Vols ready to settle in

For much of the preseason, Tennessee shuffled its personnel like a deck of cards. Now, with the opener just six days away, the Vols must go with the hand they've dealt themselves.

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said recently that the Vols are "pretty close" to being ready for the opener, although he noted that: "We've been bouncing our linemen around from one position to another. Same thing with the wide receievers."

Indeed. Injuries to centers Richie Gandy and David Ligon forced the Vols to give four guards -- Rob Smith, Cody Douglas, Anthony Parker and Michael Frogg – a look at center. Ultimately, Smith wound up No. 1, with Parker No. 2 and Frogg No. 3. Douglas has returned to guard.

Whereas the O-line was shuffled to bolster depth at a weak position, the shuffling among wideouts was done to maximize tons of talent at a very strong position. Now that "Game Week" is here, however, the shuffling probably is finished.

"Once we start game-planning, we kind of lock everybody in to one position, where they know what to do without having to think about it," Sanders said.

That leaves one question: Are the Vols ready to execute before 107,000 screaming fans Saturday afternoon against Alabama-Birmingham?

Sanders thinks so. He was encouraged by the way his troops performed in Tuesday night's final preseason scrimmage with piped-in crowd noise blaring over the public address system.

"I thought the whole team handled the noise pretty well," the coordinator said. "Guys were communicating coming on and off the field. It didn't seem to affect us very much at all."


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