Janzen Jackson, former elite recruit, facing murder charges in California

Janzen Jackson (photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Former Tennessee defensive back Janzen Jackson, once one of the nation’s top football prospects, has been in jail since last September on $1 million bond for allegedly murdering a man who was staying with his mother in California.

The Los Angeles Register wrote about the case last month.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department online records indicate that Jackson is still being held at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility and faces his next court date on July 15.

Jackson was an elite safety prospect out of Lake Charles, La., who signed with the Vols in 2009. He was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery during his freshman year, but charges were dropped. He was reinstated to the team and started all 13 games in 2010, but was dismissed in 2011 for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.

He finished his career at McNeese State and got a brief look in the NFL before playing part of the 2013 season with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

Shortly after being cut by Toronto, he apparently returned to live with his mother in California, who shared the home with Frank Herrera.

The Register reported that Jackson’s mother testified that her son began having mental problems and was hearing voices.

Jackson is accused of strangling Herrera and leaving his decomposing body in the trunk of a car.

Aside from the one story by the Register, the case does not appear to have attracted much media attention.

Jackson’s father is McNeese State defensive coordinator Lance Guidry.

The second paragraph was updated to reflect the fact that article in question was published last month.

Jocquez Bruce commits to join Tennessee’s 2015 class

South-Doyle running back Jocquez Bruce during a Class 5A playoff game in 2013. (Paul Efird/News Sentinel)

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeJocquez Bruce, an athlete at South Doyle High School, has verbally committed to Tennessee after a standout performance in a camp this weekend.

Bruce, listed by 247Sports at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, could play receiver, cornerback or even running back at college. Bruce told 247Sports that he worked out at all three spots during his recent visit to UT but was being recruited primarily as a slot receiver.

Bruce is the 13th commitment and second receiver in Tennessee’s 2015 signing class.

In the 247Sports Composite ratings, Bruce is the 28th-ranked overall prospect in Tennessee and the 74th-ranked athlete prospect in the country.

Early Tennessee football lines show Vols as heavy underdogs

Tennessee opens the season on Aug. 31 against Chuckie Keeton and Utah State.

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeEarly lines on eight Tennessee games indicate that Las Vegas oddsmakers have little optimism for the Vols in 2014.

Tennessee opponents are favored in seven of the eight games released by the Golden Nugget as part of their annual early lines.

Here they are:

UT (+19) at Oklahoma
UT (+17) at Georgia
Florida at UT (+4.5)
UT (+12) at Ole Miss
Alabama at UT (+20)
UT (+18) at South Carolina
Missouri at UT (+4)
UT (-3) at Vanderbilt

Interestingly, roughly one-fourth of the 200 games handicapped by the Golden Nugget had line movements after their initial release to reflect betting trends. But only one Tennessee game was adjusted: Georgia is now favored by 16 points, down from 17. In other words, it doesn’t appear the public is flocking to bet on Tennessee.

Of course, UT will likely be favored in the four games not listed.

If you’re inclined to optimism, think of it this way: The Vols must only steal only one upset after winning the five games in which they will be favored to become bowl eligible.

If you’re inclined to pessimism, the rest of this blog is for you.

A 19-point spread translates to a 2.7 percent chance of winning against Oklahoma. Or just an 11.45 percent chance at Georgia.

For the sake of this simulation, we’ll give UT a 6.5-point edge against Utah State and an 8-point advantage against Arkansas State and Kentucky. We’re giving the Vols a 99.95 percent chance of victory against Chattanooga.

Spin those figures through my simulator 1,000 times and this is what you get:

That’s a 32 percent chance of winning at least six games and making a bowl, a 31 percent chance of having the same record as last year and a 37 percent chance of being worse.

I’ll update the simulator with new numbers as the season goes on.

Think some of the odds are way off? Let me know.

Merci Falaise joins Tennessee football staff as offensive GA

Merci Falaise

Merci Falaise (photo from Garden City Community College)

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeMerci Falaise, a former Georgia high school coach, has joined Tennessee’s staff as an offensive graduate assistant.

Falaise appeared on the Vols’ official roster on Saturday.

Falaise joins the Vols after two seasons at Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

Falaise replaces Anthony Parker, who is now listed an as offensive quality control assistant.

Tennessee’s other offensive graduate assistant is Nick Sheridan, who joined the program this spring after one year as passing game coordinator at South Florida.

Falaise played football at North Carolina State and coached the offensive line at Georgia Military College and Washington-Wilkes High School before joining Garden City.

Charles Mosley, Dewayne Hendrix among Tennessee football roster updates

Charles Mosley

Charles Mosley (photo by 247 Sports)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee freshman defensive lineman Charles Mosley will start his career at a whopping 374 pounds, a dozen pounds more than his listed weight during recruiting.

That was among the tidbits gleaned from Tennessee’s release of the updated weights and heights for first-year players on the Vols’ 2014 roster.

Collectively, Tennessee’s first-year players gained 84 pounds and lost 72 for a net difference of 12 pounds from their listed weight when signed.

In some cases, that could indicate a player losing or gaining weight on his own. In other instances, it could simply mean that their weight was artificially inflated or deflated during the recruiting process and this is the first “official” measurement.

Defensive end Dewayne Hendrix gained the most weight in the new release, growing from 252 to 273 pounds. That suggests he could eventually move inside to a defensive tackle spot. (Or perhaps could move inside sooner than expected).

On the other side, defensive end Derek Barnett dropped from 284 to 267 pounds, the biggest loss among first-year players. Barnett is another strong-side end who was expected to play as a big end or eventually move inside.

Hendrix also gained an inch in height and is now listed at 6-foot-4. Three first-year players gained an inch, two lost an inch. Some players, of course, are still growing. The shrinking players likely benefited from an inflated inch during the recruiting process.

Remember: our Tennessee summer roster always stays updated with arrivals, departures and depth chart changes.

 

QB Quinten Dormady gives Vols pro-style passer in 2015 class

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeQuinten Dormady came to Knoxville over the weekend for what he thought be the first of many stops on a college tour through the South.

But when Tennessee made it clear that he not only had an offer, but it was an offer that coaches wanted — and needed — him to decide on soon, Dormady scaled back his decision to just two teams: Alabama and UT.

The decision gives the Vols a second quarterback in the 2015 class. (And Jauan Jennings has insisted that he is a quarterback, not an athlete or a safety).

Dormady’s arrival will also help replenish the depth at quarterback after Riley Ferguson‘s recent decision to transfer. Justin Worley will graduate after this season, leaving only Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman and whoever UT signs in this class on the 2015 roster.

Given those numbers, and the questions about Jenning’s ultimate college position, could the Vols sneak a third quarterback into this class? It might be tough (or impossible) to snare another elite quarterback with two other potential competitors already committed. But maybe a late addition just before Signing Day? A late surprise (like Dobbs)? Or maybe even a wildcard from the junior college ranks?

There’s plenty of time left until February. Stay tuned.

Charles Davis says he wasn’t surprised by Antonio Richardson’s NFL draft slide (video)

http://youtu.be/ajmnGlFTTtE?t=1m48s
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Former Tennessee player and current television analyst Charles Davis was one of the first to raise concerns about the health of Vol lineman Antonio “Tiny” Richardson back in February.

But after Richardson was not drafted last month and signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings, Davis said he took no pleasure in being right.

“I saw that coming early in the process,” Davis said during a visit to Knoxville for a benefit honoring the memory of former Vol Harry Galbreath. “We saw him in the Combine, and I think it was my big mouth that said, ‘Something doesn’t look right…He doesn’t look totally healthy.’ A lot of buzz got created out of that, and I felt badly, because I wasn’t trying to denigrate the kid. He just didn’t look right.

“I followed up on it and I actually had three or four teams tell me, ‘He’s not clear on our board medically.’ So I knew there was something going on. So it didn’t surprise me when he slipped. He’s got to get healthy. When he does, we’ll see that talent come out.”

In more positive draft news, Vols lineman Ja’Wuan James was selected in the first round by the Miami Dolphins. Davis said he believes James impressed teams with his character and work ethic, which helped him move up draft boards.

“Ja’Wuan James I figured would go before Tiny. But I don’t think anyone saw him in the first round. That was a major surprise, but I’m very happy for him,” Davis said. “He was rising as we went on. He went from being considered a third, fourth round guy to a solid second round guy going into the draft. The Dolphins had a heavy need, really liked his character. After the troubles they’ve had, he’s the perfect antidote to that.”

Tennessee’s $111 million athletic budget in context

Vols AD Dave Hart (photo by Adam Brimer)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee’s $111.6 million athletic budget is 10th-highest in the country and fourth-highest in the SEC.

That’s from the comprehensive USA Today database of athletic budgets released on Tuesday.

The survey also showed that the Vols’ have the seventh-highest expenses in the country and that its institutional “subsidy” of $12.4 million — or 11 percent of its budget — is highest in the SEC.

All these numbers are from the 2012-2013 fiscal year. You can click on the graphic to see the breakdown by category. (Here’s a link if you can’t see it below).

Tennessee’s 2013-2014 fiscal year will end in another month, and should produce some different figures in key areas.

Here’s some context to the current numbers:

* Most of the current subsidy comes from a $11.4 million transfer from the university that helped the athletic department plug a potential deficit caused largely by $7.97 million in “severance payments” to Derek Dooley and his staff.

Even though the money wasn’t all due immediately, buyouts must be accounted for in the current fiscal year.

* In years past, the athletic department has actually made an annual contribution to the main university fund. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, for example, the athletic department sent $5.8 million to the university. Over the last 10 years, the department has given about $40 million to the university (for a net transfer of $30 million once student fees are considered).

* When Dave Hart was hired as athletic director, he asked UT’s administration if he could end the annual transfers. By giving excess funds away at the end of the year, the department struggled to build a reserve fund. And that could cause problems in years (like this one) when expenses increased.

* UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek agreed to “reinvest” some of the athletic department’s contributions to the university back into the department’s budget over the next three years. The biggest payment came from the transfer described in this fiscal year.

* Where does the rest of the subsidy come from? That’s the $1 million in student fees billed to students. USA Today counts student fees in their subsidy total, and most departments — even rich ones — take at least a small bit of revenue from student fees.

Questions? Let me know and I’ll try to answer them. If I don’t know, I’ll try to find out.

Recruiting Kahlil McKenzie: Here’s something you don’t see every day

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The toughest part of the college football recruiting game is finding something new and different.

It’s why schools pay artists to create individualized drawings to mail to recruits, why teams compete to see who can stuff more letters in a recruits’ mailbox and why every visit — official or unofficial — is now a well-choreographed show.

It’s also why Vols coach Butch Jones appears to be engaged in some sort of online scavenger hunt with elite defensive tackle prospect Kahlil McKenzie. See for yourself:

Later…

Kahlil McKenzie posted this message with the photo above: “Found the first bucket!! @UTCoachJones is counting down the days till July 10th different location everyday!!”

July 10 is the day McKenzie says he will decide between Tennessee and Arizona. Most expect the consensus five-star prospect to pick the Vols because of his family ties to Knoxville. McKenzie’s father Reggie, the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, is a Knoxville native and Vol standout. So is his uncle, Reggie’s twin brother, Raleigh.

But Jones clearly isn’t taking McKenzie’s decision for granted. That means 36 more days of this, presumably. Let’s hope Jones and his staff have some more ideas under his hat.

Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones speaks to Vols football team

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — NFL cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones spoke to the Tennessee football team on Wednesday, according to a tweet from the athletic department.

Jones played at West Virginia, where Vols coach Butch Jones was once an assistant.

Pacman is one of several speakers the coach brings in during the offseason.

Considered one of the league’s top cornerbacks, Pacman might be better known for his off-field issues. But Butch Jones said that makes him a compelling speaker.

“It’s all about character education and really developing individuals to be men,” Butch Jones said to media earlier this month at a Tennessee caravan event. And really it’s all facets of life. I’ve known Adam Jones for a very long time. … I know every year he speaks at the NFL rookie symposium and has done a tremendous job. I’m very proud of how far Pacman has come.”