Jones: Recent results render rivalry with Alabama irrelevant

Butch Jones is all for a good rivalry.

For right now, though, the third-year University of Tennessee coach is interested in relevance as he prepares his team for its annual matchup with Alabama.

“I understand the importance of the rivalry,” Jones said Monday. “This game means a lot to both institutions, both universities, our fan bases and our players. It means a lot. I have spoken about getting the rivalry back to making it relevant again and being in these football games for us.”

Tennessee has lost eight straight to Alabama and one more will make it the second-longest slide in the history of the series.

The Volunteers were winless for 11 in a row (1971-81), eight straight (0-7-1) from 1986-94 and seven consecutive (1905-13). Their best stretch was seven straight victories from 1995-01.

The current streak of defeats has been particularly one-sided. Six of the last eight losses were by 20 points or more.

Last season’s 14-point defeat seemed like a significant step forward given that the Volunteers lost each of the four prior to that by 31 or more. Yet it should be noted that Alabama led that game 27-0 at one point.

A look at the scores of the last eight games between Tennessee and Alabama, all of which the latter won:

2007 at Tuscaloosa 41-17
2008 at Knoxville 29-9
2009 at Tuscaloosa 12-10
2010 at Knoxville 41-10
2011 at Tuscaloosa 37-6
2012 at Knoxville 44-13
2013 at Tuscaloosa 45-10
2014 at Knoxville 34-20

Alabama comes into this game ranked No. 8 in both The Associated Press and coaches polls, and Tennessee is just 2-12 under Jones against ranked opponents. One of those two wins, however, was two weeks ago against Georgia in the Volunteers’ most recent contest.

“We expect to win,” senior defensive back Brian Randolph said. “We know we're talented. They're probably just as talented, but I feel like we've been through it all this year. We've been through the losses. We finally got a good win on our shoulders. We all like the feeling of [winning], so we're just trying to get it again."
That, of course, would be the best way to return to relevance in this rivalry.

Oct 19, 2015 9:56 PM

ETSU aims to keep Fulmer involved with fledgling football program

East Tennessee State is not finished with Phil Fulmer yet.

The former University of Tennessee football coach has served as a consultant with ETSU as it resurrected its football program. With more than $6 million in funds still to be raised and stadium issues to be sorted out the school hopes to continue that relationship.

WJHL-TV (Ch. 11) in Johnson City reported Wednesday that the school has had talks with Fulmer regarding a contract extension.

Fulmer has been Special Assistant to the Athletic Director and Advisor to Football, a role that paid him approximately $167,000 annually, according to the report.

“He’s been with us now for two years and right now we’re in discussions about what his role is going to continue to be,” ETSU Athletics Senior Associate Athletic Director and Chief Operating Officer Scott Carter told the TV station. “He remains a great friend of mine and Dr. (Richard) Sander and our program and I try to talk with him about once a week if not more. I can’t tell you how many meetings and visits and conversations that he brings so much to the essence of the room by just getting you in the room.”

He added that formal details about Fulmer’s continuing role with the athletics program would be made available in the near future.

From the WJHL report:

Fulmer helped pick ETSU’s head coach and helped create a vision for the program. He routinely attends practices and was there for the first game. Carter says Fulmer talks with ETSU Head Football Coach Carl Torbush often and he’s also a big reason why so many people have donated money to the program.

Of ETSU’s $26.6 million fundraising goal for its new stadium the university has identified roughly $20 million in funding, Carter said.

“We want to continue to consult with him about the stadium when his time allows,” Carter said.

Oct 15, 2015 10:15 AM

Hip injury could cause Maggitt to miss remainder of season

Curt Maggitt was the first player who came to mind during the offseason when the subject of the University of Tennessee’s defense was raised.

It’s possible, though, that the senior linebacker has played his last game for the Volunteers.

Maggitt has been out since he hip injury sustained in the season’s second game, Sept. 12 versus Oklahoma, and coach Butch Jones suggested his return is anything but imminent.

“He’s coming along,” Jones said Tuesday. “He had an MRI. He’s still not where he can participate or anything like that, so he’s still out an extended period of time. Time frame, still do not know. Possibly the last game of the year. He may not play.

“It’s all based again on the recovery of his body. He’s progressing, but he’s not anywhere (near) a point where he can play football right now. He’s getting to that point, but he’s not anywhere close to that.”

Conference coaches named Maggitt to the 2015 preseason All-SEC first team. He led the team with 11 sacks and was second with 15 tackles for losses last season. In his two appearances this season he made seven tackles, including three for losses.

Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 in the SEC) has an open date this Saturday. Next on the schedule is an Oct. 24 game at Alabama.

Oct 13, 2015 10:05 PM

Plans for Clarksville park to honor Summitt gain momentum

A Clarksville park to honor former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt is now more than just an idea.

It has a name and a clear picture of what will be.

Organizers revealed plans for the Pat Head Summitt Legacy Park and displayed a replica of the statue that will stand at the chosen site – along the Cumberland RiverWalk – Tuesday afternoon.

From The (Clarksville) Leaf-Chronicle:

The committee selected sculptor J. Brett Grill in August 2014 to design the statue honoring the legendary Tennessee Volunteers women's basketball coach. The statue will accompany a "Victory Wall" monument modeled after the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship trophy. The Victory Wall will be inscribed with 1,098 basketballs to mark each one of Summitt's victories as well as eight gold basketballs to signify each championship.

Cost of the project is estimated at $500,000, roughly half of which currently has been raised through pledges, monetary contributions and in-kind donations. The goal is to begin construction next March and to be completed by September.

"It's been a process of refinement and about finding the right combination of elements," Frank Lott, a member of the park’s organizing committee told the newspaper. "The fact we now have a marriage of elements that make up a park as well as an interpretive display is great.

"The hardest part of the project has now jelled."

Oct 13, 2015 9:51 PM

Barnes not interested in repeating himself in first season at UT

Rick Barnes wants to continue his winning ways.

He just does not want to have to repeat himself in order to do so.

The first-year University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach made it clear Monday that he expects his players to figure out what he wants the first time.

“The last couple days, I think they realize I’ve turned it up a little bit more,” Barnes said Monday during UT basketball media day, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “What I don’t want to do is keep saying things over and over to them.”

Barnes spent the previous 17 seasons at the University of Texas, where his teams made the NCAA Tournament 16 times. He also has coached at George Mason, Providence and Clemson and all told has won more than 65 percent of the 918 games he has coached.

He ranks 31st all-time in NCAA Division I with 604 victories and has taken teams to the NCAA Tournament 22 times. Eight times his teams have finished the season ranked in the top 15.

The 61-year-old was hired March 31 to replace Donnie Tyndall, who was fired after one season because of NCAA violations committed during his two seasons at Southern Miss.

“I do think we’ve got to give credit to previous coaches,” Barnes said, “because we walked into a situation that I think we’ve got a group of guys that are going to compete. That’s something you don’t take for granted.

“… Our job is to teach them to play the way we want them to play.”

His preference is for them to be fast learners.

Oct 12, 2015 2:58 PM

Big day earns UT's Dobbs SEC Player of the Week award

Statistically speaking, it was not the best offensive performance ever by a University of Tennessee football player.

Josh Dobbs’ 430 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in Saturday’s come-from-behind victory over Georgia was not even his personal best. Still, it was better than anything any other Southeastern Conference player mustered over the weekend.

The junior quarterback was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week, the conference office announced Monday.

“Josh willed our offense to score points,” coach Butch Jones said following the Volunteers’ 38-31 victory. “… He made the throws when he had to, made the plays with the legs, got us in the right places at the line of scrimmage.”

Dobbs completed 25 of 42 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a team-high 118 yards an two touchdowns.

In so doing, he joined Peyton Manning with two of the top five performances, in terms of total yards, in program history. Dobbs’ latest effort now ranks fifth.

A look at the top five total offense performances in University of Tennessee football history:

Tyler Bray – 530 (530 passing, 0 rushing, Nov. 3, 2012 vs. Troy)
Peyton Manning – 508 (523 passing, minus-15 rushing, Nov. 22, 1997 at Kentucky)
Peyton Manning – 475 (492 passing, minus-17 rushing, Sept. 21 1996 vs. Florida, 1996)
Josh Dobbs – 467 (301 passing, 166 rushing, Nov. 1, 2014 at South Carolina)
Josh Dobbs – 430 (312 passing, 118 rushing, Oct. 9, 2015 vs. Georgia)

"It's awesome, having that trust of my teammates,” Dobbs said. “I trust these guys with everything on and off the field. I love my teammates. I'll do anything for them. I tell them that all the time."

Saturday, he did a little bit of everything, which was just enough to get a much-needed victory.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oct 12, 2015 2:43 PM

Tennessee dismisses Howard for violation of team rules

The University of Tennessee as chosen to run the ball more than it has thrown it this season.

That’s not likely to change now that coach Butch Jones has thrown one of his top receiving threats out of the program.

Jones announced Wednesday that Alton “Pig” Howard was dismissed for a violation of team rules. The third-year coach declined to say what the violation was but acknowledged that he learned of the transgression earlier in the day.

Howard was suspended for the season-opener against Bowling Green and missed the last two contests due to injuries, including a concussion.

“He has been dismissed from the football team and [that is] totally unrelated to his injuries,” Jones said.

In two appearances this season Howard had one reception for eight yards.

He was the team’s leading receiver in 2014 with 54 catches for 618 yards and one touchdown. The senior wide receiver finished his career with 112 receptions – tied for 12th all-time in program history – for 1,068 yards and five touchdowns.

"You try to impact every person that comes in your program," Jones said. "It's all about choices and decisions. It's unfortunate, but we have to continue to move forward."

Sophomore wide receiver Josh Malone and tight end Ethan Wolf each have a team-high 12 receptions for the Volunteers, who have run the ball an SEC-high 242 times (only seven FBS teams have run it more often) and thrown it just 139 in their five games.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oct 7, 2015 1:30 PM

Tennessee couldn't keep early lead, possession in loss to Arkansas

Another game got away from the University of Tennessee.

The Volunteers did not necessarily give away this one after they scored the first 14 points against Arkansas but ultimately lost 24-20 Saturday at Neyland Stadium. The Razorbacks simply played keep away over the final 30 minutes.

The Volunteers and Razorbacks were tied 17-17 at halftime, but UT had possession for just 8:03 in the second half. It had the ball more than that in the second quarter alone (8:47).

Arkansas outgained the Volunteers 236-90 after halftime and ran 41 plays (33 of them runs) to UT’s 24 over the final two quarters.

Three straight Razorbacks’ possessions consisted of at least 10 plays, one of which lasted more than six minutes and another that dragged on for more than five minutes. Tennessee’s longest possession of the contest took 4:09 off the clock.

"I think it's one of those games when we knew Arkansas stopped play as an offense,” UT quarterback Joshua Dobbs said. “I mean they like to run the clock out, and we saw that they had the possession most of the time in the second half.”

A look at the Volunteers’ second-half possessions:

Third quarter
• 8 plays, 49 yards (2:26), field goal
• 5 plays, 12 yards (1:12), punt

Fourth quarter
• 3 plays, 0 yards (1:06), punt
• 9 plays, 29 yards (2:42), punt

The impact was obvious.

Running back Jalen Hurd had 15 rushes for 89 yards in the first half but finished with 90 yards on 19 attempts. Tennessee was 2-for-4 in red zone conversions in the first half and never got there in the second. Dobbs completed just six passes for 86 yards after halftime. And so on. And so on.

Tennessee is now 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the SEC.


Oct 5, 2015 7:21 AM

Tennessee doubles up on plan to memorialize Doug Dickey

Two areas of the University of Tennessee’s athletics complex will be named this weekend in honor of Doug Dickey, the long-time coach and administrator at the school.

The Doug Dickey Hall of Fame Plaza will be adjacent to a residence hall currently under construction on Lake Loudoun Boulevard and the Doug Dickey Hall of Champions, in the north hallway of the Thompson-Neyland Center, will be dedicated Friday afternoon.

“These areas symbolize our history of competitive excellence,” vice chancellor and director of athletics Dave Hart said in a release from the school. “It is entirely appropriate to name them for one of the finest leaders in Tennessee athletics history.”

Dickey was football coach at UT for six seasons in the 1960s and athletics director for nearly 20 years beginning in 1985.

From the University of Tennessee:

Upon completion of the new residence hall, this area will serve as the main entrance to the athletic facilities for all Tennessee student-athletes. The Hall of Fame Plaza will recognize all members of the Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame, including all current inductees to the Lady Vol Hall of Fame as well as future classes for the combined hall. The Hall of Champions will recognize the tradition of competitive excellence for all Tennessee sports and will detail NCAA and SEC championship teams, Olympians, All-Americans and championship moments.

Oct 1, 2015 2:30 PM

Fourth-down failures doom UT in loss to Florida

The first thing to look at in the University of Tennessee’s latest loss to Florida is fourth down.

The Volunteers’ failure to make stops on fourth down was a significant factor in the 28-27 defeat, their 11th straight loss to their SEC East rival. The Gators converted three times on two fourth-quarter scoring drives, including on the game-winning touchdown – a 63-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-14.

“Yeah, I think the whole thing is fourth down,” coach Butch Jones said Saturday. “Three critical fourth down conversations that [if] we get off the field and we win the football game. It's particularly when it is fourth-and-long – fourth-and-(14) –  you have got to close the game out, you have got to get off the field and run victory formation milking the clock and the game is over.”

Actually, the Volunteers allowed the Gators to convert all five times they went for it in fourth down Saturday in Gainesville. The first was in the second quarter and turned out to be harmless. The next was in the third quarter and led to a Florida touchdown one play later.

A look at Florida’s fourth-down conversions Saturday against Tennessee:

Fourth-and-2 at the Florida 43 (6:35 remaining): Grier pass to McGee – 13 yards
Result: The next three plays were incomplete passes and Florida punted

Fourth-and 6 at the Tennessee 25 (6:12 remaining): Grier pass to Powell – 21 yards
Result: Florida scored on the next play and cut Tennessee’s lead to six (20-14)

Fourth-and-7 at the Tennessee 45 (6:25 remaining): Grier pass to McGee – 10 yards
Fourth-and-8 at the Tennessee 21 (4:20 remaining): Grier pass to Powell – 16 yards
Result: Two plays after the second conversion, Florida scored a touchdown and cut Tennessee’s lead to six again (27-21)
Fourth-and-14 from the Florida 37 (1:26 remaining): Grier pass to Callaway – 63 yards
Result: That play was the touchdown that made the difference.

This is not a Florida-only problem. Tennessee’s first four opponents have combined to convert nine out of 10 times on fourth down. Bowling Green was three-for-three and Oklahoma was one-for-two.

No team in the FBS has allowed more fourth-down conversions and only four (of 128) have allowed a higher percentage. However, those four – Texas, Syracuse, Kansas and New Mexico State – have faced 11 fourth-down plays combined. None have faced five fourth downs on the season – let alone a single game.

"Some of those fourth downs we wish to get back but you just have to keep playing ball, and that's what we're going to do,” defensive back LaDarrell McNeil said. “We are going to keep playing ball and keep moving forward."

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sep 28, 2015 6:16 AM