KNOXVILLE -- Nick Reveiz didn't see the field in Saturday afternoon's Orange-White game. No sense tempting the football gods by playing on a repaired knee that could almost assuredly use a few more weeks of rehab.
But that didn't stop the spiritual leader of Tennessee's defense from making a few predictions about the linebacker corps he will rejoin in August.
"I think we did well," said Reveiz following the White's 16-7 victory. "I think we have the potential to be one of the best groups on the team, if not the whole SEC. We've got to keep building, we've got to keep working. We're going to have a good year."
They've all got to keep building and working to have a good year against a schedule that includes Oregon, Florida and defending national champ Alabama at home, plus road trips to LSU, Georgia and South Carolina.
No matter how good the defense -- especially the linebackers -- may have looked on Saturday, they were going against one quarterback (Tyler Bray) who should be picking out a tuxedo for his senior prom and another (Matt Simms) who is on his third college.
A bigger concern for Volniacs everywhere might have been if the defense hadn't dominated the offense.
But that doesn't mean the Big Orange can't pull off a few memorable moments this season, especially if it can get the same effort from running back Tauren Poole in the games that count as it did in the Orange-White game, when he turned in 43 yards rushing and 58 receiving.
Given that the scrimmage lasted 20 minutes less than a real game and new coach Derek Dooley didn't want to show much, it's easy to see the Vols running game getting along just fine in the regular-season if Bryce Brown never returns.
In fact, it's not hard to see this team whipping Oregon to start 2-0 after the opening win against Tennessee-Martin, shocking Florida to improve to 3-0, dropping three straight against LSU, Georgia and Alabama to fall to 4-3, then winning out against South Carolina, Memphis, Mississippi, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
Of course, if the quarterback play doesn't improve, if injuries sideline the wrong players, if a South Carolina or Kentucky proves to be better than predicted, it's also not hard to see UT finishing 5-7.
And that's what will make the 138 days between today and the Sept. 4 opener so nerve-wracking. No one knows for sure what will happen.
Will the offensive line play like a bunch of inexperienced freshmen and sophomores or will it live up the billing predicted for it by senior defensive end Chris Walker, who said, "People keep saying they'll be terrible, but they're going to be really good"?
Will Bray follow in the freshman footsteps of Peyton Manning or Erik Ainge, who each produced more than a few marvelous moments?
Or will enemy SEC defenses make either Bray, Simms or both scared of their own shadows before the calendar hits October?
Dooley seems ready either way.
As he noted on Saturday, "We don't have a lot of depth. That should be attractive (to recruits)."
To that end, a writer asked the underappreciated Poole the difference in former coach Lane Kiffin and Dooley.
"(Dooley) doesn't pay attention to outside distractions," said Poole. "Coach is more about unity, about making us all better."
At least for one Saturday they looked better than most predicted. If that continues throughout the season the Vols just might go bowling for the second straight season under a first-year coach.