Tennessee Stat Book
ATLANTA - Lane Kiffin tried to slow things down.
Apparently the Tennessee coach overruled himself with the blessing of his quarterback.
After spending some time early in the week worrying that with so much extra time to prepare the Vols had put much too much into their game plan, Kiffin backed up a little bit after Tuesday's practice in the Georgia Dome.
A conversation with Jonathan Crompton proved to Kiffin that UT is handling the playbook just fine, so it's once again full speed ahead on offense heading into Thursday's Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech (TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m.).
"I thought a lot about it and I just kind of went back to what I knew, and I've had this same feeling in a lot of bowl games before," Kiffin said. "There's so much time and you put so much stuff in, it's really the passing game and not the running game it affects.
"It's about the quarterback. As long as the quarterback understands everything - and I spent some time with him (Monday) and he feels great about the game plan - we're not going to limit it. We're going to continue to have everything available for us."
Having all those options available has helped Kiffin in the past. He cited multiple examples of productive passing games in bowls while he was with Southern California.
That history certainly played a part in his decision to basically leave the plan alone at this point, though the trust established between him and Crompton late in the season might have helped Kiffin talk himself out of scaling it down.
"He didn't listen to himself," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney joked. "I looked back on some notes after we became bowl eligible from my time at Purdue, and it said, 'Slow down, don't put too much stuff in because you've got a tremendous amount of time on your hands.'
"I think we've done a pretty good job of putting some barometers on ourselves so we don't get too crazy, but you do have to watch that. There's no question you can fall victim to that with the time that you have.
"You're used to a regular game week where you have time constraints on those issues; you don't now, but I think we've done a pretty fair job of that."
If the bonus preparation time was making the Vols a little paranoid, at this point it might have also made the plays a bit repetitive.
That's a good problem to have, but by now both teams just seem ready to put their plans to use.
"It seems like we've practicing for thereabouts a decade to get to this football game, so we've got a lot of practice time," Chaney said. "Montario (Hardesty) and I were just laughing. It seems like we've run one play about 30 times, so if we screw that up in the game I'm going to be awfully upset.
"There comes a time and a place. It's time to play the game, and we definitely feel like it's there."
Lock In: UT has had its fun. With kickoff closing in, Kiffin is just concerned with making sure the Vols aren't having too much.
"We're trying to tighten it up," Kiffin said. "There are so many distractions obviously with a bowl game in general; but being in a city like Atlanta, it's time for our players to really understand that they've had a lot of fun, it's been really enjoyable, but we need to focus on one thing now, and that's winning a big-time bowl game.
"We're doing everything we can to try to keep their focus, but it's different for them. They're in a hotel all week long and there were a lot of events through the bowl for them to go to.
"As enjoyable as it is, they need constant reminders that the main thing they're here for is to get a win for Tennessee in what I consider to be a BCS bowl."
Kiffin hasn't given any indication that he won't have his full roster available for it, which means all of the players are academically eligible and staying out of trouble.
"We've done well for the most part," Kiffin said. "Everything's not perfect, but I'm pleased about what they've done.
"It's a continual battle, it kind of takes the fun out of it for you as a coach because you're in a constant worry when you have so many kids in a city like this. We'll continue to lock them down and keep them focused."
Tip of The Hat: Most of the attention during Tuesday's press conference with the coordinators for both teams was on Monte Kiffin and his impressive legacy. But the UT defensive coordinator did his best to shine the spotlight elsewhere.
"I can't say enough about (Virginia Tech's) staff," he said. "I know that's the thing you're supposed to say, right? But let me tell you something, you know how hard it is to win 10 games? They do it every year it seems like.
"I mean that, it's a great job. We got to seven and we worked our tail off just to get to seven."
Bumps and Bruises: Bryce Brown was given full medical clearance to return for the Vols, and the freshman running back will play on Thursday.
Defensive tackle Wes Brown was limited during practice again with a leg issue, but the senior also is expected to be available against the Hokies.
"We should be at full strength," Kiffin said.