Our team is really excited about the game. It's on the national stage and playing a great opponent. We have our hands full, they have a very experienced football team, a well coached football team who probably feel like this it the best team they have had in a while. It's going to be a great challenge for our football team.
You have been great over the years at coming up with great catch phrases leading up to football games. What is this week's catch phrase?
I don't have nay catch phrase this week, I'm just really looking forward to seeing what our team looks like. If training camp and how they prepared this offseason is any indication, I think we'll be a team that's going to be fun to watch."
With the happenings of the last couple of weeks of fall camp, has it been a rallying cry for your team?
I think NC State probably feels the same way, at this point in camp everybody is ready to go out there and see what they look like, and we are too.
You talked about how NC State might feel like this is its best team in a while, how about you? You've had to rebuild the program, rebuild depth. How far away are you from having the depth that you want in your program and being able to compete in the SEC East?
Well, I think the answers to those questions are going to come over the next 12 weeks. We feel like we're a bigger, stronger, more talented team than we've been the last two years, but whether we're ready to beat a team like NC State and compete for the SEC East, only time will tell. We feel like we've made a lot of improvements on our roster and I hope that the experience these guys have gained over the last couple of years will pay dividends for us.
NC State has one of the best secondaries in the country with Amerson and Wolff. With Rogers being gone, are you concerned going into the game about your receivers against NC State's secondary?
I'm very concerned because we have very little experience and they have an incredible amount of it. What those guys do best is they make you pay for any mistakes, whether it's a poor route, an inaccurate football, whatever it is. There is nothing more important than turnovers in these types of games, so we have to be very careful with the ball and not get too ambitious pushing that ball down the field.
From a momentum standpoint, how much would winning Friday night set the tone for your team?
I've been in it long enough to say that one game never dictates the outcome of a season. We were saying the same things last year going into the Cincinnati game, who won 10 games. We stroked them, and then we went on and had a real disappointing end to our season. It's one game, it's an important game, it's a great opponent, but every team gets measured on their body of work over 12 weeks.
Tyler Bray is regarded as one of the best quarterback in the country from a talent standpoint. Do you believe all the hype going into the season? Does he deserve all that?
That's what Tyler's goal is, to go out there and prove it. He's certainly been blessed with some abilities, but there are a lot of guys that have been blessed with abilities that aren't able to turn it into production with consistency. He's gone out there in some games and flashed an incredible play, and then he's had some games that he's been disappointed with. His goal is to go out there and execute a level of consistency in his performance no matter who the opponent is.
How is Bray from a leadership standpoint?
He's been outstanding all camp. His maturity as it relates to football has been great. He's got better command of the offense and I think he has a lot of confidence effecting the other guys on the team in a positive way. I'm hoping that spills over into the game.
When you look at your depth chart, there are only a couple of freshman on there and they aren't starting. What does that say compared to the last two you've had?
It's very different, that's for sure. There is a lot more experience and lot more maturity, but there is still a level of inexperience as it relates to game in the defensive line, secondary and wide receivers.
What are your thoughts on both teams wearing home jerseys?
I don't really have any thoughts. It'll probably look good on television, but I don't think it has any impact on our perspective. I guess I'll answer that question after the game. If our guys think red looks like orange we'll be in trouble."
THE 2012 SCHEDULE
Eight of Tennessee's 2012 opponents earned a bid to play in a bowl game last season, including Alabama (BCS National Championship Game), Florida (Gator), Georgia (Outback), Mississippi State (Music City) Missouri (Independence), NC State (Belk), South Carolina (Capital One), and Mississippi State (Music City).
The Vols have three current top 10 teams on the schedule, including #2/2 Alabama, #6/6 Georgia, and #9/9 South Carolina. #23/25 Florida is also ranked in the top 25.
Tennessee's 2012 opponents have a combined 2011 record of 81-71, which is the exact same record the Vols' 2011 opponents compiled the season before, in 2010. Five of the 12 teams on the UT schedule in 2012 posted losing records a year ago: Akron (1-11), Georgia State (3-8), Troy (3-9), Vanderbilt (6-7), and Kentucky (5-7).
Tennessee received votes in both the preseason Associated Press (15 points) and USA Today Coaches' polls (3 points). There are six SEC schools currently ranked in the Top 25 in both polls, including five in the top 10: Alabama (2 AP/2 Coaches), LSU (3 AP/1 Coaches), Georgia (6 AP/6 Coaches), South Carolina (9 AP/9 Coaches), Arkansas (10 AP/10 Coaches), Florida (23 AP/25 Coaches). Auburn is also ranked 25th in the Coaches' poll. UT has not been ranked in the top 25 in either poll since a No. 18 ranking heading into week one of the 2008 season.
The Vols feature 18 returning starters, including nine on offense, seven on defense, placekicker, and punter. Among those, there are seven offensive players who remain listed as starters on the current UT depth chart, including TE Mychal Rivera, LG Dallas Thomas (started at LT in 2010-11), RT Zach Fulton, RT Ja'Wuan James, WR Justin Hunter, QB Tyler Bray and FB Ben Bartholomew.
On defense, there are eight returning starters currently listed as starters or co-starters on the UT depth chart, including DE Maurice Couch, LB Jacques Smith, LB A.J. Johnson, LB Curt Maggitt, DB Prentiss Waggner, DB Brent Brewer, DB Brian Randolph, and DB Marsalis Teague.
BRAND NEW LOOK
While Head Coach Derek Dooley is on his third season with the Vols, there have been some new additions to the Tennessee coaching staff this offseason. In total, seven new coaches were added to the mix while offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and Darin Hinshaw were the only assistant coaches retained on the staff. However, Hinshaw moved from coaching quarterbacks to coaching the wide receivers.
UT's win over Vandy last season marked the 10th all-time victory in overtime for Tennessee, tying Missouri for the most in NCAA history.
The Vols are 6-0 at home all-time in overtime and 4-3 on the road. In overtime games in which a scoring play ends the game, Tennessee is 6-1.
The Vols are 2-1 in overtime in the Derek Dooley era, winning over UAB in 2010 and Vanderbilt last year while losing to North Carolina in the 2010 Franklin American Music City Bowl.
Tennessee plays Georgia State in the Vols' home opener on Sat., Sept. 8 at Neyland Stadium. The game is the first-ever matchup between the two schools, and the Vols will attempt to extend their streak of consecutive home opener wins to 18.
Two current Vol football players have already earned their degree: fullback Ben Bartholomew and linebacker Herman Lathers.
Three of Tennessee's five leading tacklers were freshmen in A.J. Johnson (2nd/80), Curt Maggitt (t- 3rd/56) and Brian Randolph (5th/55), making the Vols the only among all 120 NCAA D-I FBS squads with three of its top five tacklers being freshmen. UT was also the only team in the country with two true freshmen among its top three tacklers.
Additionally, the trio all ranked in the top five on Tennessee's all-time true freshman tackle-leaders list, including Johnson's 80 (second-most).