Point 'em out

The Tennessee football team looks to take a step forward in its second year under the guidance of coach Derek Dooley and his staff. For that to happen, many new faces in Knoxville must contribute early. Sign in or subscribe now to see who's turning heads already.

What kind of patience does the everyday United States citizen have in present day?

It's a trait that appears to dwindle with every passing minute with faster cars, microwaves, drive-thru windows, Internet shopping, 4G networks, etc.

Simply fathoming the process that it can take to create greatness appears to be missing from our culture.

Take that anticipation and restlessness and multiply it by some bizarre 3-4 digit number and you start to get an idea as to the expectations of football fans in the Southeastern Conference.

It's a conference that prides itself on excellence. It doesn't end with five consecutive BCS National Championships.

Since 2006, the SEC has the highest non-conference winning percentage with a 231-55 record (.808).

Since the league expanded to 12 teams in 1992, it has had 124 players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft (6.5 average per year).

Mix the excitement of the respective fan bases with the intolerance of mediocrity and the attrition and youthfulness that comes with having a pair of coaching changes in an exceedingly short amount of time, and the rapid beat of the pessimistic pulse of Tennessee's faithful quickly becomes apparent.

"There's a high standard of winning, there's a high expectation in how we represent the program," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said.

The 18-20 record the last three seasons combined is intolerable to most.

"We enter this year, it's probably the youngest team I've ever been a part of and seen," said Dooley, whose team has only two seniors slated to start from a group of 10.

The freshmen and sophomores make up 57 members of the rosters (about 70 percent).

"I feel very good about the talent level of our young players and how quickly they become every-down-dependable players in the SEC will determine what our success is on the field," Dooley said.

Twenty-eight players signed with the Volunteers or enrolled in January. Twenty-six are said to be eligible and ready to suit up with one grayshirt recovering from injury.

Offensive tackle Dallas Thomas has noticed some improvements already with newcomers.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Their contributions will help tell the tale of the 2011 team as Dooley and his staff attempt to get them acclimated to life in the SEC.

"I kind of like to walk 'em in," senior defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. "They're new, they don't even know what to do, kind of take baby steps with them. Then, when Double-D gets them, that's when he gets them. I try to help them as much as I can, but they're going to make mistakes and Double-D is going to give it to them. It's bound to happen."

Some of those newbies are already starting to stand out.

Junior offensive tackle Dallas Thomas is impressed by Antonio "Tiny" Richardson, Kyler Kerbyson, Alan Posey, Curt Maggitt, Marlin Lane and A.J. Johnson.

"You can see the definition in their body types is getting so much bigger now (after working in UT's weight room)," Thomas said.

Richardson waited until National Signing Day in early February to make his decision known. His addition to the roster was vital considering the need for true tackles.

"It's great to have a guy like that back there because if something does happen to me, I know he can come in, step in and get the job done," Thomas said.

Jackson pointed out the rookies up front on defense.

"As far as D-line goes, we got (Trevarris) Saulsberry, he's looking really good. Mo Couch and Jordan (Williams), he's looking really good. Alan Carson. They're all looking really good, but we've got to see when we get the pads on. That's when you really can tell," he said.

The testing beings Tuesday. First practice is at Haslam Field at 2:!5.

"Once they get that first big hit out of the way, then they can really relax," Thomas said. "Then it's like, ‘OK, now I can play football. I done got my first lick out of the way, so that's over with. Now it's my turn to hit somebody, so it's like ‘Let's get this show on the road.'"

The temperature that day is expected to be in the low 90s. Those who pushed themselves with offseason workouts will stick out.

"It's going to be a big adjustment," Jackson said. "It kind of depends on each guy. You've got your big guys that can kind of handle that. Then, you've got your smaller guys that will take a few weeks to get used to the pads. As a freshman you come in and your first few days in pads is kind of tough. It's going to be tough for everybody, but they're not used to it."

With the graduation of Gerald Williams, Chris Walker and Victor Thomas, the front portion of the Tennessee defense will mean throwing newcomers into the fold. Couch, who has a year of junior college ball under his belt, could start at tackle. Defensive end Ben Martin is attempting to make it back from a pair of Achilles' tendon tears.

"I feel really good (about the depth)," Jackson said. "We have a lot more people who can back up and play. As far as Corey Miller — he's grown up a little bit more. Jacques Smith. So, I'm really excited about what we've got this year."

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