Eager for the SEC home opener, Tennessee players utilized the bye week to refresh and work on fundamentals. With No. 3/3 Georgia’s visit to Neyland Stadium on Saturday night at 7 p.m. (ET), it will be the first encounter with the Bulldogs for a handful of younger Vols.
A host of freshmen have made an immediate impact for the Vols in the early part of the season and one first-year standout in Tennessee’s secondary, Warren Burrell, has stepped into the starting rotation with the intent to wreak havoc on opponent’s offensive pursuits.
“It has been kind of surreal to make an impact this early on,” Burrell said. “It is a big deal; it is something I don’t take for granted. The thing about it, no matter what level you play the sport on, football is football. I just go out there, play to the best of my ability, and do my best to make an impact out there.”
Burrell has started all four games so far, collecting 10 tackles to date. The Suwanee, Ga., native credits sophomores Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson for guiding him into the player he has quickly developed into.
“(Taylor and Thompson) helped me out as far as getting everything down,” Burrell said. “There was a bunch of stuff that I thought I knew, but I didn’t. Those guys really helped me out to be able to get me to this point I am at now.”
Taylor and Thompson combined for 19 starts as true freshmen last season, with Thompson earning FWAA All-American and SEC All-Freshman team honors.
To’o To’o and Bituli Work in Tandem
Burrell’s classmate, linebacker Henry To’o To’o, leads the Vols with 25 and 2.5 tackles for loss, which has earned him praise from the upperclassmen.
“(He’s) really good,” said senior linebacker Daniel Bituli. “Just about everything I’ve been talking about has come to reality. Him and a whole bunch of the younger guys are doing a great job of coming in and watching film.
“I was actually at home yesterday and I FaceTimed the young guys and they were still at the facility at 9:00, 10:00 last night. It felt really good to know that these young guys are working so hard. Obviously, we’re seeing the results of all that work they’re putting in. I’m happy for them.”
Bituli and To’o To’o tied for a team-high eight tackles in the Vol’s last outing at Florida. The freshman also recovered the senior’s forced fumble against the Gators.
“It means a lot to me because I want to play for the seniors, to be able to have them leave with a happy end,” To’o To’o said. “I want them to be able to leave Tennessee happy with how this season went. We obviously have a lot of work to do, especially me. I have a lot of ways to improve. We’ll move forward with that.”
The Vols’ 1969 team will meet at Neyland Stadium for their 50th reunion on Saturday. The team will be honored during the game. Led by head coach Doug Dickey, Tennessee finished 9-2 and captured the SEC Championship, beating ranked Auburn, Alabama and Georgia teams along the way. Dickey, who later served as the Vols’ Director of Athletics from 1986 to 2003, will also be honored on Friday night with the dedication of the Doug Dickey Hall of Fame Plaza.