Players and coaches from both teams met with the media earlier today in Atlanta. Frank Beamer and Lane Kiffin gave their thoughts so far during bowl week along with Virginia Tech's players, Tyrod Taylor and Cody Grimm.
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer
On his thoughts of the Chick-fil-A Bowl:
"It's a great bowl for us. I like the fact, as Gary Stokan has said, that we earned our way here. We had to win at the end of the season and we did. We played some good football and improved as a football team throughout. I think that goes back to the players here and their attitude and what kind of people they are. This has been a really good experience. The organization and the way they treat you - it's really good. As far as a bowl experience, it doesn't get any better than the Chick-fil-A Bowl and Gary Stokan and all the people that run this here. It's been a good trip, but to make it a great trip we have to finish up well. "
On Virginia Tech's rivalry with Tennessee:
"To get down here and play Tennessee - people in our part of the country have wanted this game for a long time. It's not in Bristol, but it's in Atlanta, and what a great place to play. We are about 3 ½-4 hours apart. We're in southwest Virginia and they are in East Tennessee, so we're not far apart. I think us being in two different conferences adds to it [the rivalry]. I think we've come along. When I was growing up, Tennessee always seemed bigger. When we played them in the Gator Bowl, I'm not sure we were on the level of Tennessee, but this time I'm hoping we are more on the level of Tennessee. We respect the Southeastern Conference."
On facing SEC competition:
"No one has to convince me of the caliber of play of the Southeastern Conference. My son has coached at three different schools, including Tennessee, in the Southeastern Conference. They are very tough, competitive and large fan-base programs, but we're proud of what we've done at Virginia Tech. We understand it's going to take a great effort to beat a Southeastern Conference team like Tennessee. Their program has good personnel and they've gotten better throughout the year."
On the stress of being a head coach:
"It's a tough profession that changes very quickly. Nerves will get you and everything is big. I think when you get to the top and you're up there knocking on the door, how many wins are enough wins? There's a lot of pressure in those situations. When you are trying to get good that's one thing, but when you are good, every loss is a critical loss and that puts even more pressure on those situations. Staying even-keeled is important. You can't get real high or real low in this business."
Tennessee Head Coach Lane Kiffin
On the Chick-fil-A Bowl experience thus far:
"This has been a very exciting week for us. Our players have worked extremely hard. It has been exciting for our players. (The Chick-fil-A Bowl) is such a great bowl - like I said last week, it's like a BCS Bowl. We're playing one of the best teams in America. The Hokies are No. 11 and they've won two straight Orange Bowls. They have a ton of great players back and a legendary coach. We've really enjoyed our time down here. The people from the Bowl have been great to us. (We've been to) so many different events. We were able to attend Reverend Brown's church Sunday morning which was exciting for some of us as well."
On his first season at Tennessee:
"It's been very exciting for me and my staff. It started with the people of Tennessee and how they welcomed us and welcomed our families. Playing in the best conference and coaching in the best conference in all of college football has been very exciting. Obviously, I wish we would have started better to start the season - (there were) a couple games we thought we could have won. But I'm very excited about the way our players finished in the second half and the style that we played all year long, as far as playing smart and with very few penalties. As far as recruiting, to sign a Top 10 class and sign the No. 1 player in the country says a lot about our assistant coaches. This year is going great."
On playing Virginia Tech:
"I just know what I've been told about trying to get this match-up for a number of years in a number of places and for whatever reason, it hasn't worked out. For it to work out is extremely exciting for both our fans, as you can tell from how fast the tickets were sold. I don't think it really sets the tone for next year because you lose so many great players off the team and teams change every year. I think it does kick-start us as far as recruiting - as far as going back and hitting the road after the game and calling recruits. It's the only game being played on New Year's Eve on national television and there are usually four to five million people watching the game, so that's important for this year's class coming up and for classes to come."
On defensive back Eric Berry's NFL prospects:
"He has the ability to do so many different things and to put that on film. Your film is your resume. When you play in our style of offense and defense, you're going to be exposed to a lot of different things. You're going to have to do the things that the NFL wants to see when they come to watch your film. Eric's played man-to-man coverage, we've blitzed him and he's played back in the middle, so to be able to do all those things and then also to play on special teams as many snaps as he has, he's created a lot of draft value for himself. He's very unique because he can play free safety or strong (safety) and he can play nickel corner, so I would think he'd go extremely high whenever he leaves."
Virginia Tech players
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor
On the rivalry with Tennessee:
"I think, like coach said, with us being so close to Tennessee, the fans really want to see this game. I know our fans are going to travel and this is going to be a good game."
On Eric Berry:
"From what I've seen, they are using him more like a linebacker and putting him in the box. I know he's a big hitter and very strong in there defending the run game. He's a big part of their linebacking corps right now, and he runs the field very well."
Linebacker Cody Grimm
On the importance of the running game for both Tech and Tennessee:
"They can run the ball very well. We have to stop the run in order to win this game. (Hokies tailback )Ryan Williams is something special. I don't think there is anyone out there like Ryan right now."
On the difference between Beamer and Kiffin:
"I think the main difference between Lane [Kiffin] and Coach [Beamer] is probably their age. I don't know what Coach Beamer was like in his prime."
On special teams this week:
"Like every week, we come in and concentrate on special teams, which is obviously a huge aspect of the game. We are hoping to do some good things on special teams. We're sure (Tennessee is) working on special teams because everyone seems to do that when they play us for some reason."