- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
In advance of the game, Tennessee linebacker Heman Lathers spoke to TideNation about the matchup and what the Vols will have to do to be successful:
Scarborough: What's the mood after losing in Starkville? How important is it to play well against Alabama and try to get a win in the SEC?
Lathers: Every loss is a tough loss no matter who it is. The mood this week at practice has been great. Our energy has been great. We know we have a big game coming up this weekend against the No. 1 team in the nation. You know, if you don't come prepared they're going to embarrass you. So we've been working really hard at practice. The energy has been great. We've been flying around. The mood is good and I think we'll be ready.
Scarborough: What as a defense are y'all working on to try and get better?
Lathers: Just being fundamentally sound. The big thing that hurt us against Mississippi State was turning guys loose when we're in man-to-man coverage. We know our assignments. It's just at times in the game, guys get mentally weak and have those mind busts. But we can't have those. We've had a great two days of practice with working on things like that.
Scarborough: What do you attribute to those "mind busts" and how do you correct them?
Lathers: I think it's just being unsure of what the offense is doing at times with shifts and motions. So, we're working on that at practice to make sure we're sharp on that in the game. We see something in games that we don't see in practice, we have to adjust to that on the sideline.
Scarborough: What have you seen from Alabama's offense? What impresses you about it?
Lathers: They're big, physical guys. They're going to line up and run it right at you. If we don't line up and play our techniques right, shed off blocks and make plays, we're going to get gashed. We have to get 11 guys running to the ball because these are probably the best backs we'll face all year. They're big backs, so we have to gang tackle and get them on the ground.
Lathers: Each one of those guys has something special about them. Lacy's a big guy that can run down hill. Yeldon is also going to run down hill but he's more of a one-cut-and-go guy. He's more shifty than Lacy. But in the SEC, you look for guys like that. You want to play guys like that. They make you better throughout your career.
Scarborough: Their success is obviously a product of Alabama's offensive line? What impresses you about it?
Lathers: Big. They're one of the biggest lines in college football. They're going to get their hands on you. They're going to try to maul you if you don't get off blocks. We have to get off blocks and make sure we play our run gaps. We can't let the ball get running downhill on the safeties. We have to stop it up in our front seven.
Scarborough: What does this rivalry mean to you? What makes Alabama-Tennessee different?
Lathers: In the history, Alabama-Tennessee has been a game since the 1920s -- they've been playing every third weekend in October. For the last couple years, Alabama's won. Before that, Tennessee won a long stretch. So, you know, it's a big rivalry, a big game. Everybody looks forward to it.
Scarborough: What do you expect the atmosphere to be like? How ready are you to face the No. 1 team in the country at home?
Lathers: It's always the greatest atmospheres in college football and one of the greatest rivalries. We know our fans will come out hyped and prepared and we'll come out ready to play. It's going to be a great atmosphere. If we don't come with the right mindset to play, we're going to get embarrassed.
6dSam Khan Jr.