Aug. 31, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
For much of Monday, Art Evans was day dreaming, and it's been the same story for a little while now.
Walking to class, hanging around his apartment, studying his playbook -- the sophomore cornerback can't help but look ahead.
But Evans isn't slacking. He's just doing what All-American safety Eric Berry recommends he do.
"He tells me to get a lot of mental reps, and picture myself making plays if I'm out there," said Evans, listed as a starter at cornerback heading. "That's really the main thing he tells me, so that's what I try to do. When I'm walking to class or when I'm at home, going over some plays or what not."
When Western Kentucky travels to Knoxville for a 12:21 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Neyland Stadium (TV: SEC Network), Evans and the rest of his teammates won't have to daydream anymore.
That game-week excitement isn't limited to younger players. Even veterans like senior linebacker Rico McCoy, who will make his 28th start career start for the Vols, felt the energy well before practice began Monday afternoon.
"It's like we came out here today, and we've got a game Saturday," he said. "There's no more preseason scrimmages or preseason games, as the coaches would call it. It's the real thing this week. You feel it almost as soon as you walk into the complex.
"It's business, and it's time to play ball."
Senior tailback Montario Hardesty feels the same way.
"I was excited about coming to practice today, because on Saturday we get to have some real fun," he said. "I'm ready."
So is first-year coach Lane Kiffin, who was officially introduced as UT's head coach just two days after the 2008 season ended.
It's been a long wait since then for the season to arrive. Through recruiting trips and alumni events, spring practice and fall camp, it's all been moving toward Saturday.
And on Monday, Kiffin spent most of his day locked away with his staff getting ready for Saturday's game.
"Today we got to shut the door, from this morning until the players got here," Kiffin said. "There's no distractions. It's football time. And we can really focus on getting players better.
"It's great to have that feeling as a staff."
Come Saturday evening, after one of the most anticipated season-openers in recent memory, the Vols will begin to get a feeling about themselves, too.
"You're reaching the time where you can see where you are," McCoy says. "We've been working real hard, and it's time to see that hard work pay off - or if you have a lot more to do."
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