Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker has no problem at all with the weightlifting and conditioning workouts this week while the Vols' coaches are on the road recruiting.
It sure beats the alternative.
Walker only need remind himself of last year to appreciate still being on campus preparing for the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech.
"I'd just rather be here working up a sweat and feeling sore right now than being at home watching other people playing bowl games," Walker said after Sunday morning's practice in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center.
"Last year was painful just to watch some of the teams play. We beat a couple of the teams that were in bowl games last year. It was really painful and I think it was painful for our whole team, so that's why we're in a bowl game now, because we don't want to be sitting at home."
The Vols had their third consecutive day of practice Sunday and don't practice again until Friday.
That doesn't mean they're sitting around playing video games all day. UT's players have a lifting and running program that lasts about 90 minutes each day.
"It's very structured," UT coach Lane Kiffin said. "Every minute's accounted for when they get here. There's different times they can show up. Last week they had four (workout days) that they had to get to that were mandatory, and actually we had a number of guys come in for five straight days on their own, so that was good to see."
UT will practice for five consecutive days starting Friday. After their Dec. 22 practice, the Vols have two days off before reporting as a team Christmas Day in Atlanta, site of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Walker got enough of being a bowl spectator last year.
"I was at home in Memphis just in a bad mood," Walker said. "I felt bad for my mom and my family cause I would just be watching bowl games and be in a bad mood for the whole day. Now they get to see me in a good mood, which is good. (I) get to be with them on Christmas Day and then have to go down to Atlanta, so it's fun."
On the Road: UT's coaches hit the road after Sunday's practice for a crucial recruiting stretch before the dead period starts this weekend.
"With so many mid-years (recruits) that we're looking at, this is closing time, really the last chance we get to see them," Kiffin said. "We've got a great (recruiting) plan for this week, a lot of coaches going to position-specific guys instead of just their area. This is kind of like the week before signing day in a sense for us with so many mid-years."
UT is two recruiters short after two assistants took other jobs: running backs coach Eddie Gran (Florida State) and receivers coach Frank Wilson (LSU).
"We're actually using Jim Chaney on some kids this week with him being offensive coordinator and being able to talk about all the positions and give an exact plan for each kid," Kiffin said, "but we are using Ed (Orgeron) a lot with Monte (Kiffin) some and Lance (Thompson) some. Ed's going to be all over the place, non-stop all week."
Kiffin said the Vols haven't started a full game plan for Virginia Tech.
"Defense has looked at a couple of different things that they're doing (at Virginia Tech) but we've not put in a specific game plan and we will finalize that throughout the week as coaches come in that are off the road," Kiffin said. "We'll leave Coach Kiff (Monte Kiffin) here for most of the week and give them the game plan on Friday."
Graduates: Several of the Vols hurried away from Sunday's practice, which started at 11 a.m. and lasted about 90 minutes, to get ready for UT graduation ceremonies at Thompson-Boling Arena. Lane Kiffin attended graduation before going on the road. His wife Layla showed up near the end of Sunday's practice with their three children to attend a graduation luncheon.
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.