Tennessee's fall camp ended Friday with a smile - a tired but appreciative smile.
Coach Derek Dooley dismissed the team for a two-day weekend before resuming game-week preparations on Monday.
"It's important that we're fresh this first game,'' Dooley said. "When you give 'em two days off in a row, the recovery is about 10 times what it is for one day.
"Hopefully on Monday we'll be ready for a good game week.''
The opener is 6 p.m. next Saturday against UT Martin (TV: pay-per-view).
UT traditionally has held a kicking scrimmage on the Saturday morning before the opener, but Dooley has his own ideas.
"I think it's important that they get at least two days in a row,'' he said. "Up to this point, they've had a day here, a day there, but two in a row, it's amazing what it does for the body.''
Said senior linebacker LaMarcus Thompson, "We're not complaining, trust me.''
All in all, Dooley said it has been a satisfactory camp. The Vols opened practice on Aug. 4.
"I've felt like we've made progress every day, I really have,'' Dooley said. "The jury, of course, our first trial is next Saturday. That's what really matters. That's where we'll find out.''
Since losing defensive linemen Ben Martin and Marlon Walls to season-ending injuries early on, the Vols have emerged relatively healthy. Dooley said it's good to have safety Janzen Jackson, one of the few players sidelined by a nagging injury, back at full-go the last week.
"He's catching up,'' Dooley said. "He's not where he would be if he had the whole camp but he's doing really well.''
Time off can sometimes be a temptation that leads to off-the-field trouble.
Dooley sent the Vols into the weekend with a strong warning to avoid bad decisions - like the ones that led to the July 9 bar brawl.
"You read it every day,'' he said, "another incident on one of our Southeastern Conference teams (Georgia), an incident out in the Pac-10 (Oregon State). You read it every day, there's an incident of a bad choice.
"Our number-one game maxim is the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. It's the same thing in life. Don't go out there and make mistakes this weekend.''
Defense Says: Thompson said the defense has gotten on the same page since the start of fall camp, its first under coordinator Justin Wilcox.
"We've definitely come a long way, just from assignments and alignments, getting every thing down, becoming one unit and getting that chemistry together,'' Thompson said.
"That chemistry is one of the important things a defense has. If one guy is wrong, the defense falls apart.''
Offense Says: Senior receiver Gerald Jones was handing out compliments.
"I'm excited about the receivers and the quarterbacks,'' he said, "but more than anything I'm really excited about our linemen. They've really come a long way and I would have to say they make this offense run. And they show positive results week by week, getting better.''
All five starters will be new on the line.
The Few, The Proud: The transition from Phillip Fulmer to Lane Kiffin to Dooley has taken a toll on what could have been an impressive senior class. Jones was a member of the 2007 signing class that was ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation.
"(Former assistant coach) Trooper Taylor told me my freshman year, 'look around, all these guys you see now, they won't be here,' '' Jones said. "I'm thinking, 'We're the No. 2 class in the nation, we're gonna be here.'
"But I look around and there's only a couple of us.''
Fleet Cleat: Jones is excited about getting to return kicks again. He hasn't done so since 2008.
"The last time I was out there was my sophomore year and I was 205, 210 (pounds),'' he said. "I'm a little faster now so I can't wait to see what I can do out there.
"I'm about 200, but I'm a little leaner and my cleats aren't as heavy like they were my sophomore year. We wore these big old cleats. We've finally got some low-tops.''