Nick Reveiz sat there smiling.
"How's everybody doing?" Tennessee's senior middle linebacker asked the media at Monday's press conference.
"It's going to be a good day."
For Reveiz, Saturday will be an even better day.
That's when his return from last September's serious knee injury will be completed as the Vols play host to UT Martin at 6 p.m.
"It's something that when I was told the injury and the time period that I'd be out, this is the day that I'd be looking forward to," Reveiz said.
"It's hard not to be anxious, not to have nerves and not worry and think about those things, but it's one of those things where I'm trying to savor the moment.
"This is my last first game of the season as a Volunteer. I'm just blessed, I'm fortunate that I have another year to come back."
Reveiz, a former walk-on who worked his way up to team captain and starting middle linebacker, suffered a torn lateral meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament in UT's fourth game last season against Ohio.
Though the former Farragut star has returned to the heart of UT's defense, he said he's still got something to prove despite averaging roughly seven tackles per game prior to his injury.
"As a player," he said, "if you don't feel like you have something to prove, then you're never going to get better. There's still things in my mind that I have to prove, whether it's the team, the media, whoever it is."
Reveiz believes UT coach Derek Dooley has instilled that same mindset to the entire team. He also believes that will overcome the team's perceived talent deficiency.
"You can't replace certain great athletes," he said, "but a lot of times it really doesn't come down to ability.
"I feel like great teams, they don't necessarily have the most talent, but they have the hardest work ethic, the most relentless desire to win.
"I feel that's something Coach Dooley has really inhabited in our team."
No Worries: Reveiz admitted he shares Dooley's concern over the Vols' lack of depth.
"As a senior, it's something you worry about," he said. "This is my fifth season, and I've seen a lot of teams. It's hard not to worry."
It's a worry he's overcome, however.
"But it's something that you realize you'd rather do it with a smaller group of guys who are doing it the right way than a bigger group of guys who are doing it the wrong way," he said.
"I really believe we're doing it the right way as far as off the field and on the field. I wouldn't trade these guys for anybody."
No King: Linebacker Greg King has been noticeably absent from most of spring practice and fall camp with knee injuries.
As a result, the sophomore also was absent from the two-deep depth chart released Monday.
"He's just so far behind," Dooley said. "It doesn't mean we're not trying to work him in and catch him up. His injuries have really set him back."
Brackets: Eric Gordon and Marsalis Teague were listed as co-starters at the cornerback spot opposite Art Evans.
"Eric is a real physical guy, Marsalis probably plays a little bit better the deeper the field goes," Dooley said. "They bring two different things at corner.
"It's to show we consider Marsalis a starter. It's not a knock on Eric."
Herman Lathers and Savion Frazier also were bracketed as co-starters at weak-side linebacker.
Status Update: The only change in Justin Hunter's status is the freshman receiver's jersey number.
Previously No. 87, Hunter wore No. 11 while watching Monday's practice. He's awaiting the resolution of an issue with the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Fullback Kevin Cooper (knee) and safety Brent Brewer (groin) were both back at practice Monday and will be ready for Saturday's game.
Patrick Brown is a freelance contributor.