Vols Ready to Kick Season Thursday Against Ball State

(utsports.com) KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Game week has arrived on Rocky Top as the Tennessee football team kicks off the 2022 campaign Thursday night in Neyland Stadium. After a month of fall camp and preseason training, the squad has begun implementing game preparations for the long-awaited season opener against Ball State.

In his weekly Monday press conference, Josh Heupel updated the media on practice, position battles and the trajectory of the program over the last 19 months. Above all, the second-year head coach is looking forward to hitting the game field and seeing Vol Nation out in full force on Thursday in primetime.

“Awesome that it’s game week man, let’s go play ball,” Heupel said. “Excited to get into Neyland Stadium. Obviously, a long training camp here with our players. We’re at the point where it is time to go play and find out where we’re at … There are things we still have to clean up here before we get to kickoff, but excited to go compete with these guys on Thursday night. Really excited to see Vol Nation out. Our student body, there has been a huge amount of ticket requests by them. Excited to feel their energy inside of Neyland Stadium (and) the Vol Walk.”

With three days till kickoff, junior defensive lineman Omari Thomas hopes to see his unit take an intense, detail-oriented approach to gameday. The Memphis native also anticipates Big Orange Country making a powerful impact every time the Vols play inside Neyland Stadium.

“I expect us to come out and play with our hair on fire. Play hard, play fast, and like I said, just focus on the small details: the alignment, the personnel, down and distance, things like that. Just play together as a unit.

“The crowd is crazy in Neyland, everyone knows. I can’t wait to get in Neyland and just be able to experience it with the crowd. (Vol Nation) plays a big factor in the game as well. Just as much as us knowing what we need to do, them being out there, that plays a big factor. I’m just excited to get back in Neyland. I can’t wait.”

Newcomer wideout Bru McCoy received clearance from the NCAA over the weekend, as his eligibility waiver was approved. The redshirt junior transfer from Southern Cal is immediately eligible and able to make his Tennessee debut on Thursday night against Ball State.

“More than anything, just excitement when I got the news,” Heupel said on Monday. “Man, it sent chills down my spine. I’m so excited for him. A young man that has done it the right way since he has been here, and he has gone through a long, winding journey to get to this point. Now he has the opportunity to move forward with his future and go compete with his teammates, his brothers. Having the chance to tell him and hear him tell his dad was one of the great moments in my career. You can just tell the sense of excitement and some relief from them that they are just able to move on and go compete. Really special for him and his family.”

Redshirt-senior receiver Cedric Tillman echoed Heupel’s excitement when asked about the news on Monday.

“I saw it pop up on my (Twitter) feed and texted him immediately: Congratulations bro. Let’s eat this year,” Tillman said. “Once again, positive words of encouragement. Obviously, I’m happy I get to have one of my brothers out there playing with me. I was excited.”

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