Fast start vital to Vols

Tennessee's first four football games of 2006 will be played on Shields-Watkins Field. In the old days, that virtually assured a 4-0 start. The home field hasn't carried much weight for the Vols lately, though. They've gone from invincible to vulnerable on their turf.

Between 1995 and 1999, for instance, Tennessee went 31-1 at Neyland Stadium. Since then the Vols have gone 28-11 at home. Among the losses were embarrassing setbacks to Florida (30-13), Alabama (34-14) and Miami (26-3) in 2002, Georgia (41-14) in 2003, Auburn (34-10) in 2004 and Vanderbilt (28-24) in 2005.

Coming off a 5-6 record in 2005, Tennessee desperately needs a fast start in 2006 to rebuild its confidence and re-establish itself as a contender in the rugged Southeastern Conference. With the first four games played in Knoxville, the Vols can achieve that fast start if they "hold serve" by defending their home turf.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer knows the four-game home stand represents quite an opportunity. He says one key to a good season is "our mental approach to preparing for teams like Cal, Air Force, Florida and Marshall, getting ourselves ready to take advantage of that four-game home stretch we have at the beginning of the year."

In the old days visiting teams were intimidated by the prospect of facing a tough Tennessee team and a rabid Tennessee crowd in Knoxville. Those days are gone but Fulmer hopes to bring them back by re-establishing the Vols' home-field advantage.

Basically, he says, the task is "staking a claim to the way Tennessee is supposed to play football. That's our challenge and goal heading into the season."


1995: 7-0

1996: 5-1

1997: 6-0

1998: 6-0

1999: 7-0

2000: 5-1

2001: 5-1

2002: 4-3

2003: 6-1

2004: 5-2

2005: 3-3

Inside Tennessee Top Stories