For the first time in his college career, Tennessee cornerback Naz Oliver is healthy, in top shape, trusted by his coaches and in line for meaningful playing time.
Which is why Aug. 31 can't get here fast enough.
Oliver has never before been at such an important point in his bumpy, injury-riddled career, and he's hoping that the bad luck that has bedeviled him in the past will stay away for 11 more days.
"It's just exciting for me right now," Oliver said. "I'm just going to keep praying that I don't get hurt again and no one else on the team has to go through what I had to."
Oliver has been frequently hurt. Coaches have shuffled him between offense and defense. Regrettably, he might be best known for an embarrassing incident in 2009 when he was cited for shoplifting at West Town Mall.
Any hope of erasing that gaffe with his play on the field has been thwarted by injuries. He redshirted in 2009, missed 2010 with a torn ACL and then sat out 2011 after breaking his wrist.
But with the season opener looming, Oliver is putting the finishing touches on a strong camp that has placed him on the two-deep depth chart at cornerback.
"This is my first time going through camp being healthy in a while, so I'm like a kid in a candy shop," Oliver said Sunday. "I was just trying to suck it up and not quit. I was just trying to see that light at the end of the tunnel. I stuck with it, and here we are today."
Oliver said he was helped by getting a clean slate from the new coaches on staff, particularly first-year cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley.
"He has a lot of ability and explosive power," Ansley said. "He's really heavy handed when he puts his hands on people.. All of those elements are good for what we want to do at corner."
Oliver was a highly regarded prospect out of Jersey City, N.J., where he played primarily running back. He originally committed to the Vols and former head coach Phillip Fulmer but then switched to Notre Dame after Fulmer was fired. New coach
Lane Kiffin wooed him back just before National Signing Day.
After spending time at receiver, Oliver seems to have settled permanently in the secondary. He's also tried to catch coaches' eyes on special teams.
"I just told Coach Dooley to put me on anything," Oliver said. "I just want to play."
Despite his injury history, Oliver said he believes he's thrived this summer because of his recklessness and aggressiveness on defense. If he was going to make a mistake, he wanted to do it while playing fast.
"I just want to be a bulldog out there, a little pit bull," he said. "That's what I pride myself on...I feel like I'm faster and stronger. I just come out here and give it all I've got."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.