KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is solidified as a preseason Top 10 pick, the Vols coming in at No. 9 on the AP Top 25 poll released Sunday afternoon.
Tennessee All-SEC defensive end Derek Barnett noticed, but like his head coach, he’s hardly doing backflips over a preseason rank.
“We have a lot of expectations, (and) if we do what we’re supposed to do on the field offensively and defensively, we’ll be a very, very good team,” Barnett said during a Monday interview session in the Ray and Lucy Hand digital studio.
“It’s exciting, but with that comes a lot of work, and we know we have to do that.”
UT senior captain Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who has been in a green no-contact jersey throughout fall camp, made it clear the team’s fresh, No. 9 preseason ranking does not register with him.
“The only number nine I care about,” Maybin said, “is Derek Barnett.”
As for what Barnett cares about, it’s not what Tennessee fans on the outside might think.
Barnett was asked if the Tennessee players have noticed all of the tweets directed at the Vols from Florida, a Gators’ team that owns an 11-game win streak in the annual series.
“A little bit,” Barnett said. “We’re not worried about Florida.”
Barnett said all that UT is concerned with right now is the team’s Sept. 1 season-opening game against Appalachian State at Neyland Stadium.
“App State is a good game and we’re not looking past them,” Barnett said. “I know a lot of people talk about Bristol but we’re focused on App State right now.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.