On the eve of the beginning of Tennessee training camp, the Vols met with the media Thursday at Neyland Stadium.
With recent success low and expectations high, there were plenty of questions.
"You've heard me bragging the whole offseason, the last eight months, about how hard they've worked, the chemistry and the leadership of the group and all that's great, but none of that's going to pay dividends in the fall if we don't approach the next couple weeks with the right kind of mindset," said coach Derek Dooley, who is 11-14 in two seasons at Tennessee.
Sitting alongside fellow seniors Dallas Thomas and Mychal Rivera, cornerback Prentiss Waggner said, "We want to be that group of seniors — that Tennessee team — that brought Tennessee back and put Tennessee back on that pedestal that everyone is used to seeing it on."
The Vols are coming off a 1-7 finish in the SEC East and were picked to finish fifth in the league's preseason coaches poll.
On the injury front, Dooley said freshman wide receiver Alton Howard (foot) is two and half weeks out of his surgery and is "progressing forward," while redshirt freshman linebacker Chris Harris (torn ACL) is three and half months out of his surgery and coming back "rapidly."
Dooley added that junior wide receiver Justin Hunter, who is recovering from a season-ending ACL surgery in 2011, is back to 100 percent and it's now "just a matter of getting the pads back on."
The Vols will open camp Friday and spend a week working on campus before heading to Milligan College in Elizabethton from Aug. 9-15.
Dooley said that his current group of Vols, a roster flush with returning players, has shown "more unity" than either of his first two teams in Knoxville.
More details later online and in Friday's News Sentinel.