a new team and even though we have a lot of the same players, I don't really think you can compare us to last year. We'll be ready to play.

You're returning home to play in your home state, your home city. What's it like for you to be able to get back there and play in front of your family?
Whitehurst: I'm excited about that. There will be a lot of people coming to see me, a lot of family members. So it will be great to be able to play in front of them. It would be even better to win in front of them.

How exciting has it been for you guys to get back to practice this week after a mini-layoff?
Whitehurst: Yeah, we're excited. It's been a while, it seems like a new season already to be honest. It's good for us to get the jitters out and get things going again. We look at this as the start of the 2004 season to be honest.

Coach Fulmer told me last week that they wanted you as a quarterback at Tennessee, but that they couldn't get to first base with you recruiting wise. Any thoughts about that?
Whitehurst: (laughing) I think they were waiting around to tell you the truth. They were trying to see if they could get the guys they really wanted. I didn't hear from them until late in the process. I took a couple of unofficial visits up there, but never an official one. They just got involved way too late.

What would a victory over Tennessee mean for this team heading into next year?
Whitehurst: It would be big. It would be a big momentum boost for this team and the program. It would be another stepping stone for us, especially with the way we beat both FSU and South Carolina. A win over Tennessee would just get us one step closer to where we want to be next year.

You are kind of removed from the regular season at this point, have you had the chance to look back and realize the level on which you played and how good your numbers actually were?
Whitehurst: Yeah, but I'm trying to let the season be over with before I start doing that. I think the yardage was there, but the touchdowns to interceptions ratio wasn't quite what I would have liked it to be this season. I could have done a lot better in that area. Our redzone offense wasn't that great, so that's one area we need to improve on.

How much of that redzone inefficiency to you attribute to the running game? You mentioned several times during the regular season that the threat of a big time running game would be instrumental in this team's ability to put the ball in the endzone.
Whitehurst: That's true. It was great in the South Carolina game and we saw what happened there. That definitely has a little bit of an effect, but I still forced balls that I shouldn't have regardless of a good running attack. If I can correct that, then I'll be alright.

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