Despite the weather, the Vols were present and accounted for with the exception of defensive back C.J. Flemming who was stranded in a Virginia airport. Derek Dooley was proud of the team's punctuality.
"I was really proud of the team, on a report day they all got here on time despite all the conditions and we really went out and had a good practice," said Dooley.
One notable return was that of one Janzen Jackson who returned to practice following a two-week long absence after requesting to return home to Louisiana citing family issues.
"It looks a lot different in the back end, especially when you are throwing passes to the sideline, he shows up quicker," said Dooley of Jackson's return. "It's good to have him back and he was in good spirits.
"He is just one of those athletes that doesn't miss a lot when he is gone. His biggest catch up is going to be schematic."
Defensive end Malik Jackson said it took the team a few minutes to get warmed up, but once things got moving he thought the team made their coach proud.
"We came out there and every one was kind of bummed because it was snowing, but we changed out attitude around and we were hitting and running around," said Jackson. "I think that made Dooley pretty happy because we have had bad attitudes when it was cold. I think he was happy with our effort and toughness."
Jackson, a former USC Trojan, got to experience snow for the first time and he was somewhat split by the fresh powder.
"I would rather stay inside to be honest with you, but it's not that bad once you start running around," said Jackson. "I am just happy I could experience snow."
Luckily, wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers says the team got their new cold gear before practice this afternoon to help cope with the weather.
"We just issued out our cold gear today - didn't have it in Knoxville," said Rogers. "I guess they just wanted to wait and let us get the cold weather and get used to it."
Derek Dooley says his players will receive everything they need in order to stay cozy during Thursday night's outside game at LP Field and the cold won't be an excuse.
"We are giving them any cold weather gear they want," said Dooley. "We had the hats out, the hand warmers, whatever you want – it just can't be an excuse for not playing well."
The cold weather is seemingly more likely to affect players from warmer climates, for example, California native Tyler Bray.
"He was short early in practice on some balls. Then we kind of looked at him and said ‘what's wrong with you' and he said ‘nothing' and then he started completing them, he threw it further," said Derek Dooley of Bray. "He has been handling it pretty good. I kind of watched him. I didn't want to make it an issue if it wasn't an issue."
The Vols will continue practice Monday afternoon at Vanderbilt University. Temperatures are expected to just above freezing by mid day in Nashville.
The Vols are shacking up in the newly restored Gaylord Opryland Hotel. The accommodations provide plenty of opportunities to get distracted from the task at hand, but Derek Dooley says the players should have a little fun.
"It doesn't mean you have to sit there 24 hours a day and just stay focused," said Dooley. "You can relax and have fun, but you can't forget what our purpose is here. That is to try to play the best game we have played all year."
Set at Punt Return?
Derek Dooley has experienced a six-month headache, the cause…his punt returner. The Vols have been juggling multiple punt returners for weeks. The bowl practice gave the coach time to sort out the situation, but it still isn't settled.
"Anthony (Anderson) is going to return the punts this week, but I wouldn't say we are settled," said Dooley. "We have to try and figure out – we have to get through one more game without turning it over back there. I would be lying if I told you I wasn't worried about it, I am."
Red Jersey, No Problem
Defensive back Eric Gordon has been sporting a red non-contact jersey for several practices in a row, but it doesn't appear that it will be coming off any time soon. However, that may be a positive.
"I think Eric is fine. He plays more physical with the red shirt on than the regular one on," said Derek Dooley. "He thinks they aren't going to hit him if he has a red shirt on, he gets more aggressive, so we just keep the red shirt on him and every one knows he is ok. He thinks we don't know that."
Vols D vs. Heels O
The Tennessee defense will have a big offensive line, powerful running game and an experienced quarterback, but the Vols seem to think T.J. Yates throwing the ball may be a good thing.
"They are really big up front, they are really good at running the ball, with this team if we don't stop the run we aren't going to win the football game," said Chris Walker. "That's going to be a huge challenge for our defense. If we can get them into throwing the ball it will be a huge advantage for us."
Malik Jackson echoed Walker's statements, but in true Malik Jackson fashion, he was a bit more forward.
"He hands the ball off well, that's it. That's all I saw," said Jackson of T.J. Yates. "It should be a good game, we should beat them – I will say."
Press Conference Video with Derek Dooley