Monthly Archives: November 2014

The very, very postgame postgame blog

There were blog access issues. And other stuff. Regardless, I write this out of a sense of duty.

WHAT HAPPENED: Tennessee ended its three year bowl drought with a 24-17 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday in front of 40,350 at Vanderbilt Stadium.

The Vols improved to 6-6 overall, 3-5 in the SEC, reaching the six-win threshold necessary for bowl eligibility. Vanderbilt fell to 3-9, 0-8.

Tennessee never trailed in the game, taking the lead on a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown by cornerback Cameron Sutton with 8:18 to go in the first quarter. Freshman Aaron Medley added a 36-yard field goal with 51 seconds to go in the quarter to put the Vols up 10-0.

Vanderbilt answered with 10 straight points to tie it. An interception by cornerback Torren McGaster put the Vanderbilt on the Tennessee 24 and kicker Tommy Openshaw hit a 36-yard field goal to make it 10-3. After a Tennessee three-and-out, Vanderbilt went 88 yards in just seven plays and scored when quarterback Patton Robinnette found tight end Steve Scheu wide open for a 36-yard touchdown pass. Continue reading

Vols coaches pleased with freshman Johnson’s performance at MLB

The middle linebacker is considered the quarterback of the defense, so the task facing freshman Jakob Johnson on Saturday against Missouri was nearly as difficult as the one that faced sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs when he had to take over the job for the injured Justin Worley in October.

Thanks to the indefinite suspension of senior A.J. Johnson, who has been accused of rape along with cornerback Michael Williams but not charged, Jakob Johnson was thrust into that role and forced to have the entire defense down well enough to get the entire unit properly lined up each play and call out changes at the line if necessary.

Especially when it came to the mental aspect of the position, the Vols’ coaching staff was pleased with his performance.

“For the most part, I was pleased with the way he handled himself,” defensive coordinator John Jancek said. “Obviously, he’s got a long way to go. He didn’t do anything real dynamic, but he did his job for the most part. That’s really what we were hoping for going into the game. There were some things that he was challenged with that he did a really good job of. They were moving the back around, so he had to make some calls on the move. He did a really nice job.”

The Vols did want more production, however. as Tennessee coach Butch Jones said after the game. A.J. Johnson was the second leading tackler in the SEC when he was suspended with 101 tackles, leading the conference in tackles per game with 10.1. Jakob Johnson finished Saturday’s game with just four.

“The communication was right on and he did everything he asked him to do,” linebackers coach Tom Thigpen said. “Of course, I want more plays out of him. I want him to make more plays, especially in space.”

Thigpen said the problem was that the freshman Johnson had was getting himself out into space.
“He held on a block a couple of times,” Thigpen said. “They ran the option one time and he held on to the block, actually twice he couldn’t get off. We went back to the drawing boards, ripping and getting off blocks. (Missouri had) a big tight end. Bigger guys, you’ve gotta be more violent with your hands and learn how to rip off. That’s the one thing he struggled with. In the core, on the alignment and things, we thought he did a really good job as far as playing with his hands on the interior. He’s just gotta be more aware when he’s out in space on how to get off blocks and make tackles.”

The mental game will get more difficult for him this week, however. Though Missouri had a good offense, the Tigers spent most of the game in a one-back, spread offense. Vanderbilt changes personnel constantly.

“He’s gotta be on,” Thigpen said. “Last week, to us, was a lot easier game plan for him. He’s had a million reps with it. What they do, many teams don’t line up in two backs, three tight ends, four tight ends, it’s a challenges. Each one of those personnels has a difficulty.”

Junior center Mack Crowder was back at practice on Wednesday for the period open to the media for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain and left knee sprain against Kentucky on Nov. 15. Offensive line coach Don Mahoney said he has a chance to return for Saturday’s game (TV: SEC Network, 4 p.m.) against Vanderbilt (3-8, 0-7 SEC.)

“We’re gonna still see,” Mahoney said. “We’ve got tomorrow and Friday and all the way through until Saturday at 4. He’s made positive strides, He’s moving around well. His attitude is outstanding in that he’s not dwelling over the injury or what occurred. It was encouraging to me.

Sophomore wide receiver Jason Croom went down in Tuesday practice with what Jones said were just leg cramps. He was not present for the open periods of practice Wednesday, but offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said he returned later.

“He did some rehab and came out later in practice,” Bajakian said. “We fully expect to have him.”

More bowl projection stuff

We already have a list of these up on the main site, but here’s a list of bowl projections for Tennessee going into the season’s final week.

Sports Illustrated has the Vols playing West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. 

Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com has them playing Cincinnati in the Birmingham Bowl. 

Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com, as reported earlier, has the Vols playing Notre Dame in the Belk Bowl. 

The Sporting News has them playing Rutgers in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

SB Nation figures Tennessee will get Clemson in the Belk Bowl. 

The Orlando Sentinel has Tennessee playing Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl. 

 

Mass found in Eric Berry’s chest, Chiefs doctors believe it could be lymphoma

The medical staff of the Kansas City Chiefs found a mass in safety and former Tennessee star Eric Berry’s chest and are concerned it may be lymphoma. A team doctor said at a press conference in Kansas City on Monday that testing is 75 percent finished and that Berry will see a specialist in Atlanta. 

Berry released a statement that follows.

“I am truly thankful for all of the support from family, friends, coaches, teammates and the entire Chiefs kingdom,” Berry said in the release. “At first I was in shock with the diagnosis on Saturday and did not even want to miss a game, but I understand that right now I have to concentrate on a new opponent.

“I have great confidence in the doctors and the plan they are going to put in place for me to win this fight. I believe that I am in God’s hands, and I have great peace in that. I know my coaches and teammates will hold things down here the rest of the season and until I am back running out of the tunnel at Arrowhead.

“I am so thankful and appreciative of being a part of this franchise and playing in front of the best fans in the NFL. I will be back!”

CBS picks UT to play Notre Dame in Belk Bowl

Usually wait to make posts on bowl projections before we get into the middle of the week and there’s a whole list of them, but thought this one was particularly interesting. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has the Vols playing Notre Dame in the Belk Bowl.

Also SB Nation has the Vols playing Clemson in the Belk Bowl. 

We’ll have more as the week goes on, and certainly more next week if and when the Vols earn bowl eligibility.

Tennessee falls 29-21 to Missouri

WHAT HAPPENED: Tennessee fell behind by 16 points midway through the fourth quarter and missed out on two chances at an onside kick after it had cut the deficit to eight points, falling 29-21 to No. 19 Missouri in front of 95,281 on Senior Night at Neyland Stadium.

The Vols fell to 5-6, 2-5 in the SEC. Missouri improved to 9-2, 6-1 and maintains first place in the SEC East.

Tennessee fell behind on the game’s first drive when Missouri tailback Marcus Murphy capped a 12-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. The Vols got a 38-yard field goal from freshman kicker Aaron Medley, however, then a 31-yard touchdown pass from walk-on holder Patrick Ashford to tight end Alex Ellis on a fake field goal to make it 10-7 Tennessee with 11:14 to go in the second quarter.  Continue reading

From UT’s website: Justin Worley’s open letter to fans

Tennessee senior quarterback Justin Worley, out for the season with a torn labrum, penned an open letter to the fan base that as posted here on Tennessee’s website. 

Full text follows.

By Justin Worley

November 20th is always special. I’m spending this day, my 22nd birthday with my football family at the University of Tennessee and on this day, I wanted to share my story with the fans that have meant so much to me.

My teammates are guys I’ve become really close with, they’re my family away from home. Being able to spend my birthday and some special times with these guys is always awesome.

I made the decision to come here from Rock Hill, South Carolina because I had the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the great players that have come before me. The tradition that engulfs this place and the alumni base that we have here and being able to follow guys like Peyton Manning, Tee Martin and Condredge Holloway. To be able to say that I’ve followed guys like that at the University of Tennessee was a huge factor in me coming here. Knoxville was close enough for my family to make it to every game, that played a huge factor as well.

When I think back to my first start at Tennessee against South Carolina, I almost laugh because I was so bad back then, but it was a great experience. We were in the game until the very end playing a top-15 opponent and it being South Carolina, the team from my home state. It set up to be a great first start for me, regardless of the outcome. I can still look back today and remember that game. It was a great opportunity.

I’m not going to say I regret anything from that first season, but knowing what I know now, I would have taken a much more intense approach in learning the offense my freshman year. I went into the year thinking I was going to redshirt, the coaches had alluded to the fact I was going to redshirt, then in week eight I’m starting against South Carolina. It was a quick turnaround, but a good experience for me. The next week against Middle Tennessee was awesome, to go out there on homecoming week and get a shutout win, throw my first touchdown pass, it was an awesome experience.

I looked at the offseason in 2013 as my time to step up. It’s something that you expect as a quarterback, to be the guy that everyone looks to as a leader. We had a lot of seniors up front last year that helped take control of the offense and help me learn what it means to be a leader. My leadership has continued to develop, having to win the job last year and win the job again this year, it’s done a lot to help me grow as a person and as a football player.

Injuries are always unfortunate and unwanted in a football career or any athletic career. I’ve had a lot of people around me help build me up and stay strong and I appreciate that from everyone that has been around me. It puts everything in perspective. It’s definitely not an easy situation to be in, but me being a leader, I still needed to be involved with everybody, I still had to give advice to different people and be a leader of the team.

Games against South Carolina have been some of my best memories as a Volunteer. My freshman year, we were right there with them, the next year we go there and I didn’t play at all, but we’re in a shootout. Last year we beat them here as a top-10 opponent, then this year we go there and come back from crazy odds to beat them, I think it’s been a great, great game for us every year. It being my home state, being able to beat them has been an awesome part of my career.

I just want to say thank you to the fans. Thank you for your support throughout my four years. I know they haven’t been the best four years for this program in terms of our record, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I don’t regret a single decision that I’ve made since I’ve been here. Thank you so much for all the support you’ve shown to me in my time at Tennessee.

Continue reading

USA Today Coaches Salary Database: Jones ranks 28th

According to USA Today’s annual college football coaches salary database, Tennessee coach Butch Jones ranks 28th nationally in salary for 2014 with $2,960,000. That puts him 11th in the SEC behind Alabama’s Nick Saban, who is No. 1 overall at $7,160,187, No. 4 Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M, No. 7 Les Miles of LSU, No. 10 Steve Spurrier of South Carolina, No. 12 Gus Malzahn of Auburn, No. 16 Gary Pinkel of Missouri, No. 17 Mark Richt of Georgia, No. 20 Bret Bielema of Arkansas, No. 25 Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss and No. 27 Dan Mullen of Mississippi State.

Jones is ahead of No. 32 Will Muschamp of Florida, who will be replaced by the Gators at the end of the season, and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops at No. 34. Vanderbilt, a private school, does not release its salary figures.

 

Jones on SEC call: Vols trying to increase “life expectancy” of Team 118

Tennessee heads into Saturday’s game (TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m.) against No. 19 Missouri (8-2, 5-1 SEC) needing just one win to reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010 with two games still to play. Tennessee coach Butch Jones was asked on the SEC teleconference what bowl eligibility would mean to the Vols (5-5, 2-4).

“It’s very, very important that we play in postseason for a number of reasons,” Jones said. “First of all, it’s the overall development of our football program. When you’re as young as we are, every practice opportunity that you have is very, very important. To have that continued growth and development on the football field, in the weight room is critical.” Continue reading

Crowder not in open portion of practice

Tennessee just finished its Tuesday practice in preparation for Saturday’s game (TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m.) against Missouri (8-2, 5-1 SEC). Full coverage later, but first, some updates.
— Junior center Mack Crowder, who suffered a high ankle sprain and knee sprain in his left leg in Saturday’s win over Kentucky, was not at practice during the periods open to the media. As Tennessee coach Butch Jones said he would, sophomore Dylan Wiesman snapped as the first-team center in offensive line drills.
— Sophomore wide receiver Marquez North (shoulder), senior running back Marlin Lane (leg) and freshman running back Jalen Hurd (undisclosed injury) all continued to practice in green no-contact jerseys. All three played in the Kentucky game, but North was especially limited. Jones said Monday he expects North to play a more expansive role this week.
— In accordance with their suspensions from all team activities as they face rape accusations — though not yet charges — senior linebacker A.J. Johnson and sophomore cornerback Michael Williams were not at practice.
— The Vols practiced indoors on Tuesday because of the cold weather. In the three practice periods that were open to the media, they held special teams drills and also station work with the position units. At no point did they line up the defense to indicate who might play in Johnson’s stead at middle linebacker.
— Defensive tackle Trevarris Saulsberry (left knee) was at practice but was in sweats and working out with a trainer. Jones said Monday that he will not play Saturday against Missouri.
— Freshman linebacker Cortez McDowell, who was injured in Saturday’s game, was a full participant in practice.