Spring football gives Gaulden opportunity to convince UT coaches he's ready

For Rashaan Gaulden, the next step is directly into a starting spot on defense.

The sophomore out of Spring Hill knows, though, that the University of Tennessee coaches are not about to take a leap of faith with him. They want to be convinced that he is ready.

“Coming into the spring, [defensive backs coach Willie Martinez] told me I have a great opportunity,” the Independence High School graduate said, according to UT's athletics website. “I need to have a big spring. I'm trying to take his coaching and build on my confidence and try to fulfill my role.”

Gaulden (6-foot-1, 184 pounds) is expected to replace Justin Coleman this fall as the Volunteers nickel (slot) cornerback.

Coleman, currently preparing for the NFL draft, led UT in interceptions last fall with five but also finished seventh in tackles (42), chipped in four tackles for loss, broke up five passes and registered a couple hits on the quarterback.

Gaulden played in 11 games last fall as a true freshman and recorded seven tackles, primarily as a special teams player. His first tackle resulted in a broken hand that forced him to miss the next two games.

“Within the nickel position there is so much that goes into it,” coach Butch Jones said following Saturday’s spring practice at Neyland Stadium. “You have to be able to play zone coverage (and) reroute wideouts. You have to be able to play man-to-man coverage. You have to be able to set the edge of your defense. You have to understand the difference in blitz checks and blitz patterns. It is a mental part of it.

“(Coleman) was able to handle it, I think because (of) his skill set, but also his maturity level. Rashaan has that same skill set, it is just the maturity level of continuing to retain information and just being disciplined. We have been very pleased with Rashaan Gaulden's progress."

Gaulden is one of four scholarship cornerbacks healthy enough to take part in spring drills, which continue Tuesday. Therefore, he has worked both at the nickel and outside cornerback spots.

Come the fall, though, the idea is for him to be in the slot – and to stay there.

"Rashaan is a very talented individual,” Jones said. “He can run. He is very explosive. He can hit. He can cover. The big thing for him with being a young football player is just the overall discipline of that position.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Apr 7, 2015 10:25 AM

It won't take much for Barnes to make things better at Tennessee

Rick Barnes set a somewhat modest goal for himself during his introductory press conference Tuesday.

He’s not out to become the best men’s basketball coach in University of Tennessee history. Just the best in recent history.

“When my time is up, I do want to leave it better than when we found it,” Barnes said. “And I don't care if I was walking into Pat Summitt's shoes; I'd say the same thing. And that would be hard to do.

“But I am excited for a lot of reasons.”

He is not, of course, following Summitt, the legendary leader of the Lady Vols. He’s taking over for Donnie Tyndall, who was fired after one season for NCAA violations committed at Southern Miss, and is not far removed from Cuonzo Martin, who walked away after three years of unsuccessfully trying to win over the fan base.

Martin’s final act was to take the Volunteers to the Sweet 16, but when he left so did several of his players. That forced Tyndall to cobble together nearly an entire roster that could compete in the SEC. There were some positive moments along the way but UT went 16-16 and did not participate in a postseason tournament in 2014-15.

That’s not to say Barnes, 60, can’t succeed at Tennessee to a degree that none of his predecessors have. After all, he just concluded a 17-year run during which he became the best coach ever at the University of Texas. His record (402-180), consistent NCAA Tournament appearances (16 of them) and top-flight recruiting (eight first-round NBA draft choices in the last eight years) make it impossible to argue with that assessment.

“We'll all analyze and assess where we are, but there are certain things in basketball that you've got to do,” Barnes said. “You've got to defend. You've got to rebound. You've got to take care of the basketball.”

Even if he does not outperform a whole bunch of people he’s almost certain to outlast them. In the 17 years he was at Texas, five different men coached the Volunteers — none for more than six seasons.

“(Athletics director Dave Hart) and I talked about a lot of things, but the one thing he said to me is, `We've got to create stability,’” Barnes said. “… And I fully expect this to be my last job. And for him, and for this university, I promise you we are going to put together a staff and we're going to go at it as hard as we can go at it. We know we're in a great league, which I think only makes you better. There's obviously a standard that's been set in this league.

“I'm just excited. I think it's an incredible opportunity.”

On being at Tennessee: “We all are fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity as players. Where they are, having this locker room and playing on this court. … There's thousands of young men that would love to have this opportunity. I would say the same thing about myself; there are thousands of coaches who would like to be standing here. So one thing we won't ever do is take for granted or have a sense of entitlement.”

On whether he considered taking time off from coaching: “There was never a hesitancy on my part once I had made contact with Tennessee and we started talking. I love coaching. I really do. I love working with young people.”

On the fact that his wife attended UT: “I'm not sure of all those coaches that have come before me, that they knew the University of Tennessee like I knew it before I ever really walked back on this campus. Back in 1974, you had a co-ed here that I was really in love with. The trip from Hickory, North Carolina over here was very short. … When people talk about Rocky Top, I know what they're talking about. With that said, I'm telling you, I am excited to stand here before you today, and I truly know that I'm blessed to have this opportunity.”

On his early connection to UT athletics director Dave Hart: “[I] desperately wanted to be a head coach. So, I would send my résumés out everywhere I could send it. I finally got my very first interview at East Carolina University. When I flew into Greenville, North Carolina, Dave Hart was waiting to pick me up. He was the Associate Athletic Director then. Immediately, it was a relationship that I just knew that it was one that was genuine.”

Mar 31, 2015 9:12 PM

A closer look at Rick Barnes' contract terms with Tennessee

Rick Barnes said all he needed was a handshake agreement from Dave Hart.

The two took it one step further, though. Before Hart, the University of Tennessee athletics director, introduced Barnes as the school’s new basketball coach Tuesday they each put their signature on a memorandum of understanding about the terms of Barnes’ employment.

“We have to do what we have to do in terms of signing contracts, but I would have dealt with Dave on a handshake because I know what he wants,” Barnes said.

Barnes will get a six-year, $15 million deal that will run through April 15, 2021. He will earn $245,000 annually in base pay with another $2.05 million a year in supplemental pay for a total of $2.5 million per season.

There also are opportunities to cash in with bonuses based on the team’s performance. A rundown:

• NCAA Tournament appearance: $50,000
• NCAA Sweet 16 appearance: $100,000
• NCAA Elite Eight appearance: $150,000
• NCAA Final Four appearance: $250,000
• Winning the NCAA Tournament: $500,000
• Associated Press SEC Coach of the Year: $25,000
• Associated Press National Coach of the Year: $50,000
• Single year APR of 960 or greater: $25,000
• Single year APR of 980 or greater: $50,000

Additionally, he’ll receive 12 lower level tickets and two parking passes to men’s basketball games Thompson-Boling Arena (eight for road games), 12 tickets for all postseason basketball games, four tickets and one parking pass to UT football games and the use of two cars.

He’ll also get up to $50,000 in moving expenses.

In the event he leaves before the contract expires, his buyout is $1 million for each remaining year. If he is fired without cause he gets $1 million for each remaining year on the deal.

He is subject to penalties if the program’s APR rate drops below 930 or if he misses games because he is suspended.

Mar 31, 2015 9:08 PM

Tennessee seeks stability with 'an elite basketball coach'

For Rick Barnes, it is a small step down.

The University of Tennessee hopes it is a step in the right direction following a series of missteps that have created instability within the men’s basketball program.

Barnes agreed to become UT’s next basketball coach Tuesday, days after his 17-year run at the University of Texas ended. Texas is one of the most well-funded athletics departments in the country. Under Barnes, its program was a perennial NCAA Tournament participant (16 appearances in his 17 years) and one that has produced eight first-round NBA draft picks in the last decade.

At Tennessee, he becomes the fourth coach in five years and takes over a program that has lost two coaches to NCAA infractions (Bruce Pearl and Donnie Tyndall) and another to fan dissatisfaction (Cuonzo Martin).

“Rick Barnes is an elite basketball coach in every respect," Tennessee Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart said in a statement announcing the hire. "Rick brings an extremely impressive track record of excellence, as well as much-needed stability, to our men's basketball program. This is an exciting day for our Tennessee family.”

1977-78: North State Academy, assistant coach
1978-80: Davidson, assistant coach
1980-85: George Mason, assistant coach
1985-86: Alabama, assistant coach
1986-87: Ohio State, assistant coach
1987-88: George Mason, head coach
1988-94: Providence, head coach
1994-98: Clemson, head coach
1998-2015: Texas, head coach
2015-present: Tennessee, head coach

The 60-year-old Barnes is 604-314 (a .658 winning percentage) in 28 years as an NCAA Division I head coach. He has taken his teams to the NCAA Tournament 22 times, including 19 of the last 20, with one Final Four appearance (Texas, 2003). Only 30 coaches have won more games in Division I, and 96 of those victories have come against ranked opponents, 34 of them against teams in the top 10.

Barnes will be introduced at a 3 p.m. (CDT) news conference.

Mar 31, 2015 11:23 AM

Report: Rick Barnes poised to become Tennessee's next basketball coach

Rick Barnes will go from one UT to another … although the shade of orange will change slightly.

247Sports reported Monday that the former University of Texas coach would replace Donnie Tyndall at the University of Tennessee.

"It's gonna happen sooner than later," one source told the website. "I wouldn't be surprised if there is an agreement in principle by the end of (Monday) night."

A short time later, ESPN.com reported that a formal offer had been made.

Barnes and Texas parted ways Saturday after 17 seasons during which the Longhorns made 16 NCAA tournament appearances, appeared in the Sweet 16 five times and the Final Four once. They also won three Big 12 titles during that time.

Tennessee fired Tyndall last week for NCAA violations committed during his two years as coach at Southern Miss.

Barnes also coached at George Mason, Providence and Clemson. His career record as a head coach is 604-314 and nine of his teams finished ranked among the top 20. He is Texas’ all-time winningest coach at 402-180.

At his farewell press conference Sunday, Barnes said he expected to be a head coach once again.

“Yeah, quicker than you probably think,” he said, according to the Dallas Morning News.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Mar 30, 2015 3:11 PM

Hart thought Tyndall learned from first go-round with NCAA violations

Dave Hart knew that Donnie Tyndall’s record with the NCAA was not perfect.

What the University of Tennessee athletics director did not know was that Tyndall, who had been punished while he was head coach at Morehead State, continued to break the rules after he took over the program at Southern Miss.

If he had, he would not have hired Tyndall last April to replace Cuonzo Martin as UT’s men’s basketball coach. He also would not have needed fire Tyndall after one 16-16 season, which he did Friday.

“I was convinced at the time that Donnie had learned from that,” Hart said, according to a press conference transcript posted on the UT athletics website. “… There are a lot of coaches in the industry who have had a transgression but never had another one. Was that a risk worth taking? Not standing here today, it wasn't."

The investigation into the Southern Miss program began last November. The NCAA has not issued its report, but Hart said he expects Tyndall, who recently met with NCAA investigators for a second time, to be found guilty of major violations. That allowed the university to fire the coach with cause.

In August 2010, Morehead State’s program was put on probation for two years for recruiting violations related to booster activity. Tyndall was 114-85 in five seasons (2006-12) as head coach there and led the program to the 2009 OVC title and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 25 years.

UT’s decision to fire Tyndall was not mandated by the NCAA.

“We had completed the gathering of information that we felt pertinent to make the decision,” Hart said. “I'm not going to comment on the process, because we are not involved in it from the NCAA perspective and what will happen from this moment forward.

“Based on the information we had, it was a decision we had to make and we made it. The NCAA doesn't say 'Hey here is what we think.' They don't get involved in personnel issues or campus decisions. We made the decision based on information available."

Other notable moments from Hart’s press conference:

On his working relationship with Tyndall since the NCAA investigation commenced: “We were very supportive of Donnie. He knows that. We were extremely supportive in helping him do the job he had to do as the head basketball coach. We really didn't talk about this much. We let the appropriate parties do what they were doing, but Donnie and I didn't have much conversation about it."

On the timeline for hiring a new coach, UT’s third in as many years: “You can never dictate or anticipate how quickly or what quick turns in the road might occur that would delay the inevitable process of bringing someone to a formal contract. So it is hard to say the time frame. You always want to move as quickly as possible, but you also want to get in front of people who can fit the profile and do the job that needs to be done."

On the decision to enlist a search firm to help identify a new coach: “A search firm is not going to produce any different background search results then the background search and results that we can get through various means. A search firm would have not known what was going on at Southern Miss. Southern Miss didn't know. But what they can do is help with the confidentiality aspect in our world that is rapidly changing. … With social media and so on, I think they can help in that regard. I think they can help expedite the calls and research that we do.”

On making the decision to fire Tyndall: “You have to have the courage to do what needs to be done in the best interest of the program, the university. I think technically, from a pure tactician standpoint, Donnie Tyndall is an outstanding basketball coach, and you've heard me say that. I thought he was a very good fit. He fit our profile. But none of that trumps what you have in front of you."

(Photo: Randy Sartin/UTSports.com)

Mar 27, 2015 3:16 PM

UT fires Donnie Tyndall for conduct connected to NCAA investigation of Southern Miss

The University of Tennessee is looking for a men’s basketball coach. Again.

Athletics director Dave Hart fired Donnie Tyndall on Friday because of Tyndall’s connection to NCAA violations committed during his two seasons at Southern Miss. Tyndall went 16-16 in his one season with the Volunteers.

From The Associated Press:

In his termination letter Friday, Hart said Tyndall acknowledged deleting emails that could have been relevant to the investigation. The Tennessee AD said it's highly likely the NCAA will determine Tyndall failed to cooperate and that he failed to disclose "material information concerning violations of NCAA rules" during Tennessee's hiring process.

The termination letter acknowledges Tyndall’s the right to a post-termination hearing. If he so chooses, he has until April 15 to submit a written request for a hearing. He has until March 31 to return all university property and return his courtesy car.

UT hired Tyndall on April 22, 2014 and gave him a six-year, $1.6 million contract. Because he was fired with cause, the university is exempt from the $3 million buyout.

Mar 27, 2015 11:06 AM

UT offensive lineman removed from 'football activities' following arrest

University of Tennessee tackle Coleman Thomas was removed from all football activities Thursday after he was arrested for allegedly stealing an Xbox and three video games from a fellow student.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the sophomore from Max Meadows, Va. was charged Wednesday and released a short time later on a $2,000 bond.

Coach Butch Jones was not scheduled to meet with the media Thursday and no statement was issued on his behalf.

From the News Sentinel:

According to an arrest report, the victim reported that on March 13 between 10:55 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., someone entered his room at Reese Hall on the University of Tennessee's campus and stole his Xbox and three games — Call of Duty Warfare, NBA2K15 and NHL 15.

Authorities discovered that the items had been sold later the same day to the Game Stop store at 6731 Clinton Highway. The cost to reimburse Game Stop was $176 according to the arrest report.

The stolen items were valued at $640 according to the report.

Thomas, 6-foot-6, 308 pounds, played 11 games last season as a true freshman with five starts at right tackle. He missed two contests with an ankle injury.

Campus Insiders named him an honorable mention Freshman All-American.

(Photo: UTsports.com)

Mar 26, 2015 9:33 PM

Tyndall has second interview with NCAA investigators regarding Southern Miss case

University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach Donnue Tyndall recently met for a second time with NCAA investigators looking into potential violations during Tyndall’s two-year tenure at Southern Miss.

That interview took place March 16, according to a Yahoo.com report, which said Tyndall’s contract with UT allows the school to fire him for a major violation at another institution.

Southern Miss self-imposed a 2015 postseason ban “based on information gathered during the review process” of the investigation in January.

Tyndall’s initial interview with NCAA investigators was in November.

“All I can say is I've cooperated 100 percent and if I need to, I will continue to do that," Tyndall told The Associated Press in January. "That's all I can say on that matter."

Yahoo’s report said it was unclear whether the second meeting marked the end of the NCAA investigation or whether it was one of the latest steps in the process.

Mar 26, 2015 12:20 PM

Injuries force Tennessee to adopt two-tiered approach to spring football

A shortage of healthy players has prompted Butch Jones and his staff to produce multiple schedules for spring football at the University of Tennessee.

“We'll actually have two practice formats,” Jones said Monday, a day before the Volunteers begin spring workouts. “Have never done this but again have never had the inordinate amount of injuries that we have this spring.”

There are nine players who will miss all of spring football because of health issues and four others who will be limited to some degree, at least at the start. No position will be affected more than the defensive line, where only five players are truly healthy.

The rundown of current injury issues:

Will miss all of spring football: Defensive end Derek Barnett, wide receiver Jason Croom, tight end Alex Ellis, offensive lineman Marcus Jackson, defensive lineman Jakob Johnson, linebacker Darrin Kirkland, linebacker Curt Maggitt, defensive lineman Danny O’Brien and defensive linemen Kyle Phillips.

Will be evaluated for possible return: Linebacker Dillon Bates and wide receiver Marquez North.

Limited to non-contact drills: Running back Jalen Hurd.

Limited reps: Offensive lineman Chance Hall.

Jones and his staff have adopted a divide-and-conquer approach, which will put healthy players on one schedule and the injured players on another.

“On practice days of Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, our injured players will just lift and basically go through an off day,” Jones said. “The days that are off days with film and lifting for our [healthy] players that are going through spring football, (the injured players) will do walk-throughs and different things to try to simulate the mental repetitions, the mental effort, the mental intensity in the physical reps that they're allowed to do.

“… It's going to be a great challenge in how we structure practice. However, it's also exciting because it gives other individuals great opportunities to really prove their football identity, and to really continue to progress and get better.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Mar 23, 2015 1:12 PM