It's been a long offseason.
To recap, we've had the coaching change, the multitude of player transitions, the Bar thingy, and a whole lot of concern over the 4th offense in four years to go with the 3rd defense in three years. And annoying little things keep getting thrown in our lap along the way. This Titans / Kiffin spat, for example, really has nothing to do with Tennessee (the school), but since it occurred within the state of Tennessee, we get lumped into it just the same.
But practices are starting back up again and we're counting down the days until actual football happens again. Right about now, Will is beginning to talk himself up into wide-eyed optimism about the season to levels that will seem absurd to disinterested outsiders. Joel is figuring out which games he'll be able to sneak away to see, and which of the rest of his family will join him. I'm looking at my fall schedule, realizing that I don't have any classes to take any more, and wondering exactly how many games I can make without losing time on my dissertation.
But it's all anticipation. As the practice reports come in, we'll all be dreaming dreams of Orange and White in its full cataract-inducing glory, with Rocky Top blaring at a couple Megabels or so. (Heck, I'm seriously considering hiking the real Rocky Top just because of that song.) The Vols will finally be on the shady sideline, now that the student section is politely moved from behind the other team's area. The name 'Dooley' will be cheered very loudly during the first game introductions. Smokey will be howling his head off, while the dude dressed as a plushy Smokey will be sporting the pimp suit in the third quarter. And we'll get lots of practice on our 'OOOO' vocalizations with running backs Tauren and David leading the way.
And that's really what it's about to me. Sometimes forgotten in the angst of the last couple of years is that we have a really exciting season ahead of us. In no particular order, a few things I'm looking forward to are:
- The Oregon game. Seriously, it's hard to find a greater contrast of personalities. One one hand, you have Tennessee in gaudy orange - the haven of hillbillies and moonshiners who ESPN once portrayed as people who would roast pigs in elevators. On the other hand, you have the Oregon Nikes in their 1,487.3 uniform combinations. Heck, we even have different supporting shoe companies.
- Tauren Poole. I mentioned him earlier, but he deserves a repeat: I really believe this guy will lay the hammer down this year.
- Janzen Jackson. The dude walked away from the bar.
- The defense. The players seem to love Wilcox and his schemes. The Boise guys at OBNUG can attest to his abilities.
- The Kentucky game. I've been in Knoxville since 2006. Every year, that game is far closer than it should be.
- The quarterbacks. An honest quarterback battle - the first in a while. Granted, that means you don't have a clear starter, but I'm still intrigued by it.
- The Alabama game. Two years ago, we had a reeling team and problems far bigger than rivalries. Last year, the rivalry was just plain nasty, and really got to be unpleasant. I've really appreciated the change in tenor over the last few months. It's not any less intense, it's just more fun.
- Chaney, year two. Let's be honest - last year's offense was Chaney's and this year's offense is Chaney's. Usually the second year is the one where offenses really gel, but we'll have a brand new offensive line to go with the brand new quarterback. As you know, I have thought the world of Chaney since his Wyoming days (yes, I went there again), and I'm really eager to see what he does with the hand he's been dealt.
- The Mississippi game. Maybe it's preseason optimism, but I have a good feeling about this one.
I think we have enough on our plate if we simply look forward.