Too young to quit

When you're facing a veteran team like Oregon, being young is a disadvantage. When you're facing a back-to-the-wall team like Georgia, being young is a disadvantage. When you're facing a great team like Alabama, being young is a disadvantage.

When you're 2-5, though, being young can be a distinct advantage. Most of Tennessee's players are so youthful and inexperienced that they're excited about merely getting a chance to play each Saturday. Win or lose, they're going to be energetic and enthusiastic each time they take the field.

That may be the best thing the stumbling Vols have going for them Saturday afternoon at South Carolina. The Gamecocks have the superior talent but the Vols have the exuberance of youth. That could be a plus.

"Of course. We need that," junior tailback Tauren Poole said. "With our record not where we want it to be that enthusiasm is important."

Junior quarterback Matt Simms concedes that the Vols' rambunctious rookies have kept things hopping on The Hill all fall.

"We've had young guys playing since Day 1, so we've always had that energy going," he said. "We're a young team with a lot of talent. We just don't have that game experience under out belts."

The biggest challenge for a team with a losing record is to forget the past and focus on the present. Mission accomplished, the Vols say.

"You don't want last week's disappointment to spill into this week," senior linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "We're trying to work as hard as we can."

Simms adds a hearty amen to that.

"The biggest thing for us is to forget about our record, forget about what everyone is saying outside the complex, focus on one play at a time and make sure we don't get ahead of ourselves," he said. "We haven't been winning like we want to but we need to bow through it and build some momentum through the games that are left."

Poole echoed those sentiments.

"We're really just forgetting about every other game - just moving forward these last five games," he said. "What we can do is work on our work ethic. We know what we're capable of as a team. It comes down to leadership."

Leadership is especially important when a team is coming off consecutive blowout losses to Georgia (41-14) and Alabama (41-10). Asked which Vols have asserted the most leadership this week, Poole answered without hesitation: "It's the same guys each week - Nick Reveiz, Chris Walker and some others."

Reveiz takes his leadership role quite seriously.

"Walking off the field the other day, I looked in the mirror and said, 'Nick what can you do to help the team?' I need to stay vocal, keep speaking," he said. "The biggest thing the older guys can do is set a good example. If you're talking it but not doing it, people know you're a fraud."

By all accounts, the Vols' energy level in practice this week has been just as high as it was for Game 1.

"There's a lot of competition," Reveiz said. "Guys are really getting after it. We're going to trust Coach Dooley and trust the process. We're still trying to compete and get better."

Apparently, the energy level is just as high among the coaches.

"It's the same," Reveiz said. "They're not changing anything. Coach Dooley says the results matter but the biggest thing that matters is how you prepare. Are you working as hard as you can every single day? Are you preparing as well as you can every single day? Are the players playing as hard as they can every single day? It's all about how you work."

Poole agrees that the enthusiasm level of the coaches hasn't waned, even as the losses have mounted.

"It's the same," he said. "They expect a lot of out of us and expect us to respond to adversity well. It's the same approach."

Simms concedes that the coaches are as enthusiastic as ever, even with the Vols given virtually no chance to win Saturday at South Carolina.

"They have been animated this week but I believe that's just how they are anyway," he said. "If we had won the past few games I think they'd be the same way. They don't change from week to week. They're excited about it.

"Everyone in our program knows this is a must-win for us."

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