We have less than 60 hours to go. I am assuming there will be many of us here who will be taking in the first full Saturday of college football action to get ready for our Big Monday. So we will put up a college football open thread later this afternoon where anyone watching the games, can offer up running commentary.
Meanwhile, let’s continue to gather our notes for the Monday night’s matchup against Tennessee. We will start with Tennessee’s defense. Neuheisel is concerned about the speed and athleticism of Vols’ defense (per Dohn):
After that (Eric Berry’s freakish playmaking abilities – BN Ed), what stands out to Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel is the speed the Volunteers' defense possesses, speed the Bruins will see up close Monday when No. 18 Tennessee visits the Rose Bowl.
"They've got a strong defensive line, that's for sure," Bruins receiver Terrence Austin said. "Their guys are athletic. The big guys are fast and strong. The linebackers are fast and athletic, sideline to sideline. And the secondary is probably the most athletic in the group of the defense.
"They're as athletic as `SC, and as aggressive as `SC. They're physical. I haven't really seen one play on film where everybody isn't trying for the ball. Once the ball is heading in one direction, the whole defense is flying one way."
The Vols return six starters on defense, led by Berry, who had five interceptions in 2007.
It is also a defense that under coordinator John Chavis, who has held the position since 1995, does not blitz often, although there are occasions he decides to pressure the quarterback.
"Speed and ability to change direction," Neuheisel said when asked about the Vols. "They just have great athletes on the defensive side. It's certainly no knock to anybody on their staff; I think they're brilliant in that they try to keep it simple. They let their athletes play."
Vols have also received some more good news on the defensive front. They are going to have Gerald Williams, a JUCO LB (who had committed to the Vols in 2005) available for the UCLA. He just received his clearance from the NCAA. Here is the AP wire story on WWL, and the celebratory reaction from the Rocky Top Talk.
Williams, Berry and rest of the Volunteers defense will present a huge challenge for the UCLA offense, which will try to establish a running game to create some breathing room for Kevin Craft. Kahlil Bell is all fired up, but as noted in the LA Times, CRN is going to keep a close eye on KB to make sure he is paced appropriately in his first game back from knee injury:
Despite Bell's aggressive approach, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel has limited his work throughout fall camp and will keep a close eye on him against the Volunteers.
"I'm going to watch his conditioning," Neuheisel said about Bell, who also missed several games as a sophomore because of an ankle injury in 2006. "Given his situation coming off the knee, it was difficult to put him through the paces [that would have been] if he was 100%.
"I don't anticipate him to play the whole game, we'll spell him, but I know he's eager. I'm excited to watch him play."
We are all excited to see KB and other young running backs making their debut on national TV.
Over on the defensive side, our DL has taken note of Tennessee’s effective OL:
When UCLA opens its 2008 campaign against the Vols, the Bruins will be going against an offensive line that is among the best in America, returning all five starters and coming off a season in which it allowed an NCAA-record four sacks.
"It's going to be a challenge for us," Harwell said. "They are a (heck) of a group."
Tennessee was the only team in the nation to give up fewer than 10 sacks last year and did so while throwing 534 passes. But one thing Harwell noticed is that former quarterback Erik Ainge had a lightning-quick release and that there were times when a sack could have happened with a slower quarterback.
"A lot of times it's not really about the sacks," defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. "It's about the pressure and distracting him to make mistakes. If we can force bad throws, that's just as good as a sack."
This year, Jonathan Crompton takes over the reins under center and, despite being a junior, has a slower release than Ainge. Harwell believes that could play into the hands of the Bruins.
"We have to get to him and get pressure on him," Harwell said. "It's going to be a challenge, but we have no choice. We have to get there. It's a must."
Yeap. If the Vols are able to establish a running game and get their young QB enough time to get comfortable early, it will be a long night for UCLA. Hopefully Harwell, Price and their team-mates can come out on fire and disrupt the rhythm of that offense early and often.
We will have an open college football game thread up by 12:30 PST. Enjoy your Saturday.