Heat could be Vol enemy

Conditioning is significant heading into any Tennessee football season. Heading into this season it's downright critical. The 2007 Vols could face sweltering conditions in five of their first six games this fall.

Temperatures could be in the 80s when Tennessee opens Sept. 1 at California (5 p.m. PST kickoff). Humidity probably is going to be a factor when the Vols host Southern Miss on Sept. 8, even with a 7 p.m. kickoff. "The Swamp" in Gainesville could resemble a sauna when Tennessee and Florida tee it up Sept. 15 at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Humidity still may be a factor on Sept. 22, when Tennessee hosts Arkansas State at 7 p.m. in Game 4. Finally, Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville could be a sweat box when Mississippi State hosts UT Oct. 13, especially if the game kicks off at 11:30 CST to accommodate the Lincoln Financial Sports Network.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer is aware that heat and humidity could be Tennessee's most dangerous foe this fall. So is strength and conditioning coach Johnny Long. That's why they figure getting the Vols in tip-top shape is an even bigger priority this preseason than usual.

"It's huge," Long says. "That's something me and Coach Fulmer actually talk about a pretty good bit. Usually during two-a-days you set the tempo. This year we're going to have to push that conditioning a little bit earlier to maintain what we've built up during the summer time, so we can go to Cal in a little different type of weather than what we're accustomed to here."

The fact Tennessee's players are accustomed to Southern humidity should help them when they visit Gainesville and Starkville this fall. Still, Long has been working the Vols especially hard this summer, just in case ...

"We should be fine," Long says. "Coach is really excited about the level of conditioning here."

Long recalled a recent off-season workout in which he put the players through drills in sand pits, had them do fireman carries of one another, then concluded with ten 110-yard sprints.

"It was mentally tough on 'em," Long concedes. "And when you have a mentally tough team that'll go out and compete for four quarters, obviously success should follow."

In addition to the potential for sweltering conditions in five of the first six games, Tennessee faces another possible complication this fall. The Vols are planning to use the no-huddle offense at times, which means more snaps and less time to rest between them.

As Long notes: "You need to make sure you're in the best shape when you're out there with that no-huddle offense."

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