UT has sense of urgency

Most football teams spend September feasting on cupcakes and fine-tuning for tougher tests in October. Clearly, the Tennessee Vols don't have this luxury.

The Big Orange's September fare includes two teams generally ranked among the NCAA's top 10 in preseason -- Florida (Sept. 17) and LSU (Sept. 24). Thus, UT needs to be on top of its game in September.

"That's big-time right there," tailback Gerald Riggs said recently. "I don't think there's anybody across the country with a schedule like that. That's tough … to go up against two traditionally good teams back to back that early in the season."

Some observers figure Tennessee's whole season will be determined by the outcome of those two games. Riggs begs to differ.

"It's not the whole season," he said. "There's still plenty of other games to be played."

If the Vols lose to both Florida and LSU, though, their hopes of challenging for SEC and national titles are gone. Thus, Tennessee must hit its stride early.

"Definitely," Riggs said. "If we don't win (either of) those games, it basically looks pretty grim for us. That's why we've worked hard, done everything we can possibly do to get ourselves ready."

With 18 returning starters from 2004, the Vols may have the experience and maturity needed to handle this early season meat-grinder.

"I think so," Riggs said. "We've got a lot of guys who've played a lot of football. Everybody seems to be on the same page. Basically, it's the same team we had last year, minus two or three guys.

"Those two or three guys were some big names (Michael Munoz, Jason Respert, Kevin Burnett) but they're still only two or three guys."


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