Neyland Stadium Jumbotron finished

After months of question and confusion, the jumbotron atop Neyland Stadium finally received an update. Tennessee added former team captain Al Wilson, hall of fame head coach Robert Neyland and Jason Witten as the three new pictures displayed on the jumbotron.

Before the update, Butch Jones, General Neyland and Reggie White loomed over the Tennessee River. Fans expressed outrage and confusion after Jones continued to stay on the jumbotron despite being fired in November 2017. Nearly four months later, crews removed the former coach’s image.

Many fans were content with leaving Neyland and White on the jumbotron, but the university decided to change all three. While Neyland remains on the jumbotron, he has a new picture. Neyland was previously shown in a Volunteers baseball jersey but is now shown in his iconic kneeling position, much like the one his statue portrays in the concourse of the stadium.

Wilson replaced Jones on March 5. The former linebacker Wilson was captain of the 1998 National Championship team and went on to play eight years in the NFL after his tenure from 1995-98 as a Vol.

Jason Witten replaces Reggie White. Witten played for the Vols from 2000-2003 and left after his junior season for the NFL. Witten played all 15 seasons of his pro career with the Dallas Cowboys. The Elizabethton native left Tennessee with the third-most receptions by a tight end and fourth-most receiving yards by a tight end in program history.

With the new trio of Wilson, Neyland and Witten ready to go for the beginning of the Pruitt era, Vols fans look forward to the coming season. Though pictures on a jumbotron seem like little to celebrate, Tennessee fans will take any good news after a disastrous 2017 season. If this change is any indication about the Volunteers program moving forward, great things are set to come.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Mark Nagi 

Neyland Stadium jumbotron receives upgrades

After months of question and confusion, the jumbotron atop Neyland Stadium finally received an update. Tennessee added former team captain Al Wilson, hall of fame head coach Robert Neyland and Jason Witten to the jumbotron.

Before the update, Butch Jones, General Neyland and Reggie White loomed over the Tennessee River. Fans expressed outrage and confusion after the terminated Jones remained on the jumbotron. Nearly four months later, crews removed the former coach’s image.

Many fans approved of Neyland and White on the jumbotron. However, the university decided to change all three photos. While Neyland remains on the jumbotron, he receives recognition in a new picture. The previous photo showed Neyland in a Volunteers baseball jersey. Now, he is shown in his iconic kneeling position, much like the one his statue portrays in the stadium concourse.

Wilson replaced Jones on March 5. The former linebacker Wilson captained the 1998 National Championship team and went on to play eight years in the NFL after his tenure from 1995-98 as a Vol.

Jason Witten replaces Reggie White. Witten played for the Vols from 2000-2003 and left after his junior season for the NFL. Witten played all 15 seasons of his pro career with the Dallas Cowboys. The Elizabethton native left Tennessee with the third-most receptions by a tight end and fourth-most receiving yards by a tight end in program history.

With the new trio of Wilson, Neyland and Witten ready to go for the beginning of the Pruitt era, Vols fans look forward to the coming season. Though pictures on a jumbotron seem like little to celebrate, Tennessee fans will take any upgrades after a disastrous 2017 season.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Mark Nagi 

Former Vol Alvin Kamara named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Former Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara beat out Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson for the AP Rookie of the Year Award on Saturday. Kamara was the fifth running back taken in the 2017 draft by the New Orleans Saints and is just the second Tennessee player ever to win the award.

Kamara racked up 14 total touchdowns including two scores in the postseason. He led all running backs in the NFL with 826 receiving yards. He also led all running backs with over six yards per carry. Kamara fell behind only Pittsburgh Steeler Le’Veon Bell in most receptions by a running back.

Fans voted Kamara the Pepsi Rookie of the Year in his first Pro Bowl appearance last week where he stood beside his teammate and fellow running back Mark Ingram. Ingram and Kamara were the first pair of running backs to log over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season.

“I wish he was here because he’s a big reason why I’m standing right here and ya’ll are interviewing me as the Offensive Rookie of the Year,” Kamara said of Ingram. “Great teammate, great friend, a brother to me, great mentor.”

Ingram set career-highs with the help of Kamara, as he put up over 1,100 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in the 2017 season. They are also the first pair of running backs from the same team to be nominated to the Pro Bowl in over 40 years.

New Orleans swept the Rookie of the Year awards, as first-round cornerback Marshon Lattimore won Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Kamara is the first player to tally five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers. He led all rookies with 14 touchdowns and came in second with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage.

“It would be awesome (if he wins),” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “It would be so well deserved. … Listen, he’s certainly deserving. I’m just excited about the future with him.”

Kamara was famously underutilized in his times at Tennessee under former head coach Butch Jones. He recorded just over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in his career in Knoxville. Still, Kamara averaged over six yards per carry and registered 23 touchdowns in his limited playing time.

“I’m not going to say too much. Thank you, Mom,” said Kamara on Saturday. “She told me not to say anything other than ‘Thank you’ because she thinks she looks ugly when she cries.”

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Jason Behnken

Was hiring Butch Jones worth it?

Tennessee athletic director John Currie announced on Nov. 12 that head football coach Butch Jones was fired following a demoralizing 50-17 blowout loss to Missouri. Jones finished his stint in Knoxville with a 34-27 record, three bowl wins and a mediocre 14-24 record in SEC play. Although he did win a handful of big games at Tennessee, he was never fully able to return the Volunteers to their glory days. However, regardless of his average record, he brought Tennessee football back to prominence from the dark times of Derek Dooley.

Below is Currie’s press conference announcing Jones’ termination:

While Jones clearly brought Tennessee back to prominence, it is still up for debate whether he was a good hire. If the point of hiring Jones was to bring Tennessee football back to the spotlight, then mission accomplished. However, if the point of hiring him was to contend for National Championships, he was clearly not the man for the job. For the price that Tennessee was able to secure Jones for, it might have been worth it. He was making roughly four million dollars per-year, which ranked seventh in the SEC.

Jones was being paid middle-of-the-road money to bring in incredible amounts of revenue each year, including the second highest revenue in college football last year. Looking at it from an administration standpoint, the yield on what Jones was being payed versus the money he brought in was insane.

Regardless of the revenue brought in, Jones had one of the worst winning percentages in Volunteer football history. Jones has the third worst winning percentage in Tennessee history out of 14 possible coaches. He did manage to stabilize the program for the first time since the firing of former head coach Phillip Fulmer, but he never quite exceeded expectations. There were bright spots, such as the Hail Mary win over Georgia to (nearly) solidify the SEC East. However, Jones also had tons of dark times in his tenure, such as losing to South Carolina coming off a bye week for two straight years.

No matter what, it can’t be denied that Jones brought stability to a program that was clearly struggling, but the Vols football program hasn’t achieved great heights through “stability”. At some point it became clear that Jones was not capable of producing championship-caliber seasons, and that time came in the 2016. Tennessee had themselves all but booked for a date with Alabama in the SEC Championship, but let it slip away.

After beating both Florida and Georgia, it was clear that the Vols were the frontrunners for winning the SEC East. However, a loss to South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the final game of the season sealed Tennessee’s fate. Jones and the Volunteers had a chance to make a trip to Atlanta for the first time since 2007 but managed to come up short. The 2016 season was the start of the spiral of Jones and the Tennessee football program.

Fast forward to 2017 and the Volunteers are dead last in the SEC and have yet to win a conference game in over a year. I commend Jones for returning Tennessee football to prominence and stabilizing the program, but it was time for his era on Rocky Top to end.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports 

Edited by Ben McKee

Video and Recap: Brady Hoke and players speak to the media

Tennessee Volunteers head coach Brady Hoke addressed the media in his second press conference since being named an interim. Hoke starting by commenting that the attitude of the players was “very good” following the Vols 50-17 loss to Missouri and the firing of Butch Jones.

“I think yesterday was a very good day. I told you on Monday that we would tweak a couple of things that fit more of my style,” said Hoke. He says the tweaks came in the style of practicing that he likes, and more specifically the amount of physicality. Hoke stated that he would not give a full injury report until the end of this week. However, he did note that the offensive line was “trending” towards being healthy.

Hoke was hesitant to call the quarterback situation a competition between Will McBride and Jarrett Guarantano. “Its got to be competitive. So we’ll let this thing play out, we’ve only had one practice,” said Hoke. Offensive lineman Trey Smith received high praise from Hoke following his switch from guard to tackle, “He’s kind of a special guy in a lot of ways, he handled it well”.

Hoke noted that offensive coordinator Larry Scott wanted to be on the sideline for Saturday’s contest with LSU. Also, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop will continue to have full reign over the defense.

Watch Hoke’s full press conference below:

Offensive lineman Jason Robertson and running back John Kelly noted the difference between Jones and Hoke at head coach. Also, Kelly revisited his high school days when Hoke was recruiting him at Michigan, and Robertson noted something unusual about Hoke’s practicing technique.

Watch the full interviews of Robertson and Kelly below:

Featured image courtesy of Seth Raborn

Edited by Ben McKee 

No. 20 LSU vs. Tennessee preview

The Tennessee Volunteers (4-6, 0-6 SEC) will host Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers just six days after firing head coach Butch Jones. Defensive line coach Brady Hoke will take over as interim coach, he is 78-70 in his 12-year career as a head coach. The Vols have to win their final two contests against the Tigers and Vanderbilt to secure a bowl bid. Meanwhile, Orgeron and LSU seek its fifth straight win over Tennessee.

The Tigers are fresh off a 33-10 beatdown of the Arkansas Razorbacks last weekend. Running back Derrius Guice led the LSU offense with 147 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Guice tallied his fourth 100-yard rushing game, and quarterback Danny Etling complemented the impressive Tigers run game. Etling completed just 11 passes for over 200 yards and two touchdowns against the Razorbacks. This was the most passing yards Etling has registered since week two against Chattanooga.

Wide receiver D.J. Chark is the clear No. 1 target for Etling, as he has 500 more receiving yards than the next best receiver on the roster. Chark tallied his fourth 100-yard receiving game in 2017 for two touchdowns against Arkansas. The LSU offensive line has been a bit of a rollercoaster this season, but they rebounded and looked solid against the Razorbacks after giving up six sacks to Alabama two weeks ago.

LSU’s defense has looked great over the past two weeks, giving up just 34 combined points to Alabama and Arkansas. The Tigers’ front seven is stacked with depth and talent, as linebackers Donnie Alexander and Devin White combined for 26 tackles in last week’s game. Also, the Tigers secondary has only given up over 200 yards passing in one game this whole season.

Tennessee is coming off one of the most demoralizing losses in program history and the firing of head coach Butch Jones. Last week, the Vols were shredded by Missouri 50-17 in Columbia, resulting in the termination of Jones. The Vols’ offensive woes continued against an improved Tigers front seven. True freshman quarterback Will McBride started, as Jarrett Guarantano was out with an ankle injury. McBride started strong, but finished with just 137 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

The Tennessee running game never got going as McBride was the leading rusher with the Vols. Running backs John Kelly and Ty Chandler combined for just 60 yards rushing. The Vols offensive line continued to struggle due to players being out with an injury, as they gave up five sacks and nine tackles-for-loss. Tight end Ethan Wolf and receiver Brandon Johnson combined for a team-high three catches and 45 yards receiving a piece.

Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and the Volunteers defense once again fell victim to the offense’s inefficiency. Tennessee’s defense gave up over 400 yards rushing and four passing touchdowns from Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. However, look for a new and refreshed Volunteers team following the firing of Jones.

If Tennessee struggled with the Missouri run game, they will surely have a hard time against Guice and Orgeron’s run-heavy scheme. However, LSU is extremely one-dimensional and could easily be defeated if the Vols manage to contain their ground game.

Prediction

The Tennessee offense will be much more efficient now that Jones is not controlling it, but the LSU defense will clamp down on them. The Vols recent woes stopping the run make it nearly impossible for them to stop the impressive Tigers rush offense. LSU will win their fifth straight game over Tennessee 23-14 in Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports

Edited by Ben McKee