Tennessee to start bowl prep this week


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Tennessee football coach Butch Jones said last week that he hadn’t begun watching film on the Hawkeyes in preparation for the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl just yet. Most of what he knew about Iowa stemmed from when he studied the program when he first became a head coach in 2007.

On Sunday, Jones addressed the media after his team had a “very short practice, about an hour.”

The Volunteers will take today off, he said, but he and his coaches will begin game planning for Iowa this week.

“With the dead period in recruiting, [this] will be an opportunity to go game plan now, watch a lot of Iowa video,” Jones said. “And then our players will be in the strength and conditioning room, and then we will resume practice on Tuesday.”

Jones, now in his third year in Knoxville, has continually preached about Iowa’s physicality, consistency, and how well-coached the players are. He said on Sunday that the way his team prepares for the Jan. 2 bowl will speak volumes about how they’ll play.

“To play 24 true freshmen is very difficult,” Jones said. “In terms of, not only the physicality and the development, but the mindset. Because you are trying to develop a mindset where they are going against junior- and senior-laden football teams in the SEC.”

Many of those true freshmen have played well above any expectations. Derek Barnett, a 6-3, 267-pound defensive end, has climbed his way into the Tennessee record books just a year after he starred for Brentwood Academy in Nashville.

Barnett has 20.5 tackles for loss this season, second-best in the Southeastern Conference and fourth-most in the country. His 10 sacks also rank fourth in the SEC. Both of those figures are the most in a single season by a true freshman in program history.

On Sunday, Barnett was asked about adding to those totals, and he said he’ll have to beat Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff in order to do so.

“I look forward to it,” Barnett said. “He’s a good ballplayer. I’ve watched film on him. I’ve gotta come ready to play. I played a bunch of good guys in the SEC. It’s another good guy I’m going to face, so I’ve gotta be ready.”

Barnett, along with his teammates, will have plenty of time to prepare. Tennessee will have 15 extra bowl practices ahead of Jan. 2. This, Jones said, bodes well for the team.

“There is so much. It is continuing to elevate your game, obviously, on the field with the extra practices. But in the strength and conditioning room, monumental,” Jones said. “They would be home right now. A lot of these individuals have gone though an in-season strength and conditioning program as opposed to a developmental program.

“So to be able to get them back in the weight room, get them spending time with their teammates, the football intelligence part of studying more film, it is invaluable.”

That time will need to be used properly, said defensive back Cameron Sutton, who sang Iowa’s praises when asked his initial impression of the Hawkeyes.

“Impressive team,” Sutton said. “Kind of compared them to ourselves. They play really hard, no matter the opponent. They’re big up front. On defense, they fly around to the ball, and they’re really impressive on special teams, too.

“But at the end of the day, we can only control the things that we do out there on the field.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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