KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee is looking to prove themselves at the Music City Bowl.
After spending Christmas with their families, Team 120 finished up their last practice in Knoxville before departing for Nashville.
For head coach Butch Jones, the traditional last tackle drill was filled with emotion.
“It’s the staple of our football program and just you can see how much it means to our players,” said Jones. “I know our players, particularly our seniors, look forward to it. As each one is running down and you hit the dummy, you kind of stroll back through memory lane, whether it is a recruiting or how far they’ve come in our program.”
The coach said the last tackle is a testament to how far the program has come and where it is now. He said now he needs the leadership of his senior players as the team heads to Nashville.
“I told our football team I don’t think there is another football team in America that could go through what we went through this year,” said Jones, commenting on the number of injuries. “I’ve taken this time to talk to a number of coaches, and they’re calling, saying, ‘How did you do it?'”
Jones said things didn’t turn out the way he wanted them to, but he said that is something he will have to continue to grow and develop.
Without strong character and culture in the program, he said Tennessee couldn’t have overcome those obstacles.
Friday is Dobbs’ last game playing for Tennessee. When asked what thoughts were running through his head as his star quarterback ends his last season at Tennessee, Jones said he has a lot of thoughts that he hasn’t come to grips but said Tennessee is a much better place because of Dobbs.
“He’s left a legacy,” the coach noted. “I think it will be a great springboard for our quarterbacks and really managing your time, the expectations that come with playing the quarterback position at the University of Tennessee, the scrutiny and being able to handle the social media, not being too high too low, just consistency in performance.”
After the last game, Jones vowed to work on some of the fundamentals. He said he thinks bowl preparation has been very productive, now it is just about applying those fundamentals on the field.
“We’re representing the University of Tennessee, the brand of Tennessee and Tennessee football and everything that goes with that,” said Jones. “I’ve talked to a lot of coaches over this break and every bowl game is very, very special and all it takes is a year to be without a bowl game and you realize how special it is.”
The Volunteers will wrap up practice in Nashville before playing the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Dec. 30 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. The game will feature a 3:30 p.m. Central kickoff on ESPN.