Finally it’s here.
Game week at Rocky Top has arrived.
First year Tennessee Head Coach Lane Kiffin admitted it’s nice to finally get to game week, where the coaching staff can shut the door and just concentrate just on the game of football.
“We get to shut the door to all other distractions,” Kiffin said after Monday’s practice. “We come together as a staff; we get to just concentrate on the game of football and the things we need to do to prepare for this ballgame this week.”
After four weeks of grueling physical practices, Kiffin admitted it’s time to pull back some to make sure his team has fresh legs come game day Saturday against Western Kentucky.
“We are working on getting our legs back,” Kiffin said. “It’s been a grueling camp. We are just as physical at times during game week, but the key is less plays. Where we were doing 20-25 plays in a period during camp, we cut back to 14 or 15.”
Kiffin was pleased to see his entire defensive unit on the practice field Monday for the first time this fall camp.
“Everyone is healthy on the defensive side of the ball,” Kiffin said. “It’s good to have those guys back and ready to play. We must have practiced harder offensively during fall camp than we did on defense,” Kiffin said laughing.
When asked if he thought this team was healthy as he had hoped going into game one, Kiffin explained that wasn’t the case.
“We are far from healthy,” Kiffin said. “With Josh McNeil being out, Austin Rogers, Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones, we aren’t close to being healthy offensively.”
One surprise on the medical side of the ball is that Moore is recuperating faster than expected.
“He has been a pleasant surprise,” Kiffin said. “They say he could go this week, but I don’t see it. He was out there running some routes today. He is definitely ahead of schedule and hopefully will be back for the UCLA game.”
Kiffin has seen a difference in his team’s focus this week.
“It’s game time,” Kiffin said. “Our meetings are more intense, everything is directed at an opponent for the first time since we have been here. The players are responding well to it, it’s great to see.”
Kiffin and his staff have established a sense of urgency this week with their new team.
“There is no more time to mess around,” Kiffin explained. “We have to focus on playing extremely well in all three phases of the game this week and from here on out.”
Kiffin expects for safety turned wide receiver Rod Wilkes to get some playing time this week and next.
“He has done a pretty good job picking things up,” Kiffin said. “We are going to need him.”
Kiffin also explained that all three freshman wide outs will also see action.
“Zach, Nukes, and Marsalis will see action this week,” Kiffin said. “Zach has been very consistent in camp. He runs better than what you would think he does. He will see some playing time along with the other two guys.”
Kiffin’s weekly press conference will be held on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., InsideTennessee.com will be on hand to bring you complete coverage.
Wes Rucker of the Chattanooga Times Free Press contributed to this report.