"It looks like I'm going to return punts," Hefney said Monday evening. "I want to go out and prove I can do it. I think I can do a pretty good job, handling the situations and making big plays for the team."
As a freshmen last fall, Hefney returned the first punt he fielded for a touchdown, only to have the runback nullified by a penalty. He'll never forget the experience, though.
"Yeah, I ran it back for a touchdown but it was called back," he recalled. "I was nervous. It was my first time taking the field, so I was kinda' running scared."
Still, he remembers the excitement he felt sprinting into the end zone … BEFORE he saw the penalty flag.
"Hopefully," he said, "I can do that (find the end zone) a lot this year."
Hefney starred as a return specialist in practices and scrimmages last fall but fizzled in games, averaging a paltry 5.0 yards per runback. The obvious question: Why did he look so good in practice and so bad in games?
"I think it was just that I was nervous last year," he said. "I've grown up more now. I know more what to do on returns."
A 5-10, 180-pounder with great quickness and shifty moves, Hefney also projects to be one of Tennessee's chief kickoff return men.
Meachem and Hannon are first-team receivers. Johnson is a second-team cornerback. Hefney is the first-team free safety this fall after earning Freshman All-America honors as a cornerback in 2004.
What's the key to being a good punt return man?
"You have to set everybody up," Hefney replied. "You have to set your blocks up, then hit it. You can't hesitate, and that's what I was doing last year."
So, what's the key to being a good kickoff return man?
"It's the same thing," he said, "but you have to hit the hole even harder because they (coverage men) are coming down a whole lot harder on kickoff returns."