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.

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE ...
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

Preseason recognition reflects Vanderbilt baseball's championship reputation

Days before the start of the 2015 college baseball season Vanderbilt’s 2014 College World Series title continues to resonate.

In other words, eight months since they last played the Commodores are still considered college baseball’s best team -- with some of the best players.

The latest example came Tuesday when USA Baseball named VU players – shortstop Dansby Swanson and pitchers Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler – to the 50-player Golden Spikes Award watch list. There were six schools with two players each on the list but Vanderbilt was the only one with three.

Also on the list is University of Tennessee outfielder Chris Stewart.

The Golden Spikes Award recognizes the top amateur baseball player in the country. The winner will be announced June 23 in Los Angeles.

Fulmer started 2014 as Vanderbilt’s closer and finished as the top starter. He was 7-1 with 10 saves and a 1.98 ERA. Buehler had a team-high 12 wins last season and, following the CWS, was named the top prospect in the Cape Cod League. Swanson (pictured), the most outstanding player at the CWS and an All-American second baseman, tied a school record and led Division I with 27 doubles

Monday, The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association became the latest group to name Vanderbilt its preseason No. 1.

The Commodores previously topped the preseason polls of Collegiate Baseball (released Dec. 22, 2014), D1Baseball.com (Jan. 19), Perfect Game (Jan. 20), Baseball America (Jan. 26) and the USA Today coaches poll (Jan. 29).

Vanderbilt opens the season with a three-game series against Santa Clara, beginning Friday at Hawkins Field. Game times are 4 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.

Twelve of the first 13 games are at home. The lone exception is a Feb. 18 at Belmont.
 

Feb 10, 2015 7:54 PM

High-profile supporters endorse Tennessee's choice for offensive coordinator

If the testimonials mean anything, the University of Tennessee made a significant hire Friday when it named Mike DeBord offensive coordinator.

Tom Brady, Mike Holmgren and Matt Hasselbeck were among those who offered public sentiments of support for the 58-year-old (he’ll turn 59 on Saturday) with deep connections to the University of Michigan but also a vast résumé that includes time as a college coach and administrator and an NFL assistant.

DeBord was a head coach at Central Michigan from 2000-03 and for his last three years there current UT coach Butch Jones was his offensive coordinator. More than a decade later the roles are reversed.

"We are very excited to welcome Mike DeBord and his family into the Tennessee family," Jones said in a statement. "Mike is a tireless worker and innovator with a proven track record of success as both an offensive coordinator and as a developer of quarterbacks at a high level. He has demonstrated meticulous attention to the small details, and he is a great fit with our staff, players, and the entire Tennessee football organization.”

DeBord spent the last three years as an administrator in Michigan’s athletics department. He also was offensive coordinator for the Wolverines twice (1997-99 and (2006-07) as well as offensive line coach (1992-96) and special teams coach/recruiting coordinator (2004-05).

His NFL history includes time spent as tight ends coach for Seattle (2009) and Chicago (2010-12).

DeBord replaces Mike Bajakian, who left last month to become quarterbacks coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Here is some of what people had to say about him, according to the UT athletics department:

Tom Brady: “The University of Tennessee has hired a great offensive coordinator in Mike DeBord. Mike was my offensive coordinator in college and helped me develop as a quarterback. He has great knowledge in offensive football and quarterback development, and he will do an outstanding job at Tennessee."

Mike Holmgren: “While our time together was short, Mike DeBord was one of the finest coaches I ever had. Mike was a great team guy on the staff and his outstanding football knowledge helped me in so many ways! The University of Tennessee is very lucky to have Mike DeBord."

Matt Hasselbeck: "The University of Tennessee is lucky to have Mike DeBord. I've come to know Mike as a bright offensive mind who quickly gains the trust and respect of the coaches and players he works with."

Adam Gase: "The University of Tennessee is fortunate to hire a coach with Mike DeBord's resume. He is an outstanding and creative offensive coach who has great experience both at the college and NFL level. He coaches with a great deal of enthusiasm and passion and does an excellent job teaching quarterbacks."

Steve Hutchinson: “"Coach DeBord recruited me to the University of Michigan and coached me for the majority of my time there. Under him, we had very successful years as an offensive unit. His ability to use the resources on the roster, make him valuable to fit within any system. I am excited to see the Vols offense in action this season!"

Feb 6, 2015 10:39 AM

Addition of state's top prospect enhances Tennessee's highly rated signing class

There was no doubt that the University of Tennessee would emerge from national signing day with one of college football’s top recruiting classes.

The drama involved the state’s top recruit.

Offensive lineman Drew Richmond ultimately signed with the Volunteers on Wednesday and enhanced a class that universally was rated among the overall top five. The 6-foot-5, 323-pounder who originally committed to Ole Miss was one of four Rivals.com five-star prospects among Tennessee’s 29-member 2015 class.

Coach Butch Jones said he was not certain about Richmond’s plans at the start of the day.

“[There were] a lot of phone calls, (Tuesday) night, a lot of conversations,” Jones said. “We knew we had a great opportunity, but he wanted to make me work right to the end, even prior to 10 minutes before he signed, he called me thanking me and he said, 'Will you still love me if I don't come to the University of Tennessee?' I told him love was conditional on some things.

“But, we are really fortunate to have him and really excited about his future here."

Rivals rated Tennessee’s class fifth overall. 247Sports considered it No. 4. ESPN.com ranked it fifth overall, and Scout.com did the same.

Richmond’s addition gave the Volunteers as many five-star signees, according to Rivals, as Alabama, LSU and USC. Only Florida State (five) had more.

Jones noted that he wanted to be respectful of Richmond’s initial commitment but stressed that he remains relentless when it comes to recruiting, as do many others.

“I know lot of coaches say – and we found this out with our guys – the real recruiting process starts after they commit,” Jones said. “We gave him his space but we also continued to recruit him, and Drew and I had a very unique relationship, one of the top-five relationships I've ever had with a prospective student-athlete, and I think that helped down the end.”

Rivals rated Richmond the No. 1 player in Tennessee and the No. 2 overall offensive tackle in the country. ESPN.com, likewise, had him No. 1 in the state but only fifth overall at his position.

His addition meant the Volunteers landed the three highest rated players in Tennessee. Defensive end Kyle Phillips (Hillsboro High School) and tackle Jack Jones (Oakland High School) – both early enrollees – were second and third, respectively.

"It completed the class,” Jones said. “Again, we get back to improving our overall athleticism on the offensive front and Drew obviously does that. He's a left tackle, he's very, very athletic, and when we watch film, one of the big things along with toughness is balance. When you watched Drew Richmond on video, he was never on the ground. He could always recover.

“So I'm excited because he's going to add to the offensive line in a great way to finish the recruiting class off, to stay in-state, Memphis, and to keep the top three players in-state at home was big for us. He brings everything that we're looking for in an offensive lineman.”
 

Feb 4, 2015 5:21 PM

Report: Tennessee quarterback plans to transfer

It is clear based on what happened late in the season that Nathan Peterman was not going to be the University of Tennessee’s starting quarterback going forward.

So he is finished with the Volunteers.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Sunday that Peterman will enroll at the University of Pittsburgh, begin classes in May and exhaust his remaining two years of college eligibility with that program. Peterman already has earned his undergraduate degree and, therefore, will be eligible to play this fall.

Peterman has a connection to the staff of new Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi. Jim Chaney, UT’s offensive coordinator in 2012, has that same job under Narduzzi.

From the Tribune-Review:

Narduzzi has been seeking to improve Pitt's depth at quarterback. When Narduzzi arrived Dec. 26, Pitt had only sophomore starter Chad Voytik and freshman Adam Bertke for the position. Narduzzi has added two players to the mix, including Peterman and Pine-Richland senior Ben DiNucci, who said he will sign a letter of intent Wednesday.

Peterman was one of three quarterbacks who started for the Volunteers last season. His lone chance came Oct. 25 at Alabama. Josh Dobbs replaced him in that one and took hold of the position for the remainder of the year.

Without him, coach Butch Jones and his staff have four quarterbacks on the current roster, including two true freshmen who enrolled in January. One more is expected to sign Wednesday on national signing day.

In three seasons at UT, Peterman appeared in 11 games (two starts), completed just 46.5 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions with no touchdowns.

Feb 2, 2015 11:15 AM

Pearl, Hamilton lost their jobs at Tennessee, not their friendship

Bruce Pearl’s NCAA violations did not simply cost him his job. It cost former University of Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton his job as well.

It did not, however, cost Pearl his friendship with the man who both hired and fired him at Tennessee.

In advance of Pearl’s return to Knoxville on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN2) as the first-year coach at Auburn, an AL.com profile includes a look at how Pearl and Hamilton managed to separate their personal relationship from their professional one.

Pearl and Hamilton still talk every few weeks, and their respect is mutual. Hamilton stepped down from his post in June 2011 and now lives in Nashville, where he recently was hired as the executive director for Show Hope, a nonprofit organization helping orphans in distress. Pearl invited him to the Tigers' SEC opener at Vanderbilt and the former Tennessee boss hopes to attend the SEC Tournament and cheer for the coach.

"I think, like everyone, we wished that the final outcome was not what we had to end up doing, but I think he understood," Hamilton said. "That's what makes the relationship what it is now. He understood on some level that was where we had to go because of what happened."

Pearl acknowledges his role in Hamilton losing his job at Tennessee, although Hamilton officially resigned in June 2011.

When Auburn conducted its search for a new basketball coach last spring, Hamilton endorsed Pearl to athletics director Jay Jacobs.

"I'm working every day to reward Jay Jacobs for the decision he made to bring me here," Pearl said. "I worked every day to reward Mike Hamilton for the decision he made to bring me to Tennessee and for many years Mike benefited from my hiring. But I contributed to Mike being fired and the mistakes I made put Mike and his family in a really bad situation. Tennessee chose to fire me long after I admitted to making the mistakes. They chose to fire Mike also. I accept some responsibility for the good, the bad and the ugly."
 

Jan 30, 2015 1:32 PM

SEC/Big 12 Challenge to become a one-day basketball event

There’s no guarantee it will be a perfect 10.

However, the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 have decided that it is better to play all 10 games of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on the same day, not to mention later in the season.

The conferences announced Thursday that the 2016 SEC/Big 12 Challenge will take place Jan. 30, 2016, the first time all 10 games won’t be spread out over several days and the first time it will take place in the middle of the conference season. ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will broadcast the entire lineup.

“Moving the Big 12/SEC Challenge later in the season will raise the profile of this event and give our coaches, student-athletes and fans the attention that it deserves,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a release.

This season’s cross-conference matchups were played from Dec. 3-6. Vanderbilt lost 66-63 at home to Baylor and Tennessee defeated Kansas State 65-64. The Big 12 won six of the 10 games, the second year it came out on top in the series.

The conferences agreed to create a single date in January or February for future seasons.

The concentration of games will add to the event for two conferences better known for their football. The full promotional support of ESPN on multiple platforms can only help as well.

Jan 29, 2015 1:42 PM

Pearl days away from coaching another game at Thompson Boling Arena

Bruce Pearl is confident that his place in the history of Tennessee basketball is secure.

The former Volunteers coach was equally certain throughout the last three years that he had no future with the program, despite undeniable support from a portion of the fan base.

“The leadership wasn’t going to hire me,” Pearl told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I knew that. So I never tried to make that an option.

“I moved on.”

As a result, now he is comes back.

For the first time since he was fired March 21, 2011 because of NCAA violations Pearl will coach at Thompson Boling Arena when he takes his Auburn team there to face Tennessee on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN2).

According to a News Sentinel profile, Pearl might have “moved on” but he did not leave behind his time in Knoxville when he took over at Auburn. Among the photos displayed in his current office is one of him and legendary UT women’s coach Pat Summitt. There also is a montage painting that features the coach with six of his UT players.

It was a six-year period that most don’t want to forget. The Volunteers made the NCAA Tournament all six seasons and averaged 22 wins. They even spent time ranked No. 1 in the country.

“What we did there will live forever,” Pearl said. “And the funny thing is that what most people will remember is the good stuff.”

Pearl is currently 10-9 overall, 2-4 in the Southeastern Conference with Auburn, which hosts Texas A&M on Tuesday (8 p.m., SEC Network) before his homecoming. Tennessee is 12-6, 4-2 in the SEC and travels to Arkansas on Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPNU) before it faces Pearl and Auburn.
 

Jan 26, 2015 5:05 AM

Bajakian leaves UT for position on NFL staff

Hours after his departure from the University of Tennessee was reported, Mike Bajakian was named quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bajakian was the Volunteers’ offensive coordinator for the past two seasons under coach Butch Jones. He also worked in the same capacity with Jones at Cincinnati (2010-12) and Central Michigan (2007-09).

His move to the NFL reunites him with another coach under who he worked. Bajakian was offensive quality control coach for the Chicago Bears from 2004-06 under Lovie Smith, who just completed his first season as Buccaneers coach.

"We'd like to thank Coach Bajakian for his two years at Tennessee and his efforts in helping us rebuild this storied program. We wish him much success with his goal of coaching in the NFL," Jones said in a statement released by the UT athletics department.

The move comes two weeks before National Signing Day. The Volunteers are poised to land a recruiting class ranked among the top five in the country for the second straight year.

Bajakian’s departure might create uncertainty for some recruits but is not likely to have a significant negative impact.

There was no word from UT about the process or timetable to name a replacement.

Jan 22, 2015 9:49 PM