Derek Dooley talks about getting a better pass rush
A little SEC football word-association game seemed right for a November Tuesday morning.
Tyler Bray, what comes to mind when you think of Alabama?
OK, South Carolina?
"Hasn't been here yet.'' Laughs. "I guess nothing yet, in the SEC.''
There you have it. An SEC rivalry will start from scratch Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Bray was right. So far there is nothing.
The Vols and Tigers have never met in football, either in Neyland Stadium or Faurot Field or anywhere else.
Since the days of leather helmets, UT and Missouri have managed to avoid each other. Now, they are thrown together as instant rivals.
Depending on how the SEC schedule rotation works out, the Vols might play Texas A&M, the SEC's other new member, once a generation. They'll play Mizzou as an SEC East rival every year.
Move over Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Kentucky. Make room for the new guy.
Can the Vols work up a healthy dislike, a traditional respect or some kind of feelings toward the transfer from the Big 12?
"I don't know,'' said offensive tackle Tiny Richardson. "We'll see what it is.
"Tennessee is pretty much already established as far as rivalries go.''
The SEC's previous expansion was 20 years ago. It took a while, but UT worked up a worthy rivalry with South Carolina, especially once Steve Spurrier started stirring the pot in 2005. Tennessee and Arkansas already had some history when the Razorbacks came on board.
Both beat UT in 1992, their introductory season. And Missouri, frankly, could open the new era with a win Saturday at Neyland if Tennessee doesn't bring its 'A' game.
The Tigers have struggled in their maiden voyage. They share in common with the Vols losses to Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida.
They beat Kentucky two weeks ago. Which means ...
"They have more SEC wins than us right now,'' Richardson said.
Correct. Missouri finds its first-time host fallen on hard times. The Vols need to beat the new guys to, among other things, keep
their coach employed.
Here's an update on Mizzou's recent history.
The Tigers have been to seven straight bowl games and are one of six BCS-league schools with six consecutive eight-win seasons.
Their coach, Gary Pinkel, ranks ninth among active coaches with 162 wins.
That goofy character you see on the sideline is Truman the Tiger.
That guy you see lined up to return kicks, there's nothing goofy about him. He's Marcus Murphy and he leads the nation with four return touchdowns this year.
There's plenty more to learn, but don't sweat it. There are presumably decades to get it all down to the point of being able to effectively trash-talk.
For now, though, it's an odd week. The Vols are practicing for an opponent with whom they have no past, yet they must treat it with the same urgency of all their other SEC games.
"Yeah,'' said linebacker Curt Maggitt. "It's a little bit (weird), not really having any history behind it.
"But if they're in the SEC, they're in the SEC and we've got to try to get this win.''
Some Saturday in the future, the stakes will surely be higher. The Vols and Tigers might even decide a title.
Every rivalry starts somewhere. This one will start Saturday when the captains shake hands before kickoff.