This afternoon select members of the Tennessee football team spoke to the media. Here are highlights.
The leader of the offensive line this year will be center Brandon Kennedy. Kennedy, who started his career at Alabama, enters his sixth year of college and will bring a lot of experience to a Vols offense that will look to come out of the gate stronger than in years past.
“Going into this season, I’m very excited.” Kennedy said “It’s my last season and I’ve worked very hard to get to this point, so I am just excited and ready to get out there. As far as talking to people on the outside about playing, my mom she’s very excited for me. She's been with me through this whole process and just seeing me get this far. All my friends have been talking to me about it and they're all excited and ready to see some football on Saturday.”
Kennedy talked about the chemistry spoke about the strong chemistry Tennessee’s offensive line has been able to build this offseason.
“I think we’ve been really good at building chemistry. It has allowed us to get different guys at different positions this year, so I think it’s been great. Our expectations going in to the first game is we want to be physical up front, and make a name for ourselves with our physicality, so that’s what we pride ourselves on with the offensive line.”
Behind Kennedy, sophomore running Eric Gray will return after a breakout freshman year last fall.
“I would say last season,” Gray said “for me it was just getting to learn how to be a college back. It took me a couple games (to learn) how to be a college back, get a feel for the offense, get a feel for playing in the SEC. I feel like I had to get a feel for that at first. Now that I feel like I have that experience, I definitely feel like I’m going to start fast.”
Gray also talked about his fellow running backs, noting the formidable duo he and Ty Chandler can be, as well what sees out of freshman Dee Beckwith.
“First, with me and Ty being on the field,” Gray said “that’s just like a dynamic duo out there. You got to account for both of us because we’re two different types of backs and we can really affect the game. About Dee Beckwith, Dee has really shown a lot. You know he’s a taller guy, so him just learning how to use his pads and use his size to become a running back, I think he has a great place back there.”
Across the line of scrimmage fellow sophomore To’o To’o is similarly ready for week one. To’o To’o will also be expected to step up following the departure of many key players from last year and he talked about what will be key for a strong defensive unit this season.
“The relationship we created, to tell you the truth.” To’o To’o said “We created a relationship, a bond, not only on the field, but off the field. We can confront each other when we do something wrong. We can confront each other when we’re doing something bad off the field. That relationship can carry on so long, not only on the field, but off the field, and far down the road past football. That’s something that we realize as a linebacking corps and as a defense, that if we build a relationship together and if I know you as a person and you know me as a person and why I do thing and why I react to things, then we’ll be able to excel in anything we do. That was kind of the approach that we took losing a lot of leaders on the defense. We have to come together as one.”
However, what To’o To’o is most excited about is to put that practice time to good use.
“I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m not going to lie.” To’o To’o said “I’m ready to hit somebody that’s not wearing orange. It’s going to be fun.”