Monthly Archives: January 2014

Former Vandy commit Michael Sawyers, planning trip to Knoxville, could be last ‘free agent’ on Vols’ board

Michael Sawyers of Ensworth High (photo by 247Sports, a News Sentinel partner)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Defensive tackle Michael Sawyers is one of a dozen Vanderbilt verbal commitments who have jumped ship since the departure of coach James Franklin to Penn State.

He might also be the last free agent that Tennessee is pursuing in the final stretch before National Signing Day.

Sawyers visited Ole Miss last weekend and most prognosticators on the 247Sports Crystal Ball expect him to sign with the Rebels. The Vols, however, have kept in contact and Sawyer is expected in Knoxville this weekend.


As Barton Simmons noted on today’s #GVXAudio podcast, Sawyers would be able to connect with many other in-state friends in the Vols’ current class. But Simmons also said that Sawyers has always been one to do things his own way and not necessarily follow the crowd.

Simmons also raised another question: Just how much room do the Vols have? Sawyers would be No. 35 in the class, and while the Vols should be able to sign that many, finding scholarships for all of them this summer will be more of a challenge. So does the pursuit of Sawyers indicate a defensive lineman could be de-committing? Dewayne Hendrix now seems securely in the fold. But what about Cory Thomas?

Butch Jones ‘fortunate to get out’ of snow-stricken Atlanta

Butch Jones (KNS photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones said he was “fortunate to get out” of a gridlocked Atlanta during a recruiting trip on Tuesday.

Jones said he pulled off the highway to wait out the delays at an emptied mall as an unexpected snowstorm pummeled the region. 

Jones tweeted from the passenger seat of his car on Tuesday a photo of a slow-moving Atlanta highway.

“It was crazy,” he said.

Even so, Jones may have dodged the worst of Atlanta shutdown, which stranded many people overnight.

Knoxville got its own dose of heavy snow, but seemed better equipped to handle it than cities in Georgia and Alabama, which are still digging out.

The weather wasn’t believed to have stopped Jones from making his scheduled recruiting visits in the Atlanta area with running backs coach Robert Gillespie.

Coaches like Mark Elder, who got a considerably warmer recruiting assignment, boasted about it on Twitter.

Even Butch Jones can’t escape gridlocked Atlanta traffic in surprise snowstorm


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones did not escape the winter storm that paralyzed much of the Southeast on Tuesday.

Jones tweeted from the passenger seat of his car on Tuesday a photo of a gridlocked Atlanta highway.

The front page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

As bad as that photo looks, Jones may have dodged the worst of Atlanta shutdown, which stranded many people overnight in the unexpectedly heavy storm.

Knoxville got its own dose of heavy snow, but seemed better equipped to handle it than cities in Georgia and Alabama, which are still digging out.

For his part, Jones still made his scheduled recruiting visits in the Atlanta area.

Coaches like Mark Elder, who got a considerably warmer recruiting assignment, boasted about it on Twitter.


5-star cornerback Adoree Jackson eliminates Tennessee from contention

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Five-star cornerback Adoree Jackson won’t be coming to Tennessee.

Jackson eliminated the Vols from contention when he announced his top four schools on Twitter Tuesday night. They are: Florida, LSU, Southern California and UCLA.

With Jackson now out of the picture, the Vols’ 2014 signing class could be nearly finished.

Jackson, rated the No. 1 cornerback in the country in 247Sports Composite, has played his recruitment close to the vest, although most have given USC and Florida a slight edge.

Could Adoree Jackson be last major decision to watch in Vols’ 2014 class?

Adoree Jackson (247Sports photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — With National Signing Day now in sight, Tennessee’s class has started to take a clearer form in the last four days.

Running back Derrell Scott is in.

Commitments who were visiting elsewhere, like defensive lineman Dewayne Hendrix, appear to be solidified (although other schools are still working to flip Cory Thomas and Derek Barnett).

Last-second additions like Wisconsin commitment Craig Evans seem to be off the table.

So where does that leave the drama between now and National Signing Day?

Look West to five-star cornerback Adoree Jackson.


J.C. Shurburtt‘s comments Tuesday (listen to them here on GVX Audio) suggested that Tennessee is no more a long shot than any other team in the quest to sign Jackson, the No. 1 corner in the nation in the 247Sports Composite.

ESPNU’s College Football Live featured Jackson on Tuesday night, focusing on his overall athletic ability (Jackson punts too, by the way), but especially his passion for track. 

Jackson said his goal is to compete in the 2016 Olympics in the long jump.

Jackson has previously listed Southern California, UCLA, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and Tennessee as his finalists.

USC and Florida have generally been considered the teams to beat. But the decision is tough to predict. Jackson’s parents live in East St. Louis, Ill. — where Tennessee’s staff has visited more than once — while he lives with his sister in California.

Jackson plans to announce on National Signing Day, ensuring some last-second suspense for fans of his final teams.

Long snapper Wesley Horky commits to walk on Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Long snapper Wesley Horky has said he’s accepted an invitation to be an invited walk-on at Tennessee.

Horky, who attends Ravenwood High in Brentwood, is considered one of the nation’s top long snappers.

The Vols lost snapper J.R. Carr to graduation. Horky, Matt Giampapa and possibly others will compete to replace him.

After commitment of Derrell Scott, a look at Tennessee’s running back roster

Derrell Scott (247Sports)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — When Derrell Scott signs with Tennessee next week, the four-star running back will offer an important buffer in a backfield that was facing another year of being uncomfortably thin.

Yes, the Vols have returning veteran Marlin Lane. And yes, they do have two running back commitments, including five-star Jalen Hurd.

But Hurd and fellow incoming freshman Treyvon Paulk are both coming off season-ending injuries. While the Vols hope for big things out of Hurd, they didn’t want to enter the season without any other plans.

The running back rotation now looks positively brimming with options, and we could even see more of the two-back looks that the Vols started incorporating late in 2013.

Here’s what the roster might look like in 2014.

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For more, check out our complete 2014 commitment list and updated roster needs.

Recruiting on the river: Sunday morning boating has become staple of Vols’ weekend visits

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The gorgeous photo of Knoxville and Neyland Stadium is courtesy Vols receiver coach Zach Azzanni‘s Instagram account.

He has all the basics of photography down pat — good lighting, good framing. He didn’t go crazy with filters. He held the camera the right way. Thumbs up.

The photos from the Tennessee River you often see on Sunday mornings are from morning boat cruises that the Vols arrange as a finale for weekend recruiting visits.

The boat tours offer a way for coaches and players and families to hang out in an informal setting while getting a scenic view of Knoxville. It’s become a tradition of sorts under coach Butch Jones.

The weather can play havoc with the plans in the winter. On Sunday, as the photos illustrate, there was a one-day reprieve from the cold. It was sunny and brilliant, with a high of 51 degrees.

The Vols were scheduled to have five verbal commitments take official visits this weekend: Derek Barnett, Jerome Dews, RaShaan Gaulden, Todd Kelly and Vic Wharton.

Running back Darrel Williams was also scheduled to be in town, as the Vols are seeking to add another running back to their class.

Photo publicly posted by Vic Wharton (No. 4, to right of Butch Jones) this weekend.

As drug dealer goes to prison, parents of Aaron Douglas keeping son’s memory alive

Aaron Douglas

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The man who prosecutors say provided the Methadone tablets that killed former Tennessee and Alabama football player Aaron Douglas is now in prison.

Rodney Young Odum pleaded guilty to manslaughter by culpable negligence and sale or delivery or a controlled substance in October. He was sentenced to two years in prison. He entered Florida State Prison in Raiford on Oct. 30, 2013 and is tentatively scheduled to be released on July 9, 2015.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney’s office said Odum would also have to serve two years of house arrest and 10 years of probation after his sentence is completed.

Subscribers can read the full story in today’s News Sentinel.

Douglas was 21 when he died May 12, 2011, on the second-floor balcony of a house in Fernandina Beach, Fla., just a few steps away from the Atlantic Ocean. Douglas was delivered to the open house party by Odum, who police say either gave or sold him two methadone tablets.

Douglas was a freshman All-American at UT in 2009 and was preparing for his first season at Alabama when he died.

His parents, both former UT student-athletes are starting a foundation to keep Aaron’s memory alive.

Karla Douglas said the organization plans to continue supporting scholarships for seniors at Maryville High School in Aaron’s memory, while also expanding to work on issues with prescription drugs and supporting children’s organizations.

Until the foundation is formally incorporated, the Maryville Booster Club (P.O. Box 6435; Maryville, TN, 37802)  is accepting donations on its behalf.

Vols commit Cory Thomas, en route to Starkville this weekend, among a few prospects UT trying to keep in fold


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — When Cory Thomas verbally committed to Tennessee in November, he wasn’t quite ready to close the door on Mississippi State.

MSU coaches, in turn, have never relented in their recruitment of the three-star strong-side defensive end from McAdory High School in suburban Birmingham, Ala.

Thomas will visit MSU this weekend, but is slated to finish the recruiting season next weekend in Knoxville. Despite being verbally committed to UT, many prognosticators expect him to eventually end up in Starkville.

In interviews, Thomas has expressed concern about the size of UT’s class and the number of defensive lineman the Vols plan to sign. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, Thomas is listed as a strong-side end, but could easily move up to tackle now or in the future. UT coaches will undoubtedly try to impress upon the Thomas their need for big linemen on defense.

Who else must UT keep a close eye on in the final two weeks?

Dewayne Hendrix, another strong-side end, is scheduled to visit Missouri this weekend. Normally UT might win a head-to-head battle with Mizzou, but Hendrix is from O’Fallon, Ill., just outside of St. Louis, which is only a two-hour drive from Missouri.

Finally, there’s Gavin Bryant, a Jackson, Ala., native who has also received interest from in-state Alabama and Auburn. Despite those schools’ history of stealing in-state prospects at the last minute, Bryant visited Knoxville last weekend and pronounced himself fully committed to the Vols.

Here’s a list of UT’s current verbal commitments.