After an off week, the football Vols are back and preparing to take on Vandy this Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
At his weekly press conference, Coach Butch Jones said the bye week, or work week, as he called it, were good for the team. They needed time to work on their fundamentals, to continue to develop as a team, and to get their health back. They've been in the midst of a tough grind, playing five top 10 ranked teams in a row, and Jones said the team needed a little time off. He said they had a short, productive practice on Sunday, and he was happy with what he saw.
Now, they are focused completely on Vanderbilt. Jones called them a very talented, confident team. He complimented their defense, saying they don't give up big plays and don't hurt themselves. They also don't miss tackles. Offensively, he said they are challenging schematically, with their wildcat sets. It's tough to defend. Jones said they are well coached, and they will be a big challenge.
Another challenge for the Vols on Saturday is emotion. It will be senior day, the last time running through the T into Neyland Stadium for a group of 28 young men who've lived through a lot of diversity during their college career. Some of the 5th year seniors have had three head coaches.
"You always remember you last game at home," said Jones. But you have to guard against being too emotional. "You don't want an emotional team. You want a passionate team, an energetic football team. Sometimes senior players in their last home game, they forget the task at hand."
The Vols lost to Vandy 41-18 last year in Nashville, and you can bet that will also be on the senior's minds, though Kicker Michael Pallardy and Offensive Lineman James Stone tried to downplay that on Monday.
"I just remember it was bad. I do my best to just try to erase that.," said Stone.
"To be honest, I don't remember much. I try not to remember much," said Palardy. 'I just remember being upset, but at the same time just telling myself to do all I can to not let it happen again."
That disappointing loss to Vandy was former Coach Derek Dooley's final game with the Vols. He was fired the day after the game, and didn't coach the season finale in Kentucky.