Starkville Academy ended its first day of workouts Monday afternoon with dark, threatening clouds hanging over the practice field.
Quite an ironic scene, seeing as to how this was the day the sun had risen on a new era of Volunteer football.
"It's a completely different atmosphere out here than it was last year," said SA senior quarterback Kyle Henson. "It's more intense. Everybody is hollering and hooping. It's like everyone wants to be out here, it's not just something we're out here to do."
Former Itawamba Community College and first-year SA head coach Jeff Terrill led his team through a pair of Monday practices as the Vols began preparation for their season opener August 19 at Ackerman.
Terrill says Henson's viewpoint of day one represents the new mindset that is prevalent at Vols camp.
"The team understands that for things to change, it starts with them," said Terrill. "So they're working hard and they're giving great effort. We're just rolling up our sleeves and going to work."
SA's first fall practices under Terrill actually got started Monday morning, bringing to an end a summer period that high schoolers typically use for rest and relaxation. Yet the Vols new head man says his team didn't seem disappointed that it was time to get out in the heat and begin preparations for a new season.
"You would have thought we were getting ready to play our first game this morning," said Terrill. "They were all really excited. They'd been waiting all summer for this. That's good to see."
Now Terrill says he has a challenge. He's got to keep up SA's intensity through a 23-day stretch of heat and humidity before game action starts.
"We've got to battle through these dog days of July and August," said Terrill. "It'll get tough in the days to come, but that's just part of training camp."
Henson says, to help battle the heat at Monday's workouts, Terrill actually watched on as the team drank fluids in the weight room prior to practice to ensure everyone was properly hydrated. With plenty of hot days ahead, Henson says the weather is just a factor that has to be dealt with.
"The heat's hot," said Henson. "But if we can get through all of it, it'll be alright. Once we get to the season, people shouldn't even be thinking about it."
With the first day over with, Terrill admits he was pleased with what he saw. He also admits there's plenty of more work to be done.
"We got off to a good start," said Terrill. "You could tell that they all worked hard during the summer. Right now we're very pleased with where we are, but again we have a long way to go."
Henson agrees that the toughest days are still ahead for the Vols. But the veteran signal-caller believes brighter days are just ahead as well.
"We all want to turn this program around," said Henson. "We were down by 30 points at halftime most of the time last year and that's not gonna work this year."