Will fresh legs make Vols more productive?

Stay up to date on the Tennessee football team's postseason with visits to InsideTennessee.com. Check out this story on the Volunteers using December most wisely.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Know of any construction sites nearby? Put one to use sometime.

Have a friend toss some bricks to your bare hands for an hour. Get a running start and dive into some drywall. Go up and down some unfinished hardwood steps....on your knees.

Do that for 15 straight weeks then let's talk about how welcomed two weeks off are.

The college football season is a grind. Many contributing players aren't near 100-percent — training camp ain't just a walk in the park — when the season kicks off. After at least 48 quarters of hard-hitting action, even the finest programs in the nation in terms of engineering elite athletes have a double-digit number of injuries and ailments with which to deal.

Butch Jones has his second Tennessee team poised to take on Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl. The Volunteers are a freshman-laden roster with no room for beaten up bodies at certain spots (see Gilliam, Jacob).

Jones has had to work alongside his training staff in 2014 like a trapeze artist tight-roping with a high-ankle sprain.

"Some individuals are still nursing some nagging injuries, where some other players have really benefitted from some time off," Jones said prior to Tuesday's bowl practice at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium. "I do think, overall, our team speed has improved, but it's a case-by-case situation."

While the giant humans in the trenches can be productive with club casts and knee braces, offensive skill and beyond-the-hash defenders need their extremities as close to 100-percent as possible with speed and suddenness being paramount.

Two of the most productive players Tennessee had in the 2014 regular season were freshman running back Jalen Hurd and redshirt junior defensive end/linebacker Curt Maggitt. Hurd's snaps had to be limited in the finale and Jones admitted if the Vols had a game right after Vanderbilt then Maggitt would've been on the shelf.

Between the win in Nashville and battling the Hawkeyes, the Vols have 34 days. Expect every one of them to play a role in not just getting a headstart on 2015 but finishing this season off with a victory.

"Once we completed that last ballgame, I think they've done a good job of taking care of their bodies," Jones said. "They had a good practice yesterday. We just have to wrap it up here this last couple of opportunities to get ready for this bowl game."

Much of the remainder of Tennessee's time on the First Coast will involve a beach party, a children's hospital visit, an interview session and a pep rally. With what bodies that aren't broken, the Vols should look as quick on the perimeter as they have in months.

Kickoff at EverBank Field is Friday afternoon at 3:20.

Learn more about TaxSlayer Bowl prep by viewing the InsideTennessee media below:

Butch Jones with reporters

Mike Bajakian on Vols offense

John Jancek video interview


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