KNOXVILLE -- Saturday will be a major milestone in LaMarcus Thompson's football career, and the same could be said for Anthony Anderson.
Thompson, a junior strongside linebacker, is scheduled to start for the University of Tennessee on Saturday after not playing a single defensive snap the previous three years.
Anderson, a third-year sophomore cornerback, has been a first-teamer throughout preseason camp and could join Thompson in Saturday's starting lineup.
Both players were anxious about the situation Wednesday afternoon.
"Your eyes are big," Thompson said. "You've got butterflies in your stomach."
Added Anderson: "It's crazy, man, just crazy. It could really be happening."
Thompson, like most young linebackers at UT the past two decades, couldn't crack the game day depth chart in his first few seasons but was a solid special teams performer.
Saturday should provide a more complex set of challenges than the typical special teams scenario: Run and hit.
"You have a feel for the speed of the game, so the butterflies will be less, because you've actually been out there on the field," Thompson said. "But your skills at linebacker have to come back. You might be a little rusty, but we've done a lot of practicing, so that polishes it up."
Anderson -- a former star at Knoxville's Austin-East High School and the son of popular, local civic leader Sam Anderson -- has arguably been preseason camp's biggest surprise. He never seriously threatened to climb the safety depth chart the past two years but soared to the top of the cornerback list after a spring switch.
Brent Vinson has missed several practices with a pulled hamstring, and fellow returning cornerback starter Dennis Rogan has mostly played safety, and several highly-touted freshmen have tried unsuccessfully to pry the top spot from Anderson. Mike Edwards is bracketed with Anderson in the coaches' latest announced list, but even Edwards admitted Wednesday that he suspects Anderson will start.
"They're still deciding," Anderson said. "It's been tight all week. I would love to start, but if I don't, I know my time will come. And just being a part of it is a big thing for me."
Pressed on the subject, Anderson promised he had "no clue" who would start,
"It's kind of hard, but you just have to be patient," Anderson said. "My dad always taught me that things come when they're supposed to, not when you want them to. I'm just going to work hard, be patient and hope for the best. I've lived here my whole life.
"I'm a local, and ever since I was a little kid, I've always dreamed of starting for the University of Tennessee. It would mean so much (to start), but I'll be OK either way."
Kiffin said he wasn't pleased with Wednesday's practice -- disgustedly demanding the team restart a particularly sloppy special teams period -- but he optimistically expected the players to respond well Thursday.
Starting senior wide receiver Quintin Hancock didn't wear pads for Wednesday's practice but looked OK standing on the sideline. Kiffin said Hancock was "fine" and would play Saturday, but he didn't offer specifics into Hancock's situation.