Dec. 27, 2010
NASHVILLE - The Tennessee football team convened here Sunday and underwent its first on-site workout at Vanderbilt's practice facility in preparation for Thursday's Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
" I was real proud of the team on a report day," head coach Derek Dooley said. "They all got here on time despite the conditions and we really went out and had a good practice. They were upbeat, energized and had decent execution. It was cold but it was good. It was spirited and we're onto the next day."
The Vols practiced in frigid temperatures, but won't use any climatic factors as an excuse for not performing.
"I quit fighting it," Dooley said. "We're giving them any cold weather gear they want. We had all the hats on, hand warmers, whatever you want. Just go play. It can't be an excuse for not playing well. Everybody is a little different. Figure out a way to get comfortable, get your body ready and when you go out there, it's not an excuse not to play well."
The Vols arrived ready to balance preparations for North Carolina against the usual bowl activities and hoopla. In addition, Sunday's practice was just a few hours after a quick Christmas holiday.
"I always worry about it," Dooley said. "Even if you're a veteran team, you worry about it because there are a lot of distractions. They're out of their routine. They're not at school. They're not at home or at a meeting. We talked about it. That doesn't mean you have to sit here 24 hours a day and just stay focused. You can relax and you can have fun but you can't forget what our purpose is here and that's play the best game we've played all year."
VOLS KNOW TOUGH OPPONENT LOOMS
For the second straight year, the Vols face an ACC opponent in postseason competition. Last season, UT lost 37-14 to Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. The Vols know they'll have their hands full with another ACC opponent in North Carolina.
"North Carolina is as talented of a defense that we've seen, especially in the front seven," Dooley said. "They look like an SEC, upper-echelon talent level. They're very well coached on all phases. They're very complex offensively and schematically, and they have an excellent quarterback.
"When you play a team that has a defensive line that looks the way they look and a quarterback that plays the way they look, I always say those are the two most important positions on the field and they are good at all of those. There's a lot to be worried about."
Sophomore defensive back Janzen Jackson rejoined the team Sunday after dealing with off-the-field issues that caused the All-SEC second-teamer to miss UT's previous bowl practices in Knoxville.
"It looks a lot different in the back end, especially when you're throwing passes on the sideline," Dooley said. "He shows up quicker, so it was good to have him back. He was in good spirits. He's one of those athletes that doesn't miss a lot when he's gone. His biggest catch-up is just going to be schematic."
SPECIAL TEAMS UPDATE
For the third consecutive game, junior Anthony Anderson will field punts. Anderson is the fifth different punt returner the Vols have used this season.
Senior Chad Cunningham is expected to handle punting duties in Thursday's contest. Cunningham missed the Vols' regular season finale versus Kentucky after suffering a hand injury against Vanderbilt. Freshman Michael Palardy is slated to handle kickoffs for UT.