'A gigantic day for everybody'

Starting positions will be won - and lost - when Tennessee holds its final full-scale scrimmage of the preseason Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Asked following Thursday's practice how much weight he will attach to the Vols' final dress rehearsal for the 2009 opener, head coach Lane Kiffin replied, "A ton.

"This will be more important than anything they've done because it's the most realistic."

To make the scrimmage as game-like as possible, Tennessee will hold a light "walk-through" on Friday, then hold Saturday's scrimmage at 12:21 - the exact kickoff time of the Vols' Sept. 5 opener.

Tapering off on Friday, physically and mentally, should ensure that no Vols are leg-weary or confused on Saturday.

"There won't be any excuses," Kiffin said. "We'll figure out where we are as a team, where we are individually and where we are in all three phases."

After noting that Saturday is "a gigantic day for everybody," the coach added that it will be "huge" for Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens, who are waging quite a battle for the first-team quarterback job. So, what will the head coach be looking for from the QBs in the final scrimmage?

"They have to manage the game," Kiffin said. "I'll be completely off the field - all of our coaches will be off the field - so they have to manage the huddle and manage the offense. That will be a challenge for them ... doing it without any assistance."

Tennessee's coaches have said all along that intelligent decision-making is a key factor for a quarterback. Kiffin suggests it may be the determining factor on Saturday.

"This is a pretty big terminology offense," he said. "A lot of times the quarterback that makes the smarter decisions ends up beating the (other) guy out, so it'll be great to see Saturday."

Asked when he'd like to name a starting quarterback, Kiffin quipped, "Six months ago."

Turning serious, the head man said he will not allow the uncertainty at quarterback to extend into game week, explaining: "That's not fair to the team."

The Vols added no new wrinkles the past few days in an effort to keep things simple for the newcomers who will be getting long looks in Saturday's scrimmage. As Kiffin explained: "The last thing we want to do is play some (veteran) kid when there's a better kid but we didn't give him a fair shot because we installed some stuff at the last second ... especially our young guys. That would hurt them."

Tennessee is doing everything possible to make Saturday's scrimmage as game-like as possible. Kiffin will call plays from the sidelines, while half of his assistants observe and offer input from the press box.

"We'll walk down there (on the Vol Walk) at the same time we would that Saturday," Kiffin noted. "We'll be in the locker room the same amount of time. It'll be the same music, the same routine.

"Everything will be the same except we'll be short about 100,000 (fans) and we won't have a band."

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