By Frank Gale
Wake up a week from tomorrow and it’s finally game day. In many ways, it seemed like it took forever to get here. A change in coaching staff and the early exit from Rocky Top of last year’s heralded playmakers will certainly lead to a new look this season. Sometimes though, addition through subtraction is not a bad thing; only time will tell how that all works out for team No. 117.
It looks like the staff is going to wait to name a starting quarterback. I will be shocked if that starter wears any thing but number 14 on his back and the name Worley above those numbers. While not being the most mobile of the four candidates, he certainly has the most experience and has been the least mistake prone so far in camp.
Starting the season, it will be more important to have a quarterback that is a caretaker of the offense rather than someone counted on to make a lot of big plays. Steady with minimal mistakes will be the theme through September. After that, expect anything, including one of the freshmen stepping up to provide a spark.
A new beginning for the Big Orange Nation is about to unfold next Saturday. Judging by the crowd that showed up despite the rain last Saturday for an open practice, the team will have an energized 12th man in the stands. I do have to admit that some of the reported 39,000 were obviously counted more than once last Saturday evening. However, whatever the number, the enthusiasm for Vol football is back!
It now appears the defense will be without Curt Maggitt and Jacques Smith, at least for the opening game, as they heal from injuries. It is more important that they are healthy for the SEC campaign than to prematurely get back in the lineup.
The big story last week, besides the large turnout for the practice Saturday, was revealing the different uniforms for the 2013 season. While most were similar to past Vol attire, there was one that was a wee bit different, the “Smokey Gray” uniform.
The good news for the traditionalist fans out there is the alternative uniform will be only worn once this season at the discretion of the head coach. Best guess. look for it against either Georgia or South Carolina in October at home. Then again, it might be reserved for the rival game with the team that resides to the west of here in Nashville.
Speaking of Vandy, I see that fellow columnist Jim Butler was back last week after a long hiatus. Welcome back to the fray, Jim. His Commodores should have a decent season; in fact, I am hoping they win all their games until they arrive in Knoxville late November. Circle the date Jim. The Vols have!
The SEC released the basketball schedule for the upcoming 2013-'14 season. Gone is the home game this season against Kentucky, a causality of restructuring the league without divisions. The Vols will be a part of two big Monday games on ESPN, at LSU in January and at home against the Gators in February. This is the year that Coach Martin’s team needs to make a major move and finally get to the NCAA Tournament.
The SEC also released the 2014 football schedule this week. The Vols will open against Utah State and also play Arkansas State, Florida, UT-Chattanooga, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri on their home schedule. A tough road schedule awaits the Vols next season with Oklahoma, Georgia, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. No problem – right!
Enjoy this last weekend without college football. The wait is almost over with just a week and a wake up left. I can almost hear Bobby Denton’s call of “It’s Football Time in Tennessee” echoing through Neyland Stadium. Go Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)