Senior linebacker Herman Lathers said he still isn't 100 percent recovered from a strained quadriceps that has kept him sidelined for much of camp, but resolved to be ready for Tennessee's season opener against North Carolina State in 10 days.
"I can't really put a mark on how close I am, but I felt a little better (today) than I have in the past few days, and that's a good step," Lathers said on Monday. "We've got a rest period coming up soon, so I've got to take full advantage of it and get in there and just rehab until I can't rehab anymore."
Lathers missed all of last season after breaking his ankle. He was an All-SEC freshman in 2009 and started 12 games in 2010.
"I'm a guy that's going to push himself," Lathers said. "Even when I'm not at 100 percent, I'm going to work to compete and train hard."
* Music blared from speakers while players warmed up for practice Saturday. And no, coach Derek Dooley said with a smile, the rap music did not come from his Ipod.
"I don't have that song, nor do I know what it is, or who sang it. If you call that singing," Dooley said.
Dooley said the musical accompaniment had been on players' wish-list for a while.
"They came to me about 10 practices ago and requested music," Dooley said. "I just said, 'Music doesn't energize you. You get music when you're energized.' It's just like why did we cancel practice at Milligan (on the last day)? We didn't cancel practice because they needed it. We canceled practice because they earned it. That's how music is. It's a privilege."
* One song on Monday's set list carries a special meaning for Lathers. "A Change Is Gonna Come," a 1964 soul hit that became an anthem of the civil rights movement, has helped Lathers through his months of rehabilitation. Now he'd like it to become a motto for the team.
"The song is to remind the guys that we are not going back to the way things used to be," Lathers said. "There is going to be a change this year and we're putting Tennessee back where Tennessee needs to be."
* The Vols are off for most of the next two days to prepare for the start of classes on Wednesday. The new semester adds a challenge for players who had been able to concentrate solely on football for the last two weeks.
"(The dynamic) will change Wednesday when classes start," Dooley said. "We have to get prepared for all of that. I think this is a good time for classes to start. You don't want it on your game week and you don't want it too early in camp. We'll always go through a couple of days of issues there."