Early Heisman odds include Tennessee's Hurd, Dobbs

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

Odds are Jalen Hurd won’t win the 2015 Heisman Trophy. One online gambling site, however, does give odds on the University of Tennessee running back out of Beech High School to do exactly that.

5dimes.eu last week offered Heisman odds on 33 players. Hurd was among the longshots at 50/1 (see them at PhilSteele.com). Teammate Josh Dobbs, the Volunteers starting quarterback, was at 20/1, which was tied for 10th.

While quarterbacks have cornered the market on the Heisman in recent seasons, six of the nine favorites on this list are running backs, including LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Georgia’s Nick Chubb, both of whom – like Hurd – are sophomores.

Hurd was the Volunteers leading rusher with 777 yards last season. That ranked 16th in the SEC. His three rushing touchdowns were fewer than any of the top 15. Obviously, he would have to be significantly more explosive and provide much more punch to the scoring offense to warrant any serious Heisman consideration.

Then again, everyone always says it’s just nice to be considered.

Feb 24, 2015 11:31 AM

Arraignment date set for UT football players accused of rape

A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, members of the University of Tennessee’s 2014 football team, will be arraigned March 9 on two counts each of aggravated rape, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported Monday.

An arraignment is an official reading of the charges. Grand jury indictments state the two “aided and abetted” the other during the alleged rapes that involved one women.

New details from the News Sentinel include the results of a police search of Johnson’s apartment and details of grand jury testimony.

Records show police seized an iPhone, a laptop computer, a marijuana grinder, bed coverings, a pillow case, a white T-shirt, a used condom, four condom wrappers and folded toilet paper from the apartment.

Grand jury records show the jurors were presented records from the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where the woman was treated, and incoming and outgoing call records from three cellular telephones from Nov. 15 to Nov. 17. The cellular records included where the calls were made from based on tower locations, duration of calls, and when each call was made or received.

Grand jurors also had access to the E-911 call made at 3 a.m. reporting the rapes, that allegedly occurred about 1:45 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. The call has not been released to the public because it is considered evidence in the case, according to Police Department spokesman Darrell DeBusk.

Johnson (pictured), 23, graduated in December. He hopes to purse a professional football career. Williams, 21, remains in school.

Coach Butch Jones suspended both when allegations of rape first surfaced last November.


Feb 23, 2015 12:58 PM

Chiefs coach says Eric Berry 'a stud' as he deals with cancer

Andy Reid said Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is “headed in the right direction” in his  Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The University of Tennessee All-American and three-time Pro Bowler left the team in November when a mass in his chest was discovered. Two weeks later doctors arrived at a clear diagnosis and Berry began treatment in Atlanta.

The Chiefs placed him on the non-football illness list and he missed the final five weeks of the season.

“He’s doing well,” Reid said at the NFL scouting combine Wednesday, according to the Kansas City Star. “He’s definitely headed in the right direction, as far as the actual medical part of it goes. His spirit is strong.

“He’s a stud, anyway you look at it. Anybody that’s got to fight that, they’ve got a special place in my heart.”

Feb 18, 2015 9:02 PM

Tennessee outnumbered in loss to Kentucky

For Tennessee it was a numbers game.

The Volunteers simply did not have the number of good players that Kentucky did, which made them no different than any other team that has faced the undefeated and top-ranked Wildcats this season.

UT (14-11, 6-7 in the SEC) had its moments but ultimately couldn’t keep pace. Kentucky (26-0, 13-0) scored 18 of the final 22 points, pulled away from the Volunteers and won 66-48 Tuesday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"Someone asked me before the game, they said you know they don't really have a superstar because they have a few guys that average eight or nine or 10 (points) but I said if those guys were on another team in our league they would average 16, 17 or 18 (points),” UT coach Donnie Tyndall said. “They are not necessarily superstars on that team as deep as they are but they have so many weapons.”

Tennessee had as many rebounds as Kentucky (35), and limited the Wildcats to five 3-point baskets on 22 attempts. It led with fewer than four minutes to play in the first half and was within four, 48-44, with 9:09 to play.

The Wildcats, however, played nine players more than 10 minutes each and none was on the floor more than 31. The Volunteers had just seven who played more than 10, including Josh Richardson, who was on the floor for 39 of the game’s 40 minutes.

“You have to do other things almost perfect so that you can give yourself a chance,” UT guard Armani Moore said. “But I thought we did well (Tuesday) night. I thought we competed as a team. We showed that we can play with them. It is unfortunate that we came up short but our team did a good job of competing.”

They just didn’t have the numbers. No one, it seems, does.

Feb 18, 2015 6:24 AM

Johnson surrenders to police following indictment on rape charges

Former University of Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson surrendered to police and was booked at the Knox County Detention Facility on Tuesday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

Johnson is one of two members of the 2014 UT football team charged with two counts of aggravated rape of two women at a November party in Knoxville. The other is cornerback Michael Williams, who surrendered to police last Thursday, the day a grand jury issued indictments in the matter.

Johnson graduated in December and was scheduled to participate in this week’s NFL scouting combine. The league withdrew his invitation Friday because of the indictments.

Feb 17, 2015 1:22 PM

NFL pulls combine invite for UT's Johnson following rape charges

It remains to be seen whether former University of Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson goes to jail for his role in an alleged rape of two women last November in Knoxville.

It is clear, though that Johnson won’t be in Indianapolis next week as a result of whatever happened.

The NFL confirmed Friday that it rescinded an invitation for Johnson to take part in next week’s NFL scouting combine. A grand jury on Thursday indicted Johnson and current UT cornerback Michael Williams on two counts each of aggravated rape.

Johnson (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) is one of only four players in program history with at least 400 career tackles and second overall with 425. He was a first-team All-SEC linebacker in 2013 and started the first 10 games of 2014. He was suspended for the final three games of last season after the rape allegations were first made.

NFLDraftScout.com rates him as a late-round prospect or a potential undrafted free agent. A good performance at the scouting combine, which begins Tuesday, could have improved significantly his chance to get picked in the 2015 draft.

(Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics)

Feb 13, 2015 3:18 PM

Grand jury indicts two Tennessee football players on multiple rape charges

A Knox County grand jury indicted two members of the University of Tennessee’s 2014 football team on two counts of aggravated rape apiece, according to court records obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The charges against A.J. Johnson, 23, and Michael Williams, 21, stem from accusations made by two women, one of them a UT student, following a November party in Knoxville following a Volunteers victory over Kentucky.

The formal charges say the pair aided and abetted each other in two distinct sexual acts.

Coach Butch Jones suspended both players immediately after charges were filed. Neither played the remainder of the season. Johnson (pictured), an All-SEC linebacker, graduated in December and has begun preparations for the NFL draft. Williams, a cornerback, remains enrolled in school.

Williams’ attorney told the newspaper that Williams turned himself in and was released on a $40,000 bond. Johnson’s attorney said his client had not been served at the time he was contacted by the paper but that his client planned to turn himself in.

Feb 12, 2015 7:10 PM

Free throws foul up Vanderbilt's chance to beat Tennessee

They’re called ‘free’ throws.

They were plenty costly for Vanderbilt, though, in Wednesday’s 76-73 overtime loss to Tennessee at Memorial Gymnasium.

The Commodores attempted 30 foul shots, 17 more than the Volunteers, seven and half more than their season average and more than in all but one of the previous 10 conference matchups.  Yet they missed 13 of them, including three after they had a five-point lead with 15 seconds to play in regulation.

“The story of the game was our missed free throws, especially toward the end of the game,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “That's the disappointing part... We had 80 percent [free throw shooting] guys at the line and we missed them. Our guys are there trying to make them. I feel sorry for [them]."

The last six times a Vanderbilt player went to the line for two shots he made just one. That all happened in the final five minutes of regulation. The last three to do so were players who were in fact better than 80 percent free throw shooters for the season, Luke Kornet (81.8 percent), Riley LaChance (82.8 percent) and Wade Baldwin (80.8 percent).

"I was mad [at the end of regulation],” center Damian Jones, who missed five of his nine free throws, said. “We had the game completely won, and we just gave it away. … Towards the end we started missing free throws and just didn't get defensive stops.”

Things weren’t much better early on either. Vanderbilt made only three of seven in the first half.

Oh, and the Commodores were fifth in the SEC in free throw shooting prior to the game at 71.1 percent. The performance against Tennessee dropped that figure to 70.3 percent.

“We were just fortunate in that regard,” Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall said. “Those kids played extremely hard.  We've been on the other side of games like that in the last couple of weeks, and … we are very fortunate to win this game."

(Photo: Vanderbilt athletics)


Feb 12, 2015 12:28 AM

Tyndall adopts traditional attire for first try at Tennessee-Vanderbilt rivalry

Whether or not Donnie Tyndall wears it well is a matter of personal opinion – and certainly a wide range of them were expressed on social media during Tennessee’s 76-73 overtime victory at Vanderbilt on Wednesday.

The first-year Volunteers coach made it perfectly clear, though, that he will wear an orange blazer proudly during rivalry games such as this one.

Ray Mears, the winningest coach in program history pioneered the look during his tenure (1962-77). Bruce Pearl resurrected it when he arrived in 2005 and Cuonzo Martin continued it – somewhat reluctantly – during the previous three seasons.

“Just understand this: I’m very proud to be the coach at Tennessee and to continue to tradition that Coach Mears started, who’s the best coach in the history of our program,” Tyndall said. “… It’s very humbling for me, and it’s a tradition that I’ll certainly carry on.”

For what it’s worth, Pearl and Martin each won twice as many games against Vanderbilt as they lost. Tyndall is now 1-0 in the in-state rivalry.

Close games are nothing new for the Volunteers (14-9, 6-5 in the SEC). Their last eight all have been decided by eight points or fewer and this was the second straight for which the final margin was three points.

Yet this was the type of contest that doesn’t happen often. There were 15 lead changes and seven ties. Tennessee overcame a five-point deficit in the final 15 seconds of regulation to force overtime – all after having dropped four of its previous five.

"That was like an NCAA tournament game in regards to the physicality, the environment,” Tyndall said. “Every possession was so valuable. … It was really one of those games that could have gone either way, and we were fortunate to make a play or more than they did in overtime."

(Photo: UTSports.com)

Feb 12, 2015 12:17 AM

Stallings has yet to face a Tennessee coach he can beat more often than not

Kevin Stallings speaks with such authority about the University of Tennessee’s team that it sounds as if he faced the Volunteers dozens of times.

While he has, in fact, coached against them more than two dozen times as Vanderbilt’s coach, the latest matchup, Wednesday at Memorial Gymnasium (8 p.m., SEC Network), will be something different. It will be the first time he’s faced a UT team coached by Donnie Tyndall, who eschews traditional man-to-man defense in favor of a zone mixed with occasional full-court pressure.

“It’s a little bit of a different gameplan than when you play, say, South Carolina or Florida,” Stallings said. “Nevertheless, I’m just real impressed with their team. Real impressed with what they’ve been able to do up to this point in the season. And I’m certainly impressed with the job that he’s done and how hard they play.”

Stallings has been in his current position longer than any other current Southeastern Conference coach. In his 15-plus seasons in charge of the Commodores he has coached against four different men at UT. Tyndall will be the fifth.

He’s not done particularly well against any of the first four. All of them were .500 or better against him and his record at Vanderbilt against the Volunteers is 12-18.

A look at the University of Tennessee coaches Kevin Stallings has faced and his record against each since he became Vanderbilt’s coach prior to the 1999-2000 season:

• Jerry Green (1999-2001): 2-2
• Buzz Peterson (2001-05): 4-4
• Bruce Pearl (2005-11): 4-8
• Cuonzo Martin (2011-14): 2-4

In that regard, his hope must be that Tennessee’s latest change works out better for him and his team than it does for the Volunteers. Given that the current rosters of each are among the youngest in the conference, what happens in this contest could set a precedent for what’s to come the next couple years.

Vanderbilt (13-10, 3-7 in the SEC) has five freshmen among its top eight in terms of minutes played. All five have started at least once and together they have combined for 69 starts.

Tennessee (13-9, 5-5) has five players among its top eight who are in their first year of Division I basketball and eight newcomers. Freshmen have combined for 19 starts.

“I think Tennessee is really maximizing their talent,” Stallings said. “They play really hard. I think Donnie has done a great job of putting them together in one year and probably has personnel that fits what he likes to do. They’re long. They’re athletic. They’re versatile – they’ve got some interchangeable parts.

“… I just expect it to be a very hard fought game on both sides, probably a very close game. The team that executes the best will probably be the team that wins.”

That, of course, is no different than just about any other game against any other opponent.

Feb 10, 2015 9:03 PM