Can Scotty Hopson live up to the hype?
Sure. Asked if he feels pressure because of the All-SEC projections, Hopson replied: "Not in that. But I definitely feel pressure to be a leader on this team and be a big impact on this team."
The 6-7 junior guard had better have a big impact in terms of points and leadership because the Vols lost a lot in each area since last spring. The departure of 2009-10 seniors Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze means the offense has 32 points per game to replace. Hopson needs to pick up a lot of that slack.
Tennessee does not project to get a whole lot of points from centers Brian Williams, John Fields and Kenny Hall. Power forward Tobias Harris has scoring potential but he's a true freshman. Small forward Cameron Tatum has never been a consistent scorer and point guard Melvin Goins is more of a setup guy.
Still, Hopson feels no pressure to bump last year's 12.2 points-per-game scoring average into the 20's this year.
"My supporting cast is great," he said, "and I know we're going to finish on through and be great this year. We're going to do a great job."
Asked point-blank if he must score a lot more this season, Hopson shrugged.
"I just feel like I need to do a lot of different things on the basketball floor," he said. "I need to fill up the stat sheet in whatever I can do - steals, deflections, blocks, getting to the free-throw line a lot more and just being aggressive. I think I did that in the practice, and I think it will lead over into the game.
At 6-7, Hopson can be disruptive on defense. He expects to exploit that talent a bit more this season.
"I'm looking at getting up in guys, putting pressure on the basketball, blocking shots and getting steals," he said. "The more pressure I can put on the basketball, it keeps me more focused and more aggressive."
Replacing the points provided by Chism, Prince and Maze is one thing. Replacing the leadership provided by that trio will be even more difficult for the soft-spoken Hopson. That's why he expects to lead by example, more so than by word.
"The key is just setting the tempo at the beginning of practice," he said. "It starts with a lot of talking, then being aggressive in the drill work. Whatever I do, give 110 percent and set that tone."