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 "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

University of Tennessee sets annual athletics fund-raising record

The University of Tennessee athletics department set a record for financial donations and membership in the Tennessee Fund reached its highest level in five years, the school announced Thursday.

UT said it received $48.4 million in cash and support in the fiscal year, which ended June 30. That broke the previous high of $47 million set in 2008.

The Tennessee Fund, the athletics department’s fundraising arm, currently has 12,954 members, the most since 2010.

From UT’s athletics website:

Annual giving to the Tennessee Fund accounted for $28.3 million (58 percent) of the total figure, an increase of $3.65 million from 2013-14. Gifts given specifically to support capital projects totaled $12.6 million. The remaining dollars raised, approximately $7.5 million came in the form of endowments, planned gifts and gift-in-kind contributions.

Since launching the Campaign for Comprehensive Excellence in the fall of 2013, the Tennessee Fund has raised more than $112 million in cash and pledges, including over $31 million for capital projects, over $21 million in planned gifts, and $5.3 million to fund educational initiatives including the SouthEast Bank Renewing Academic Commitment program.

“This is another illustration of the tremendous passion and generosity of our donors,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart said in a release. “Their generosity directly funds scholarships for the young men and women in our athletics program and affords us the ability to continue to enhance the student-athlete experience at the University of Tennessee."

Jul 30, 2015 2:02 PM

Tennessee ranked in coaches preseason top 25

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.

Jul 30, 2015 10:56 AM

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. 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

NCAA paints ugly picture of Tyndall's two seasons at Southern Miss

Donnie Tyndall did not simply allow NCAA violations to take place during his two seasons as coach at Southern Miss.

He was an active participant in more than half of the seven significant violations investigators say took place, according to a notice of allegations sent to Southern Miss on Friday.

Tyndall, fired by the University of Tennessee in March because of the investigation, and Southern Miss will have 90 days to respond.

From The Associated Press:

Tyndall said in a statement he was "very disappointed and saddened at the allegations of NCAA violations." He also said he "did not knowingly violate NCAA rules, nor did I encourage or condone rules violations by anyone on the coaching staff" and that he cooperated with the NCAA's review.

He apologized to the "Southern Miss community for any harm caused by violations that occurred."

A rundown of what NCAA investigators say he did:

• Tyndall and staff members were involved in fraudulent completion of online course work for seven prospective student athletes from June 2012 through May 2014. Five of those seven later enrolled at Southern Miss. This is a Level I allegation.

• Tyndall provided roughly $8,000 in impermissible financial aid to two student-athletes who were ineligible but competed anyway from the 2012-13 through 2014-15 academic years. One player received roughly $6,000 in cash and prepaid cards and the other received roughly $2,000 in prepaid cards. This is a Level I allegation.

• Tyndall deleted pertinent emails and provided false or misleading information to NCAA investigators between August 2014 and June 2015. He also contacted others and attempted to influence what those others would say to NCAA investigators. This is a Level I allegation.

• Tyndall did not promote an atmosphere of compliance and failed to adequately monitor the actions of staff members and administrators who reported directly or indirectly to him. This is a Level I infraction.

A Level I allegation is for conduct that “seriously undermines or threatens the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model.” It is considered a “severe” infraction, the worst of four-level violation structure implemented in 2013.

Thus far there has been no indication that any similar conduct occurred during Tyndall’s one season at Tennessee.

Jul 27, 2015 5:20 AM