Tennessee Volunteers Football: 5 Freshmen That Could Start in 2013
The Tennessee Volunteers are 98 days away from the kickoff of the 2013 college football season. It will be an important year for new head coach Butch Jones, both for recruiting and overall program-rebuilding. His first class, the 2013 recruits ...
All For Tennessee
Tennessee's football team showed solid growth in grade-point average during its first semester under new coach Butch Jones, according to team GPA totals released by UT on Friday. The men's swimming program, in its first full season under Matt Kredich, ...
If you're not familiar with Steve Taneyhill, click this. I should just stop writing now, because that picture is worth more than every one of these words.
The Gamecocks entered the SEC in 1992 and were scheduled to face the Vols on our now-customary Halloween weekend date. Tennessee raced to a 5-0 start and rose to #4 in the polls, but was upset by Arkansas and then lost to eventual National Champion Alabama. Still, thanks to wins over Georgia and Florida the Vols could still win the first ever SEC Eastern Division title by simply beating the Gamecocks in Columbia.
Enter Taneyhill, a freshman, whose golden mullet led the Gamecocks to a 24-23 upset win over the Vols. Johnny Majors elected to go for two and the win late to save the division title, but Tennessee was denied. You can argue that Taneyhill cost Majors his job.
This guy talked as loud as he looked. His antics, which included a mock signature on Clemson's tiger paw in one of his two wins in Death Valley, made him notorious and really gave South Carolina an early identity in the SEC. And especially because of the way he looked, you'd think, "No way we're getting beat by this guy..." and then sure enough, Taneyhill many times found a way.
However, it only happened once against us, and he spent the rest of his career paying for it. Heath Shuler and the Vols exacted revenge to the tune of 55-3 the following season. Then a rebuilding Vol squad won in Columbia 31-22 in 1994.
But the final act is my favorite. Senior Steve Taneyhill came to Knoxville having led Carolina to a tie with #14 LSU and then three straight wins by a combined margin of 194-67. But the Vols were ready. Don't blink or you'll miss the best part of this video:
Two of my favorite observations from this game, other than the 180 degree action Taneyhill gets while probably thinking, "Dude, I got this..."
How about Peyton Manning running from the sideline to the end zone pile on the blocked field goal touchdown that immediately followed the Taneyhill hit? How about Phillip Fulmer dialing up the fake field goal at the end of the first half, and how genuinely excited (and maybe surprised) he looks that it worked? The first hit might not be the hardest you've ever seen from a Vol defense, though it's definitely on the list, but for who got hit and degree of difficulty, it might be my favorite. And I love that our defense basically put Taneyhill - who to his credit came out of that first hit yapping - in the fetal position the rest of the day in a 56-21 win.
Taneyhill is apparently a successful high school coach in South Carolina these days. But the mullet will live forever, and I certainly enjoyed getting more than even with this guy back in the day.
SEC-caliber defensive linemen eligible to play immediately are rarely available at this point of the year.
So, when one of them fell into the Tennessee Volunteers' laps this week for the second year in a row, it was an unexpected and welcome gift. Now, the Vols just hope this one turns out better than the last one.
Havelock, N.C. defensive end Kendal Vickers -- a 6-foot-3, 240-pound pass-rusher who'd been committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks for more than six months -- visited UT this week and told GoVols247 he'll sign with the Vols when he returns home next week.
At the beginning of the week, Vickers was primed to go to junior college. Though he'd committed to South Carolina early in the process, the Gamecocks did not expect he'd qualify, so they kept recruiting players. Once they filled up, there simply wasn't a place for Vickers, who was just going to go to JUCO and be re-recruited in the future. That's until two unexpected things happened:He qualified recently, getting his grades in order to be eligible to play for a Division 1 program. On a visit to his high school this week to check on 2014 stud running back Derrell Scott, UT running backs coach Robert Gillespie noticed Vickers, discussed his situation with their coach and approached Vickers about visiting Knoxville. He did, and a commitment is forthcoming.
Vickers isn't the most highly-rated prospect in the country, but he does have a big upside that the 'Cocks thought enough of to extend an offer. He has a very projectable frame and is an accomplished pass-rusher. North Carolina, East Carolina and South Carolina all offered. He was expected to have to attend a JUCO or possibly prep school Georgia Military College, but he qualified instead. When he did, most of the teams in the country had filled up. Tennessee will get a late project who has an SEC frame and the past interest from some good programs.
He is rated as a three-star prospect in the 247 Composite, a two-star by 247, two-star by Scout, two-star by ESPN and a three-star on Rivals.
This is the second time in as many years that the Vols were the beneficiary of a late academic oddity that netted a defensive lineman. Last year, the Florida Gators signed Dante "Omari" Hand, a massive defensive end/defensive tackle, who failed to qualify in Gainesville. After some finagling his situation, UT was able to get him into school. The rumors were he could have gotten in Florida, but the Gators simply didn't want him. After one year of redshirting, staying out-of-shape and complaining about UT via Twitter, Hand left unceremoniously and won't return.
Vickers seems much happier with this decision. He visited Knoxville this week and immediately liked what he saw. For the Vols, he fills a major need and will be able to be brought along slowly. UT has plenty of beef and depth along the defensive front this year and won't need him. But with six defensive linemen exhausting eligibility after this season, Tennessee is woefully thin, and Vickers has enough upside to take a late shot on.
His commitment gives UT four defensive linemen in this class: DE/DT Jason Carr, DE Jaylen Miller, DE Malik Brown and now Vickers.
Congrats to Vickers for qualifying late and getting the opportunity to play in the SEC, and this is a great job by our staff of identifying a player who can help a major need this late and getting him to visit and ultimately sign. Hopefully, he'll wind up like those other diamond-in-the-rough, well-evaluated linemen the Gamecocks have been signing recently.
We're certainly happy to have him. Vickers is Tennessee's 24th commitment of this year's class, but probably only the 23rd who'll make it in. Running back Jabo Lee is not expected to qualify.
So we're getting pretty good at this softball thing by now; I know Lady Vol basketball should have a monster year next season, but right now I'd wager Lady Vol softball has as good a chance as any other program on campus to win a championship, if not better. The LVs are the 7 seed in this year's NCAA Women's Softball Tournament, and will host the hated 10 seed Crimson Tide today and tomorrow for the right to advance to the Women's College World Series.
Tennessee took two of three from Alabama earlier this year in Knoxville. The LVs finished second in the SEC behind the Florida Gators; to show you the strength of the league, six of the sixteen teams left standing in this field hail from our fine conference. Tennessee has played in the WCWS five times since 2005 (05, 06, 07, 10, 12), finishing third thrice and second once. In our last appearance we were bounced immediately last summer, something this year's team looks to improve upon.
To do that, we'll have to take two of three from Alabama again. It starts tonight at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2, then continues tomorrow with Game 2 at 5:00 PM ET on ESPN. Game 3, if necessary, would go tomorrow night at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN2.
The game is sold out, but you can watch for free from UT's soccer stadium next door. It's a big weekend for Tennessee Athletics - if you're following along on the worldwide leader this weekend, this is your open thread for all the action. Beat Bama.
... Hunter said was reuniting with former Tennessee Volunteers teammate Cordarrelle Patterson, who was picked at 29 by Minnesota, and players he met at the NFL Combine in February. Hunter said it was a good introduction to the “business side of ...
The beat-up old VHS still sits in the faux-wood tape deck at my parents' house, watched so many times and worn out to the point that it wouldn't play even if they still owned a recorder. A white strip of adhesive adorns its face where the words "1985 Sugar Bowl: Tennessee 35, Miami 7" and, underneath, "The Sweet Taste of Sugar," written in red ink in my father's neat scrawl.
Ink smears and food stains have become lifelong residents on that sticky paper, even outlasting the contents on the VHS itself and put there by the grubby paws of a Southern Middle Tennessee kid cutting his teeth on the Big Orange.
It hasn't been watched, I'm sure, since I lived there 15 years ago. I'm also sure it never will again. But if I have anything to say about it, it'll never live anywhere else unless it's in my home after my folks pass away. It's far too special to me to ever go in a garbage can during a spring cleaning or make its way into a box full of yard sale items.
It may just be one of many old VHSs in that tape deck, but it was my introduction to Tennessee football.
I was 5 years old [turning 6 in September] in 1985, so I'd be lying if I told you that I'd anxiously anticipated every game during that fabled 9-1-2 season or that I eagerly watched every play with my dad. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure I remember watching any particular game live. But when I look back on my childhood and my love affair with the Vols, nothing stands out more than that tape. I bet I've watched it 300 times from start to finish.
When I was too young to have the attention span to really watch and understand the games, I'd ask Dad to pull out the tape, and we'd watch "The Sweet Taste of Sugar," a highlight reel to recap the season preceding the '86 Sugar Bowl victory over Jimmy Johnson and the mighty Hurricanes.
They were evil back then, the Canes. "They play and act like thugs," my dad would say, with their glitz and glamor, hot-dogging and swagger, taking on the personality of their brash coach. They were easy to hate, and they were top-ranked and poised for a national championship that year. Then, all of a sudden, the Vols pummeled them into oblivion, scoring 35 unanswered points with backup quarterback Daryl Dickey at the helm. At every turn, Tennessee thrashed Vinnie Testaverde. The Vols neutralized Michael Irvin. They shrugged off the Blades brothers and matched every Miami All-American with the kind of hard-nosed team play that won championships.
It was never supposed to happen that way, and because it did -- and because of how my father narrated the season along with John Ward during the "Sweet Taste of Sugar" program -- the players on that team as well as legendary coach Johnny Majors became almost deities to me. Dale Jones, Tony Robinson, Daryl Dickey, Tim McGee, Joel Clinkscales,Chris White, Jeff Smith, Keith Davis, Harry Galbreath, Kelly Ziegler, Mark Hovanic, Charles Davis, Terry McDaniel, Bruce Wilkerson, Carlos Reveiz -- I'd spend hours in my room with my Trapper-Keeper full of lined pages, drawing pictures of their heroic exploits.
It's funny to me now that they were just 18-22 year-old kids. They've always been -- and remain -- larger than life. The highlight tape included postgame interviews with the players which brought their words to our living room, and I still to this day remember begging my dad to take me to a game so I could meet Dale Jones. When I finally shook his hand as a young sports writer covering a UT-Chattanooga football game against Jones' Appalachian State Mountaineers, it was as if I were still the wide-eyed youth.
The plays and performances that highlighted that season are still etched in my brain. Jones' miraculous, game-saving interception of Mike Shula against Alabama, Bama's missed game-winning kick, the shutting down of Bo, Robinson's huge game against UCLA, Robinson's injury and Dickey's meticulous dissection of defenses as a game manager the rest of the way.
The opposing stars UT faced [and mostly vanquished] that year stand out as well. All that ridiculous Miami talent, Heisman winner Bo Jackson, UCLA running back Gaston Green and wide receiver Willie "Flipper" Anderson, Florida running backs Neal Anderson and John L. Williams, Bama All-Americans running back Bobby Humphrey and Biscuit Bennett, Georgia Tech defensive lineman Pat Swilling -- they all held villainous roles on the main stage.
When you're a football-crazed kid, who needed a movie on a rainy afternoon? I'd pop in the tape and spend 4 hours watching the season highlights and then the game. And, oh, what a game it was. Thirty-five unanswered points to end any question about what kind of season UT had. Sure, the two ties were a bit disappointing, but an SEC Championship -- the Vols' first since 1969 -- and throttling of Miami a year after losing second-team All-American running back Johnnie Jones and overcoming the adversity of the injury to all-world athlete Robinson somehow made that season the most memorable of my life until the '98 championship team.
"The 1985 Vols will live in memory as the team that restored the Tennessee tradition," Russ Bebb wrote.
It also lives in my memory as the team that turned a simple game into a rabid passion and that elevated my love affair with the Tennessee Volunteers from a casual state to an obsession. Even before there was an intense hatred of Alabama or Florida or a worldwide platform called the Internet where games can be perverted into more than a sport, there was a boy's simple love of a football team.
When I think of reasons why I love the Vols, that culmination of the '85 season and the highlight tape of the memorable campaign rise to the top of my list. All those John Ward-narrated afternoons and games watched began with that one VHS tape. Without that, I'm not sure I'd have ever attended the stately walls of old UT. I'm not sure I'd have spent a lifetime in sports, and I'm not sure I'd feel the same way about the Vols as I do today.
Thank goodness for it.
Sporting Life Arkansas
We're monitoring the situation, but seasoned sports journalist Jeff Reed has posted to his Facebook and Twitter accounts that the Arkansas State University Red Wolves will play the Tennessee Volunteers in football for the 2014 season. This morning on ...
Kickoff of the 2013 season is now 100 days away, and to celebrate, we here at Rocky Top Talk will spend the next 100 days sharing 100 of our favorite things about Tennessee Football. This is less of a countdown and more of a celebration of the things we love, the things we remember most, and the things that keep us coming back even when everyone is telling you not to get your hopes up too high for this season. You'll read about players and coaches, games and seasons, individual moments and our greatest traditions, plus a bit of random as well as personal stories along the way. And at every point along the way, we encourage you to join in the conversation in the comments. A series like this is a great way for you to jump in with our community if you're a long-time listener, first-time caller. It's our way of looking back and looking forward.
And so we begin today with the newest and most important piece of the puzzle. Butch Jones has been a part of Tennessee Football for a little less than six months. Let's consider what we liked about our last three head coaches six months on the job:
Lane Kiffin: Assistant coaches! How 'bout that incoming class! He picks fights with Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier! Not Phillip Fulmer! Derek Dooley: Not Lane Kiffin! Says britches! Great last name! Let's talk about Barbara some more! Told that one reporter off about former players at practice, boom! That hair! Not Lane Kiffin! While there's still a certain part of us that may want to celebrate Butch Jones because he's Not Derek Dooley!, what we've actually seen from Jones at this point does offer the best of what we liked about Kiffin without us having to be defensive about the rest of what we thought we liked about Kiffin.
What we love most about Butch Jones is Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class, currently ranked 4th in the nation by Rivals. The stat alone is impressive for a team that ranks 79th nationally in winning percentage over the last five years. But it's not just the numbers, it's the names: the legacy kids like Todd Kelly Jr., Vic Wharton, and Neiko Creamer. The in-state talent, including the biggest piece of the puzzle in running back Jalen Hurd. And the ability to go national, something Tennessee needs to be able to do to succeed: the class currently includes commitments from four star tight end Daniel Helm from Illinois and four star defensive back D'Andre Payne from Washington DC. The 2014 class is set up to rebuild Tennessee Football perfectly, and Butch Jones has taken full advantage of it.
We also love Jones because he's a smart guy, and he's saying and doing the things fans and former players want to hear. He's had Peyton Manning, Arian Foster, Eric Berry, Jamal Lewis, and Leonard Little around the team already. That's a pretty good start. And right now he's doing the Big Orange Caravan around the state and the south and saying the things everyone wants to hear about the things that will be on this list in the next 100 days: the maxims, the fight song, the color orange and what it means to wear it. Butch Jones cares about the things we want him to care about.
Two other things are also true: some of us will embrace our coach simply because he's our coach; I'm currently typing this in a BUTCH t-shirt I bought two weeks after he was hired, before the 2014 class started rolling in and we went from frustration to expectation. That orange pullover thing he's wearing up there? I've seen it already in Alumni Hall, because he wears it all the time and now so can you! Butch is our guy, and we ride with him until we don't want him to be our guy anymore, and hopefully that day never comes.
The greater truth is wins matter more than anything else in this sport, we haven't played any games yet and aren't projected to win many of them this fall. But Butch has enabled realism while injecting a healthy dose of confidence and optimism, and that's a significant accomplishment. He has us enjoying the present but most excited about the future, and that's exactly what Tennessee Football needs right now, and should be enough to keep him safe and warm until the future becomes the present and we can see what this guy can actually do with all the talent he's bringing in.
We were a little late to the honeymoon because we thought we wanted to marry someone else, someone famous with a local background and land in the area. Instead we got the guy who wanted us all along, who has done just as much if not more than we thought the other guy would, and right now the honeymoon is great with the future even brighter. And our love for Butch Jones grows.
And so we begin our countdown with the new guy, in the hope that years from now his name and the program will be much closer to the top.