By Frank Gale
The wait is over, finally! Tomorrow, Team No. 117 will make its debut under a new head coach and a staff that has already made an impact since they arrived at UT. The last two coaching staffs to grace the sidelines at Neyland Stadium were a group of assistants that was thrown together with little or no long term history together. This time, the majority of the staff has a proven history of working together and having success along the way.
The atmosphere created by Coach Butch Jones should manifest itself on the field this season with players giving their all for the good of the team and upholding the proud traditions of Volunteer football. Gone are the individuals that cared more about their own personal agendas or coaches that talked a good game but failed to produce victories on Saturdays.
Coach Jones takes great pride in being a good game day coach. He takes great pride in the way he prepares for every possible scenario that his players could face in the course of a game. More than a few victories were lost by poor game management in recent years. Attention to detail could mean an upset victory for the Vols this year that is long over due.
Junior signal caller Justin Worley gets the nod to start the first game. His experience and hard work in the off season was rewarded with an endorsement from Butch Jones this week. Not having to look over his shoulder should help his confidence. Expect to see Nathan Peterman to also get significant snaps once this one is headed for the win column.
A weak opponent and a chance to go live against someone other than an orange clad teammate, all point to a lopsided contest. That is why the Vols opened the week as a 52-point favorite against this undermanned Austin Peay team.
Past history involving the Governors and teams from power conferences have not gone well for them in recent years. Last season, a Cincinnati squad led by the now Vol coaching staff scored over 70 points on them. Even new coach Kirby Cannon, who followed Jones as the head coach at Central Michigan, will not be enough to keep this one close.
The decision on Curt Maggitt playing tomorrow will be made sometime today. Look for Coach Jones to error on the side of caution. Unless he is at full strength, Vol fans might have to wait for the Western Kentucky game next Saturday to see Curt back on the field. Missing this game for sure are Corey Vereen, Jacques Smith and Riyahd Jones, as they continue to recover from injuries.
Vincent Dallas will be back at wide receiver after having practiced recently as a defensive back. This will provide experience and depth within the receiving corp. Michael Palardy will handle all the kicking duties, at least for the first game.
Jim Butler’s Commodores got started with a difficult opponent Thursday night. Ole Miss will certainly be enough of a test in Nashville for Jim to gauge how this season might unfold. Gone is the easy schedule from last season which is certain to cause Jim some anxious moments as this season progresses.
The Vol Walk is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. EDT tomorrow. Expect a large contingent from the Big Orange Nation to create a special atmosphere to welcome Team No. 117. Lots of "Rocky Top" and hype will set the mood for the day. When this team finally runs through the “T” tomorrow evening, once again the journey to respectability officially starts. This time though, it has the feeling of a very special trip. Go Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly).