Atlanta distractions concern Kiffin

Tennessee's coordinators agreed Tuesday that the Volunteers were ready to go for Thursday's Chick-Fil-A Bowl game against Virginia Tech. Coach Lane Kiffin? Not so much.

“As far as practice, I thought it was OK,” Kiffin said following the 90-minute workout in the Georgia Dome. “We’re trying to tighten up. So many distractions obviously, with a bowl game in general, and being in a city like Atlanta. It’s time for our players to understand they’ve had a lot of fun and it’s been very enjoyable, but we need to focus on winning a big-time bowl game.”

The distractions -- daily team activities and nightlife his players can smell but not taste -- might have triggered a mild case of paranoia for the 34-year old Kiffin, who is preparing for his first bowl game as a head coach. As worried as he sounds, he reported no broken curfews or other violations of team rules.

“It takes the fun out of it for you as a coach because you’re in constant worry when you have so many kids in a city like this,” Kiffin said. “So we’ll keep continuing to lock them down and keep them focused.”

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin saw things differently and said as much during the Volunteers' bowl news conference. Both believe the players are focused, and the game-planning and repetition that started Dec. 4 have reached their saturation point.

How do the players feel? Bring on the game already.

"We've had some good practices leading up to this time," running back Montario Hardesty said. "The biggest distraction is waiting."

Defensive end Chris Walker added: "I can tell all the guys are getting pretty restless, so we really want to play this game and we really want to play it well."

Tennessee will hold a final walk-through Wednesday at the Georgia Dome.


Several Atlanta-area players will make their Georgia Dome debuts Thursday, including freshman defensive back Darren Myles Jr. None of his Carver-Atlanta teams reached the high school playoff semifinals, held in the Dome through the 2007 season.

Myles saw action in seven games this season behind starting safeties Eric Berry and Janzen Jackson, another freshman. "I can't even tell you how many people have asked me for tickets," he said. "My teammates are all good guys and they have been understanding and given me some good tickets. I just give them to my parents and let them distribute them."

Myles, running back Toney Williams (Milton), linebacker Robert Nelson (Stone Mountain) and defensive end Steven Fowlkes (Banneker) are all freshman Volunteers with no previous Dome experience. Freshman linebacker Nigel Mitchell-Thornton had all but forgotten losing twice in the Dome four years ago when he was a freshman at Stephenson. "We had a great team that year," he said. "Guys are all over the SEC from that team."

Tennessee last played in the Georgia Dome in the 2007 SEC Championship game. The team’s last Chick-Fil-A Bowl appearance came in 2004, a loss to Clemson.


Kiffin said senior defensive tackle Wes Brown was cleared to practice Tuesday, leaving no Volunteers with ailments.