Coach Jeff Tedford has said the major difference in preparation for Tennessee this time around is that the Bears are focusing more on themselves. Tedford said he probably had his players thinking too much about the environment they’d encounter at Neyland Stadium last season. He did his best to prepare them for the hostile greeting they would receive there, but in the process the team may have lost sight of its own identity.
“We probably got caught up too much on them and the environment there,” Tedford said. “This year through practice we’ve really just focused on ourself.”
One of things you really have to respect about Tedford is his honesty and straightforwardness. He took the blame for his method of preparation against the Vols last year, essentially saying he had to look in the mirror afterward to figure out what went wrong. A lot of coaches have too big an ego to admit such things, at least publicly.
“I took lessons away from it,” Tedford said. “Not getting our guys so wound up to go play a team or in an environment, but mostly focus on yourself.
“I kind of looked at myself and asked what I did I emphasize the most. I emphasized who we were playing, the environment, that it was going to be loud. As I look back on it, it’s more about us. Let’s not worry about going to Tennessee and worry about the guys in orange jersies.
“As I try to find things of why we didn’t play our best, the first place I need to look is in the mirror to find out if I could have done a better job of motivating the team.”
Of course, the task of focusing more on yourself is easier when you are home. Tedford doesn’t have to worry about preparing his players for the kind of atmosphere they encountered at Tennessee.