Nick Stephens was prepared to hear that fellow quarterback Jonathan Crompton will start the season opener for Tennessee against Western Kentucky on Sept. 5.
Stephens said he was disappointed, but Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin reminded him to not lose his focus when he informed the junior of the decision Monday.
"He said be ready," Stephens said. "You never know what's going to happen.
"His big thing was he's been wrong before. You never know when something's going to happen so you have to prepare like you're the starter and never let anything else get in your way."
Stephens said UT's staff never got in the way of his attempt to win the starting job during fall camp.
Stephens said he appreciated a fair opportunity to win the position.
"I respect them so much for that," he said. "I couldn't ask for anything more from Coach Kiffin and these coaches."
Kiffin said Tuesday he's been pleased with the reaction from Stephens since Crompton was named UT's starter, even though Kiffin is sure the decision was disappointing.
"He was very professional," Kiffin said of Stephens. "I don't think it's affected him. He's done a really good job of handling himself."
Stephens said he plans to handle each practice as if he's the starter.
"I'm not walking out of here feeling sorry for myself needing a pat on the back," he said. "It's part of the game. You just fight through it."
Receivers Rally: Kiffin said he was pleased with the practice from his wide receivers Tuesday after a disappointing practice Monday.
UT is dealing with a thin receiving corps because of injuries to veterans Austin Rogers, Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones, who suffered a high ankle sprain during Saturday's scrimmage.
Their injuries have forced UT's three freshman, Nu'Keese Richardson, Marsalis Teague and Zach Rogers, into first-team roles.
Kiffin said he and the offensive staff spent extra time Monday night finding ways to get the freshmen more involved.
"Too often coaches sit there and say, 'We only have freshmen and they're supposed to line up wrong. Oh well they drop it and that's what freshmen do,' " Kiffin said.
"Well, we can't say that. That's not going to help us on Saturday. Nobody's going to be happy when they leave the stands because they're freshmen if they're not playing well."
Kiffin singled out Richardson's practice Tuesday.
"Nu'Keese had by far his best day since he's been here," Kiffin said. "He made a number of huge plays, probably had 250 yards receiving.
"That was great to see because he'd gone through his ups and downs and the transition had been tough on him. It was great to see him make some big plays."
Some of Richardson's big plays included a diving catch in the back of the end zone and a catch on a deep pass down the sideline for a touchdown.
Versatile Willie: Redshirt freshman Willie Bohannon continues to see extensive work on the defensive line.
Bohannon saw snaps with the first team defense Tuesday while starting defensive end Chris Walker sat out practice.
Bohannon has also received work at defensive tackle on passing downs.
"Willie's improving and has really helped himself by being able to play multiple positions," Kiffin said.
Bohannon said his focus has been on working his way up the depth chart this fall. He said he's becoming more comfortable with playing end or tackle.
"If I get on the field and I do what I need to do it doesn't really matter (what position I play)," Bohannon said.
Colorful Kiffin: UT's head coach joked with a reporter when asked about freshman tailback David Oku throwing a touchdown pass to Crompton on a trick play.
"Thanks for just giving away our trick play that we had for the opener," Kiffin said. "But yeah David threw it back to Jonathan and now we can't run it."
Kiffin, with his customary dry wit, later chided the same reporter when he asked about Oku working at slot receiver during Tuesday's practice.
"You told them that he threw the ball and now you've told them that he lined up at receiver, too," Kiffin joked.
Blogging Berry: Safety Eric Berry will be among 18 players writing weekly diaries for Sporting News Today.
Berry's diaries, which can be found online at www.sportingnewstoday.com, began running Tuesday.
Practice Schedule: UT will practice today before taking the day off Thursday. Kiffin said UT will hold a physical practice Friday before holding a mostly non-contact practice Saturday.
Josh Ward is a freelance contributor.