GAME 1: Vols Open 2008 Campaign on West Coast
TENNESSEE-UCLA SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
This year's season-opener marks the 14th all-time gridiron meeting between Tennessee and UCLA, with the Volunteers holding a 7-4-2 all-time edge dating to 1965. The Big Orange boast a 2-1 record against the Bruins in Pasadena.
UT's overall record against current members of the Pac-10 Conference is 14-11-3. Vols head coach Phillip Fulmer is 4-2 all-time against current members of the Pac-10 (1-1 vs. Cal, 2-1 vs. UCLA and 1-0 vs. Washington State).
Fulmer is 14-2 all-time in season-openers, with one of those losses coming at UCLA in 1994 (the Bruins posted a 25-23 victory in Pasadena; it was Peyton Manning's collegiate debut).
First-year Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel was an assistant on the UCLA staff when Tennessee posted wins over the Bruins in 1989 and 1991.
The 2008 season-opener marks the 11th time in 12 seasons that Tennessee's first game of the season will be nationally televised. That includes six openers on ESPN, four on ESPN2 and one on ABC.
O-LINE LOOKS TO MAINTAIN THE SAFEST POCKET IN AMERICA
Tennessee's offensive line allowed a nation's-best four sacks last season, including only three against departed starting quarterback Erik Ainge. Overall, the Vols attempted 534 passes in 2007, meaning UT's opponents averaged one sack every 134.5 pass plays or every 133.5 pass attempts.
The Big Orange easily lead the nation (FBS) in sacks allowed, giving up less than a third of a sack per game (0.29). The Vols were the only team in single digits for sacks allowed, with Rutgers next at 10, followed by California and Oklahoma State at 11 and West Virginia and Florida at 13.
THREE MEMORABLE VOL PERFORMANCES VS. UCLA
In Tennessee's 13-game series with UCLA that dates to 1965, there have been several memorable Vol performers. Here are three of note:
A LEGEND'S DEBUT: PEYTON MANNING, 1994
Though it surely provided little solace immediately following Tennessee's 25-23 season-opening loss at UCLA on Sept. 3, 1994, the setback did provide Vols fans with their first game-action glimpse of a future UT legend. Called into duty after incumbent starting quarterback Jerry Colquitt (featured above) went down with an injury, true freshman Peyton Manning saw limited action in the loss to the Bruins. One of four quarterbacks UT used in the game, Manning guided the Vols offense for just one drive in the second quarter. He entered the game at the 5:04 mark and handed off three times before a Tom Hutton punt. Said Manning after the game: "I'm glad the coaches had confidence in me. I know I will get a chance."
PICK PARTY: CHRIS WHITE, 1985
Chris White had three interceptions for 44 total return yards as the Vols tied UCLA 26-26 on Sept. 14, 1985. He was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week, and his three interceptions tied a single-game UT pass-interception record held by five other Volunteers. The longest of the three returns went for 24 yards. White finished the 1985 season with nine interceptions for 168 return yards to lead the NCAA. He also earned All-America acclaim.
LITTLE LEADS VOLS TO VICTORY: LEONARD LITTLE, 1997
"That was probably the play that won the game," UT head coach Phillip Fulmer said. He was referring, of course, to the Skip Hicks' fumble caused by Vols defensive end Leonard Little in the closing minutes of Tennessee's 30-24 triumph over UCLA in Pasadena on Sept. 6, 1997. Vols safety Fred White recovered the fumble--which spoiled the Bruins' potential go-ahead drive in Tennessee territory in the game's closing minutes. Little finished the game with two tackles, one sack and a TFL on his way to SEC Lineman of the Week honors and All-America acclaim at season's end.
FOSTER TO WEAR HOLBERT'S NO. 30 AGAINST BRUINS
Starting tailback Arian Foster will be wearing jersey No. 30 instead of his usual No. 27 for Tennessee's season opener at UCLA. The number switch is Foster's way of honoring teammate David Holbert, who will miss the entire 2008 season with a left-knee injury.
"That's a big deal to me," Foster said. "I asked him first, and he said, `Yeah.' I go out there everyday and he's in the back of my mind."
Holbert--a fifth-year senior fullback from Nashville, Tenn.--suffered the knee injury during UT's first spring scrimmage (March 29). He underwent surgery on April 9 and again on July 18. The prospect of a possible return under a sixth year of eligibility in 2009 is uncertain.
"He wants to play again," Foster said. "Whether his knee heals all the way back or not, he wants to play. It's out of our hands. I hope everything works out for him."
Holbert has not played in a game since the 2006 season. He also missed the 2007 season with an injury to his right knee (torn ACL).
TAYLOR HOPING TO BUILD ON 1,000-YARD JUNIOR SEASON IN 2007
Senior wide receiver Lucas Taylor is coming off a season in which he became just the fifth Vol ever to log at least 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. His two catches against LSU in the 2007 SEC Championship Game gave him exactly 1,000 yards on the year. He did not play in the Outback Bowl.
His 73 receptions last season ranked second on UT's single season chart--just three catches short of the UT record of 76 receptions, set by Marcus Nash in 1997.
Prior to last season, Taylor had 14 career catches for 101 yards and no touchdowns in his first two years as a Vol.
Interestingly, Taylor also is Tennessee's second-leading returning passer. He is 2-for-2 in his career for 104 yards and two touchdowns. What's his passer-efficiency rating, you ask? Why it's a crisp 866.8. And yes, he was a high school quarterback.
BERRY TO LEAD HERALDED SECONDARY
Sophomore strong safety Eric Berry leads an experienced and talented secondary unit for the Vols in 2008. Berry is clearly the brightest star in unit the after setting a school record with 222 interception-return yards in 2007 and finishing fourth on the team with 86 tackles. He also was named Freshman All-America by three publications and second team All-SEC by the coaches and the Associated Press.
Joining Berry in patrol of the defensive backfield is one of the deepest and most talented groups in the Phillip Fulmer era. Junior Demetrice Morley returns to the team after missing the 2007 season to start at free safety, while senior cornerback DeAngelo Willingham looks to build on his 38 tackle season a year ago. The right corner spot is occupied by sophomore return specialist Dennis Rogan.
Former starter Brent Vinson, senior Antonio Gaines and junior Marsalous Johnson provide depth to the group.
COOPER CHARGED WITH REVIVING FULLBACK ROLE
With Dave Clawson's new offense comes the return of a position not seen in the Tennessee backfield since 2006--the fullback.
Former offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe phased the position out from a play calling and recruiting standpoint in exchange for a tight end/fullback hybrid position. Clawson has brought the role back into the Vols' offense as a ball carrier, blocker and receiver.
The original candidate for the returning role was senior David Holbert, but a knee injury in the spring put his playing career on hold, leaving room for sophomore Kevin Cooper, who was utilized as a goal-line blocking specialist in seven games last season.
In preseason scrimmages, Cooper has been given the ball in short-yardage situations and asked to pave the way out of the backfield for Arian Foster and co.
Cooper also has seen the ball thrown his way a few times, which is certainly a new wrinkle for opposing defenses to consider.
Cooper is one of only two fullbacks listed on the Tennessee depth chart. Austin Johnson, a true freshman, is the backup.
CUNNINGHAM TABBED AS VOLS' STARTING PUNTER IN COLQUITT'S ABSENCE
Sophomore Chad Cunningham is expected to shoulder UT's punting responsibilities early on this season, as incumbent starter Britton Colquitt serves a five-game suspension handed down by head coach Phillip Fulmer in February.
Cunningham owns an average of 40.7 yards on three career punts. He has just one start under his belt entering 2008.
Colquitt's career average of 42.4 yards per punt currently ranks fourth in school history, and the Knoxville, Tenn., native has "Tennessee punter" etched in his DNA.
His cousin, Jimmy Colquitt, who averaged 43.9 yards per punt from 1981-84, is UT's career leader.
Britton's older brother, Dustin (currently punting for the Kansas City Chiefs), ranks second in UT history with a career punting average of 42.6 yards. And
Britton and Dustin's father, Craig Colquitt (former Pittsburgh Steelers punter), ranks third with a 42.5-yard average.
Jimmy, Dustin and Craig Colquitt all rank among the top 20 on the Southeastern Conference's career punting chart, and Britton could potentially join them in that elite