Our biggest challenge is going to be not patting ourselves on the back and listening to everybody talking about how good we played and not remembering why we had success, which is the process these guys have been going through the last eight months."
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley has insisted that the Vols' 1-0 start means little.
His team may not be getting the message.
Dooley said a sluggish practice on Tuesday left him worried about the team's focus after a season-opening win last Friday against North Carolina State.
"Most teams never reach their dreams because they overestimate the event and underestimate the process," Dooley said.
The Vols play Georgia State on Saturday (TV: Pay-Per-View, 4 p.m.) before facing Florida on Sept. 15.
Dooley said he wants his players to focus on how they got to 1-0, not the "event" — the win itself.
"Our biggest challenge is going to be not patting ourselves on the back and listening to everybody talking about how good we played and not remembering why we had success, which is the process these guys have been going through the last eight months," Dooley said.
* Receiver Alton "Pig" Howard and linebacker Christian Harris, both out with ACL injuries, are getting closer to returning. Howard is "running around," Dooley said.
Howard, a true freshman from Orlando, Fla., tweeted Monday about his return to the practice field: "God is Good! I'm back in business."*Tennessee played only two true freshmen in the opener, but Dooley said the number would have been higher if injuries hadn't hit the class so hard.
Howard, fellow receiver Jason Croom and linebackers Kenny Bynum and LaTroy Lewis all might have played in the first game if they were healthy.
*Quarterback Tyler Bray has tried to keep Tennessee's offensive changes quiet since he first learned of them eight months ago.
Dooley said the Vols' "philosophical" commitment to running a no-huddle offense has been in the works since December and January.
"You guys asked if it was the same," Bray said with a smile. "It is the same. It's just a little faster."
*Antonio "Tiny" Richardson was amped up for his debut as a starter on Tennessee's offensive line, so mistakes might have been inevitable. But a penalty on the first snap?
"He jumped offsides the first play, and we had a bet that he would. Nobody bet on Tiny not jumping offsides," Dooley said. "He was juiced up. He made a lot of first-game mistakes. He's going to be a good player, but he made a ton of mistakes. He's going to get better."*Players talked frequently about first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri's on-field intensity, but Dooley said that has little to do with do with the Vols' aggressiveness on defense.
"(Longtime NFL coach) Dom Capers had some great defenses, and I don't think his voice ever rose above Decibel 2," Dooley said. "I don't think screaming is why we're having success. It's because we're coaching them well, the players are buying in, and the players are investing in it. We've got a good scheme, and the players are doing a great job. I don't think it's the volume of the screaming that's helping us."*Tennessee moved to the edge of the two major polls Tuesday, but came in 27th in The Associated Press rankings and 29th in the coaches' poll.
Boise State is the only team ranked higher than Tennessee outside the top 25 in the AP poll.
The most recent time Tennessee was ranked was Sept. 1, 2008. The Vols entered the season ranked 18th in the AP poll before losing to UCLA.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.