Josh Heupel previews Vols preparing for Music City Bowl

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Tennessee (7-5, 4-4 SEC) will play in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl against Purdue (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten).

The contest will take place Dec. 30 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. EST and ESPN will televise the matchup.

Tennessee is practicing at Vanderbilt Stadium in preparation for the Music City Bowl.

First-year Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel met with media Sunday and discussed the Vols preparing for Purdue.

Below is a transcript of Heupel’s media availability provided by the University of Tennessee.

Opening Statement

“It’s great to be here and start our bowl preparation here on-site. (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 looking forward to the rest of the week.”

On the meaning of the Nashville area in recruiting and fans

“It’s a huge part of our being able to recruit inside the state. I said it from the moment I got here, it’s a priority. For us, that just starts with building relationships — high school coaches, our VFLs that are here inside the region. We have a lot of good players that are from this area getting a chance to come back home and play in front of their families. It’s vital to us as a program that we do it the right way. This area, obviously, has a talent-rich environment, and we’ve got to continue to build those relationships.”

NEXT: Josh Heupel’s media availability continued

On the Purdue passing attack

“They’ve got playmakers out on the perimeter. They do a great job of getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. He is a good decision maker, accurate with it, does a good job of taking care of it. You’ve got to do a great job (in the) perimeter screen-game, defeat blocks and go make plays in space. Defensively, for us, we’ve got to do a great job of affecting the quarterback. If we can get them into third and long and put some pressure on them, that’s going to be critical. At the same time, with some of their quick game, we’ve got to find a way to cause some issues with windows and them being able to deliver the football.”

On the COVID-19 situation

“We’ve been very fortunate that our guys that are non-vaccinated have done a great job taking care of themselves throughout the entire year. We’ll continue to follow the testing protocols set forth by the league. You want your kids to be smart in how they handle themselves and make sure they do take care of themselves, their teammates and their families.”

On the focus of the team in practice today

“I thought there was great energy today. From the time we got into meetings, but then out here on the practice field, guys were crisp. We’ve got some things we’ve got to clean up here before we get to kickoff, too, but like the energy and focus we saw from our guys.”

NEXT: Josh Heupel’s media availability continued

On the return of Cedric Tillman for next season

“He’s a guy that, from the time we’ve gotten here, has just continued to get better in every phase, offseason, spring ball, during the summer. He continued to gain confidence because of his work habits, what he’s done throughout the course of the season; just continuing to get better and better. I think he’s got a much higher ceiling than even how he’s played at the end of this year. We’re excited to have him back. He’s a mature competitor becoming a great leader inside of the wide receiver room, in particular. It’s a huge pickup for us as a program to get him back.”

On Cedric Tillman representing the coaching growth players can have

“He’s a great representation of continuing to put your head down, continuing to work. 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. For some it does. 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.”

On if there is another level to Hendon Hooker’s game

“Sure, I was just talking about Ced, Hendon is an example of those exact same things. It didn’t go perfect for him early in the year. Man, he continued to put his nose down and only competed and worked harder. You look at how he’s played throughout the season – he’s a young player, I know he’s coming back for his last year, but he’s continuing to get better in everything he’s doing throughout the course of the season. For him, in offseason, being comfortable in what we’re doing, but being able to just go through quarterback school with us, understand the game of football better and get better fundamentally. It’s things that, when he gets back in January, we’ve already pinpointed what he can get better at. It’s just a constant growth and evolution of who you are as a player.”

NEXT: Josh Heupel’s media availability continued

On the feeling of a home game with the atmosphere and fans in-state

“I’m excited for the game day environment, absolutely, our players are too. This is Tennessee territory and excited to see all of our fans here.”

On the status of the second cornerback position heading into the game

“Throughout the course of the season, one guy is down, the next guy steps up. I believe in the guys that will play there when we get to game day. It won’t just be one guy I don’t think throughout the entire 60 minutes, but excited to see those guys go compete.”

On the progression of OL Jeremiah Crawford

“Man, he’s a guy that coming out of junior college got here middle part of the summer and continued to grow strength and conditioning wise just with his frame and strength as we’ve gone through the early part of the season. Schematically, just understanding and growing into the position, has grown a ton throughout the course of it and (we) expect him to only continue to get better here inside of our program.”

NEXT: Josh Heupel’s media availability continued

On if it’s difficult to maintain a practice routine when at a bowl site

“It certainly is different, right? They get a chance to go experience (and) see the city and have fun with each other in the afternoon. There’s no classes, there’s none of that. But the entire bowl preparation is kind of that way. For us, our routine was when we get to the bowl site is a little bit different, but we still meet in the morning and practice in the morning. They get the afternoons off. (We’ve) extended meetings just a little bit in the morning to cover what we would normally do in our afternoon meetings.”

On if this is a chance for some of the young receivers to get some work

“They’ve done it during bowl preparation, potentially will have some opportunities on game day too. It’s 15 practices for all of our entire program, wide receivers included, having a chance to get better.”