No rest for the weary

There's a reason Tennessee's coaches pushed the players throughout fast-paced three-hour practices in oppressive mid-day heat during preseason camp. That reason could be obvious Saturday afternoon against UCLA.

The Vols aren't the best team in college football but they may well be the best conditioned team. They had to be to endure those marathon workouts staged on hot, muggy August afternoons at Haslam Field. The grueling practices should pay dividends this fall, however. The stamina the Vols developed in August could win them some games in September.

"Yeah, because when it comes time for that fourth quarter we're going to be still standing straight up," freshman linebacker Greg King said recently. "Other people are going to be hanging low tide, breathing hard, but we're going to be ready to ball up."

All-America safety Eric Berry admits that Tennessee's preseason practices of 2009 were more taxing than those he experienced as a freshman in 2007 or as a sophomore in 2008.

"Those practices were very tough," he said. "I'm not going to lie to you: There was plenty of days where I just got out of practice, got out of the shower and just laid in the bed ... couldn't even do anything."

Still, Berry understands why the coaches made the Vols keep grinding as they pushed their bodies to new levels of endurance.

"I know that will help a lot," the junior captain said. "Practices are a lot like games. Games are three hours, so that's why practices were three hours in camp."

Being a freshman, heralded tailback Bryce Brown didn't know what to expect when he arrived on the UT campus. Still, he wasn't expecting the workouts to be as exhausting as they proved to be.

"Everybody's really, really worn out," he said when preseason camp concluded. "We're kind of beat down right now."

King agreed.

"Camp was tough," he said, shaking his head. "It was way beyond what I expected. The worst part was two-a-days. It was hot. It was REAL hot."

Odds are, it will be "real hot" on Shields-Watkins Field when the Vols host UCLA Saturday at 4 p.m. Having endured the rigors of Camp Kiffin, Tennessee's players will be ready to perform for three hours in stifling heat and humidity. Odds are, the visitors will not be.

"I think the conditioning work we did will help a lot," freshman safety Janzen Jackson said. "I know I came a long way as far as conditioning.

"In high school a lot of times you can just slack off a little in practice because you're faster than everybody else. Here, to be to the front of the crowd you've got to work and you've got to work hard."

That hard work could start showing up in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game.

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