Takeaways from No. 18 Tennessee’s loss to Georgia

No. 18 Tennessee (19-7, 9-5 SEC) experienced another upset Saturday night in a game against Georgia (15-11, 6-8). The Vols never held a sturdy lead at any point. Here are the takeaways from Tennessee’s 73-62 loss in Stegeman Coliseum.

Pretenders or contenders?

National and local media hyped up the Vols in recent weeks.

Some claimed the Vols could land a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, but Tennessee hasn’t been performing well since the hype began.

After dropping a road game to Alabama, the Vols followed it up with a terrible loss in front of a sold out Georgia crowd. If Tennessee wants to be a contender and not a pretender, it will have to learn to win big conference road games.

Tennessee started the season hot, winning neutral-site games over Purdue and NC State, but if this team wants to be a top-3 seed, it will have to learn how to pull out rivalry wins.

Young Vols will learn to put pressure on opponents

Down two points with under five minutes to go in the second half, coach Rick Barnes was unimpressed with his team’s decision making.

The Vols elected to take a three-pointer instead of putting pressure on the Bulldogs.

“Some of those 3’s at the end of the game, we still have time,” Barnes said. “It’s just being selfish and not understanding the game. When a team misses the front end of a one-and-one … just go down and get a point back, opposed to trying to heave up a desperation shot.”

Although Barnes was upset with his young team, he praised the Bulldog’s effort and the way they played.

“Gotta give them credit, last five minutes of the game they beat us,” Barnes said. “Any way you wanna beat somebody, they beat us.”

This team needs a star, and Barnes has his pick

Grant Williams consistently anchors inside for this Tennessee squad, and Barnes holds the bar high for his sophomore forward.

“We’re gonna see if he’s the player he wants to be. This is the time of the year where key guys step up and they play,” Barnes said. “He wasn’t very good with his defensive coverage. He didn’t execute that the way we wanted him to.”

Williams posted only five points in 25 minutes on the night for Tennessee. The Bulldogs held Williams to 1-of-8 shooting and only four rebounds.

Kyle Alexander, on the other hand, anchored Tennessee on the night, posting his second career double-double with 10 points and 13 boards.

If Tennessee wants to make a deep run, it will need both Kyle Alexander and Grant Williams to show up in the same night.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee hires Jeremy Pruitt to be Vols 26th head football coach

Tennessee has named Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt the Vols 26th head football coach. University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport and Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer will hold a press conference Thursday evening at 6:05 p.m. ET to introduce Pruitt.

“I know Coach Pruitt will hit the ground running and go to work restoring our program to a championship level,” Fulmer stated in a press release from the University on Thursday morning.

“Six days ago, I mentioned several attributes that I sought to find in the next leader of our football program, and Coach Pruitt meets all criteria.”

Pruitt has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the country over the last several years, building a 128-31 record as a two-time Broyles Award Finalist and assistant coach.

“I’m certain he appreciates the unique opportunity to lead a program of Tennessee’s caliber,” Fulmer said. “He’s driven to win at the highest level. He will honor our university’s values, operate with integrity and be a role model for our student-athletes.”

This year, Pruitt has coached Alabama’s defense to the No. 2 overall defense in the country after guiding the Crimson Tide to the No. 1 defense last season. From 2014-15, Pruitt coordinated the No. 7 and No. 17 overall defense in the country while at Georgia. In 2013, the Rainsville, Alabama native helped guide Florida State to a national championship behind the country’s third-ranked defense.

Pruitt has been a part of three other championships as well, helping guide Alabama to national championships (2009, 2011, 2012) as an assistant from 2007 to 2012 before leaving to take over as defensive coordinator at Florida State.

Before his coaching career began, Pruitt played college football as a defensive back at Middle Tennessee State before finishing his playing career at Alabama.

From 2000 to 2006, Pruitt was a highly respected defensive coordinator throughout the state of Alabama at Plainview, Fort Payne and Hoover High School. In 2007, he would become a defensive assistant under Nick Saban. Pruitt would serve as an assistant under Saban until 2009 before heading to Tallahassee in 2013 to serve as the Seminoles defensive coordinator.

While at Florida State, his defense was first in the nation in scoring, allowing just 10.7 points per game. The Seminoles defense also led the nation in interceptions with 26, while they allowed the third fewest yards per game (248.2). Pruitt was a 2013 finalist for the Broyles Award.

Following just one year as Florida State’s defensive coordinator, Pruitt traveled up north to Athens, Georgia to serve as the Bulldogs defensive coordinator for two years. In 2014, Georgia finish top 20 nationally in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense. While also serving as the secondary coach, Pruitt helped guide Georgia’s defense to the nation’s No. 1 pass defense in 2015.

The Alabama native returned to Alabama for his second stint in Tuscaloosa following Kirby Smart’s departure to Georgia. As defensive coordinator, Pruitt helped lead Alabama to the College Football Playoffs in both 2016 and 2017 as his defenses were the best in the nation in scoring defense.

Throughout his impressive time as an assistant coach, Pruitt has coached 34 NFL draft picks. Reuben Foster, Jonathan Allen and Jalen Ramsey are just a few of the players he has helped guide to the NFL. Pruitt has also coached 11 first-team All-Americans.

Pruitt replaces Butch Jones as the head coach of the Vols after Jones was fired on Nov. 12. In five years as Tennessee’s head coach, Jones was 34-27 and 14-24 in conference play.

The hiring of Pruitt wraps up a 25-day coaching search that brought national embarrassment following the Greg Schiano fiasco. During the search, John Currie was fired as director of athletics after just eight months on the job. Fulmer, Tennessee’s Hall of Fame football coach, took over as athletic director last Friday following the termination of Currie.

This evening’s press conference to introduce Pruitt will be held in the Peyton Manning locker room of Neyland Stadium.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Brad Matthews

SEC games to watch in week five

Photo by: ikwildrpepper

No. 11 Tennessee at No. 25 Georgia

This might be the biggest SEC game this week, potentially deciding who goes to the SEC Championship from the East.

The Vols come into this game 4-0 on the year, after just ending the streak against rival Florida. Tennessee has shown how powerful both their offense and defense can be, however, they have yet to string a full game together this season. The Georgia Bulldogs are coming off of a devastating 45-14 beat down at the hands of the Ole Miss Rebels, and are looking for revenge after the Vols comeback win last season. Both teams are pretty banged up as Tennessee will go without star cornerback Cam Sutton and linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr., while the Bulldogs have dynamic running back Nick Chubb listed as questionable.

There’s no doubt the Vols have more momentum going into Athens, but Georgia is playing for revenge and to keep their SEC Championship hopes alive.

Missouri at LSU

This matchup is sure to be interesting. LSU just recently fired their longtime head coach Les Miles, as well as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, after an 18-13 loss to unranked Auburn. Missouri on the other hand, is coming off a school record, 79-0 beat down against Delaware State.

Normally, LSU would be heavily favored in this matchup. But with the current state of affairs at LSU, and Missouri’s surprising offensive production, it could be interesting. LSU still has the obvious talents of running back Leonard Fournette and their defense, but their success depends on the offense’s ability to respond to adversity and get the run game going.

Missouri has had a solid defense this year, and the offense has been powerful under quarterback Drew Lock. The Tigers will need a running game against the stout LSU defense to allow their impressive pass offense to open up. This is the most interesting game in the SEC this week.

Memphis at No. 16 Ole Miss

Ole Miss is coming off an impressive 45-14 win against Georgia and have improved to 2-2 on the year, while the Memphis Tigers just beat Bowling Green State 77-3.

The Ole Miss defense had a strong performance last week, forcing two turnovers and holding freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to just 137 yards through the air. The Rebel offense is led by the formidable Chad Kelly, who has been on fire lately.

Memphis, in its first year under new head coach Mike Norvell, has not disappointed thus far. While the Tigers have not exactly had the toughest first three games, they have dominated in each of them. Led by Tennessee transfer Riley Ferguson, Memphis has hung 155 points on their first three opponents, while only giving up 27. While Ole Miss looked solid last week, the Memphis Tigers and their high-powered offense are sure to bring a fight to Oxford.

No. 23 Florida at Vanderbilt

The Florida Gators are entering this game after a disappointing 38-28 collapse against Tennessee last week, their first loss to the Vols in over a decade. Now 2-2 on the season, Vanderbilt is coming off a close 31-30 overtime win against Western Kentucky.

The Gators will once again be led by backup quarterback Austin Appleby, who looked good against Tennessee, until the Vols’ defense took control in the second half. The Florida defense was also left reeling after the last game, but is sure to be ready for revenge and to reinstate itself as the best defense in the SEC. Vandy has clearly struggled in the first four games of the season, but on the bright side, the Commodores have had a fierce run game behind Ralph Webb and look to continue that against the Gators. If this Florida team comes into the game looking as it did in the second half against Tennessee, and the Commodores manage to get a passing game going, this could be a competitive game.

Edited by Dalton King 

Featured image by ikwildrpepper 

Predicting the SEC’s top performers in week four

Leonard Fournette, LSU RB

Junior running back Leonard Fournette looks to build on his strong performance last week against Mississippi State (147 yards and two touchdowns). This Saturday, he will be facing the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. After facing three straight spread offenses, the Auburn’s defense will need to control the line of scrimmage versus LSU’s pro-style offense.

You may remember last year, when Fournette dismantled Auburn from start to finish, rushing for a then career-high 228 yards. He broke the first play from scrimmage for 71 yards and scored on the next play, on his way to racking up three touchdowns in the game. If he plays anywhere near that well on Saturday, LSU should be victorious.

Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk, Texas A&M WRs

Texas A&M’s two leading receivers, senior Josh Reynolds and sophomore Christian Kirk, should both provide big play threats for quarterback Trevor Knight against Arkansas. The Razorback secondary has struggled so far this season, giving up an average of 224 yards a game through the air. The unit gave up almost 400 yards alone to Kenny Hill and TCU.

Both Reynolds and Kirk have caught passes of over 50 yards through the first three games. While Reynolds is averaging 17.6 yards per catch, Kirk is averaging 10.3 and is tied for 26th in the country with 18 receptions on the year. Look for Trevor Knight to get both of his receivers involved early and often.

Derek Barnett, Tennessee DE

Last week, head coach Butch Jones said junior defensive end Derek Barnett played “one of the best games in his career” versus Ohio. Barnett finished the day with five tackles, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries. This week, he will be the facing the Florida Gators and graduate transfer Austin Appleby. The Gators’ quarterback situation plays right into his strengths as a pass rusher. Appleby is a pocket passer and not particularly mobile while trying to escape pressure.

Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop can utilize Barnett in several different ways. A versatile player like Barnett can be lined up either on the right or left side of the ball. This week against the Florida Gators, he could be lining up for a mismatch against true freshman right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Barnett needs to dominate Saturday in order to give the Vols their best chance to win.

FRESHMAN BONUS: Jacob Eason, Georgia QB

Ole Miss just can’t seem to avoid freshman quarterbacks. First, it was Deondre Francois at Florida State in the opener. Then, it was Jalen Hurts for Alabama last week. Now, they must face potentially the most talented of the trio when they host Georgia and Jacob Eason.

The reigning CBS National Freshman of the Week is fresh off his comeback win over Missouri, where he threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns. Now, he must go into hostile Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and face an Ole Miss defense looking to avenge their performance from last week and get their first win against a ranked opponent.

Edited by Dalton King 

Featured image by Sumner Gilliam 

Tennessee turns corner as Dobbs wills Vols to upset Georgia

Photo by Jordan Dajani

[title_box title=”Tennessee turns corner as Dobbs wills Vols to upset Georgia”]

Tennessee turned a corner Saturday night, upsetting the No. 19 ranked Georgia Bulldogs in Knoxville, 38-31.

Two years ago, Tennessee debuted their new “Smokey Grey” uniforms against a top ten Georgia team. The Vols weren’t expected to win that game, but they put up a surprising fight and lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 34-31. Head coach Butch Jones decided to try it again. The new Nike grey uniforms were broken out to possibly give his team a spark, hoping that it could ignite the program, which was on a two-game SEC losing streak.

It worked. The stage seemed set for Tennessee to get a season-defining win even before the opening kickoff. Dozens of former players including Jamal Lewis, Ja’Wuan James and Cordarrelle Patterson littered the sideline, offering encouragement to the players as they warmed up.

“All of our former players coming back for this game really set the mood,” said Jones. “The VFL’s really came out and supported this football team and it meant a lot to our players.”

A scary scene took place on the first play from scrimmage, when Georgia’s star running back Nick Chubb went down awkwardly, hurting his left leg. He would not return to action.

Most of the first half did not go according to plan for the Vols. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw an interception on Tennessee’s third play of the game after Jauan Jennings could not hold on to a pass. Later, running back Jalen Hurd coughed up the football on Georgia’s four-yard line and Georgia’s Leonard Floyd returned it all the way back for a 96-yard touchdown.

Photo by Jordan Dajani
Photo by Jordan Dajani

On the first play of the second quarter, Greyson Lambert found receiver Malcolm Mitchell deep for a 28-yard touchdown and ten minutes later, Reggie Davis returned a punt 70 yards to increase the lead to 21 points.

The wheels seemed to be falling off the wagon once again for Tennessee, but Dobbs orchestrated a drive that included two fourth down conversions and ended with a 39-yard touchdown reception by Josh Smith.

Tennessee then got a big break, as Jakob Johnson forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by the Vols. Using the short field, Dobbs was able to put together another quick touchdown drive to go into the halftime break only down a touchdown.

Tennessee scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter, which made it 28 unanswered points for the Vols and helped them secure their first lead, 31-24. On the first play of the fourth quarter though, Georgia struck through the air again, as Lambert found Davis for a 48-yard touchdown.

Dobbs once again, was able to answer with a five-yard rushing touchdown to go up a touchdown with five minutes left in the game. Georgia coordinated an impressive drive on their next possession, but it was ended when Davis failed to reel in a wide open catch that would have given Georgia a touchdown.

“Those are the breaks of football though, and we have had a lot go against us this year,” said Jones reflecting on the lucky break. “But like I always say, the harder you work, the more likely those bounces will go your way.”

Georgia got another chance to tie the game, but was put in a challenging spot after punter Trevor Daniel pinned Georgia on their own one-yard line. While Georgia came close, Tennessee was able to hold their one-score lead and obtain their first conference win of the season as fifth-year senior Brian Randolph came up with a sterling pass deflection to close it out.

Dobbs had quite a day on the ground and through the air. He rushed 18 times for 118 yards and threw for 312 yards with 25 completions on 42 attempts, accounting for five total touchdowns.

“Dobbs is the CEO of our team,” said running back Alvin Kamara. “Throughout the game, he stayed level-headed and got us the win.”

“Josh willed our offense to score points,” added Butch Jones. Dobbs’ leadership truly propelled Tennessee to victory.

Josh Malone was the lead receiver for the Vols, with five receptions for 60 yards. Kamara also had an impact on the passing game, recording five receptions for 31 yards and two touchdowns.

Georgia didn’t miss a beat in the running game after losing Chubb on the first drive. Sony Michel rushed 22 times for 145 yards and was dominant most of the game. Quarterback Greyson Lambert also played well, going 15-of-32 for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

Reggie Davis had a significant impact for the Bulldogs, recording three receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown, as well as a punt return touchdown. Malcolm Mitchell pulled in five receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Saturday night, Tennessee finally got the tough win it had been biding time for. Jones said it best. “Our hard work has finally been validated. Everyone was poised, everyone was confident and everyone was encouraging.”

“We grew up a little tonight.”

Featured image by Jordan Dajani

Edited by Cody McClure