Sophomore second baseman Nick Senzel tripled, singled and drove in two runs to lead Tennessee to a 4-1 win over Belmont on Wednesday in Nashville.
The Vols improved to 3-2 with their second straight win. They now travel to California for a three-game series at UC-Irvine. Belmont fell to 2-2.
Tennessee scored two other runs on errors, one in the fifth and one in the ninth.
The Vols used eight pitchers in the win because they hadn’t played since Friday and coach Dave Serrano wanted to get them action before the weekend series. Belmont scored a run in the first on a sacrifice fly by second baseman Tyler Fullerton, but the Vols allowed just two hits in the game’s final six innings and didn’t allow a single Belmont runner to reach second base in that period. Right-hander Steven Kane pitched two scoreless innings to get the win and right-hander Andrew Lee struck out the side in the ninth to earn the save.
Newly hired Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord appeared on VolCalls on Monday night. Some highlights follow.
- DeBord said he’s met with the offensive staff extensively “going through every play individually,” considering what plays they want to keep, how they might adjust those plays and what they might be able to add. “We’re really looking at our system, what we want to do, continue to do,” DeBord said. “Then maybe take some things out and add a few wrinkles here and there. That’s what we’re going through, that process right now. I got asked in an interview a few days ago, ‘what are you going to do on the goalline?’ I said, I don’t know, I’m not there yet.”
- DeBord discussed his background, said he knew in high school that he wanted to be a football coach. “I had that passion early,” he said. “I knew I wanted to coach.” He said his parents wanted his brother to be a lawyer, his sister a nurse and him a dentist. “I think I disappointed them,” he said.
- DeBord said he knew when Butch Jones was his offensive coordinator at Central Michigan that he could be a head coach. “Butch was amazing, I thought, in a lot of ways,” DeBord said. “He’s smart and he has again, a great passion for the game and all of that. You’re not going to coach if you don’t have that. What I always saw in Butch was he kind of was quiet away from the field, but when he got on the field, that was one passionate football coach. I knew his day would come. I didn’t know when it would be or where it would be, but I knew that day would come.”
- DeBord said his relationship with quarterback Joshua Dobbs has progressed well. “I love being around him,” DeBord said. “He came up in my office on Friday night and sat in there until 10 p.m. just talking and getting to know each other better. He’s a great kid. The thing I really liked about him is that when I came in for my interview, I sat down and watched film with him and I said, ‘Look Josh. Look at your stance. Look how wide you are. That creates false steps. The other thing is when you’re leading with your front foot to throw the ball, you pivot a little bit. That’s throwing your hips a little bit and it effects your accuracy. I came back a few weeks later with the job and I was shocked that he’d improved on all of that right away. Amazing. That’s just how much passion he has and knowledge he has. … He’s like a sponge, he’s just waiting for information.”
- DeBord said he likes the versatility of the offense. “Our run game, what I like about it right now is that we are going to have attitude runs where we can line up and knock people back, then we’re going to have deception in our run game,” DeBord said. “So I really like where that’s at right now, and we’re going to continue to develop our passing game. That’s one thing that we’ve gotta continue to get better at as well. There’s a lot of different ways we want to come at people. Obviously, everybody knows we run the fast tempo, no-huddle offense, but yet also too, it’s going to be important how we attack people.”
Tennessee’s Justin Coleman continued to make his case for the NFL Draft on Monday with performances in the vertical jump, broad jump and bench press that were all among the 10 best by defensive backs at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Coleman’s best performance was in the bench press. He lifted 225 pounds 20 times, which gave him the third most repetitions among defensive backs behind Josh Shaw of Southern California (26) and Doran Grant of Ohio State (21). Coleman’s vertical leap of 37.5 inches was tied for eighth among defensive backs and his standing broad jump of 10 feet, 4 inches was ninth.
Coleman ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, which was good for 16th among defensive backs. In its combine tracker, the NFL listed defensive backs and safeties as separate positions.
Coleman recorded 42 tackles including four for loss this year. He had four interceptions and five pass breakups.
Tennessee has had at least one player taken in every NFL Draft since 1963. Coleman, who is projected to be a late-round pick at best, is the Vols’ best hope at continuing that streak. Linebacker A.J. Johnson was considered a likely early round pick at the beginning of the season, but Johnson had his combine invite withdrawn when he was indicted for aggravated rape charges earlier this month. Johnson will be arraigned on March 9.
UPDATE: Coleman also ran the fastest three-cone drill time of anyone in the Combine, finishing in 6.61 seconds. His 20-yard shuttle run time of 3.98 seconds was fifth best among defensive backs and his 60-yard shuttle time of 11.21 seconds was third best.
With signing day past and an offensive coordinator now in place, Butch Jones took time this week to meet with several reporters on the beat individually for one-on-one interviews that were each state-of-the-program discussions. A transcription from mine, which was this morning, follows.
Admittedly, I teed Jones up for a good bit of Butch Speak early on, so there’s a lot of generic philosophical discussion of culture and leadership before you really get into specifics. If you like philosophical discussion of culture and leadership, you’ll probably enjoy that. If you just want to read about what he wants to “enhance” about the offense, scroll down about six or seven questions. My questions are edited for brevity (because they desperately needed to be). His answers are not. Continue reading
Story should be up shortly from today, but there was a lot of stuff I didn’t get to. Here’s a full transcript of Mike DeBord’s introductory press conference,as transcribed by Tennessee sports info.
“Good Afternoon. I thank everyone for coming out. Hope you’re staying warm. There is one item moving forward for spring football that I want to bring up that was asked in the previous press conference. I wanted to give a little more concrete of an answer. Dustin mentioned last time about injuries and individuals who would be out for spring football, so I do have that list for you. It’s going to be a challenge this spring football, we have individuals that will be rehabbing injuries but we fully anticipate them being ready for August camp. The individuals who will be missing spring football are Derek Barnett, Darrin Kirkland, Danny O’Brien, Kyle Phillips, Jason Croom and the possibility of Alex Ellis. As you can see, very, very limited especially in the defensive front. For the development of our football team that’s going to be a great challenge because it affects the offense and our ability to continue to develop our offensive line. A number of individuals who had injuries or surgeries throughout the course of the season will be limited. Those will be Marquez North, Jalen Hurd, Chance Hall,Charles Mosley, Dillon Bates, Corey Vereen, and Rashaan Gaulden. We fully anticipate them going through spring practice but they’ll be limited in some aspect or another as we move forward with our 15 practices and then obviously with the conclusion of the Orange and White game. We have to be creative in our practice structure and how we develop this football team moving forward.
The real reason why we’re here today obviously is the hiring of our offensive coordinator in Mike DeBord. Just like in recruiting we had a profile that we were looking for in our offensive coordinator. You heard me talk about the right fit. That term is all encompassing for what we were looking for. In not any one particular order but first of all was knowledge and experience. I wanted an individual who could walk into the room and fix the problems of the entire offense, know what they’re looking for. That knowledge and experience was a big factor in this hiring. I wanted a fit with the staff and the players. We spend so much time together. Our program is built off the core value of family and we spend about 80 to 90 hours together during the course of the season. I wanted to make sure we had that comfort level with our staff but also with our players. When you talk about our players I wanted a teacher and fundamentalist. I wanted an individual who could teach the fine details of what it takes to play winning football at a very, very high level. I wanted an individual that understood fundamentals. That was very important in moving forward. Continue reading
Anytime I try to write an in-depth feature I write it way too long, but even then I don’t fit in nearly as much as I want to . For that reason when I was covering Indiana, I included some of what didn’t make it in a series of blogs I called “The Cutting Room Floor,” that included some quotes, angles and anecdotes that didn’t make the main feature. I didn’t feel the need to do that with any of the football features I wrote in the fall because none of those extended far beyond what was already there. But I’d like to re-start this feature, starting with what was leftover from this story about Christin Stewart in Friday’s paper.
If there was a perfect quote that actually summed Stewart up but simply didn’t fit the narrative, it was this one from shortstop A.J. Simcox, the former Farragut star.
“There’s just no one else like him,” Simcox said. “I’ve never played with a player that has the same ability, has the same thought process at the plate, has as good of an eye as him. I’ve never played with anyone with the offensive skill set that he brings to the table. It’s amazing watching him play. Every time he swings, everyone in the dugout’s like , “Ooh!” thinking there’s a chance that he’s going to hit a 450-foot home run. There’s not very many players in the country like that and we’re lucky enough to have him.” Continue reading
The central purpose of Monday’s interview with Mike Bajakian was to discuss Mike DeBord and how he might handle the job Bajakian is leaving behind, but Bajakian had some other interesting things to say about his new job and Tennessee that didn’t make it into print.
His new position as quarterbacks coach at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been challenging in all of the ways he had hoped. At Tennessee, there were certain things that could run on autopilot. He had to work with individual players closely to improve their mechanics and understanding of the offense, but he knew the offense inside and out because he’d been running it since 2007.
“It’s given me the opportunity to really just dive in with both feet and submerge myself in the new scheme,” Bajakian said. “When you’re used to doing things the same way for eight years in a row and running your own system, then you make a transition to running another system, you really have to work at it. At Tennessee, I could into a meeting with any part of the offense without much preparation and really speak off the cuff. If we had a meeting, I could just watch video and be pretty knowledgeable about what we were doing. Now I have to prepare a lot more and work harder. It’s what I was looking for from a professional growth standpoint.” Continue reading
Didn’t know about this until I heard Will West and Josh Ward talking about it on Sports 180 (thanks guys) but ESPN’s Brad Edwards is apparently buying deeply into the Tennessee hype. He has the Vols playing Baylor in the Sugar Bowl next season. In this case, the Sugar Bowl is simply part of the New Year’s Six as it rotates out of the College Football Playoff semifinals. But still, it’s the Sugar Bowl.
Edwards explanation follows.
I wanted to pick one more surprise, and this is it. But there are good reasons to like Tennessee, even though the Vols may still be a year away from being a top-10-caliber team. Joshua Dobbs was inserted to the lineup halfway through last season but still managed to finish 21st in Total QBR and looks like a star in the making. Tennessee has 18 returning starters and plenty of experience on both sides of the line. The Vols also are coming off back-to-back top-five recruiting classes. And while no SEC schedule is easy, only the trip to Tuscaloosa looks like a probable loss. Ten wins for this team isn’t a stretch. On the other side, Baylor over TCU for this spot was maybe the toughest decision I had to make. In the end, I think TCU’s road schedule is more difficult, and Baylor has the experience playing with a target on its back that TCU lacks.
That’s the peak of the 2015 Tennessee hype at this point, but Mark Schalbach also has the Vols at No. 20 in his post signing-day, still-way-too-early-Top-25.
Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni was given the title passing game coordinator and running backs coach Robert Gillespie was named recruiting coordinator Friday after the hiring of offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. The release follows. Continue reading
We did a whole lot of stuff today, just not much on this blog. This is our overall story on the class. This is our story on Vic Wharton and Ryan Jenkins looking to leave the program and Michael Sawyers’ dismissal. This is our story on Nathan Peterman transferring. These are our player-by-player profiles. This is David Cobb’s story on Jones’s appearance at the Tennessee theater. This is John Adams’ column.
But there’s still plenty more to discuss that we didn’t go into. Some of it is in this transcript from Jones’s press conference. There will be plenty more discussed throughout the week. The transcript was prepared by UT athletics.
“Good afternoon, it is great to see everyone. Obviously, it is a very exciting day today for us. Today is really a combination of one to two years of hard work and dedication by many individuals within our football program. Continue reading