Kentucky looms

Tyler Bry

Sign up or sign in to get this Tennessee football update from InsideTennessee.com as seniors and possibly some juniors talk about their final game in the Orange & White.

Could there have been a tougher path through college football than there was the senior class at Tennessee?

For some, the man that brought them to Tennessee, Phillip Fulmer, was ousted. Then the reign of terror that was Lane Kiffin's tenure ended with an SUV skipping town under the cover of darkness while students littered the streets. And finally, Derek Dooley's time ended after an astonishing 0-7 SEC record.

Despite most of that change, one man has remained for four seasons. Offensive coordinator and now interim head coach Jim Chaney. Staying power and all, it has still yet to be determined if Chaney will greet the seniors as they run through the storied T for the final time.

"I will be on the field, concerning the senior day aspect we haven't put a nail in that," Chaney said Tuesday. "I am sure whatever Mr. Hart wants us to do we will be glad to do. I think I have known these kids for a long time and they are good young men."

Former head coach Derek Dooley made the decision not to coach the final game with Kentucky Saturday out of respect for the seniors, which defensive back Prentiss Waggner said was the right decision.

"I know Coach Dooley made the best decision for the team and he always does," Waggner said. "Coach Dooley did a good job of molding guys into men. He started the Vol For Life program and I think that is big for us. Throughout his years he made all the right choices."

For each player, that final trot to midfield will feel different, but when they lay down at night the thoughts creep in of the emotions to come.

"Once you get some alone time you start thinking about stuff," Waggner said. "Last night I was thinking the emotions that guys are going to have Saturday — family texting me tell me they are going to be there for me. I think it is going to be tough."

As tough as the road may have been for them, there has been one solid lesson — Keep Calm and Carry On.

"As a leader on this team, as a strong person that I have always been, I learned to fight through stuff and learn to put those thoughts in my head and just move on," senior linebacker Herman Lathers said. "Things happen and you just have to move on and rise from it."

And with the seniors undoubtedly headed out the door, several juniors will have an opportunity to forgo their final years in favor of the NFL draft, including Tyler Bray, who has enjoyed the same offensive coordinator during his three seasons, a privilege that is in jeopardy following this season.

"I have had the same (offensive coordinator) for three years so that has helped me," Bray said. "Our defense hasn't, so they have struggled with that."

Bray's entire family will be in attendance for Saturday's game with Kentucky, a sign that would lead one to believe it could be his final game in Neyland, but the Vol signal caller said he is focused on Kentucky.

"We play Kentucky Saturday," he said. "That is all I am worried about."

But for each player, young and old alike, they all want to head into the Holiday Break with the taste of victory rather than defeat.

"No matter how successful of a season you have or how bad of a season you have, if you lose that last game that is going to be a bad taste in your mouth no matter what your record is," Waggner said. "To come out with a win is going to be positive no matter what the record is."

Watch as Chaney and select players addressed the media following practice at Haslam Field Tuesday:

Jim Chaney

Prentiss Waggner

Tyler Bray

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