Following a two-hour practice session in the Georgia Dome late Tuesday morning, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin participated in a bowl press conference alongside senior running back Montario Hardesty and junior defensive end Chris Walker.
The foursome answered questions for over 30 minutes regarding the past year of Volunteer football and their perspectives of the Virginia Tech team, as well as game plans for Thursday night's matchup.
Vols Eager to Hit the Field
It's been over a month since the Volunteers last took the field, an exciting 30-24 overtime win versus Kentucky in Lexington.
With the 15 bowl practices allotted to Tennessee nearly used up, Vols players and coaches alike are eager to put all the preparation to test.
"It's been a long time for us," Walker said. "I can tell the guys are all getting pretty restless so we really want to play this game. We're looking forward to getting out there against a great team."
"It seems like we've been practicing for a decade to get to this football game," Chaney said. "There comes a time and place when it's time to play a football game and we definitely feel like it's here."
Thoughts on Bud Foster
Kiffin and Chaney offered only respect when discussing Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster's system.
Foster, who has coached Tech's defense since 1995, assembled defenses that led the nation in total defense in 2005 and 2006, the second of which won him the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top college football assistant.
"It's very sound, they play really hard, and that's probably their trademark," Kiffin said. "They kind of have a scheme of their own. It goes way back to Jerry Claiborne's days at Maryland."
"The defense fits all the formations," Chaney said. "They don't have to change their defensive personnel. I do believe he'll know how to adjust to everything we're trying to do. It's going to get down to players making plays."
"Bud's been doing it for a long time with a lot of success, so we've got to be very detailed in what we try to do because they'll make you look like a fool."
Things Look Grimm
Chaney complimented Foster's installation of undersized linebacker Cody Grimm, (5-11, 210) a player Chaney feels will be a serious challenge for the Vols.
"He'll run around and make a tackle; he's back there deflecting a ball. He's a nuisance player, he's a real pain in my butt to be honest with you," Chaney said. "He's an exceptional football player. He just finds a way to make plays.
"They put him into a scheme that fits him perfectly."
No Distractions for Volunteers
Hardesty and Walker were quick to downplay any distractions provided by the city of Atlanta or the accompanying bowl activities throughout the week. Two consecutive days of passionate practice seem to be the evidence of that.
"I feel like as the week has gone on each practice has gotten better than the first," Hardesty said. "I don't think we have any distractions as far as being in a bigger city. I think the biggest distraction for us is just waiting."
"I think you can see by the way we practiced today that everybody's starting to buckle down," Walker said. "At the beginning of the week it was kind of rusty, but as the week has gone on we've gotten tighter."
Hardesty displayed his commitment to the team when asked about the school's single season rushing record, which the senior currently sits 159 yards from breaking.
Travis Stephens holds the current Tennessee record at 1,464 yards, set in 2001.
"The only reason I really know about it is because everyone's telling me about it," Hardesty said. "If I can do that and get the win then that would be fine, but my main goal is to go out here and get a win for the University of Tennessee."
Virginia Tech currently ranks 52nd nationally in rush defense, allowing an average of 139 yards per game. Although breaking the record is not out of the realm of possibility, Hardesty knows from watching game tape that this defense is fast and relentless.
"When I watch the film it's how their guys play," Hardesty noted. "I watch players and see guys chase down the play from behind. That's the whole body of the defense, is that everyone plays hard."