Philip Fulmer no longer has a say in what happens with the University of Tennessee football program.
That does not mean people don’t want to hear what he has to say on the subject, though.
The latest example was Monday, when he spoke at the Hardin County Sports Hall of Fame banquet. The man who led the Volunteers to 15 bowl games (eight victories) in 17 years stuck to the philosophy if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. When he discussed what has happened since 2008, his final season, he stuck to current coach Butch Jones and did not mention either Lane Kiffin or Derek Dooley, according to The Jackson Sun.
“It’s his program. It’s completely his program,” Fulmer said, according to the newspaper. “But he wants to know how we did it and all those things, and I’ll help him any way I can.
“ ... He reached out to the past coaches and players, you know, and welcomed everybody back. What the other guys did was asinine. To alienate the very people that are part of the legacy was silly. But anyway, we’re on the right track.”
Under Jones, the Volunteers made it to a bowl game last season, their first since 2010 Dooley’s first season, and recorded their first bowl victory since 2007, when Fulmer was still coach.
Thursday, Tennessee was ranked 25th in the preseason Amway Coaches poll.
“I think we went through a really unnecessary hard time and I think Butch has got us back on track,” Fulmer said. “Because he’s doing it as we did it, recruiting well and coaching them hard. I like what he’s doing.
“We went through just a terrible time for no reason.”
Any question about the degree to which Butch Jones and his staff have restored the reputation of the University of Tennessee football program was answered Thursday.
The Volunteers made it into the preseason Amway Coaches Poll top 25. Barely.
Coming off a winning season and its first bowl victory since 2007, Tennessee starts the season ranked 25th, one of two teams that went 7-6 in 2014 in this season’s poll. The other was Arkansas at No. 20.
“You’re not used to an SEC team being down that long,” senior linebacker Curt Magitt said during the recent SEC media days. “My thoughts during the recruiting process when I was being recruited was being a part of bringing it back.”
The Volunteers earned 166 points, two more than Mississippi State, in a vote of 64 college coaches. They are one of eight SEC teams among the top 25. Mississippi State and Texas A&M are the top two among “others receiving votes.”
To view the complete coaches preseason poll, released Thursday morning, click here.
Typically, no one on a football team knows more than the head coach.
That’s not true at the University of Tennessee, where Butch Jones readily admits he ranks no higher than No. 2 when it comes to his program. The smartest guy in the huddle, on the sideline, in the meeting rooms – maybe even on campus – is quarterback Josh Dobbs.
“First of all, it’s a great, comforting fact to know that your quarterback is smarter than you,” Jones said Wednesday during an appearance on WGFX-FM 104.5 (The Zone). “I promise you that – he’s smarter than all of us. He has a cerebral approach to the game. He takes pride in his performance.
“The biggest thing about Josh Dobbs is you only have to tell him once. So if you correct him on the field you’re never going back re-teaching because all it takes is one time and then he works on it.”
Jones was in town to speak at a Nashville Sports Council luncheon at the Wildhorse Saloon. Afterward he sat in with the Midday 180 to discuss the coming season, the first for which Dobbs enters preseason camp as the unquestioned starter.
NFL.com recently published its list of the top 15 smartest college football players. Dobbs (pictured), who majors in aerospace engineering, was No. 2 on that list.
He spent his summer in West Palm Beach interning at aerospace manufacturer Pratt and Whitney. As an intern, Dobbs was permitted to test and collect data from aircraft engines including an F-135 and the F-35 Lightning II.
Many fans are counting on Dobbs to deliver a breakout season for Tennessee. In his six games last season, Dobbs passed for 1,335 yards and nine touchdowns to go along with his 469 rushing yards. With Dobbs at the helm, UT reached its first bowl game since 2010 and earned its first bowl victory since 2008.
Jones has referred to Dobbs numerous times as his CEO quarterback. What he means is simple: a CEO quarterback owns the team, owns the offense, and solves problems.
So just how smart is the UT quarterback?
“You try to do different things in the recruiting process,” Jones said. “The one story with Josh is when he was on his official visit I was meeting with him in the recruiting room and I drew up a play, talked really fast … and then I erased it really fast. Then I sat down and I carried a conversation on with him for about five, seven minutes and then I said, ‘Oh yeah, here’s the grease pen. Can you get up and re-draw what I just spoke about? He re-drew verbatim – everything.
“Right then and there we knew he was special.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
Vanderbilt’s men’s basketball team will get around a little more than usual before it gets down to the business of conference play this season.
Six of the Commodores’ 14 games outside of SEC play will be outside of Memorial Gymnasium. That’s two more than last season and matches the largest number for any of the previous 10 seasons. The last time Kevin Stallings’ team was so well-travelled so early was 2012-13. That season included at neutral site game in downtown Nashville at Bridgestone Arena.
This season’s first three non-conference contests will be at home, beginning Nov. 13 against Austin Peay. After that Vanderbilt will play three games in Hawaii as part of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, make two trips to Texas for games at Baylor (Dec. 6) and Texas (Jan. 30) and one at Purdue. The game against Texas is part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which for the first time this season will be confined to one day, after the start of the respective conference seasons.
ON THE MOVE
A look at the number of non-conference road/neutral site games Vanderbilt basketball has scheduled from 2005-06 through 2015-16, with the record in those games in parentheses:
2015-16: 6 (TBD)
2014-15: 4 (2-2)
2013-14: 5 (2-3)
2012-13: 6 (2-4)
2011-12: 5 (4-1)
2010-11: 5 (3-2)
2009-10: 6 (3-3)
2008-09: 5 (4-1)
2007-08: 4 (4-0)
2006-07: 5 (3-2)
2005-06: 4 (3-1)
This year’s non-conference road games include at least five against teams the played in last year’s NCAA Tournament. That number could rise depending on what happens for the final two games of the Maui Invitational.
“We’re excited to release our non-conference schedule, which is one of the more challenging schedules that we’ve put together since I’ve been here,” Stallings said in a release from the athletics department. “Our schedule really does have it all - home-and-home games with NCAA Tournament teams, a trip to Maui for three games against some of college basketball’s best teams, and home games against teams that had record-breaking seasons a year ago.
“Our guys are up to the challenge, and we’re ready for an exciting 2015-16 season.”
It won’t be the first game of the 2017 college football season.
It will be the first time in a long time that the University of Tennessee and Georgia Tech have played one another, however, and that will add excitement to the event that already is certain to draw interest.
Officials confirmed Monday that the Volunteers and Yellow Jackets would play in the second of two Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games in 2017.The teams, which last played more than three decades ago, will play a prime time contest Monday, Sept. 4 in Atlanta. ESPN will televise the game.
That contest will be two days after Alabama and Florida State play in the first iteration of the 2017 Kickoff Game. It will be the third time the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game conducts two contests on college football’s opening weekend.
“This will be the renewing of a long and beloved rivalry that's been off the board for far too long," Percy Vaughn, Peach Bowl, Inc. chairman said in a release. "And it's a great addition to the long-standing ACC vs. SEC rivalry games we have been able to put together.”
Tennessee and Georgia Tech will play at the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium, which is set to open earlier in 2017.
Tickets for the contest will be divided equally between the participating schools and will be sold through their respective ticket offices.
“We are looking forward to and are very excited to open the 2017 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta," UT coach Butch Jones said in a release. "It will be a great opportunity for our program to play in a new state-of-the-art facility while playing on a national stage. The state of Georgia is very important to us in recruiting footprint, and that coupled with our alumni base and passionate fans, will make for a very exciting experience."
Vanderbilt plans to kick off its SEC Network takeover with a little football.
The Commodores’ 2012 Music City Bowl victory over North Carolina State will start the 24-hour run of some of the school’s most memorable athletics events in recent years.
School officials and former baseball All-American David Price selected 12 games in four sports to air from 11 p.m. (CDT) Saturday through 11 p.m. Sunday. Five of the 12 games are football contests, including the 2005 victory over Tennessee in Knoxville (which will air early Sunday morning). Three are men’s basketball, including the 2012 SEC Tournament championship game vs. Kentucky, which will air in prime time (7 p.m.). There also are two baseball games and two women’s basketball games.
The complete schedule for Vanderbilt’s SEC Network takeover:
2012 Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. N.C. State
2007 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship: Vanderbilt vs. LSU
2013 Vanderbilt vs. Georgia (football)
2005 Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee (football)
2007 Vanderbilt vs. Florida (men's basketball)
2012 SEC Tournament Semifinals: Vanderbilt vs. Florida (baseball)
2008 Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee (men's basketball)
2008 Vanderbilt vs. Auburn (football)
2009 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament Championship: Vanderbilt vs. Auburn
2013 Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee (football)
2012 SEC Tournament Championship: Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky (men's basketball)
2007 SEC Tournament Championship: Vanderbilt vs. Arkansas (baseball)
(schedule subject to change)
*Takeover schedules were created from available television inventory; NCAA Championships were not available for re-air.
Production clearly played a role in which Vanderbilt players were selected to represent the program at SEC Football Media Days next week at Hoover, Ala.
Running back Ralph Webb, linebacker Nigel Bowden and guard Spencer Pulley will accompany coach Derek Mason to the event, which annually attracts more than 1,000 media members from across the country.
Webb and Bowden are third-year sophomores but were among the Commodores’ top performers last season. Webb had a team-high 907 rushing yards, a school record for a freshman, and finished 14th in the conference. Bowden had a team-high 78 tackles.
Pulley is a senior offensive lineman who has been a full-time starter at guard the past two seasons but has been moved to center for this season.
Vanderbilt’s players and coaches will face the media Monday afternoon (1:30 p.m.) concurrent with those from Florida. The event runs through Thursday morning.
The complete list of players who will participate in SEC Football Media Days, released Wednesday by the SEC:
Alabama: *Reggie Ragland, Sr., LB, Kenyan Drake, Sr., RB, Ryan Kelly, Sr., OL
Arkansas: *Jonathan Williams, Sr., RB, Brandon Allen, Sr., QB, Keon Hatcher, Sr., WR
Auburn: *Jeremy Johnson, Jr., QB, Jonathan Jones, Sr., DB, Kris Frost, Sr., LB
Florida: *Jonathan Bullard, Sr., DE, Brandon Powell, So., WR, Vernon Hargreaves III, Jr., DB
Georgia: *Malcolm Mitchell, Sr., WR, John Theus, Sr., OT, Jordan Jenkins, Sr., OLB
Kentucky: *Melvin Lewis, Sr., NG, Jordan Swindle, Sr., OT, A.J. Stamps, Sr., S
LSU: *Leonard Fournette, So., RB, Vadal Alexander, Sr., OT, Kendell Beckwith, Jr., LB
Ole Miss: *Evan Engram, Jr., TE, Mike Hilton, Sr., DB, C.J. Johnson, Sr., LB
Mississippi State: *Dak Prescott, Sr., QB, Taveze Calhoun, Sr., DB, Ryan Brown, Sr., DE
Missouri: *Kenya Dennis, Sr., DB, Maty Mauk, Jr., QB, Evan Boehm, Sr., C
South Carolina: *Elliott Fry, Jr., PK, Pharoh Cooper, Jr., WR, Skai Moore, Jr., LB
Tennessee: *Joshua Dobbs, Jr., QB, Curt Maggitt, Sr., LB/DL, Cameron Sutton, Jr., DB
Texas A&M: *Mike Matthews, Sr., C, Germain Ifedi, Jr., OT, Julien Obioha, Sr., DL
Vanderbilt: *Ralph Webb, So., RB, Nigel Bowden, So., LB, Spencer Pulley, Sr., C
(* -- 'Beyond The Field: Stories of the SEC' representative)
Tim Corbin tried.
The Vanderbilt coach made an abundance of moves in an attempt to win the decisive third game of the 2015 College World Series final and secure a second straight national championship. Even before the first pitch he adjusted his lineup. And he kept making changes all the way to the final out.
Some worked. Some did not. The result, though, was a 4-2 loss to Virginia and one national title apiece for the programs that have faced off for the crown each of the last two years.
“I just really want to congratulate Virginia. I mean, I think that's first and foremost,” Corbin said following the contest. “…You have to give them a lot of credit.”
A look at the most prominent decisions Corbin made and how successful they were on scale of 1 to 10 (1 = that didn’t work; 10 = inspired thinking).
• Designated hitter switch: A freshman out of Montgomery Bell Academy, Penn Murfee appeared in fewer than half the games this season and was a .243 hitter. Yet Corbin went with him over Ro Coleman, who was dominant in the regional and super regional but had been far less successful at Omaha.
Murfee had two of the Commodores’ five hits, including a double. Both of his hits gave his team a chance to get something going but he did not score a run. Success rating: 6.
• A quick hook: Starting pitcher Walker Buehler is a first-round draft pick and hardly was overworked during the NCAA Tournament. He held Virginia scoreless through the first three innings but then gave up a two-run home run and a walk to start the fourth and Corbin went to the bullpen. From there he used four different pitchers over the final six innings.
Collin Snider and Ben Bowden needed just three pitches combined to get the final two outs of the fifth inning. John Kilichowski didn’t allow a hit in 1 1/3 innings but the one batter he walked scored what turned out to be the game-winning run. Success rating: 5.
• Change at the top: Connected to the decision to go with Murfree at designated hitter was the choice to move Bryan Reynolds from fifth in the lineup to the leadoff spot.
Reynolds had been one of the Commodores’ most consistent hitters throughout the CWS. In this one, he did not have a hit but led off the game with a walk and scored the first run in the top of the first. Success rating: 4.
• Counting on a miracle: After Murfee’s two-out single in the bottom of the ninth, Corbin called on Kyle Smith to pinch hit. It was an obvious attempt to tie the game with one swing given that Smith is a player who has the size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) but not the stats (one hit in 15 at-bats for the season) to suggest he could do it.
Smith fouled off one two-strike pitch but allowed the game to end on a called third strike. Success rating: 1.
(Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt athletics)
If anyone in Vanderbilt’s bullpen is tired, it might be Ben Bowden.
The sophomore lefthander (pictured) is the only Commodores pitcher who has appeared in each of the first two games of the 2015 College World Series final. He needed just six pitches to get one out on Monday and threw 22 in an inning and third on Tuesday.
That, though, is not enough to remove him from consideration for Wednesday’s decisive Game 3 (7 p.m., ESPN).
“I think you get to this point in the tournament and everyone's on go,” coach Tim Corbin said.
For the second year in a row, Vanderbilt and Virginia will go the distance in the best-of-three CWS championship series.
A year ago the Commodores used only three pitchers in their 3-2 clinching victory after having used four in each of the first two games. This time they used three in each of the first two contests. That after their starters went at least six innings in each of the three games of pool play.
If they need to go to the bullpen early and often this time, they certainly are prepared to do so. Walker Buehler, a first-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in this month’s MLB draft, will be the starter.
A look at how much Vanderbilt’s relief pitchers have been used at the 2015 College World Series:
Kyle Wright – 3 games, 3.2 innings
John Kilichowski – 2 games, 4.2 innings
Ben Bowden – 2 games, 1.2 innings
Jordan Sheffield – 1 game, 1 inning
By comparison, Virginia’s Josh Sborz threw four innings (77 pitches) on Tuesday alone.
“You will not see Josh Sborz (Wednesday) night,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “… Brandon Waddell will start. Past that, I'm not sure what we'll do. But this was kind of how we had mapped it out when we had looked at this about a week ago on what was going to give us the best chance to put our team in a chance to win a championship. And here we are, and Waddell is going to get the ball. But we'll see where we go from there.”
Waddell, a junior left-hander, was a fifth-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2015 MLB Draft.
The only pitchers Corbin ruled out were Carson Fuller and Philip Pfeifer, his starters in each of the first two games, although even he conceded that there probably would be some debate on that front.
“You know (Fulmer) will be fighting to grab the ball in a situation that was worthy,” Corbin said. “But I think the bullpen is all ready to go.”
(Photo: Joe Howell/Vanderbilt athletics)
Either way, Vanderbilt’s season will end Wednesday.
It would help their chances for a second straight national championship if the Commodores could get off to a good start.
Tuesday they didn’t score at all and fell 3-0 to Virginia in Game 2 of the final series. That forced a winner-take-all third contest Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN).
“I think you have to, you have to just wipe the slate clean,” first baseman Zander Wiel said. “You can't carry the game with you. Obviously we struggled (Tuesday) night offensively. But we just have to have a clear mind going into (Wednesday) and do what we do every day, and that's trust our preparation and trust our (batting practice), and we'll be ready to go.”
Simply put: Most of runs the Vanderbilt has produced at Omaha have come in the later half of games.
The Commodores have scored 17 times in their five CWS games thus far but only three in their first three innings of those contests. They scored that many in the ninth of their opener, when they rallied to defeat Cal State Fullerton. A day later scored the only run they needed in the seventh inning against TCU.
A breakdown of when Vanderbilt has scored runs during the 2015 College World Series:
Innings 1-3: 3
Innings: 4-6: 7
Innings: 7-9: 7
Three of the last four games have been scoreless ties at least through five innings. Tuesday’s contest turned in the bottom of the sixth, when Virginia scored three times – all with two outs and all unearned.
“They got the timely hit,” coach Tim Corbin said. “They got the timely hit that we didn't. So you have to credit them.”
Vanderbilt has now played 16 all-time games at the CWS. Tuesday was just the second time it failed to score a run, also the second time in 70 games this season. At last season’s CWS, the Commodores bounced back from a 4-0 loss to Texas and won 4-3 in 10 innings, which clinched a spot in the championship series. They closed out the 2015 regular season with a 1-0 loss to Alabama then defeated Missouri 7-6 in 10 innings in their first game at the SEC Tournament.
In last year’s CWS final, Vanderbilt scored the decisive run on John Norwood’s solo home run in the eighth inning of Game 3. However, it started that contest with one run in the first and never trailed.
“They're trying. They're kids,” Corbin said. “They want to hit, too. … And I thought even during the middle of (Tuesday’s) game, even at the end of it I thought they were very positive. I thought we were going to crack it open at some point and always do. It just didn't happen.”
(Photo: Joe Howell/Vanderbilt athletics)
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