Aug. 31, 2011
KNOXVILLE - Although it's impossible to truly replicate the impact of 102,455 screaming fans at Neyland Stadium, Tennessee prepared its ears during Wednesday morning's practice by piping in artificial crowd noise at Haslam Field.
"We implemented a little crowd noise today, and we had a lot of rat-trapping," head coach Derek Dooley said. "We made a lot of mistakes (because) a lot of the noise gets you thinking. (It's a) good thing we have another day to try to polish it up. Went out there and tried to create a little chaos for the young guys, and that's what it looked like. That's why we have an extra day, and hopefully we can polish it up."
With Saturday's game being the first on the 2011 schedule, the Vols have had ample time to prepare for their season-opening opponent, Montana.
"Anytime there is an open date, and this is kind of like having an open date, you like to get a little extra day or two ahead and that's what we're doing," Dooley said. "You always need it."
TIME TO HIT SOMEBODY ELSE IN TENNESSEE
Since opening fall camp Aug. 2, the Vols have been preparing for the 2011 season in a variety of ways -- including hitting each other on a daily basis. There comes a time for every team, however, to implore its physicality on an opponent. For Tennessee, that time comes at 6:07 p.m. ET on Saturday.
"I think we are ready to play a ballgame," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "Let's go find out where we are at. It's that time of the year. It's time to go hit somebody different and see what happens. I'm like you guys, I'm looking forward to watching us play. I'm hoping we play well, the run game is good and the pass game is good. Who the heck knows? That's why we play the game, to find out."
The Vols have scrimmaged, ran through a mock game and practiced multiple scenarios and situations over the past month. But everything changes when you run through the `T.'
"The game is different," Chaney said. "This is real time. Let's go out and play a game in front of a lot of people and see how everybody reacts. I've been around some guys that can practice well, but when the lights come on things change a little bit. Certainly you look at the game. We're here to play the game and try to win the football game. We'll see how we perform when we get out there."
Although teams tweak and evolve schematically year-to-year, the Vols are expecting Montana to stick with the same philosophies that have made it a successful program.
"They are a base defensive team, like many teams in our conference," Chaney said. "They are going to play an Over. You go through the whole season on your first opponent, so you really don't know. They do a little bit of everything, but our gut feeling is that they are going to play base and zone coverage and just go play like they did all of last year."
"He's a heck of a player, no question about it," Chaney said. "He shows up on tape making plays all the time. Our wideouts are going to have to come to play if they end up matched on him because he is going to compete and see how good he can be. Our guys are going to do that every week. They are going to play against a (lot of) good football players, so I hope they rise to the occasion and compete at the level we expect them to."
WIL-LING AND ABLE
The Tennessee defense is gearing up for its second season under defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Montana plays an up-tempo style, which presents some game-planning strategies for Wilcox.
"With the tempo, they do limit your subs," said Wilcox. "That's one thing we have to be ready for and we have been stressing that for two weeks. Its very hard to simulate during practice, because its something they do every day, it's part of their program. Its how they operate. Its an up-tempo pace and we have to be ready to handle that. What that does is, sometimes if you want to sub and they are going up-tempo, you are not able to just because you don't want to be running in-and-out while they are snapping the ball."
With that fast pace, Wilcox has to adjust some of his packages.
"We have to be able to play groups to all their personnel groups," he said. "We can't always one-for-one sub them if they are going at that up-tempo. It can (limit what UT does). We will see how fast they are going."
One team that Wilcox can use as a reference is alma mater, Oregon, who played at Tennessee last September. He said it can be a help, "for the players that played in the game" back on Sept. 11, 2010. "You can tell (the players) every 12-13 seconds they are running a play and you can simulate it out here at practice by doing up-tempo fastball formations. ... But until you are in that environment, you can talk about all you want, you have to be in that environment and that's when you really get exposed to it."