Elson endorsing “Kiffin Mania”
Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin’s off-season antics have created a buzz around Saturday’s game between the Toppers and Volunteers, and Western head coach David Elson is embracing the attention.
“There are people who may not know what Western Kentucky’s program is all about, or what level we play on,” Elson said. “So every time he brought attention to Tennessee, he brought attention to Tennessee’s first game, and it happens to be against Western Kentucky.”
Kiffin reportedly broke NCAA rules on multiple occasions, traded barbs with Florida head coach Urban Meyer through the media and raised the profile of his team’s season opener in the process.
Elson said at Monday’s media luncheon that every time the Tennessee coach’s actions drew national attention, all he could think was, “Thank you, Lane Kiffin.”
Tennessee receiving corps limited but dangerous
Tennessee has lost a number of wide receivers for the season opener (and beyond) this year due to injuries. Senior Austin Rogers, junior Denarius Moore and junior Gerald Jones (the Vols’ leading receiver in 2008) will all be unavailable for anywhere from four weeks to the entire season, leaving senior Quintin Hancock, junior Brandon Warren and a trio of freshman at wideout.
Of those three newcomers, Western sophomore free safety Mark Santoro said the Topper defense will concentrate the most on freshman Nu’Keese Richardson, who Santoro said Tennessee will take advantage of with a variety of looks.
“They’re going to do a lot of different things with him,” Santoro said. “They’re going to put him at receiver, he’s going to be their punt returner probably, and they might line him up in the Wildcat (formation).”
Offense won’t key on Berry alone
Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry is considered one of the team’s marquee players, but junior receiver Quinterrance Cooper said the offense won’t do much to adjust to the heralded defensive back.
“We don’t have no Eric Berry package or nothing like that,” he said.
Cooper also said that the Toppers’ offense is preparing for their match-up with Tennessee in normal fashion.
“We just treat it like any other game,” Cooper said. “They’ve got Eric Berry, but he’s just one player.”
Toppers to profit off meeting at Tennessee
Regardless of the outcome at Neyland Stadium, Western will receive $700,000 for playing, according to a USA Today article by Jack Carey.
Some smaller programs agree to away contests dubbed “money games” against traditional powers, gaining increased exposure and leaving with a sizeable check. As part of its transition into the Football Bowl Subdivision, Western has traveled to play seven Southeastern Conference opponents in the past seven years, including Tennessee, and been outscored 264-42 in the first six.