By Frank Gale
We are but a few short weeks away from the end of spring practice for the Vols. That means that on April 21, the Big Orange Nation will once again be treated to the DISH Orange-White Game at Neyland Stadium. With an almost completely overhauled coaching staff, fans will get an early glimpse of how the changes could improve this team.
Fan Appreciation Day will feature free admission this year and a chance to walk the hallowed ground at Neyland Stadium. After several years of holding the event at Haslam Field, it is once again back at Neyland Stadium. Coach Derek Dooley, assistant coaches and players will be available to sign autographs from 12:15-1:15 p.m. p.m. EDT on the playing field.
Gate 7 will open at noon for those attending the autograph session, while those attending only the game will be able to enter the other gates at 1 p.m. The first 2,500 fans entering through Gate 10 will receive a 5X7 Tennessee football mini-poster in an acrylic holder. Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m.
For those that have been to Fan Appreciation the past few years at Haslam Field, they will certainly enjoy the opportunity to stand in the “Checkerboards” and have that special keepsake picture taken. Neyland Stadium is a special place and it will be a thrill for young and old to experience walking where past Saturday heroes have tread.
The Vols are the beneficiary of a staff makeover without the turmoil that usually accompanies this type of change. The head coach remains while wholesale changes in the assistant coaching ranks should change the atmosphere surrounding the program both on the field and in the stands.
The Orange-White game this year will give fans a preview of the multiple defenses that new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri will be using in the fall. Don’t expect the Vols to showcase everything; however, there should be enough to energize the fans for the fall campaign.
The offense will also feature a few of their own changes. New offensive line coach Sam Pittman and former Vol Jay Graham handling the running backs are expected to get the Vols' anemic run game back on track. With a dynamic passing game returning intact, Tennessee fans are anticipating an explosive offense this season.
Walking on the field at Neyland and interacting with coaches and players is reason enough to make the trip to Knoxville on April 21. The Vols also playing their annual spring game makes this a “don’t miss day” for any Big Orange fan. Besides, it is probably the last time to hear "Rocky Top" live until this fall. Go Vols!!!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)