It didn't take long to notice the difference. The difference was the attitude of the Tennessee Vols football team as they beat North Carolina State 35-21 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in Atlanta, Ga. Friday night.
Every season is a new season, but this season really seems to be different. For the first time under head coach Derek Dooley, the Vols believe they are good team. They already knew they had a great passing game with a solid quarterback and talented receivers. What they found out last night was that they can run the ball. Even though the Vols backs bounced outside way too much, they did prove they could run between the tackles at times.
The question of what will the Vols do without last year's leading receiver Da'Rick Rogers was answered with a who the hell is Da'Rick Rogers type performance from JuCo transfer Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson showed Vols fans just who he was with a long touchdown reception from quarterback Tyler Bray in the first quarter and followed it up later in the quarter on a long reverse, where he broke tackles and dodged defenders on the way to the end zone. The junior caught six passes in the first half.
The Vols defense under first year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri looked impressive as well. After forcing four interceptions from NC State quarterback Mike Glennon, it is fair to say the Vols had his number Friday night. Sunseri, the former linebacker coach at Alabama under Nick Saban, had the Vols linebackers playing exceptional ball last night. Jacques Smith, AJ Johnson and Curt Maggitt all had stellar games in the new system. Those three were not the only players to excel by the way. The entire defense for the most part looked energized as they played their aggressive new style.
Overall, there were definitely things the Vols need to improve on. Defensive line needs to be more dominant, the secondary broke down at times, etc... For the first game of the year, I came away very impressed with the entire play and attitude of the team. If this is any indication on how this season is going to go, it's going to be a fun ride for the Vols in 2012.