Vols adopt change in attitude for '03 season

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com
KNOXVILLE -- This year, the Tennessee Volunteer football squad will be doing things a little bit differently.
At Saturday's annual football media day, the squad all voiced the urgency to part ways from the selfishness displayed by certain players on last year's team and focus on playing as a total unit.
After an 8-5 season capped with an embarrassing Peach Bowl loss to Maryland, the Vols will be hit with a sledgehammer of a schedule this season with road trips to Miami, Auburn, Florida and Alabama.
But players remain optimistic that the 16th-ranked Big Orange can yet again be in contention for another National Championship.
"The whole senior class is literally focused on getting this team ready to play and making sure we do things right," said returing defensive end and co-captain Constantin Ritzmann. "I think Tennessee has enough talent to beat anybody in the country if we stay healthy and stay focused.
According to offensive lineman Michael Munoz, a big key to the Vols this season will be discipline.
"I think there's a huge focus on discipline and doing things right," Munoz said. "I think focusing on that is going to make all the difference. All of the guys who contribute every now and then are doing thigns the right way and it transfers onto the field.
The Volunteer coaching staff is woking hard to create some depth during the squad's two-a-day practices, leading up to Tennessee's season opener against Fresno State on Aug. 30.
"We need some hot days coming up," said Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. "Two days ago it was hot and humid, maybe not as hot as it will be. The kids pushed through it pretty good. Hopefully, we can create the depth we need to rest people early in the season."
Much of this season's focus has been placed upon senior signalcaller Casey Clausen, who is second on many of Tennessee's career passing charts behind Peyton Manning.
According to Clausen, a big focal point for the offense is big plays. There was a noticable lack of them during last season and this Tennessee squad must have them in order to be a success.
"Big plays are something we have to have this year, whether its running or throwing the ball," Clausen said. "Number one, we've got to dictate to the defense what we want to do and number two, take advantage of what they're giving us.
The Vols should have a chance to take advantage of their opposing pass defenses, returning Tony Brown and Jonathan Wade, among others, at wire receiver.
Perhaps the biggest boost to the position is senior Mark Jones, who converted from the defensive side of the b all during spring practice and broke loose during the Orange and WHite game.
Jones knows he has a tough task ahead, stepping to the front of the Volunteer offense.
"I'm read y to take that initiative and make the best out of it," he said. "I'm not going to try to outdo myself, I'm going to let the game come to me and not rush things.
Defensively, not much has changed on the squad with the exception of the lineup which returns some missing key cogs from last season.
A murky bright spot from the previous campaign, the unit looks to improve their ability to create turnovers.
Said defensive back Gibril Wilson: "We're trying to go back and continue what we did last year, emphisising getting the ball back and I think this year, we look to create more turnovers."
If the Volunteers show the passion they displayed Saturday on the field this season, things may be back to normal for Tennessee football fans.
For a more in-depth preview, check out the STAR's annual football edition on Aug.22.