The Vols are in sunny Jacksonville, Florida, facing the University of Iowa Hawkeyes in the TaxSlayer Bowl Saturday.
The bowl games marks the first time Tennessee has been in post-season action since 2010. Count on Channel 3, with live reports from WRCB Sports Director Paul Shahen and Chief Photographer George Mitchell in Jacksonville.
Here's the transcript from Wednesday's news conference in Jacksonville:
HEAD COACH Butch Jones
(On the TaxSlayer Bowl)
"First of all, I would like to thank you and Vince and the entire TaxSlayer Bowl Committee.Just a first class bowl, I spoke about it in the press conference here a few weeks ago, we are embarking on our 50th bowl appearance as a football program and very fitting that we would be a participant in the 70th Annual TaxSlayer Bowl. Thank you, it has been a great, great experience for our players, a lot of first of firsts, the bowl experience to what it takes to prepare. Usually these individuals are used to preparing on a weekly basis with a bye week but having this time in between games. Taking pride in your performance all the mental effort, the mental intensity that it takes to prepare with taking care of your bodies. It has been a very, very long season for us. When you look at the inordinate amount of freshmen, we are the youngest football team in college football and played arguably the most difficult schedule in college football.When we embarked on this journey, we talked about the power of one for us to keep our focus we had to manage the natural adversity and preserve on a long college football season brings about and going about it with about half of your team not going through that before.
"It has been the most challenging year in coaching, but also the most rewarding year that I have had in coaching. The theme was the `Power of One.' We had to focus on one day at a time, one play at a time, one opponent at a time, one week at a time and really be able to zero in on the bullseye.
"Our players have done that. We have had tremendous leadership from our veteran players. We have very few seniors but that have provided stability. These two individuals with me here today, Curt Maggitt and Joshua Dobbs have really provided that leadership as well. The great thing that the people don't see behind the scenes that a bowl game brings about is the coming together and the family of a football team. Right now these individuals have never played in December or January, nor practiced. So to be able to sit back and watch the different bowl events and this team coming closer and closer and closer, for the most part our team is instant for a few years coming. So to be able to watch this team grow and bond and really get to know us as coaches off the field, be around our families even more so, it has been very rewarding. But at the end of the day, I told our football team this, it's one thing to be a participant in the bowl, its another thing to win the bowl. We have to lock in now and focus and do what it takes to play winning football. Everyone is responsible for their own self determination and I like what I have seen so far.
"So I will sit down and let you guys ask any questions that you may have."
(On how the Vols have handled the week in Jacksonville)
"The first thing is the overall maturity. We spoke about how we have to be a mature football team and understand bowl preparation and accountability. To date, knock on wood, we haven't had anybody be late, they been 10-15 minutes early. When we arrived in Jacksonville, I put it on a number of individuals, I thought it was a tremendous opportunity for leadership, starting with Josh, starting with Curt and they have answered the call. I think the big thing is learning how to enjoy yourself, but focus on the task at hand and get the work done. The players have had a workman-like approach each and every day. They have come very focused.
"Being a part of this bowl game is very, very special. In our profession and its a very, very small profession, all the coaches know each other and when you talk about the Gator Bowl, or the TaxSlayer Bowl, it's first class all the way. For these individuals, for these players, this program to experience its first bowl game in a number of years, experiencing it here will set the tone for many years to come for our football program. Also, all of the things we have been trying to educate our players about. It's been incredible, the people, the hospitality, the entire committee, the city of Jacksonville, have been outstanding."
SOPHOMORE QUARTERBACK Joshua Dobbs
(On the bowl week)
"Its been good, its been different, when you are at football, you are football, you focus on the game plan, you focus on execution. When you are outside football, you have be able to let your hair down and you have to relax and get around your teammates and have some fun. Knowing when you have to flip that switch on and off, that's what we are all learning and we have done a good job with that."
(On Justin Worley's influence on his play)
"Justin has helped me a lot from the day I stepped on campus. We have a mentorship program and Justin was my bring brother coming in, just being able to be under him and learn from him, have him team me the offense. Now, having him on the sideline as a resource to have him talk about his game experience in awesome, telling me what I should do better since I am still learning, he has been resource for me since he was injured and I am very thankful for him."
(On reflecting on the end of season)
"It wasn't a whirlwind, from last year I gained a lot of experience so I knew what it was like. It was good to go back and reflect on the last month and see how far we have come, all the accomplishments we had. We are in position to play a meaningful game in January and we are excited about our opportunity and excited about the game."
JUNIOR LB/DL Curt Maggitt
(On the bowl experience)
"It's about the maturity of our team. When we are at practice, its business and a business-like approach. When we are off the field, we can enjoy each other's company and just have fun and do all the great events that TaxSlayer (Bowl) has for us."