Vols hit, then split

Wednesday was Getaway Day for Tennessee as the Vols concluded the Knoxville portion of their Outback Bowl practices and departed campus for the holiday break. The team is off until reconvening Christmas night in Tampa, Fla., site of its Jan. 1 meeting with Penn State.

"Our focus has been good," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I think we've had good preparation here in Knoxville. I hope they have a safe trip home and a good time with their families, but I hope their mindset doesn't change while they're home and we are ready to go to work on the day after Christmas in Tampa."

Fulmer said the bowl site schedule would mirror that of a normal game week, with only a slight exception.

"We'll have one day extra so we will end up having two Tuesdays in the framework of our approach," he said. "We'll treat it with meeting times and practice times just like a game week. All this here in Knoxville has been a bonus."

That extra preparation will be necessary against what expects to be a fierce Penn State squad, one that finished 5-3 in the Big Ten Conference and fielded one of the nation's top defenses.

"I think they are outstanding," Fulmer said. "They are No. 5 in the country in scoring defense and that's not an accident; you don't do that by accident. They've only given up 26 points in the last four ballgames against good opponents. They're good, and their linebackers are as good as anybody we've played in the conference.

"As I told our football team - not to take anything away from Kentucky and Vanderbilt - we're getting back into the real deal when we play these guys."

Former Tennessee star Bill Bates was a featured guest at this morning's practice. Bates started four years (1979-82) at safety for the Vols before playing 15 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys.

"It was great to have Bill Bates come by practice today," Fulmer said. "He's one of our heroes who played great here and played great in professional football. He brought his whole family by and spoke to the team about work ethic, character and what it takes to be a good player."

Tennessee's Outback Bowl practice schedule in Tampa begins Tuesday at the University of South Florida. The Vols will practice at 1:30 p.m. each of the first three days, at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 29 and at 10 a.m. on Dec. 30 before holding an afternoon walk-through on New Year's Eve.

Because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hosting the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 31, UT will walk-through at Raymond James Stadium on an earlier date during the week.

Kickoff on Jan. 1 is 11 a.m. Eastern time.

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