Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ups and downs in Tennessee’s wet scrimmage at Neyland Stadium (video, photos, .gifs)

The Vols prepare for Saturday’s scrimmage (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — There was plenty to like about the way Tennessee’s running game sliced through the defense, but there were enough turnovers to leave coach Butch Jones not entirely pleased the effort on either side of the ball.

The defense, Jones said, needs to develop a line-of-scrimmage mentality to compete in the SEC.

At one point, he shouted to the defense (and specifically the line), “What happens when Alabama comes in here and runs the ball?”

 Here’s a link to my photos from today. A pre-scrimmage video is included below. Plus, read all our coverage on GoVolsXtra.

Keith Pantling returns to Tennessee football administrative staff

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeKeith Pantling has been hired as Tennessee’s new associate director of football operations.

Pantling was an original member of Butch Jones‘ staff in December 2012, but opted to return home to Cincinnati. He rejoined Jones this month after some internal moves opened up another position.

Chris Spognardi was promoted to director of football operations after the departure of Brad Pendergrass. It appears Pantling will take on Spognardi’s old role.

Pantling was associate director of athletic operations at Cincinnati in between his stints at Tennessee.

UT said Spognardi will make $80,000 in his new role. Pantling made $50,000 in his first stint at Tennessee, the same salary Spognardi was paid before his promotion.

Vols bounce back to practice with fast tempo, big hits (video, photos, .gifs)

Running backs Marlin Lane (left) and Devrin Young (photo by Evan Woodbery).

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee senior running back Marlin Lane was back at practice on Tuesday after using the spring break to rest his injured left wrist.

Coach Butch Jones said Lane would still be limited in the remaining spring sessions, but his presence alone was a positive sign.

Jones also plenty of good things to say about freshman receiver Josh Malone, who made some big plays in Tuesday’s practice.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Jones said. “You can see the speed, burst and acceleration that we saw on film when we recruited him.”

Full coverage from Tuesday is available for subscribers on GoVolsXtra. Check out six minutes of practice highlights below and some photos after the jump… 

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After a spring break filled with basketball, Tennessee football is back today

Coach Butch Jones (right) talks with offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian before practice earlier this month at Neyland Stadium (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee returns to practice on Tuesday for its sixth official session of the spring season.

The Vols last practiced on March 14, a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium. Most players went home for the break, although some — including running back Marlin Lane — stayed in town to work out or rehab injuries.

Lane injured his hand and received treatment over the break. Coach Butch Jones is expected to provide an update on his status Tuesday afternoon, although his return this spring is questionable at best.

Jones and his staff also took a few days off during the break. Jones joined athletic director Dave Hart and UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek in Raleigh, N.C., to watch the men’s basketball team advance to the Sweet 16.

It’s safe to say that with both basketball teams embarking on a deep NCAA tournament run, this week’s football practices won’t be on center stage.

Check out our full coverage on GoVolsXtra this evening, including instant observations, post-interview updates, video and photos.

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Tennessee assistant coaching salaries remain unchanged for now

Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen watches practice at Neyland Stadium earlier this month (photo by Evan Woodbery).

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — We updated our Tennessee football staff salary database last month and found no changes to the contracts originally signed by Vols’ assistant when they were by Butch Jones.

However, amid reports and speculation that one or more assistants were in line for a post-National Signing Day raise, we promised to keep checking.

UT responded to our public-records request this week and said there have been no changes to the contracts we were given last month. That means the salaries listed below still stand.

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All assistants signed two-year deals upon being hired. The second year of the deals run from March 1, 2014 to Feb. 28, 2015.

Most of the raise speculation  has centered on linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, the recruiter of the year who helped land several major prospects for the Vols.

But any significant raise to Thigpen might require raises for other coaches to avoid upsetting the hierarchy. After the coordinators, assistant head coach Steve Stripling is the highest paid assistant. Willie Martinez became the second-highest paid non-coordinator when he was given the title “assistant head coach for defense.”

As we said last month, salary adjustments are still possible — maybe even likely. But as of this week, they haven’t taken effect. But we’ll keep checking.

Tennessee football adds DB Stephen Griffin to 2015 recruiting class

Stephen Griffin during a visit to Tennessee (photo by KNS partner GoVols247)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Charlotte defensive back Stephen Griffin, has verbally committed to Tennessee.

Griffin is listed at 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds on his 247Sports profile.

He’s listed as a safety or cornerback, although his apparent size — even as a 17-year-old — makes it seem more likely that he would end up at safety.

Griffin confirmed his commitment on his Twitter account.

Griffin also had recent offers from Michigan, Boston College and others. In addition to UT, he had recently visited Clemson, Duke and North Carolina.

He confirmed his UT commitment on his Twitter account.

An updated look at Tennessee’s spring depth chart at the break

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Tennessee football team is on spring break, the men’s and women’s basketball teams are in the NCAA tournament and I’m taking a few days off this week.

But the break is a good time to review the spring depth charts we unveiled a couple of weeks ago. The depth charts are still unofficial — and very speculative — but we have a lot more to go on than we did before spring began.

The scrimmage on Friday provided some useful guidance, although I tried not to overreact to individual performances — especially at volatile positions like quarterback.

You can see the full depth charts above. Listen below for my take on the Friday scrimmage.

Read on for a summary of some of the changes I made to the charts.

* Receivers are cross-training at several positions right now, and with only eight on scholarship, they all got significant looks in the scrimmage. The actual order is more difficult to decipher.

* At running back, I bumped Alden Hill and Justus Pickett up a notch. Hill risks being a spring hero for the second year in a row, but perhaps he can translate that spring production into more fall playing time in 2014.

* It’s not clear how serious the injury to Jason Carr is, but his absence leaves the Vols with only four scholarship defensive tackles. (Is it too late to get Gregory Clark to change his mind?) Developing better depth at that position will be crucial this summer.

* Freshman walk-on Colton Jumper soared up the depth chart after he played quite a bit on the second-team defense. That could be due to injuries, message-sending or just the fact that Jumper has had a really good spring. Jalen Reeves-Maybin seems to have a good hold on the third linebacker spot, but he will face challenges from new arrivals this summer.

* The defensive backs depth chart has a little more clarity, as we got a good look at the first and second teams in nickel sets. Brian Randolph will reclaim one of those starting safety roles when he returns from injury.

Wrapping up Friday’s scrimmage at Neyland Stadium (video, photos, .gifs)

Coach Butch Jones (right) talks to offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian before the scrimmage (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones dismissed his players on Friday with instructions to visit with family and get some rest. But he also told them to be ready for football when they return.

The Vols are now in the midst of an 10-day break from practices, but the final practice on Friday was a fearsome one.

Subscribers can read all about on GoVolsXtra or today’s News Sentinel. I’ll update our depth charts with a few tidbits gleaned from the scrimmage later today.

For now, check out some brief pre-scrimmage highlights and some photos and .gifs after the jump.

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Von Pearson makes SportsCenter top 10, plus more video, photos, .gifs from practice

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — If you thought there was no way the hype surrounding Tennessee receiver Von Pearson could grow any larger, think again.

On Friday morning, after a mere four days of spring football, Pearson’s one-handed catch appeared on the SportsCenter top 10.

Pearson, 23, took a long route to college football through Feather River College in California. Subscribers can read my story about him in today’s News Sentinel.

Pearson has yet to appear in a Division I game, or even a scrimmage.

I asked receivers coach Zach Azzanni if he was afraid all this attention would go to his head.

“He’s not wired like that, oddly enough,” Azzanni said. “But I’ll guard against it. I’m pretty good at that.”

Check out two views of Pearson’s catch in our practice videos after the jump.

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Tennessee spring football: Catching up on video, photos and .gifs from Day 3

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Tennessee football doesn’t practice on Wednesday, and by the time the Vols return to action on Thursday, the temperature may have dropped from 72 to 32.

Bugs swarm around Haslam Field on Tuesday (photos by Evan Woodbery)

On a positive note, that might kill the bugs that plagued Tuesday’s practice. And, yes, I made a .gif of them, too.

For some much better photos, check out Adam Lai’s gallery here.

Butch Jones wasn’t entirely pleased with Tuesday’s practice, the first in full pads. He said some of the newcomers weren’t prepared for the pace. He called out one player for putting his hands on his hips — a big no-no in Jones’ world.

Beyond that, what conclusions can we draw through three practices — 20 percent of the spring total? Not a whole lot. All four quarterbacks are getting reps, and we’ve heard good things about Riley Ferguson. I would still be surprised if there’s a firm decision by the end of spring.

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs throws a pass to Justus Pickett (photos by Evan Woodbery)

Running backs break down the huddle during practice (photo by Evan Woodbery)

Depth at the running back spot seems at least serviceable behind Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd. That’s a good thing because two more scholarship backs are arriving this summer.

Emmanuel Moseley (photos by Evan Woodbery)

In the secondary, coaches clearly like Emmanuel Moseley a lot and are grooming the freshman for a big role in 2014. He’s working as the “first team” cornerback now, with Justin Coleman working at nickel.