KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee held its eighth practice in preparation for the Music City Bowl on Tuesday, and afterward, coach Butch Jones released the players for several days off before the team reconvenes on Christmas Eve.
Tennessee will practice one final time in Knoxville on Dec. 26 before heading to Nashville to take on Nebraska on Dec. 30 (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
What Butch Jones said …
* “It’s been a very, very productive couple of weeks. I’ve liked the approach of our players. Their attitude, their energy. Numerous reps for a number of individuals that did not gain significant reps throughout the course of the year. It’s been very, very productive.
* “We’ll spend the holidays here as a football family, but I thought it was important that I let them go home for a couple days and be around their families.
* “Our game plan is in place, so if we had to play the game tomorrow we’d be able to do that.”
* Jones notes a lone academic causality: redshirt freshman guard Venzell Boulware.
“Venzell Boulware will not be available for the bowl game due to academics. Venzell is a great young man. He’ll be better for it. He has still practiced and he’s had one of the best bowl practices that we’ve had, but due to academics, he will not be available.”
First of all, he has a great mother and a great foundation. He understands. It’s going back and where did we go wrong. How do we make things better? What I’ve liked about him is he’s been very realistic and upfront. We all know he’s a great person. Like I said, it’s just like your children. Sometimes it takes something like that. He’ll be better for it and I know he’ll bounce back.”
* Jones said “it’s that time of year” for transfers but he has “not had any of those conversastions with any of our players.”
* Asked about the decisions by Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette to skip their prospective bowl games, Jones cited “extenuating circumstances.” Offered mostly a no-comment. Did note that “Derek Barnett has had one of the best bowl practices.” Also named Cam Sutton, Alvin Kamara. “The team is very, very important to them.”
* While player development has been a focal point of practices, Jones said it’s still “all about Team120.”
* Jones names true freshman Marcus Tatum, Brandon Johnson, Tyler Byrd, others “getting valuable reps.” … “It’s been a balancing act, but make no mistake about it, everything is about our preparation to give us the best opportunity to win the football game.”
* Jones has seen progress in tackling fundamentals but wants to see it translated to game field. Did some live tackling during bowl week — something he’s never done before at Tennessee.
* Asked how his day-to-day relationship with outgoing AD Dave Hart has changed in recent months, Jones said, “Nothing’s changed. He was at practice today. He’s in my office just like normal.”
* On young quarterbacks (Jarrett Guarantano, Quinten Dormady) learning from senior quarterback Josh Dobbs: “It should help them a lot.”
* Jones acknowledged the “challenge” of preparing for two different quarterbacks. Nebraska’s starter Tommy Armstrong is questionable with a leg injury.
* Other bowl practice standouts: linebacker Daniel Bituli, defensive tackle Alexis Johnson. “You can see a chance in their game. You can see a change in their confidence.”
* On letting players go home for a couple days: “I think it’s very beneficial. They need a mental break. It’s been a long, long football season.”
* “I expect to see more energized team when they come back on the 24th.”
* Boulware’s suspension doesn’t change much on the OL with Dylan Wiesman and Jack Jones back healthy.
WATCH: Tennessee coach Butch Jones talks final Music City Bowl practice before players take a couple days off for Christmas.
Posted by Tennessee Volunteers Insiders on Tuesday, December 20, 2016