Familiarity a key for Vol success

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The Tennessee Volunteers are just shy of 72 hours from kickoff of the 2012 season and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is a bit nervous thinking about The Opening snaps against opponent North Carolina State.

However, Chaney, unlike quarterback Tyler Bray, says that nervousness is just a part of his normal routine heading into gameday.

"When I am not nervous before a game it is time for me to go farming and that's not a knock on farming," Chaney told reporters Tuesday. "I love farming. I grew up that way.

"Coaches, it is just the way we live. I am excited about it. I don't know if nervous or comfortable is the right word. You are always just excited about seeing guys go out there and perform."

However, one thing that does put the fourth-year coordinator at ease is the familiarity of six returning offensive starters from the season-ending loss at Kentucky last November.

"Ultimately the thing that excited any coach is when you are familiar with the players," Chaney said. "When you know their fleas, you know what they can and can't do and then it is up to me to put them in the right position to make plays. It is the unknowns that kill coaches. I feel like I know most of these kids pretty well."

On the flip side, learning newcomers like wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and others poses a difficult challenge as they march out onto the field in the orange and white for the first time.

"The guys that have played, they are year older and you hope to see a year more of maturity," he said. "The new guys you have no idea about and you are looking forward to seeing them go out there and see what they do.

"How many plays can these young guys play? Is it 45, is it 60, some can go for 80. I don't have any idea of some of them. That is the mystery part that gets me down."

The Vols will also march out a first-time tailback starter in Rajion Neal, who played receiver in 2011, and will have to manage his nerves heading into the Georgia Dome.

"I think they are ready to go," running backs coach Jay Graham said. "There is always that first game you are really nervous about how we are going to perform under the lights, but the effort has been there in practice, we have done well and gotten better. The most important thing is when the ball is kicked off that we do what we are supposed to do.

"I just try to tell them to be yourself — calm down. That is the biggest thing because it is the first game and you are a little jittery. Calm down and just think about every play and what you are suppose to do. Once that ball is snapped just be yourself."

The Vols will be back in action, likely indoors, for another practice Wednesday morning at 9:30. Watch as Chaney addressed the media following Tuesday's practice:

Chris Price is a staff writer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously an intern for the site for two years before graduating from the University of Tennessee. He joined the InsideTennessee team in 2009.

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