Monthly Archives: April 2014

Butch Jones on Alabama rivalry: ‘It’s our DNA’

Butch Jones after practice earlier this month (photos by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones said his main concern about the future of SEC scheduling was preserving the Vols’ annual rivalry game against Alabama.

In that sense, the plan announced this week was a victory.

“I was very excited we were able to maintain the Alabama-UT rivalry,” Jones said. “That’s in our DNA….That was the big thing.”

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart had favored a nine-game conference schedule, but SEC presidents voted to stick with the current plan of six games against divisional opponents, one game against a permanent cross-divisional rival and one game against a rotating cross-divisional opponent.

Jones said he recognized there were complications to either an eight-game or nine-game plan. He’s just happy the final plan preserved the Alabama series.

“In terms of scheduling — eight games, nine games, I really don’t think there is any perfect solution,” he said. “We have to do what’s best for the conference, as we continue to move forward, and I support that. This big thing for us is being able to maintain the rivalry with Alabama.”

Vols roster update: 2 walk-on specialists no longer listed

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Two Tennessee walk-on specialists appear to be moving on.

Redshirt freshman long-snapper Danny Finch and junior punter Patrick Toole are no longer listed on the Vols’ official roster.

The updated roster is reflected in the chart above. Or click here for the full spreadsheet.

Finch, a native of Maryville, redshirted last season.

Toole, from Walkill, N.Y., came to Knoxville last season from Erie (N.Y.) Community College and Temple University.

Both Finch and Toole were among 34 football players named to the SEC academic honor roll in January. Finch was recognized for a 4.0 grade-point average.

Senior Matt Darr seemed to solidify his hold on the starting punting job this spring. At long-snapper, Matt Giampapa appears to be the first option.


Potential Vols’ game in Charlotte in 2018 still unannounced

Dave Hart (photo by Adam Brimer)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The potential Tennessee-West Virginia football game at Charlotte in 2018 that was reportedly close to being “finalized” four weeks ago has yet to be announced.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart declined to comment on the report or the potential game in an interview this week with the News Sentinel’s Ben Frederickson.

Any future neutral site game, Hart said, would be announced when the contract is completed.

Regardless, the Vols-Mountaineers matchup — if it takes place — would fit the profile of games that Hart is seeking.

But the recent decision by the SEC presidents to maintain the current schedule format should have little impact on UT’s scheduling goals. Tennessee, like most SEC schools, already schedules one high-profile non-conference game each year. That “high-profile” game will essentially become a league mandate in 2016, when every SEC team will be required to schedule one game against a team from the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 or ACC.

“For us, that’s how we’ve been doing business. And for most people in our league. Not everybody,” Hart said. “For the high majority of people in the SEC, that has been the standard. Now it will be required that everyone do that.”

Hart, who has favored a nine-game conference schedule, didn’t win that battle. But he was pleased that the league “reaffirmed” its commitment to traditional cross-divisional rivalries like Tennessee-Alabama and Georgia-Auburn.

“In our case we will maintain one of the most historic rivalries in the history, throughout all of college football, with Tennessee-Alabama,” he said. “I have been an outspoken proponent for every bit of two years on playing nine league games. But the vote was not there. So we are moving in unison with everyone else toward the 6-1-1 (format) and staying with eight league games.”

If the SEC baseball tournament started today (which it doesn’t), here’s what bracket would look like

Tennessee players watch from the dugout during a game in March (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Twelve of fourteen SEC teams make the conference tournament in Hoover, Ala., so the accomplishment isn’t necessarily worth celebrating.

But given the competitiveness of the league this year (and every year), there’s a chance that a team with an NCAA-quality resume could be left out. And that team could be Tennessee.

The Vols took one of three from LSU over the weekend in Baton Rouge to improve to 8-13 in the conference. Missouri (6-15 in the SEC) continued to struggle, and will have to fight its way out of the No. 14 slot. That leaves a handful of teams trying to avoid being No. 13.

Tennessee has nine SEC games remaining against Kentucky, Mississippi State (at Starkville) and Florida. Here’s how the SEC tournament bracket would look if the tournament began right now:

1. Florida (East champ)

2. Alabama (West champ)

3. Ole Miss

4. LSU

5. South Carolina

6. Mississippi State

7. Vanderbilt

8. Arkansas*

9. Texas A&M

10. Kentucky

11. Auburn

12. Tennessee

13. Georgia (not qualified)

14. Missouri (not qualified)

* Arkansas-Texas A&M are currently tied and have not yet played head-to-head. For the sake of simplicity, I am pretending that Arkansas has won that series.

SINGLE ELIMINATION PORTION (loser is eliminated)

No. 6 Mississippi State vs. No. 11 Auburn

No. 7 Vanderbilt vs. No. 10 Kentucky

No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Texas A&M

No. 5 South Carolina vs. No. 12 Tennessee


MSU-Auburn winner vs. No. 3 Ole Miss

Vandy-UK winner vs. No. 2 Alabama

Arkansas-TAMU winner vs. No. 1 Florida

USC-UT winner vs. No. 4 LSU

You can follow the rest of the bracket here (.pdf file). As always, the great challenge of the SEC baseball tournament is that is has the least meaning for the best teams. That’s why taking only eight of 14 teams just wouldn’t work. There would be a good chance that all eight teams would have already secured NCAA berths and thus would be uninterested in depleting their pitching staffs for this tournament.

That said, the SEC tournament is still a lot of fun in good years. And Tennessee would really like to get back. The Vols won the tournament three years in a row (1993-1995). Incredibly, they haven’t made an appearance in Hoover since 2007, when they sneaked in as a No. 8 seed. The last time UT was a No. 4 seed or higher was 2005.

This very early line for UT’s opener against Utah State is closer than you might think

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Not convinced that Tennessee will have its hands full in its season opener against Utah State?

Vegas would beg to differ.

OK, not Vegas, but at least an offshore sports book that has released very early lines on some opening games.

Tennessee is favored by a mere 5.5 points over the Aggies in the Aug. 31 game at Neyland Stadium. (Note all the usual disclaimers).

The Vols really need to win that opener (and, preferably, Week 2 against Arkansas State) because road games against Oklahoma and Georgia follow.

After departure of Alden Hill, Vols still have plenty of options in backfield

Alden Hill goes through a drill this spring (photos by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Running back Alden Hill announced on Tuesday that he was leaving the football program.

The third-year sophomore reserve would likely have found it tough to get reps in the increasingly crowded Tennessee backfield.

The Vols are likely to have five scholarship running backs on the roster in 2014, including seniors Marlin Lane and Devrin Young. Three true freshman, including early arrival Jalen Hurd, are also in the fold. Plus, the Vols have added depth from walk-ons Justus Pickett, Chris Beck and Deanthonie Summerhill.

The Vols have only 11 players remaining from the Class of 2012, the last group signed and recruited by Derek Dooley and his staff.

They are: defensive end LaTroy Lewis, defensive tackle Danny O’Brien, linebacker Justin King, linebacker Kenny Bynum, quarterback Nathan Peterman, receiver Jason Croom, receiver Drae Bowles, receiver Cody Blanc and kicker George Bullock. Receiver Alton “Pig” Howard is currently on leave from the program and his future status is uncertain.

Unofficially, the Vols now have 83 players on scholarship.

Butch Jones and Donnie Tyndall, Michigan natives, haven’t crossed paths until now

Butch Jones meets with reporters earlier this month. (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Although they grew up only a few miles apart, Tennessee football coach Butch Jones said he hasn’t crossed paths with new men’s basketball coach Donnie Tyndall in the coaching world.

Jones wasn’t present on Tuesday when Tyndall was introduced as the Vols’ new men’s basketball coach. But that didn’t stop Tyndall, a native of Grand Rapids, from taking a jab at Jones’ hometown.

All the Grand Rapids guys think those Saugatuck guys are really soft. Let him know that,” Tyndall joked.

Grand Rapids (pop. 188,040) is about 35 miles northeast of Saugatuck (pop. 925).

Former Knoxville Catholic QB Mike Wegzyn says he’s transferring from UMass to UT

Mike Wegzyn (UMass photo)

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeMike Wegzyn, who played prep football at Knoxville Catholic High School, is transferring from Massachusetts to Tennessee.

Wegzyn, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback, announced the news on his Twitter account.

Wegzyn graduated from UMass in three years and will have two years of eligibility remaining. He played in 21 games for the Minutemen, starting 14.

Wegzyn’s older brother Matt played tight end at the University of Tennessee.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones and at least two of his staff members have children who attend Knoxville Catholic.

Tennessee currently has four scholarship quarterbacks battling for the starting job. Wegzyn should be eligible to play immediately, but will have to work to push his way into the mix this summer.

Wegzyn’s arrival does offer coaches some breathing room in the event that one of the four quarterbacks decides to transfer during the offseason.

Orange & White game weather forecast: Just about perfect

The Vols in Neyland Stadium (photo by Adam Lau, KNS)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — If Tennessee doesn’t draw 60,000 fans to the Orange & White game on Saturday, no one will be able to blame the weather.

The forecast calls for sunny skies and warm temperatures on Saturday. The Weather Channel says it should be 76 degrees when the Vols kick off at 3 p.m. The high could reach 79 degrees in the afternoon.

(After this winter, we shouldn’t be picky, but that’s almost too hot.)

Coach Butch Jones canceled the practice scheduled for Friday, although it’s likely the Vols will still do a walk-through to prepare for Saturday’s scrimmage.

UT has a full page of parking and logistical details for Saturday.

Check out some video of Thursday’s practice below. (Watch in your highest available HD settings for best results.)