Before the Lady Vols basketball team starts their 2013-14 season on Nov. 4 in a preseason opener against Carson-Newman, one of the primary focuses for the squad will be continuing their intensity on defense.
This will be nothing new for ESPN's preseason No. 3-ranked team, as their relentless approach on defense has been the cornerstone of the program for quite some time.
"Every workout we've focused on the defensive end of the ball," head coach Holly Warlick said. "We're trying to spend a lot of time trying to get to the basics of the foundation for us."
While the upperclassmen know their roles, they are placing it upon themselves to help two incoming freshman, point guard Jordan Reynolds and center Mercedes Russell, understand what being a Lady Vol is all about.
"For Jordan and Mercedes it's going to be a teaching thing," senior shooting guard Meighan Simmons said of the team's two highly-touted freshman. "They are picking up quickly so far, but they still have to learn the ins-and-outs of the game. It's all about letting them understand what the foundation is and learning their roles out on the court."
On defense, the Lady Vols have specifically focused on creating more turnovers this year.
In order for a defense to create turnovers, two team strengths must be speed and quick hands.
With the return of a healthy roster and five of their six players from last season that averaged at least one steal per game, it appears that Tennessee will at least hold its own this season.
"I feel like our helpside defense is a lot better and our communication is there, but it can always get better," Simmons said. "With this team our legs and power will give us the extra spark on the court.
"Mercedes is going to be a key for us down low and overall I think our defense is really developed. We have a lot of great things to come as far as our defense goes."
With an experienced group around them, Reynolds and Russell, both Oregon natives, are well on their way to making an impact for the Lady Vols this season.
"They have been listening to us and the coaches," junior forward Cierra Burdick said. "I think they are above the curve compared to other freshman around the country. I think that is going to help us out great and I can't wait to play with them. They are going to do some special things for us."
Others are also noticing Tennessee's strength this year.
On Tuesday, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association released its 2013-14 "Wade Watch" list of 25 candidates who are considered the top players in all of the country.
Tennessee was just one of five schools to have two players make the list with Meighan Simmons and sophomore forward Bashaara Graves making the cut.
Simmons returns as the defending SEC Co-Player of the Year, while Graves was the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year.