Tag Archives: Mark Elder

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

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VIDEO: Here's Pearson at #9 on #SCTop10!

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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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Ranking the recruiters: Tommy Thigpen has been consistently near the top

Tommy Thigpen coaches Malik Foreman in practice last August (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who was named Rivals.com recruiter of the year earlier this month, is one of several assistants who scored well in 247Sports’ recruiter rankings.

247Sports added the new ranking to its arsenal about a year ago, and has since used its database to rank assistant coaches from past years as well. (The numbers are not as complete as 2014, but are still useful to review).

The rankings show that Thigpen’s prowess as a recruiter is nothing new.

The change in coaching staffs at Tennessee makes it difficult to get an exact picture in 2013.

But in 2011 and 2012, Thigpen was No. 5 and No. 18 nationally, respectively, credited with signing a dozen recruits who helped build Auburn’s SEC championship team in 2013.

If recruiting rankings were once controversial, 247Sports opened up a whole new realm by ranking the recruiters. Initially, I thought coaches would freak out. Coaches are already a competitive breed, and I thought we’d see internal fights about who gets credit for signing each recruit. Maybe that stuff occurs behind the scenes, but I think most coaching staffs have long since made their peace with the recruiting industry. And 247Sports (full disclaimer: the company is a News Sentinel partner with GoVols247) has done a nice job pushing the franchise into new territory.

So let’s take a look at the 2014 rankings. Thigpen, No. 10 overall, was listed as the primary or secondary recruiter on an incredible 17 prospects in this cycle. (Second place was Cincinnati’s Robert Prunty with 14).

Other Vols assistants ranked this year:

Despite a midseason knee injury, running backs coach Robert Gillespie was a prolific recruiter. (photo by Evan Woodbery)

No. 28: Running backs coach Robert Gillespie

No. 38: Tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Mark Elder

No. 60: Defensive line coach and assistant head coach Steve Stripling

No. 107: Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez

No. 150: Receivers coach Zach Azzanni

Nationally, 247Sports said the top recruiter was Georgia’s Bryan McClendon. Former Vol quarterback and current USC assistant Tee Martin was No. 2.

But small sample sizes or a singe elite player can skew the one-year rankings. In 2013, there was a largely new crop of names in the top 10. (McClendon was No. 122; Martin was No. 92). Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt, now defensive coordinator at Georgia, was No. 1.

The fluctuation shows that plenty of factors lead to a good recruiting ranking. It could depend on the number of players a team plans to sign at a certain position or whether it was a particularly strong year for a certain geographical area.

But Thigpen’s strength seems to transcend those fluctuations. And it’s worth noting that he was a closer of sorts for the Vols’ staff. Butch Jones put him on recruits that weren’t necessarily at his position or his geographic area.

Thigpen came to Tennessee after Auburn dismissed its staff in the wake of a dismal 2012 season. His link to Butch Jones’ Midwestern crew was Martinez, who was also on that Auburn staff in 2012.

Auburn’s coaching staff was stocked with top recruiters — including Trooper Taylor, running backs coach Curtis Luper, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and others. Coaches always pretend not to care about recruiting rankings, but it was either Taylor or Luper who once said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “If they’re keeping score, I want to win.”

That was refreshing honesty. And there’s no doubt that Thigpen has won a lot.

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.

 

Tennessee’s coaching turnover in this century is about average for topsy-turvy SEC

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has made few coaching changes on his staff since his hiring in 2001.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee has had 44 different coaches come through Knoxville since 2001.

That’s a lot, right?

Believe it or not, it’s almost exactly average for the cutthroat league. The average team has churned through 43.79 head and assistant coaches since 2001, according to analysis by David Morrison of the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune.

For Tennessee, the 2001 starting point is arbitrary. Morrison used it for his analysis because that’s when Gary Pinkel arrived at Mizzou. Pinkel and Georgia coach Mark Richt were both hired that year. Not surprisingly, the Tigers and Bulldogs have had the most stable staffs among the 14 teams in the league.

Check out this spreadsheet if you want to see every coach at every school since 2001. Florida leads the way with 56 total coaches. That’s a lot of turnover for a school that won two national championships during this stretch.

The offensive and defensive coordinator positions were two of the most volatile spots in the survey, changing hands eight times since 2001.

Tennessee beat them in that category, with nine coaches responsible for tight ends in the last 13 years: Doug Marrone (2001); Jimmy Ray Stephens (2002); Greg Adkins (2003-05); Matt Luke (2006-07); Jason Michael (2008, TEs); Jim Chaney (2009, also OC); Eric Russell (2010-11, TEs); Charlie Coiner (2012, TEs); Mark Elder (2013-14, TEs).

(Under former coach Phillip Fulmer, the tight ends coach often handled tackles as well).

The entire data-heavy blog is worth checking out.

Tennessee football practice report: Butch Jones invites coaches to join in competition (photos)

Butch Jones directs Daniel Hood (97) to place a ladder near the end zone for a practice drill. Jones had several players race each other at the Nov. 20, 2013, practice. (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones added a new twist to the ladder runs that are a staple of his practices on Wednesday evening.

He called for competitions between prominent players and even got coaches into the act. Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen raced quality control assistant Terry Fair (and lost). Special teams coordinator Mark Elder started stretching out of concern that he might be next. With one coach already on the shelf due to injury, you can’t be too careful.

More practice photos are below. Watch in your highest HD setting for best results.

Tennessee football continues special teams focus in preparation for Vandy (with practice video, photos)


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — After spending the bye week indoors, Tennessee moved back outside on Tuesday afternoon.

The temperature plummeted when the sun went down, but that didn’t stop offensive line coach Don Mahoney and tight ends coach Mark Elder from donning shorts. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie was on crutches and was sometimes driven around the field on a motorized cart. Gillespie was injured in the first half of the Auburn game while celebrating a touchdown.

The media viewing period contained more special teams coverage work. Michael Palardy boomed some incredible punts in the early period.

Watch the video montage in the highest possible setting for best results. We’ll have less mournful video later this evening.

Mark Elder: ‘Lost leverage’ led to special teams woes (video)


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee special teams coordinator Mark Elder said Saturday’s loss to Auburn was “not a good day” for his unit, which allowed two touchdowns on long returns.

Elder said small mistakes can quickly balloon into big ones on special teams.

“When you have a missed tackle, it’s critical, because it’s a lane of about five yards,” Elder said. “If you miss a tackle in that lane, shoot, there’s not someone for another handful of yards. Special teams really emphasizes if you have a mistake, it gets blown up even bigger because you’re in big space like that.”

Check out post-practice video below for some clips of the brief media viewing session on Wednesday afternoon.

Tennessee football #PracticeGram: Scenes from this weekend’s scrimmage and practices


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Vols have pushed back Monday’s practice until the evening. Butch Jones has said it will be one of the most critical practices of camp, as Tennessee is only days away from shifting from training camp mode to game-prep mode.

We’ll have news, notes and quotes late this evening after practice. Then check back for video and photos.

The photos below include shots from Saturday evening’s scrimmage at Neyland Stadium and the Sunday practice at Haslam Field. Click on the photo for caption information.

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Tennessee football #PracticeGram: Vols prepare for 2-scrimmage day

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Tennessee football team will have its first two-a-day session on Saturday, later than most of its SEC peers.

The academic calendar at UT pushes the summer session well into camp, which makes two-a-days almost impossible until classes and exams wrap up.

Butch Jones and the Vols will make the most of their opportunities on Saturday, going with a special teams scrimmage in the morning session and a situational scrimmage at Neyland Stadium in the evening. Read all about it here.  We’ll have full coverage on the blog and GoVolsXtra.

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