Ready for prime time?

Tennessee assistants Dave Clawson and Latrell Scott will open the college football season on Labor Day this fall, just as they did last fall. That's pretty much where the similarities end.

This time last year head coach Clawson and receivers coach Scott were preparing to lead the Div. 1-AA Richmond Spiders into 39,000-seat Vanderbilt Stadium to face the Commodores. A mere 32,215 fans bothered to show up and zero TV sets were tuned in. The highlights didn't make their way onto SportsCenter. In fact, the game barely qualified for the score crawl at the bottom of your TV screen.

Things will be considerably different tonight. As Tennessee's offensive coordinator and receivers coach, respectively, Clawson and Scott will be visiting historic Rose Bowl Stadium to challenge the UCLA Bruins. Most of the 91,000 seats will be filled and millions more fans will be watching on national television. As the only football game scheduled this evening, it likely will be the lead sports story on virtually every TV newscast nationwide.

Clearly, Clawson and Scott will be introduced to a level of big-time football tonight that is light-years beyond what they experienced at tiny Richmond.

Clawson got a hint of what was to come when he showed up for UT's recent Game 1 Media Day. Asked how the "bigger stage" compares to what he was accustomed to at Richmond, the coordinator chuckled and replied: "There's a lot more of you folk (media) at this interview than I'm used to."

Basically, the move Clawson is making from NCAA Div. 1-AA to Div. 1-A is like the move from Class AAA baseball to the Major Leagues. The game essentially is the same but the magnitude is totally different. Clawson promises he won't be awed, however.

"You ask the players to keep the distractions to a minimum," he said. "And, as a coach, you have to do the same thing."

After 15 spring practices and four weeks of preseason drills, Clawson believes he has a pretty good idea of how Div. 1-A football compares to Div. 1-AA.

"Based on everything I've experienced here so far," he said, "the football is very similar."

Similar perhaps, but still different ... especially in terms of the skill level of the athletes.

"We're a little bit faster," Clawson conceded. "The ball gets out a little bit quicker. You can stretch the field more because you have more arm strength, but the defensive reactions are a lot quicker, too."

Based on the Vols' intrasquad scrimmages, Clawson believes the things that succeeded at Richmond and Fordham (his previous head coaching stop) will succeed at Tennessee.

"The plays that worked at other schools are working here," he said. "The plays that weren't good against certain coverages aren't good here, either. The speed and the flow of the game is a little big quicker but it's all relative."

Dare-devil Evel Knievel might hesitate to make the jump from Div. 1-AA to Div. 1-A but Clawson believes it's not that big a deal. Scott expresses the same sentiment in different words.

"Football's football for us," the first-year receivers coach said. "Obviously, as a football fan, you're excited to compete against UCLA and compete in the Rose Bowl. But, at the end of the day, I'm looking forward to Jonathan Crompton, Gerald Jones, Arian Foster and Austin Rogers and those guys going out and making plays.

"It'll be great to watch these guys be able to see the fruits of their labors."

A crowd approaching 91,000 will be watching, as well ... along with millions of television viewers. Clearly, this ain't Richmond at Vanderbilt.


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