Tennessee holds 2018 Pro Day

Football finally came back as Tennessee hosted its Pro Day to show off more than 20 athletes Monday in the Anderson Training Center. Players included running back John Kelly, punter Trevor Daniel, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden and defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie. Each player appeared in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis as well.

The Anderson Training Facility filled with representatives from 31 NFL teams and multiple general managers, including Jon Robinson of the Tennessee Titans. Oakland Raiders General Manager and former Volunteers football alumnus Reggie McKenzie also made an appearance in Knoxville.

Maybe the biggest buzz of the day came from defensive back and returner Evan Berry, who saw some action as a receiver on Monday. Berry infamously remained underutilized on the offensive side of the ball in the Butch Jones era despite his incredible field vision. He logged five touchdowns in just two seasons as a kick/punt returner.

“I was planning on doing both earlier on, but I decided that I wanted to put my all of my focus into one thing and do that to the best of my ability without having to worry about two things at once,” Berry said about switching to a wide receiver for drills.

Gaulden also accumulated praise and enhanced his draft stock since declaring for the draft earlier this year. Scouts report that Gaulden could be picked within the first three rounds of the NFL Draft despite a slower 40-yard dash than expected (4.61) at the Combine. Gaulden said he followed the example of others to improve.

“Guys like Derek Barnett and Cam Sutton showed me that in the offseason you really have to take it to another level as far as film study,” Gaulden said about his dominant play in Tennessee orange. “You have to get on the field and get extra time in, and you also have to step up as a leader and be able to rally your defensive backs and get them on the same page.”

John Kelly became one of the most anticipated players at the Pro Day. He did not run his 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine earlier this month. Kelly clocked 4.65 officially. Still, some people can’t help but compare his play style to former Vols running back Alvin Kamara.

“A lot of teams have compared me to Alvin Kamara just as far as what we can do for an offense. I definitely feel like I was able to develop at Tennessee,” Kelly said. “Now in the NFL, there’s a lot of running backs that have to catch the ball and you have to give an easy target for the quarterback.”

Some scouts say Trevor Daniel could even be picked in the NFL Draft. He averaged 45 yards per punt and has solid size for his position. Daniel logged 23 reps in bench press and ran an impressive sub-five second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

Other Notables:

Kahlil McKenzie made changes Monday morning, as he took some reps at offensive line. McKenzie said he’ll “do whatever they need me to do” to get on an NFL roster.

Some lesser scouted Tennessee players also got their time to shine on Monday, and some possibly put themselves in position to reach an NFL roster.

Ethan Wolf looks forward to the opportunity.

“Each and every one of us is just trying to come out here and put all of our hard work on display,” Wolf said. “Again, you know more later on, but right now you just get all the reps you can. I feel like a lot of guys out here did well.”

Full list of Pro Day participants:

Elliott Berry, Evan Berry, Trevor Daniel, Logan Fetzner, Holden Foster, Rashaan Gaulden, Jeff George, Jakob Johnson, Colton Jumper, John Kelly, Brett Kendrick, Justin Martin, Kahlil McKenzie, Aaron Medley, Emmanuel Moseley, Thomas Orradre, Jashon Robertson, Josh Smith, Coleman Thomas, Kendal Vickers, Shaq Wiggins and Ethan Wolf.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Edited by Lexie Little

Tennessee running back John Kelly declares for the NFL Draft

Tennessee junior running back John Kelly announced Friday afternoon that he will be forgoing his senior season and declaring for the NFL Draft.

Kelly announced his decision on Instagram, saying, “I’d like to take this opportunity to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft and thank so many that were instrumental in getting me to where I am today.”

“From my time in Detroit to my collegiate career at Tennessee, words can’t express my gratitude to everyone that has helped me throughout my journey. To my friends and family, I want to thank you for always being there for me. To my teammates, and coaching staff, I want to thank you for always pushing me to better myself and grow on and off the field. To Vol Nation, I want to thank you for all your support through all of the highs and lows.

“I will always call Neyland Stadium home.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft and thank so many that were instrumental in getting me to where I am today. From my time in Detroit to my collegiate career at Tennessee, words can’t express my gratitude to everyone that has helped me throughout my journey. To my friends and family, I want to thank you for always being there for me. To my teammates, and coaching staff, I want to thank you for always pushing me to better myself and grow on and off the field. To Vol Nation, I want to thank you for all of your support through all of the highs and lows. I will always call Neyland Stadium home. As I take the next step in my career, I will never forget where it all began. Detroit and Tennessee will always be a part of me at every step of this journey and I promise to always represent you well. With everything you’ve given to me, that’s the least I can do for you all. From the bottom of my heart – thank you, all. Go Vols!

A post shared by John M. Kelly ll (@jkshuttlesworth) on

Kelly declares for the NFL Draft following a breakout junior season on Rocky Top. Before the season began, the Detroit native conducted an interview with Marcus Spears of the SEC Network, stating that he viewed himself as the best running back in the SEC and that he couldn’t wait to prove it.

During the 2017 campaign, Kelly ranked second in the SEC and 25th in the country in yards per game from scrimmage with 118.3. He also ranked seventh in the SEC in rushing yards per game (86.8) and eighth in rushing touchdowns with eight.

He finished the season rushing for 778 yards and nine touchdowns on 189 carries in 11 games. Kelly missed the Kentucky game due to suspension.

Against Florida, Kelly had the best game of his career, rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He also caught six passes for 96 yards.

In the opener against Georgia Tech, Kelly had an outstanding game as he rushed for a career-high four rushing touchdowns to go along with 128 rushing yards.

Kelly finishes his career at Tennessee having rushed for 1,573 yards and 15 touchdowns on 327 carries. Through the air, Kelly recorded 43 catches for 350 yards.

As a fan favorite during his time in Knoxville, Kelly says that as he takes the next step in his career, he’ll never forget where it all began.

“Detroit and Tennessee will always be a part of me at every step of the journey and I promise to always represent you well,” Kelly said. “With everything you’ve given to me, that’s the least I can do for you all. From the bottom of my heart – thank you, all.”

“Go Vols!”

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics

Five things Tennessee needs to do to beat Vanderbilt

Photo by Ben Proffitt.

The Tennessee Volunteers (4-7, 0-7 SEC) split the rivalry with Vanderbilt (4-7, 0-7 SEC) during the Butch Jones era. With new interim coach Brady Hoke, the Vols seek revenge after Vanderbilt’s 45-35 win in 2016.

Here are five things that Tennessee needs to do in order to cruise to a win on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

1. Get the run game going

In order for the Volunteers to be efficient on offense, they have to get the running game off to a good start. Tennessee hasn’t registered a running back with more than 100 yards in a game since Ty Chandler did so in the Kentucky game three weeks ago. In fact, John Kelly has the only other 100-yard performances, and only one of the three games were against an SEC opponent. There is a reason why quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has logged just two touchdowns all season, as the Vols pose no threat on the ground.

2. Find consistency on the offensive line

This may sound utterly stupid considering that the Tennessee offensive line is ravaged by injury and only played one non-freshman against LSU. However, if the Vols could find a way to find consistency along the offensive line, the Tennessee offense could be revitalized. However, Hoke made it unclear whether center Jashon Robertson or tackle Drew Richmond would be playing. If the Vols manage to have offensive success with the make-shift line they have, it will be a miracle.

3. Stop the run

The Tennessee rush defense has been awful in 2017, and it shows no signs of improving. Going up against Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb, the Vols will need to see vast improvements before Saturday. Tennessee has allowed over 400 yards twice this season, with the last coming just two weeks ago to the Missouri Tigers. If Tennessee manages to let Webb and the Commodore backfield terrorize them, it could get ugly on Saturday afternoon.

4. Limit Shurmur’s impact

Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur has come a long way since playing against the Vols last season. Shurmur put up over 400 yards passing and two touchdowns in their last meeting with Tennessee. In 2017, Shurmur is just one passing touchdown away from logging the most passing touchdowns in a season in Commodores football history. However, he has thrown for just two touchdowns and seven interceptions in the last two games. The Vols will need this type of performance from Shurmur to stay in the game Saturday.

5. Play motivated

Believe it or not, Tennessee still has things to play for. The Vols have yet to win an SEC game this season and are just one loss away from being the worst Tennessee football team in program history. The Volunteers surely know what they’re up against and like Hoke said, it’s all about the seniors. The Tennessee seniors that invested so much time into the program don’t deserve to go down in the record books as one of the worst teams of all-time. There’s no better way to send them off than a win over a rival in Neyland Stadium.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image of Ben Proffitt

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 

Matchups to watch for as Tennessee travels to Missouri

Photo by Ben Proffitt.

This weekend, Tennessee (4-5, 0-5 SEC) travels to Columbia to take on the (4-5, 1-4 SEC) Missouri Tigers. The Vols are coming off a much needed win over Southern Miss last Saturday, and now they are looking to win their first SEC win of the season.

Here are some of the most important matchups to look for this Saturday as Tennessee takes on Missouri.

Will McBride vs. Missouri Defense

Quarterback Will McBride received his first action last week against a decent Southern Miss football team. His stats were not overly impressive, as he only accumulated one completion during the contest. However, McBride showed poise as he stepped into a leading role after the loss of the previous starter – Jarret Guarantano – who suffered an ankle injury.

McBride has been doing well in practice this week and has been studying the new-defensive style that Missouri has adopted after firing ex-defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross. Missouri head coach Barry Odom has assumed the duties of defensive coordinator, and he likes to have an aggressive front line with a 3-4 defensive scheme. It will be interesting to see how McBride and the Tigers play as they both settle into new roles.

John Kelly vs. Missouri D-Line

Running back John Kelly had a great game last week against Southern Miss with two touchdowns on the game. After a brief hiatus from playing, he returned with a very dominant performance which will hopefully stretch throughout the remainder of the season. Kelly has performed well against most of the defensive lines he has faced this season, but it could be a different story this weekend.

The Missouri D-line is hungry for another SEC win, and they are trying to find new life after parting ways with their previous defensive coordinator. Missouri’s defense as a whole is ranked 13th this season – second-to-last – but their D-line is tied for sixth in the SEC. The D-line is lead by Terry Beckner Jr. and Marcell Frazier who have combined for 9.5 sacks on the season and a combined 15 tackles for loss. It will be interesting to see which side of the ball prevails as we watch these players square up on Saturday.

Missouri’s Receiving Core vs. Tennessee’s Secondary

Mizzou’s receivers have amounted for most of the scoring this year with 31 touchdowns on the season. J’Mon Moore, Emanuel Hall, Albert Okwuegbunam, and Johnathon Johnson are the primary playmakers to look for on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how Rashaan Gaulden and Nigel Warrior defend against this elite receiving core. Missouri is ranked sixth in the SEC in red-zone conversions and second in total passing offense.

If Gaulden and Warrior take Missouri to lightly, it could spell game over for the Volunteers secondary, and ultimately for the defense as a whole. However, if Tennessee can contain these playmakers, then that could make Missouri’s offense one dimensional, which could potentially lead Tennessee to their first SEC win.

Edited by Ben McKee

Photo by Ben Proffitt.

Five things Tennessee needs to do to beat Missouri

Photo by Ben Proffitt.

The Tennessee Volunteers are coming off a homecoming win over Southern Mississippi, snapping a five-game losing skid. The Vols have not won a conference game since beating the Missouri last season. Looking to get back on track in conference play and pick up a win, here are five things Tennessee will have to accomplish to beat the Tigers once again on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Keep Trey Smith planted at left tackle

Photo courtesy of Adrien Terricabras

Trey Smith is an absolute dog. After surrendering seven sacks against Kentucky last Saturday, along with tons of injuries on the offensive line, Vols head coach Butch Jones finally decided to move Smith back to left tackle.

This was the best decision Jones has made all-year long, as this is Smith’s natural position. Smith makes the offensive line better as a whole, as Tennessee only gave up two sacks against Southern Mississippi with a backup quarterback. Smith plays to the whistle every play and has been one of the grittiest players in all of college football this season.

Contain the Missouri passing game

Drew Lock has been carving up defenses the past three weeks. Lock leads the NCAA with 31 passing touchdowns on the year, and has thrown 14 touchdowns through his last three games. In order to have success, the Vols do not necessarily even have to sack Lock.

In a 35-3 loss to Purdue earlier in the year, Lock only completed 12 of 28 passes and threw for a lackluster 133 yards. The odd statistic here is that Lock was never sacked against Purdue.

Purdue contained vertical passes and made sure they weren’t beat deep in the game. Lock threw two interceptions, and as long as Shawn Shamburger, Justin Martin and Emmanuel Moseley can go Saturday, the Vols could have the same success Purdue did.

Let John Kelly loose 

Getting John Kelly the football in several different ways will be important for Tennessee. Kelly is the most explosive player Tennessee has, and instead of running him 20-25 times-per-game, Tennessee needs to get Kelly the ball in various ways.

One way to get Kelly the ball in open space could be to motion him to the slot and match him up with a linebacker. The Tennessee coaching staff could take a page out of Penn State’s book.

Penn State has a Heisman front-runner in Saquon Barkley, and he is in that situation because James Franklin lets his star running back loose.

With Evan Berry out for the year, putting John Kelly on kickoff return wouldn’t be the worst decision for the team if they are looking to make a bowl game. Barkley lines up for kickoff returns, and it proves to NFL teams how durable he is. Especially when he doesn’t even get touched.

Control the ball

The more the Missouri offense gets the ball, the more vertical passes the Volunteers will face. Tigers head coach Barry Odom has dedicated himself to running a run-and-gun offense since week one.

Tennessee needs to move the ball three- or four-yards at a time and make sure it controls tempo in this game. There was a lot of under center as well as pro-style offense versus Southern Mississippi, and the Vols were able to control the tempo and let the defense rest because of this.

Force turnovers

In order to control the tempo and keep Missouri from scoring points, the Vols need to log several interceptions against Lock.

Missouri only has two games all season where they scored under 30 points. Even in losses this year, Lock has performed well. In order to beat the Tigers, Tennessee must force turnovers to shake Drew Lock.

Missouri will throw the ball up and down the field all game long. This falls right into Tennessee’s lap, as they ranked No. 1 against the pass in the SEC and dead last against the run.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports

Edited by Seth Raborn