After a three-day Christmas break, Tennessee football gathered in Nashville in preparation for the TransPerfect Music City Bowl with the first of four practices on Sunday afternoon at Vanderbilt Stadium.
The Volunteers arrived Christmas night at the Gaylord Opryland and treated Sunday’s workout like a “Tuesday” of game week with position meetings in the morning and a two-hour practice mid-day.
“It’s great to be here and start our bowl preparation here on-site,” head coach Josh Heupel said. “(The student-athletes) traveled in yesterday and were able to get here, relatively, pretty well, just a few flight issues. It was a great practice today, good energy and we are looking forward to the rest of the week.”
Heupel’s offense, on the cusp of setting a single-season program record for points, received significant news prior to Christmas as leading wide receiver Cedric Tillman announced his intentions to return for his 2022 senior season. He links up again with returning starting quarterback Hendon Hooker, who ranks third nationally in passing efficiency this season (182.15).
“He’s a great representation of continuing to put your head down, continuing to work,” Heupel said of Tillman. “The more you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it. It doesn’t always happen for everybody the first day you step on campus. You’re going to face adversity. You’ve got to continue to compete as you go through your career. That’s on this level, that’s at the next level if you’re able to get to that point. It’s a great example of continuing to work and compete. He’s a young man that has played really well, but has a bright, bright future inside this game. He’s only going to continue to get better.”
Tillman heads into the Music City Bowl just 69 receiving yards shy of becoming the Vols’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Justin Hunter in 2012. Tillman has recorded 57 catches for 931 yards and nine touchdowns, which is tied for fourth in the SEC.
Tennessee will practice again Monday at Vanderbilt.
Out of an abundance of caution, Monday’s TransPerfect Music City Bowl official Welcome Party at the Wildhorse Saloon has been cancelled, bowl officials announced Sunday.
Kickoff for UT and Purdue is 2 p.m. CT on Dec. 30 in Nissan Stadium. Tickets for the game are on sale through the bowl at musiccitybowl.com. For more information on the bowl, visit UTsports.com/musiccitybowl.