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

Zeppos shares vision for new Vanderbilt football stadium

This is not a chicken-and-egg scenario.

Vanderbilt Chancellor Nick Zeppos believes the school needs a new football stadium, one with modern amenities and appeal. He also expects the football program, about to begin its second year under coach Derek Mason, to be better.

In this case, one definitely will come first.

“I tend to view things in kind of a sequential way to get the program and the facilities right,” Zeppos said in a lengthy appearance on 94.9 FM (The Game2) Wednesday morning. “And the first thing for me always is, ‘What is the fan experience on the field and in the stands?’

“So we’ve got to get right what is happening on that field.”

After three straight bowl appearances and back-to-back nine-win seasons under James Franklin, the Commodores slipped to 3-9 in 2014, Mason’s first season.

Presumably, therefore, whatever momentum there was for a new facility on West End has stalled somewhat. The idea of a new stadium remains very much alive, though, in the mind of the No. 1 man on campus.

“We’ve talked a lot about facilities, in particular the football facility, and I think that process continues,” Zeppos said. “I’d say it’s a very dynamic environment in terms of stadiums. When we start talking about, ‘What is the Vanderbilt football stadium of the future’ we really start thinking of the fan experience. I hate to say it, but a lot of kids want to watch six games when they’re at that game. And they want to be wired. They want to be able to experience a lot of different things.

“… It’s almost like a sports bar sort of environment that most of the fans want.”

To that end, he added that bigger is not necessarily the answer. Vanderbilt Stadium, with a capacity of 40,550, easily is the smallest in the SEC. The next smallest, at Ole Miss, can accommodate an additional 20,000-plus fans.

It’s more important, Zeppos contended, that the appeal of the place extends beyond the facility and into the surrounding area on campus and adjacent neighborhoods, all of which can be accomplished where the current stadium stands.

“I think it’s going to be more intimate, entertainment-driven and more multi-media that really focuses on the fan experience and then, particularly the way Nashville is going, building entertainment and excitement around that venue,” he said. “We just need a whole stadium-neighborhood buzz and vibrancy. That’s kind of how we’re conceiving it now.

“You can actually do some pretty exciting things on that footprint without disrupting things too much. There might be a year where we’d have to play somewhere else but I think that would be a low price to pay for a new facility.”

He did not offer any estimate of what it all might cost in actual dollars.

 
(Photo: Vanderbilt athletics)

Jul 29, 2015 2:24 PM

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

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

Rivers' search for playing time leads him to FCS program

Stephen Rivers is headed back to Louisiana.

The younger brother of NFL star Philip Rivers transferred to Vanderbilt from LSU in 2014 and was one of four quarterbacks who started at least once for the Commodores last season. He decided to look for another place to play his final college season, though, and Monday he found it.

Rivers announced that he would play at Northwestern (La.) State this fall.

“In searching for a school to finish my academic and football career, I put a bug in some teams' ears that I thought might have interest in a transfer veteran quarterback. Northwestern State responded to my interest with interest of their own," Rivers said in a release from his new school. "I was looking for a school with a sport administration master's program, and NSU has that. On my visit to Northwestern State, I really enjoyed seeing the historic city, and the football venue in Natchitoches.

"The coaching staff and players at Northwestern State seem to have something special brewing. I watched film with the coaches and I feel that I am a good fit for the system they run. I am excited to get started this summer and meet my new teammates. I look forward to applying all I have learned in my four years in the SEC and doing whatever I can to help Northwestern State win a conference championship."

Northwestern State is an FCS school that competes in the Southland Conference and went 6-6 in 2014. Its starting quarterback the last two seasons, Zach Adkins, graduated, which created an opportunity for someone.

Rivers, who is 6-foot-7, hopes to be the one to fill it. He has attempted just 67 passes as a college player and completed 25 (38.5 percent). He also has thrown three interceptions with no touchdown passes.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jun 22, 2015 10:33 PM

Vanderbilt football gets fourth straight Thursday night opener

Vanderbilt football fans won’t have to wait quite so long to see their team in action this fall.

Thursday, the Commodores’ season-opener was moved to Sept. 3, two days earlier than originally scheduled, and placed in prime time on the SEC Network. Kickoff will be 7 p.m. (CDT).

This is the fourth straight year Vanderbilt starts its season on a Thursday night.

Things have not worked out well in that regard thus far. VU opened with defeats against South Carolina (2012), Ole Miss (2013) and Temple (2014) – all at home.

Playing in primetime on Thursday night is a tremendous opportunity to show our team, our university and the city of Nashville. I'm very excited about this announcement," Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said in a release from the school. "It should be a great atmosphere, with Western Kentucky coming to campus with an excellent team that finished off last year with a bowl win."

Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky have not played since 1938. The schools have faced each other just three times overall, and the Commodores have won all three.

"We are excited to once again usher in the start of college football," said Vanderbilt Director of Athletics David Williams. "The Thursday opener against Western Kentucky will serve as a tremendous showcase for our university to a national audience."

Also Thursday, kickoff time was set for Vanderbilt’s Sept. 19 game against Austin Peay. That contest will start at 3 p.m. and will be shown on the SEC Network alternate channel.

Previously, the Commodores’ Sept. 12 contest against Georgia was set for 2:30 p.m. and a national broadcast on CBS.

Jun 18, 2015 3:55 PM

Vanderbilt football to be featured on early-season national telecast

CBS Sports’ sports initial broadcast plans for the 2015 SEC football season include Vanderbilt.

The network announced Thursday that it would broadcast the Commodores’ conference opener, Sept. 12 against Georgia. That game will kick off at 2:30 p.m. and will feature the network’s top college football broadcast crew.

The last time the network broadcast a game at Vanderbilt Stadium was the last time Georgia visited, a 31-27 Commodores’ victory in 2013.

Results from all Vanderbilt appearances on CBS follows:

   Oct. 19, 2013    Georgia, Nashville        W, 31-27
   Nov. 24, 2001    Tennessee, Knoxville   L, 0-38
   Nov. 27, 1999    Tennessee, Knoxville   L, 10-38
   Nov. 6, 1999      Florida, Gainesville       L, 6-13
   Nov. 29, 1997    Tennessee, Knoxville   L, 10-17
   Nov. 26, 1983    Tennessee, Knoxville   L, 24-34
   Oct. 23, 1982    Ole Miss, Nashville      W, 19-10
   Dec. 31, 1955    Auburn, Jacksonville  W, 25-13

Vanderbilt opens its second season under coach Derek Mason a week earlier at home against Western Kentucky and plays its first three at home.

The Georgia game is the only conference contest at home during the first half of the season.
 

May 28, 2015 10:42 AM

'Lowest moment' of Butch Jones' career came last season at UT

Highly ranked recruiting classes and a return to bowl eligibility have created an undeniable feeling that things are looking up for the University of Tennessee.

Good thing for third-year coach Butch Jones. That’s because his time in Knoxville already has included what he considers the worst experience he’s had as a coach.

Jones told 247 Sports that last season’s 10-9 loss to Florida — a game the Volunteers led 9-0 — “was probably the lowest moment I’ve ever had in my career.”

To their credit, the Volunteers did not let it keep them down long.

They lost their next two conference contests but finished the regular season with three wins in their last four games, beginning with a 45-42 overtime triumph at South Carolina. Then they crushed Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl 45-28 to finish the season 7-6, their first winning record since 2009.

“The South Carolina game was really the culmination of really learning how to win,” Jones told 247 Sports. “But I think the changing point was the Florida game, because obviously it was extremely disappointing for all involved. It was probably the lowest moment I’ve ever had in my career, and I had to put my tie on and go home and have 12 individuals at my house for an official visit.

“But our players, our young football team could have listened to all the clutter and distraction out there, and they didn’t listen to any of the noises. I knew if we could cross that hurdle that would make us a better football team by the end of the season. And you go 4-1, you win a bowl game — a great bowl game, a New Year’s Day bowl game, so to speak — and it propels you.”

Onward and upward, he hopes.

 
(Photo: Getty Images)

May 14, 2015 5:31 AM

Tiny Richardson makes big decision about professional future

His nickname was meant to be ironic.

The reality, of course, is that Antonio “Tiny” Richardson is a big man and it takes a lot to support his 6-foot-6, 327-pound frame. Too much, in fact, for his battered knees.

Saturday, the former University of Tennessee offensive lineman who attended both Ensworth and Pearl-Cohn High Schools announced his retirement from pro football after one season with the Minnesota Vikings.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank God, University of Tennessee and the Minnesota Vikings organization for the opportunity to live out my dream as an elite football player,” Richardson wrote on Twitter. “Second I’d like to thank my close ones for supporting me through this time. My love and passion for this game is Infinite, but I understand that football careers don’t last long and unfortunately mine has ended due to injury. I can truly say I left it all on the field. I am forever thankful for my opportunities and I look forward to life after football.”

Richardson was undrafted in 2014 because of concerns about his knees, which included surgery following his sophomore season at Tennessee. He signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent but was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the regular season. He underwent surgeries on both knees.

The Vikings released him last week after they selected three offensive linemen in this year’s draft.

In high school he was the state’s top-rated 2011 college prospect, according to Rivals.com, and a participant in the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. At Tennessee, he was a two-time second-team All-SEC selection.

May 11, 2015 9:49 AM

Long removed from coaching rivalry, Fulmer takes opportunity to zing Spurrier

Apparently there is not statute of limitations on responding to insults.

It has been seven years since Phil Fulmer was football coach at the University of Tennessee but apparently he still feels the need to return fire to South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who as Florida’s coach had a lot of fun at Fulmer’s expense.

“I would say this to Steve,” Fulmer said Thursday during an address to the Chattanooga Rotary Club, according to WDEF-TV (Ch. 12). “In fact I have said it in front of him. Steve is a really good guy until you put a microphone in front of him. Then he becomes a jerk.”

Since he became coach at South Carolina, Spurrier has aimed his venom more often toward Georgia and Clemson, but at the start of his team’s spring practice last month set his sights on Tennessee once again. He called the fact that his team went 7-6 last season “decent” but then noted that “In Knoxville, they’re still doing cartwheels because they went 7-6 and won a bowl game.”

Some of his best stuff, though, came when Fulmer was the man in charge. To wit:

• "You can't spell Citrus [Bowl] without U-T."

• "I know why Peyton came back for his senior year. He wanted to be a three-time star of the Citrus Bowl."

• More recently was this one: “[This] will be the 14th time I’ve coached in Neyland Stadium. … I’ve coached there more than some of their head coaches.”
 

Apr 23, 2015 8:23 PM