Jones happy to be second smartest guy in UT football program

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)

Jul 30, 2015 6:55 AM

Prep for SEC hoops season to take Vanderbilt out of Memorial Gym more than usual

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.”
 

Jul 29, 2015 11:47 AM

Tennessee to face Georgia Tech in second 2017 Chick-fil-A Kickoff

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."

Jul 20, 2015 9:59 AM

Football featured prominently in Vanderbilt SEC Network 'takeover'

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:

Time (ET)

Programming

Midnight

2012 Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. N.C. State

2AM

2007 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship: Vanderbilt vs. LSU

3:30AM

2013 Vanderbilt vs. Georgia (football)

6AM

2005 Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee (football)

8AM

2007 Vanderbilt vs. Florida (men's basketball)

9:30AM

2012 SEC Tournament Semifinals: Vanderbilt vs. Florida (baseball)

12PM

2008 Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee (men's basketball)

2PM

2008 Vanderbilt vs. Auburn (football)

4PM

2009 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament Championship: Vanderbilt vs. Auburn

5:30PM

2013 Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee (football)

8PM

2012 SEC Tournament Championship: Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky (men's basketball)

10PM

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.

Jul 9, 2015 10:25 AM

Proven performers to represent Vanderbilt at SEC Media Days

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)

Jul 8, 2015 12:25 PM

Corbin's many moves not enough; Vanderbilt falls short in CWS final

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)
 

Jun 25, 2015 5:13 AM

Vanderbilt's bullpen fully armed for College World Series finale

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.

WELL ARMED
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)

Jun 24, 2015 2:50 PM

Vanderbilt plays the waiting game when it comes to scoring

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.

HEADED HOME
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)
 

Jun 24, 2015 6:38 AM

Vanderbilt sticks to script used by recent repeat CWS champions

If you’re going to win the College World Series for a second straight year, you might as well do so emphatically.

That’s what South Carolina did. After winning it all in 2010, the Gamecocks came back in 2011 and went undefeated at Omaha.

That’s what Oregon State did. The Beavers won the national title in 2006 then did it again in 2007, their encore performance a string of five straight triumphs without a defeat.

Following a 5-1 victory over Virginia in Game 1 of the 2015 final series, Vanderbilt is in position to become the third team in the last decade to repeat as CWS champions – and the third to go undefeated in the CWS the second time around.

The Commodores’ opportunity comes in Game 2 on Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPN). If they fail to sweep, the decisive Game 3 will be Wednesday.

“I think the thing that we've been preaching the past couple of years is just staying in the moment, worrying about what we can control right now,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “That's what we're going to do. We're going to worry about (Tuesday) when it gets here and our preparation when it's time for that, and then the game when it gets here. Just like we do, try to win innings frame by frame.”

OWNING OMAHA
A look at Vanderbilt’s results at the 2015 College World Series:

Vanderbilt 4, Cal State Fullerton 3
Vanderbilt 1, TCU 0
Vanderbilt 7, TCU 3
Vanderbilt 5, Virginia 1

Winning championships is never easy. There is reason to believe, though, that it does get a little easier the second time around.

A year ago Vanderbilt faced elimination twice before it hoisted the trophy. This time it has not trailed in any of its last three games.

South Carolina lost its CWS opener in 2010 then won six straight for its first title. Oregon lost its 2006 opener and then dropped Game 1 of the finals en route to that first championship.

It is not like the Commodores have dominated every step of the way since they got to Omaha this year. A rain delay that suspended play overnight was a big factor in the opening victory over Cal State Fullerton. They then were no-hit for more than six innings in the first game against TCU before Zander Wiel’s home run provided all the scoring.

“It's a game of baseball. You never know what to expect,” pitcher Carson Fulmer said Sunday. “And every time you go out there things could go your way or not. But at the end of the day we stuck to our routine and we stuck to what we do on a daily basis. And we're lucky to be here and get a chance to do it again.”

At this point, they have a chance to do it exactly the way the two most recent repeat champions did it.

(Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt athletics)

Jun 23, 2015 6:56 AM

Fulmer finishes Vanderbilt career in typically dominant fashion

Carson Fulmer did not go the distance.

The junior right-hander was not knocked out of Game 1 of the College World Series final on Monday, though. Far from it.

Fulmer capped one of the finest seasons ever by a Vanderbilt pitcher with 7 2/3 shutout innings during which he struck out eight, walked two and allowed two hits. When coach Tim Corbin went to get him after 118 pitches, the Commodores were well on their way to a 5-1 victory over Virginia, which left them one win shy of a second straight national championship.

“Obviously, I mean, when I see (Corbin) walking out, I know that's it,” Fulmer, the eighth overall choice in this year’s Major League draft, said. “And you have to put all frustration aside. And what made it big for me was not only did I have Coach there but I had the whole infield. And I consider those guys my best friends, and along with the other guys on my team. And for me being able to spend that moment with them and just look back on the brotherhood that we created, and I'm on top of it with a win at the end of the game.

“So it's definitely a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life, and I couldn't have asked for it to happen any better.”

It’s tough to imagine anyone could have pitched any better either than Fulmer did this season.

He was good enough in his biggest game of the year that he actually improved many of what already were gaudy stats. He became the fourth pitcher in SEC history (the first from Vanderbilt) to lead the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts in the same season. His numbers in those areas also rank among the best in program history for a single season.

TOP OF THE LIST
A look at Vanderbilt’s single-season leaders in wins, innings pitches and strikeouts:

WINS
Carson Fulmer (2015) – 14
Tyler Beede (2013) – 14
Grayson Garvin (2011) – 13

INNINGS PITCHED
David Price (2007) – 133.1
Carson Fulmer (2015) 127.2
Sonny Gray (2011) – 126.0

STRIKEOUTS
David Price (2007) – 194
Carson Fulmer (2015) – 167
David Price (2006) – 155

A relief pitcher for the first half of his three seasons with the Commodores, Fulmer is the only player in Vanderbilt history to rank among the top five in career wins (24, tied for fourth) and saves (14, fifth).

He joined Jeff Peeples as the only ones ever to finish with an ERA of better than 2.00 more than once. Peeples did it three straight seasons (1971-73). Fulmer had a 1.83 this season after a 1.98 in 2014.

“I've used Joe Frazier, the fighter, as an analogy because he keeps coming and he keeps throwing punches and he's just looking for your jaw, he's not trying to maneuver around you,” Corbin said. “As a kid, we just haven't had many like him. He's one of the most special kids that we've ever had on our campus.

“… He's a special, special competitor, and he'll go down as one of the greatest pitchers to ever pitch at Vanderbilt.”

(Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt athletics)
 

Jun 23, 2015 6:16 AM