Fall 2012 has begun, and with it comes another season of Tennessee football.

While the team has been in a bit of a rut and is coming off a 10-7 loss to Kentucky, hope floats in the name of redshirt senior linebacker Herman Lathers. Head coach Derek Dooley said Lathers is a major asset to the team.

"It's fair to say if Herman is healthy, he is one of our strengths," Dooley said. "That is the strength of our defense because Curt (Maggitt), Herman and A.J. have all proven that they can play good, winning football in this league. No other position has that, in fact, on the whole team. Nobody else has gone 12 games and proven they can be good. That's a strength, but we need to keep them healthy because depth is a real concern."

But Lather's health is something that is more than uncertain. Facing numerous injuries since joining the team in 2009, Lathers is still overcoming an injury that has affected him throughout fall practice.

"He's not 100 percent," Dooley said. "He's back, but he's not 100 percent. It's just a little nagging injury that hopefully time off will help."

Though Dooley is hopeful that he will be healthy enough to compete this season, the injury has had him in and out of practice. Dooley said Lathers' contribution during practice was worthwhile, but not quite up to par.

"He was moving," Dooley said. "He was limited, but he went through everything, so that was good."

Junior defensive lineman Maurice Couch said practice without Lathers is "O.K.," but different.

"We are so used to Herm giving us the calls ASAP," Couch said. "There were younger guys playing in his position. It was different."

Dooley said that, along with Lathers nagging injury, the beginning of classes will change some dynamics.

"We have to get prepared for all of that," Dooley said. "I think this is a good time for classes to start. You don't want it on your game week and you don't want it too early in camp. We'll always go through a couple of days of issues there. Other than that, I think they are just ready to play somebody."

Sophomore tailback Devrin Young said he's just ready to start the season. While the team's fall practice camp at Milligan College was good preparation, Young said the team is ready to play other teams.

"I am just getting really excited," Young said. "It is right around the corner. Obviously, Milligan was a good experience for everybody, and everybody got some good work done. Our team came back pretty healthy which was really important. I feel like we are ready."