UCLA is probably a tougher opponent than UAB and opening on the road is surely tougher than opening at home. Waiting two extra days to kick off the season, however, is no big deal.
“Nah, it just adds another practice,” junior defensive end Wes Brown said recently. “We're anxious to get out and play. The only thing that changes is that you have to wait a couple more days.”
Actually, that's not the “only thing” that changed when the Vols' scheduled was shuffled. Instead of facing UAB in a pay-per-view game viewed mainly by in-state fans, Tennessee will be facing UCLA in a nationally televised game that will be viewed by millions of fans around the world. That's because there is no competition from other college games on Monday evening. If you want to watch football, it's the only option available.
“We're looking forward to it,” Brown said. “It's going to be a heck of a lot of fun. Being in the national spotlight – Monday Night Football, two quality teams playing – it don't get much better than that.”
After backing up senior ends Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds in 2007, Brown won a first-team job in spring practice and maintained it through preseason drills. He'll make the first start of his career Monday night against UCLA.
In addition to end, Brown may play a little bit at tackle vs. the Bruins. With Chase Nelson out for the year due to a knee injury and Donald Langley serving a one-game suspension, UT's depth at tackle is so thin that Brown and some of the other ends may have to move inside for a few snaps each. Despite being undersized for tackle duty at 6-4 and 256 pounds, Brown is willing to move inside if tackles coach Dan Brooks and ends coach Steve Caldwell think he can help the team there.
“Coach Caldwell and Coach Brooks have talked to us about knowing the scheme, knowing what the tackles are doing, just in case something happens,” Brown said. “That could be an option, so right now I'm prepared to play end and tackle.”
Whether he plays tackle or not, Brown has the respect of head coach Phillip Fulmer due to his quality preseason work. So have the rest of Tennessee's defensive ends.
“I'm pleased with the progress we’ve made at defensive end,” Fulmer said. “Wes Brown and Robert Ayers are established starters that have played a lot for us in the past. Really pleasing is how (second-teamers) Chris Walker and Ben Martin have progressed. And (freshman) Willie Bohannon is a fifth guy that can go in and give us some snaps during the game. I’m anxious to see those guys play.”