Bryan -- Five and seven seasons are not common for Tennessee football but that was the record in 2011. The Volunteers won just one game in SEC play. The team lost six of their final eight games including a 10-7 setback to Kentucky in their season finale. Now Volunteer offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James and his teammates are hoping to get back to their winning ways. "There definitely was a lot of frustration, especially after the loss to Kentucky but we just came together as players and as a group just talked and said we are on a mission this year to bring Tennessee back to what it use to be. We left it at that and we have just been working all off-season just so we can do that." Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray feels leadership will be a key to winning "We have talked to the teams that won back in the day and they could not stop talking about leadership. If we can become a better team I think we can get back on top."
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley is 11 and 14 in his two season in Knoxville and just 4 and 12 in the SEC. Dooloey admits when you look from the outside it is human nature to say that guy is not doing a good job and he is in trouble but also says there have been some anchors on the program the last four years. "Whether it is the changes in the coaches, the changes in the administration, whether it is the NCAA cloud, whether is the inordinate amount of attrition that has up playing 32 true freshman but none of that matters and those anchors are not there anymore. I am excited about the year. I can not control what people say. It is an important year? It is, every year is and if you don't understand that you don't need to be in college coaching."
The Tennessee defense has seven starters back from last year's team. They will also get linebacker Herman Lathers back who did not play last season after suffering a fractured ankle in June. That is minor compared to Lather beating bone cancer that he was diagnosed with at age 10. The adversity he has dealt allows Lathers to push his teammates through their struggles. "We were doing a pursuit drill and he told me his knee hurt and I told him if his knee hurt than maybe he should just leave and go home because I have had a lot of injuries, five or six surgeries since I have been here but I never complained during practice saying my knee hurt because a knee injury is just one small thing that I have had."
Lathers and the Volunteers will open the 2012 season August 31 against North Carolina State in the Chick-fil-a kickoff game in Atlanta.