Jones says training atmosphere not exactly music to Volunteers' ears

Butch Jones believes that hard work should be – that’s right – hard.

At an appearance Tuesday in Jackson, the University of Tennessee football coach explained one of the ways that he and his staff challenge their players during offseason workouts.

“When we’re working out we’re not playing music over the loudspeakers,” Jones said, according to The Jackson Sun. “We’re playing all the annoying sounds we can come up with – crying babies, breaking glass, you name it.

“Because it’s easy to do what you need to do when you hear what makes you do that thing even better. We need them to be ready to go when it’s not easy.”

Jones spoke at a fundraiser and said the focus in recent weeks has been to emphasize continued improvement even after a bowl appearance and victory last season.

“We’ve been asking the guys to envision a better ‘you,’” Jones said. “What does that better you look like? Once everyone figures out what a better them looks like and begins working toward it, this team will become a better team.”

It is not going to be easy.

(Photo: Getty Images)


Mar 11, 2015 10:57 PM

Wharton settles on where to play remainder of college football career

Vic Wharton was one of a handful of in-state products who helped distinguish the University of Tennessee’s 2014 football signing class.

Now the wide receiver out of Independence High School has decided to go about as far from home as possible.

Wharton announced on his Twitter page Saturday that he planned to transfer to the University of California.

“Excited to announce that I will be attending the University of California next year!” he wrote. “Thankful for the memories made at Tennessee.”

Under NCAA transfer rules, he must sit out the 2015 season. After that, he will have three remaining seasons of eligibility.

Wharton played in nine games as a true freshman with starts against Vanderbilt and in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Iowa. He caught five passes for 64 yards and his lone touchdown came on a 49-yard reception in the bowl game.

Mar 9, 2015 2:30 AM

Fatigue — before and after game — an issue for Vanderbilt, Tennessee

Kevin Stallings and Donnie Tyndall are each worried about fatigue this week.

Tyndall, the University of Tennessee coach, is concerned with his team’s energy level prior to Thursday’s game against Stallings’ Vanderbilt team.

Stallings, on the other hand, has angst about what happens after the Commodores and Volunteers play Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena (6 p.m., ESPN2).

“A lot of times it’s relative to who you’re playing,” Stallings said. “The bigger difference is what happens on Saturday because Alabama plays Tuesday and we play on Thursday.

“That turnaround is much more difficult for us and much more advantageous to them than anything. There’s no advantage gained for us on Thursday’s game. So (Saturday’s) will be a little more of a challenge.”

Vanderbilt (15-12, 5-9 SEC) hosts Alabama, 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU). Similarly, Tennessee (14-12, 6-8 SEC) travels to Florida, which also played on Tuesday.

Even so, Tyndall took advantage of the five days since the Volunteers last played to get his team some rest. He gave players two days off (Sunday and Monday) this week.

“I just thought with the time of year with our limited depth and some guys being banged up a little bit and playing with an undersized roster, it was important to get a couple days off and get our legs back,” Tyndall said. “We came back and had a great practice Tuesday. Most of it was about ourselves and cleaning up on our end.”

Neither team has faced the Thursday-Saturday double since the start of conference play.

Coincidentally, though, the last time Stallings thought his team was tired was Feb. 14 — when it played Alabama. The Commodores won that one, which was three days after their first meeting with Tennessee.

“I thought we were a little bit tired at Alabama to start the game, and I thought we came out of it,” Stallings said. “And there was one other game early in the season … that our guys talked about feeling a little fatigued during the game. For the most part we’ve been pretty good on their legs and shortening practice and that kind of thing.

“Certainly we should recover but so should Tennessee. They’ve got the same amount of time.”

Feb 25, 2015 9:15 PM

Hart puts a ring on Volunteers' 2014 Sweet 16 run

First came the breakup. Then the ring.

University of Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart tried to craft a happy ending for one of the oddest chapters in the history of the school’s men’s basketball program. He decided that the 2013-14 team should get rings to commemorate its run to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16, which was as unexpected as it was thrilling.

Players were presented the rings Tuesday.

"My biggest regret was that those kids and coaches never got to celebrate that run," Hart said, according to the UT athletics website. "We were nine seconds away from playing Kentucky to go to the Final Four. Because of the circumstances that unfolded, nobody ever really recognized what those kids did. They never got their just due, in my opinion."

The Volunteers’ postseason hopes appeared to fade and criticism of coach Cuonzo Martin intensified with four losses in a six-game stretch during mid-February. Then came four straight wins to conclude the regular season and one win at the SEC tournament, which was enough to earn UT a spot in the First Four play-in contests.

UT won three NCAA tournament games before it lost 73-71 to Michigan in the regional semifinals.

Martin, weary of what he felt was a fickle fan base, resigned a little more than two weeks later and took a job at Cal.

“I wanted them to have a tangible memento of what was a remarkable run through the NCAA Tournament and a terrific run through the end of the season to get to the NCAA Tournament,” Hart said. “This is a way for them to have a lifetime reminder of what they accomplished.”

Feb 25, 2015 11:39 AM

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. last week offered Heisman odds on 33 players. Hurd was among the longshots at 50/1 (see them at 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. 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