Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton announced Monday that the Vols will open their 2009 football season Sept. 5 versus Western Kentucky in Knoxville, and then play a second home game against the Hilltoppers in 2013.
WKU just completed its first transition season to the highest football classification, and the games against Tennessee continue the school's recent trend of playing Southeastern Conference foes. The ‘Toppers visited Auburn in 2003 and 2005, Georgia in 2006 and Florida in 2007, with Alabama set for the 2008 schedule.
Tennessee's future schedules already feature matchups with some of the nation's top-flight college football programs.
For the 2008 season, Tennessee travels to UCLA on Sept. 6.
The Vols host Oregon in 2010, travel to North Carolina in 2011, host the Tar Heels in 2012, travel to Oregon in 2013, visit Oklahoma in 2014, host the Sooners in 2015, travel to Nebraska in 2016 and host the Cornhuskers in 2017.
Recent links between Tennessee and Western Kentucky include basketball meetings the last two seasons and a coaching connection in former Vols 2004 graduate assistant Jason Michael, who quarterbacked and captained the 2002 WKU squad that won the Division I-AA national championship. Michael just completed his second coaching season on the New York Jets staff and third NFL season overall.
Tennessee's 2013 game against Western Kentucky is scheduled for Sept. 7.
FIVE VOLS UNDERGO POSTSEASON SURGERIES
Tennessee head athletic trainer Jason McVeigh reported Monday that five football players underwent surgeries earlier in the day and that, although recovery times will vary, all five should be ready to go by the 2008 preseason.
McVeigh said the surgeries on tailbacks Lennon Creer and Josh Hawkins, defensive tackle Chase Nelson, wide receiver Lucas Taylor and defensive back Brent Vinson all were performed by Drs. Greg Mathien and Russell Betcher of the Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic.
Creer, who just completed his freshman season as a kickoff return specialist and reserve tailback, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and should return by spring practice. Hawkins redshirted this season but was injured during bowl practice. He had a pin placed in the middle part of his left foot to stabilize a torn ligament and is slated for return by fall camp.
Nelson, another freshman, appeared in eight games this year before injuring his right wrist against Louisiana-Lafayette. Monday's procedure removed the pins, as scheduled, from his previous surgery and Nelson is expected to return by spring practice.
Taylor underwent right shoulder arthroscopic reconstruction and will miss spring practice. He expects a summer return in time for individual workouts, hoping to improve on a junior season that resulted in exactly 1,000 receiving yards.
Vinson also had a shoulder arthroscopic reconstruction, only it was to his left side, and he also will miss spring drills. The true freshman started the season's final 10 games.