Vols receive commitment from 4-star defensive tackle

Tennessee’s productive offseason on the recruiting trail continued on Tuesday, as 4-star defensive tackle D’Andre Litaker (Murfreesboro, TN) announced his commitment to the Vols.

Litaker is Tennessee’s eighth in-state recruit of the upcoming class and 13th overall. He joins Nashville’s Brant Lawless as the Vols’ lone defensive lineman snags of the cycle. According to 247sports, Tennessee has thus far constructed the nation’s 7th-best recruiting class, trailing Miami, Ohio State, LSU, Penn State, Texas, and Notre Dame.

What it means for Tennessee

Anytime you can add talent on the defensive line, that’s a plus, especially in the SEC. According to Litaker himself, SEC offenses are facing a nightmare scenario when he’s on the field.

“It’s going to be pretty tough,” Litaker told Rivals.com. “SEC teams are going to have to switch up their offense because of me.”

Litaker obviously doesn’t lack confidence, but a concern going forward that Tennessee has to keep an eye on is his ability to stay healthy. Only eight plays into his junior season, Litaker suffered an ACL injury that forced him to miss the entire season. Assuming he stays healthy for his senior year, Litaker will one day run through the Power T and terrorize offenses. But if knee problems flare up again, the Vols should probably move in a different direction.

Tennessee hires Tony Vitello to be next baseball coach

Tennessee has agreed to terms with Tony Vitello to be the Volunteers’ new head baseball coach.

“We are thrilled to bring Coach Vitello’s passion for baseball, relationship building and student-athlete development into the Tennessee athletics family,” Tennessee athletic director John Currie said in statement released by the athletic department on Wednesday. “Proven experience evaluating and recruiting at the highest level and in the grind of the SEC was an absolute prerequisite.”

Vitello comes to Tennessee following four seasons (2013-17) as an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator with Arkansas. As a native of St. Louis, Vitello was a three-year letterwinner at Missouri from 2000-12, earning Academic All-Big 12 Conference honors as a senior and was named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll twice.

“This is as good of an opportunity as there is in the country,” Vitello said. “I consider myself incredibly blessed to be a part of the athletic department at the University of Tennessee. It’s the ultimate combination of an elite conference, a state school with great in-state players, a phenomenal city and outstanding tradition that exists not just with baseball, but across all sports.

Following his playing days with the Tigers, Vitello served as Missouri’s assistant coach/recruiting coordinator from 2003-10 before holding the same position with TCU from 2010-13.

Throughout Vitello’s 14-year career, he’s developed quite the reputation as an ace recruiter. Vitello is responsible for assembling eight top-15 recruiting classes. In 2014, he helped Arkansas reel in the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

On November 16th, D1baseball.com ranked Vitello as the No. 2 recruiting coordinator in the country and the best in the SEC.

Along with being an excellent recruiter, Vitello has a track record of excelling in player development. He’s responsible for recruiting and developing six first-round MLB draft picks. The likes of four-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, four-time All-Star Ian Kinsler, first-round draft pick Andrew Benintendi, All-Star Aaron Crow, Brandon Finnegan and Kyle Gibson have all been developed by Vitello.

“Coach Vitello checks all the boxes,” Currie said.

Tennessee and Vitello have agreed to a five-year contract worth $493,000 annually. The Vols’ will hold a press conference on Friday to introduce the new ball coach.

Opinion: Top five artists to look for at CMA Fest

If you know me, you probably know that the Country Music Association (CMA) Festival is one of my favorite times of year.

While all of the artists playing this year are talented, here are my top five artists to look for this year.

Disclaimer: The list is not in any particular order.

Restless Road

If you watched “X Factor USA” before it was cancelled, then you have probably heard of them. This band is an all-male country trio created by Simon Cowell in the third season of the show.

The original trio consisted of Zach Beeken, Colton Pack and Andrew Scholz; but now, Beeken is the only original member left. Jared Keim and Garrett Nichols have since taken Pack and Scholz’s places.

This trio can sing anything from a cover of Maren Morris to Zayn Malik and it still sounds great. Between their individual vocals and harmonies, I strongly believe Restless Road will make it big in the next few years.

You can see them live in-person on Friday, June 9 at the Gildan Broadway Stage at Hard Rock Café at 10:45 a.m.

 

Levon

This country trio is based out of Nashville, Tennessee and consists of Michael David Hall, Jake Singleton and Ryan Holladay. This isn’t typical pop country we hear on the radio, and I’m thankful for that. These guys are genuinely passionate about their music and their harmonies are flawless.

Whether you see them live at CMA Fest this year or not, please just take a moment and listen. I promise you won’t be disappointed, and you can thank me later.

You can see them perform on the Gildan Broadway Stage at Hard Rock Café on Thursday, June 8 at 11:25 a.m. or on Sunday, June 11 at the Radio Disney Country stage at 10 a.m.

 

 

Trent Harmon

If you caught the last season of American Idol, then this name sounds familiar. Harmon is an East Mississippi native and holds the reigning title of American Idol. Between his humble personality, southern charm and incredible vocals, Harmon is unstoppable.

His new single “There’s A Girl” has been on repeat for me for the past few days.

You can see him perform on Sunday, June 11 at the Chevrolet Park Stage at 11:10 a.m.

 

Jon Pardi

Country music fans: this should not be a surprise that he made my list. Pardi’s music is incredibly catchy and well-written. He’s just what country music needs right now. There have been plenty of country albums where I only like one or two songs, but I’m in love with everything Pardi sings.

“Head Over Boots” and “Dirt On My Boots” are always my go-to songs when I’m driving. He absolutely deserves to be performing in Nissan Stadium.

You can see him perform on Thursday, June 8 at the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage at 11:15 a.m.

 

Muscadine Bloodline

Mobile, Alabama natives, Gary Stanton and Charlie Muncaster came together in 2016 to form Muscadine Bloodline. One of my favorite aspects of country music is that it tells a story and Muscadine Bloodline does this perfectly in every song. I haven’t found one of their songs that I don’t like.

Both Stanton and Muncaster have powerful vocals and harmonize well, which only adds to their authenticity. If you don’t have a chance to see them perform during CMA Fest, please at least give them a listen.

You can see them perform on Saturday, June 10 at the Chevrolet Park Stage at 10:30 a.m.

 

Featured Image by Ronnie Flippo

Edited by Taylor Owens