Travis Henry knows it looks like a misprint. A running back cracking the 4,000-yard mark in one season? Sure, and Mark McGwire's going to hit 120. Yet the Tennessee senior did, in fact, rush for 4,087 yards as a senior at Frost-proof ( Fla.) High in 1996. Not that you'll hear it from him. "I've gotten to the point where I don't even tell anyone about it anymore," Henry says. "People don't believe it."
Almost as unbelievable is that Henry averaged nearly two yards more per carry (6.3 to 4-5) last season than teammate Jamal Lewis, the fifth pick of the 2000 NFL draft. After toiling as an understudy for three years—during which the 5'11", 223-pound Henry has gained 1,644 yards while starting just five games—he is now the main man. "People keep telling me this is my time to shine," he says. "I want to show fans I can do even more."
He'll have to. The Volunteers had more players (nine) taken in the 2000 draft than any other school, including seven in the first two rounds. Worse still, the orange-and-white will be green in all the wrong places. "As a coach, the last places you want to be inexperienced are quarterback, offensive line and the secondary," says coach Phillip Fulmer. "But that's where we're young."
Raw sophomore quarterback Joey Mathews (seven career passes) holds a slight edge in a three-way battle to replace Tee Martin, with freshman Casey Clausen closest on his heels. Only junior guard Fred Weary returns up front. If the line gels, the offense should be potent enough, with Henry and receivers Cedrick Wilson and Donte' Stallworth, whom Fulmer calls Tennessee's most talented wideout since Carl Pickens.
The defense lost three draftees—two from the secondary—but still boasts several playmakers in end Will Overstreet, tackle John Henderson, linebacker Eric Westmoreland and free safety Andre Lott, who played cornerback in '99. There is plenty of talent and speed, but experience is limited.
That was essentially the prognosis before the Vols' 1998 season, when a team minus Peyton Manning, Terry Fair, Leonard Little and Marcus Nash surprised skeptics by going 13-0 and winning the national championship. When Henry and his teammates got together for their frequent bowling outings over the summer, that's the thought they rolled around. "That's all we talk about," Henry says. "We want to go out and shock the world."