UT makes it two for two in preseason top 25 rankings

The University of Tennessee has nowhere to go but up.

Unless it drops out of college football’s two primary rankings, that is.

The Associated Press preseason top 25, released Sunday, has the Volunteers to No. 25. That’s the same spot they occupied in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, which was released late last month.

So UT will open the season as the top 25’s version of Miss Congeniality. Even that, though, is noteworthy given the difficulty the program has had in recent years turning the heads of voters.

From the UT athletics department:

The Volunteers last appeared in the AP Poll on Sept. 12, 2012 when it was listed at No. 23. Sunday's announcement marks UT's first appearance in the preseason edition of the AP poll since the 2008 season and its 39th appearance in the poll all-time. That year, Tennessee began the year in the No. 18 spot.

The season-opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 5 now stands as the first time since 2008 that the Volunteers will take the field while ranked simultaneously in both major college football polls.

Tennessee is the last of eight SEC programs among the AP’s preseason top 25, led by No. 3 Alabama. Mississippi State and Texas A&M are the first two among ‘others receiving votes.’

Aug 24, 2015 5:05 AM

Who showed up when a big factor in UT's quarterback depth

There was never a question about who was the University of Tennessee’s starting quarterback this season.

Now, three weeks before the 2015 opener, the order behind Josh Dobbs is set.

Coach Butch Jones said late last week that freshman Quinten Dormady is the backup and the Sheririon Jones, another freshman, is third in line. That order, apparently, already has been evident in workouts -- and when players began to participate in them.

“You have to pick your spots in order to get him reps but (Dormady) has gained some very valuable repetitions,” Jones said Friday. “It is amazing with him to see the progress that he made in spring ball and the confidence that he gained and really be able to continue to grow on that.

“He's playing at a high level right now. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. He will play and we have to make sure that he is ready to go.”

Dormady (6-foot-4, 216 pounds) is a coach’s son out of Boerne, Texas and a widely rated as one of the top 15 overall quarterbacks in the 2015 signing class. He enrolled early at UT and took part in spring drills.

Jones (6-foot-2, 208 pounds) is a high school All-American from Rancho Verde, Calif., who was widely rated as a top 10 overall quarterback prospect. He arrived in Knoxville during the summer.

“Out of both freshmen quarterbacks, there has been a willingness to learn,” Dobbs said, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “They both came in – we know they came in at different times – and wanted to understand the offense. They embraced the mindset, as we talk about, getting one percent better every day.

“The biggest thing is reps. (Dormady) has more reps than (Jones). They're both growing every day and getting better every day.”

Aug 17, 2015 5:05 AM

Phillips' fast start in first fall camp leads to removal of helmet stripe

Kyle Phillips is quickly earning his stripes at the University of Tennessee as evidenced by the fact that the he became this year’s first true freshman to have the black stripe removed from his helmet.

The defensive end out of Hillsboro had his pulled Monday, less than a week since the start of camp.

"I have been very, very proud of Kyle Phillips," coach Butch Jones said. "He gets better every single day. He has a motor. He has actually made our training clips about three times during this camp in terms of effort, swarming to the football and running to the football. He is a young man who is getting more and more confident.”

When Jones arrived he and his staff added black stripes to the helmets of all first-year players for the start of preseason practices. Those players earn the right to have those stripes removed with on-field performance and off-field work, as judged by coaches and teammates.

Running back Alvin Kamara, a third-year sophomore, was the first player to have his stripe removed this season.

Phillips, a consensus top 10 recruit in the state last year, was the second. He enrolled at UT in January but was unable to take part in spring football.

"When you look at it, he is coming off of surgery and didn't have spring football,” Jones said. “He comes in here and is being mentored by our older players. I have been really, really excited. I know we are all excited about Kyle Phillips. It's his work ethic, his attitude, his demeanor, his style of play. He continues to get better and better."

Last year two other Nashville-area players, running back Jalen Hurd (Beech High School) and defensive end Derek Barnett (Brentwood Academy), were among the first freshman to have their black stripes removed.

Aug 11, 2015 2:08 PM

Pearson shows sharp mind, body in return to Tennessee football

Von Pearson might have been gone.

The University of Tennessee wide receiver showed Saturday, however, that he had not forgotten during a four-month suspension from the school.

“That's what I was waiting to see, was his recall, and it was very, very good,” coach Butch Jones said Saturday. “Von did a very good job of taking the mental reps that he needed, but also our players, talking with him, with the new things, the new install. I thought Von's recall and retention from the spring was very good.”

Pearson’s suspension was lifted Friday after Knoxville police said he would not be charged in relation to an alleged sexual assault. He was suspended in April when the accusations were made and remained sidelined when preseason camp commenced last week.

He is now eligible to re-enroll in school and can begin fall classes on schedule, Aug. 19.

“To his credit, he's in very good shape,” Jones said. “You could tell, just with the football endurance, that he's worked at it. We were able to get him routes on air and get him some mental repetitions, then after practice get some more. We'll know a little bit more when he's able to put the pads on and finish the acclimation period. For what I could of the work that he got in (Saturday), I was very pleased with his endurance."

Pearson was the Volunteers’ second leading receiver in 2014 with 38 receptions for 393 yards in 11 games. His five touchdowns were third on the team.

"Von's the old Von," receiver Josh Smith said. "I love him. He's my brother and I love having him out there ... I think that's fun to have him back, so I'm excited."

Aug 10, 2015 6:48 AM

Gruden says Tennessee 'a dream job,' calls Jones 'the right guy'

University of Tennessee fans can dream. And they often have in recent years.

Each of the three times the school has searched for a football coach since Phil Fulmer’s departure, Jon Gruden’s name has been mentioned as one of the desirable replacements. Instead, the job went to – in order – Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones, and never was there an indication that Gruden ever considered pursuing the opportunity.

Turns out that Gruden lets his mind wander from time to time as well.

“Tennessee is a dream job for a lot of people, me included,” Gruden said Thursday on the Paul Finebaum Show. “Timing wasn't right, but I'll say this about the Volunteers: they got the right guy. I think Butch Jones is going to put the Volunteers back on the map and it might happen this year. I really like that football team.”

It is not the first time Gruden has reassured Volunteers fans about the man currently in charge of the program. Last November he told Nashville’s WZTV-TV (Ch. 17) something similar.

“I have a lot of orange blood in my body,” Gruden said. “They have the right coach now, Butch Jones is for real. I have spent a lot of time with Butch over the years. They are hot right now.”

In June, Gruden was on the UT campus and said that the third time around the school ended up with someone similar to him.

“I've known Coach Jones for a long time and I know he's cut from a similar cloth as I am," Gruden said then, according to FoxSports.com. "He has a passion for the game that is rare. He has a mission to get better from an X and O strategic standpoint and he wants to make the environment the best he can for his players."

Aug 7, 2015 9:22 AM

Barnett back to football, expects sophomore season to be better

Derek Barnett missed spring football because of shoulder surgery.

Don’t expect the University of Tennessee sophomore defensive end to pick up where he left off, though.

“I’m different,’’ Barnett said Tuesday night following the Volunteers’ first preseason practice, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Because I understand better the schemes, the offensive line. I’ve got more confidence. I’m not nervous no more.

“And I’ve gotten stronger with my shoulder so I’m improved there, too.’’

The 6-foot-3, 268-pound defensive end out of Brentwood Academy set program records for most sacks (10.0) and tackles for loss (20.5) by a true freshman. Twice, both against SEC opponents, he had three sacks in a game, and all 10 sacks came after the first four weeks of the season.

He promises even more this season.

“I learned more pass-rush moves,’’ Barnett said. “I just understand what (offensive) tackles are going to do now. I can read what they’re going to do before the play is called.’’

Barnett was good enough that he earned multiple Freshman All-American honors. He also was battered to the point that he required surgery to fix an issue with his shoulder.

The time away was not something he relished.

"I just love football,” he said. “When I'm on the field I just love flying around and hitting. That's what motivates me really, just playing ball.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Aug 5, 2015 10:44 PM

Attorney seeks clarification on Pearson's continued suspension from UT football

Von Pearson is not allowed to take part in football activities at the University of Florida – and his attorney would like to know why.

The senior wide receiver was suspended in April when he was accused of rape, briefly reinstated in May and then suspended again. He was not involved when the Volunteers opened preseason camp Tuesday and coach Butch Jones said only “nothing has changed” in regard to his status.

Attorney Chris Coffey told the Knoxville News Sentinel on Tuesday that Pearson’s status has, in fact, changed. Twice.

According to Coffey, Pearson was granted a hearing with the university’s assistant vice chancellor for student life and that hearing took place on May 4. Coffey said the suspension was lifted but was reinstated two days later when the vice chancellor for student life, Vince Carilli, overruled the initial decision.

The lawyer said a formal inquiry about the reasoning behind the change of heart has drawn no response.

“We're just looking for answers," Coffey told the newspaper. "We're not getting any from the university."

Knoxville police have not charged Pearson with any crime.

From the News Sentinel:

Pearson was immediately suspended from the football team after he was named in the investigation and was put on interim suspension from the university on April 27, according to Coffey.

According to the university's interim sexual misconduct and relationship violence policy, the university can issue a suspension prior to the resolution of a student conduct case if the university's vice chancellor for student life "has reasonable cause to believe" that a student's presence on "university-controlled property or at university-related activities poses a significant risk of substantial harm to the health and safety of others or to property or poses an ongoing threat to the disruption of or interference with the normal operations of the university."

A university spokesperson offered no comment to the newspaper, citing federal privacy laws.

Pearson was the Volunteers’ second leading receiver in 2014 with 38 receptions for 393 yards in 11 games. His five touchdowns were third on the team.

Aug 5, 2015 12:28 PM

Josh Richardson signs three-year contract with Miami Heat

Josh Richardson, Tennessee’s leader in points, assists and steals last season, signed a three-year contract with the Miami Heat on Monday.

It is a fully guaranteed pact for 2015-16 and partially guaranteed for the final two years. The Heat drafted the 6-foot-6 guard in the second round (40th overall) of the NBA draft in June.

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Richardson's deal is worth $2.5 million, which would put his average salary at about $840,000, similar to what he would have been guaranteed in his first year had he been selected at the end of the first round.

Heat President Pat Riley said earlier this offseason that the Heat had projected the combo guard as the 24th best prospect in the 2015 draft class. At No. 24 in the draft, Richardson would have received a contract starting at just over $1 million in the first year.

Richardson was the only player to appear in all of Miami’s 10 games in the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues.

He started all 32 games for the Volunteers last season and averaged 16.0 points, 3.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 36.3 minutes played.

"I want to thank everyone at Tennessee for being so supportive during my career as a Vol," Richardson said in a release from the UT athletics department. "I especially want to thank all my teammates and coaches who helped me with my development. I had a great time at Tennessee, and I'll always be a VFL.

"I can't wait to get settled in Miami, put my head down and get to work. I appreciate all the faith they've shown in me so far."

Aug 4, 2015 6:12 AM

Transfer wide receiver won't have to wait to play at MTSU

Jocquez Bruce planned to be a blueshirt at the University of Tennessee this fall. Instead, he’ll be a Blue Raider.

The freshman wide receiver out of South Doyle agreed over the weekend to walk on at Middle Tennessee State. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, which confirmed the player’s plans with his former high school coach, Bruce will get a scholarship from MTSU in January.

He will not have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules because he never signed a national letter-of-intent with UT.

From the News Sentinel:

Bruce's original plan to blueshirt at UT meant he was eligible to enroll and play this season without being an initial scholarship counter for the 2015 signing class. In order to count as a blueshirt, Bruce had to arrive at UT as a walk-on, forego an official visit and not receive an in-home visit from UT coaches during recruitment. In return, the expectation was he would be awarded a scholarship for the fall semester. That scholarship would have counted toward next year's recruiting class.

Bruce reportedly had been suspended from team activities and announced a little more than a week ago he would leave UT.

MTSU opens preseason camp Thursday.


Aug 3, 2015 5:05 AM

Fulmer: Butch Jones avoids 'asinine' actions of his predecessors

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.”

Jul 31, 2015 5:05 AM