Josh Heupel’s Tennessee Volunteers are gearing up to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Citrus Bowl. The Vols are seeking to get at least 9 wins for the 2nd year in a row.

Heupel knows this will be a good chance for his team to build positive momentum for the 2024 season. The Vols have lost several defenders to the transfer portal, so the bowl game will provide an opportunity for several young players to get snaps.

“Yeah, our practice and our preparation back home and here has been really good,” Heupel explained. “The bowl season, and (Kirk Ferentz) was talking about the changes during the course of his career, too. There are more guys that have opted out. You have guys that have made decisions to go to the NFL. Some have hit the portal.”

The Vols have lost several starters, with Doneiko Slaughter, Wesley Walker, and Tyler Baron just some of the players who will be elsewhere in 2024.

“It creates opportunity for guys that maybe have not played a ton on a unit. They have gotten some reps, probably played a lot of special teams. It is an opportunity for the young guys to take ownership and prove that they are ready to go play at a high level,” explained the coach. “In some ways, those bowl games are a culmination and a finish to the ’23 season, but they are also the start and kickoff for a lot of those young guys to ’24.”

The Vols and Hawkeyes will kick off from Orlando on New Year’s Day at 1 p.m. ET.