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!

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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

Jeremy Pruitt’s unusual path to Tennessee

Tennessee finally found its man to take over the football program after an exhausting search, and he goes by the name of Jeremy Pruitt. The Alabama defensive coordinator was introduced as the 26th head coach of Tennessee football by Chancellor Beverly Davenport and Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer on Thursday afternoon.

“I’m honored and humbled to be recognized as the head football coach at the University of Tennessee,” said Pruitt during his introductory press conference. “There was a time and place when this university was feared among SEC teams. My goal as the head football coach at Tennessee is to get us back to that point.”

This may be Pruitt’s first head coaching job, but he is no stranger to success. In fact, he has registered four national championships in his time as a defense coordinator at the college level.

Pruitt began his coaching career in 1997 as a grad assistant for Alabama, followed by nine years of coaching high school football. When Nick Saban was hired as head coach at Alabama in 2007, Pruitt followed and worked his way up the chain to coaching the defensive backs. In 2013, Pruitt took a job as the defensive coordinator of Florida State, and then logged two seasons at Georgia as defensive coordinator before returning to Alabama in 2016.

“I’ve learned many things from Coach Saban. I started from ground zero his first year at Alabama, and I’ve worked for him in three different capacities,” Pruitt said. “I’ve learned as much from my dad as I have from any of them.”

Pruitt said his interest in coaching football occurred at the age of three, when he grew up around his father, who is a high school football coach in his hometown. “My dad was dragging me around to the fieldhouse all the time so I went around with him,” said Pruitt. He followed his father’s footsteps by coaching football at one of the most decorated high school programs in the country.

Serving as a defensive coordinator under head coach Rush Propst from 2004-06 at Hoover High School, Pruitt notched two state championships. Pruitt made frequent appearances on the MTV show – Two-A-Days – as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator.

“I’m very thankful that I have an opportunity to stand here today,” Pruitt said. “For me being a high school football coach, I think this should inspire high school coaches across the country. If you do a good job and you keep working, you have an opportunity to move up.”

Things have moved quite quickly for Pruitt, especially since he is just 13 years removed from being a third-grade teacher in Fort Payne, AL. Pruitt was a kindergarten teacher to third grade physical education teacher for three years at an elementary school.

“I met Jeremy before today, and he told me that he started his career in a kindergarten to third-grade classroom, and that really clinched it for me,” said Davenport. “I knew he was a teacher, and I knew that at the heart of any great teacher was the concern for our students’ success, and I so appreciate that.”

Pruitt has quickly moved up in the chain of command in the sport of football, and it all started at the fieldhouse with his father as a child in Alabama. Things have sped by for Pruitt, from being a third-grade teacher just over a decade ago, to the head coach of Tennessee football in 2017.

“In this business if you stop, everybody is going to go right by you,” said Pruitt.

Edited by Ben McKee

Photo courtesy of Brad Matthews

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

Vols Hall of Fame coach Phillip Fulmer named Athletic Director

Tennessee has named Hall of Fame head coach Phillip Fulmer director of athletics, replacing John Currie, who was fired on Friday morning. Fulmer will be moving to the position after serving as special advisor to University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro since June of this year.

“Our football program has the history, the facilities, the tradition and the resources to play with anyone, any time, and that is what we’re going to do again,” Fulmer said during Friday’s press conference on campus. “This is an important time in our athletic history. We all agree on the objective. We all agree on the urgency of achieving our objective. It’s time that we all pull together to be part of the solution.”

In what University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport described as a decision that was in the best interest of the University, she asked Fulmer to lead the athletic department for the foreseeable future following Currie’s eight-month tenure.

“This morning, I decided to make a change in leadership in our athletics department,” Davenport said. “John Currie has been suspended, and Phillip Fulmer has agreed to step in as our athletic director.”

Following the decision, Fulmer will take full reins of the search for Tennessee’s next head football coach.

Fulmer is a Tennessee legend, serving as head football coach for 17-years and guiding the Vols to a National Championship in 1998. Over the course of his 17-years as coach, Fulmer was 152-52, which marks the most successful era in program history.

In 2008, Fulmer was fired as head coach of the Vols, but at the time, no active coach with at least a decade of experience in Division I football had a better winning percentage (.744).

Before his time as head coach, the Winchester, Tennessee native was an All-SEC offensive guard for the Vols from 1969-1971. Fulmer played under Doug Dickey and helped lead Tennessee to a 30-5 record during his playing career.

Following his playing career, Fulmer served as an assistant coach to the Vols for 13 years beginning in 1980. Fulmer served in various roles such as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach before taking over as head coach in 1992.

Fulmer acknowledged on Friday that he has seen and been a part of Tennessee’s athletic program when it’s been at its best. His experiences are something that he plans on using to his advantage as he begins the work to bring Tennessee football back.

“I have seen what honest communication, trust and hard work achieve,” Fulmer said. “It is my mission to lead our entire athletic department in a way that honors our university’s legacy and insists on excellence. Turning our situation around will require team work.

The hiring of Fulmer comes on the cusp of quite the fallout between Currie and the University.

Last Sunday, when reports surfaced that Tennessee would be hiring Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, Tennessee fans revolted due to Schiano’s potential involvement in the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.

Currie’s handling of the coaching search brought on the ire of national media members all over the country, as his actions painted the University in a bad light as tension began to rise.

On Wednesday, tension continued to rise after Currie targeted NC State head coach Dave Doeren. The Wolfpack would later give Doeren an extension, much to the delight of Vol fans as they were unhappy with the potential hire.

Currie had also drawn a lot of negativity from former players for not reaching out to USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin. In 1998, Martin led Tennessee to a National Championship as the team’s star quarterback. Despite being one of the best assistant coaches in all of college football, Martin has not been contacted as of yet in relation to the Vols vacant head coach position.

On Friday morning at 9:47 a.m., Chynna Greene of WVLT Local 8 took to twitter to break the news that Currie had been fired as athletic director.

Following the news of Currie’s termination, Tennessee announced that they would hold a press conference at 4 p.m. to discuss the change in director of athletics.

Davenport began the press conference expressing that she deeply regrets any hurt that was caused over the past week. “It’s been a difficult road at times to get to where we are,” Davenport said. “I have come to understand and appreciate the love that so many people have for Tennessee athletics.”

According to the Universities chancellor, the decision to terminate Currie was made yesterday afternoon. “I asked John Currie to return to Knoxville before going forward with the search,” Davenport said. “When there are high expectations about a great place, those high expectations come with challenges and challenges require tough decisions. Today required one of those decisions.”

Moving forward, Fulmer is very familiar with the energy, passion and focus from Vol fans, alumni, coaches and athletes. It’s something that the legendary Tennessean will use to win over the naysayers.

“I’m asking all of our fans, our alumni, our student-athletes and coaches: Let’s go have some fun winning championships.”

Feature image courtesy of Brad Matthews

Edited by Seth Raborn

Vols in the Pros: Week 12

With six players drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, the contingent of former Vols in the league grew significantly. Let’s take a look at how former Tennessee stars performed during Week 12 of the NFL season.

Baltimore Ravens

Morgan Cox: Started his 113th game as a long snapper and contributed to the Ravens 23-16 win over the Texans on Monday night.

Carolina Panthers

Michael Palardy: Palardy punted six times for 284 yards, including two balls punted inside the 20-yard line in the Panthers 35-27 win over the Jets.

Cincinnati Bengals

Josh Malone: Malone suffered an in-game injury and recorded no stats in the Bengals 30-16 over the Browns.

Cleveland Browns

Britton Colquitt: Colquitt punted twice for an average of 46 yards-per-punt. He left the game with a possible concussion. The Browns lost 30-16 to the Bengals.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten: Witten had seven catches for 44 yards in the Cowboys 28-6 loss to the Chargers.

Detroit Lions

Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Reeves-Maybin was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Houston Texans

LaTroy Lewis: Lewis is on the Texans practice squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Malik Jackson: Jackson had two tackles in the Jags 27-24 loss to the Cardinals.

Mychal Rivera: Rivera was placed on injured reserve due to a hand injury.

Kansas City Chiefs

Tyler Bray: Bray was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Eric Berry: Berry is out for the season after rupturing his achilles.

Zach Fulton: Fulton started at center in the Chiefs 16-10 loss to the Bills.

Dustin Colquitt: Colquitt had eight punts for an average of 49 yards-per-punt and downed two balls inside the 20-yard line.

Miami Dolphins 

Ja’Waun James: James was placed on injury reserve due to a hamstring injury.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara: Kamara had five carries for 87 yards, highlighted by a 74-yard TD run in the Saints 26-20 lost to the Rams.

New York Giants 

Jordan Williams: Williams is currently on the Giants practice squad.

Oakland Raiders

Cordarrelle Patterson: Patterson recorded three catches for 72 yards in the Raiders 21-14 win over the Broncos.

Philadelphia Eagles 

Derek Barnett: Barnett recorded no stats in the Eagles’ 31-3 win over the Bears.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Joshua Dobbs: Dobbs was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Ramon Foster: Foster started in the Steelers 31-28 win over the Packers on Sunday.

Justin Hunter: Hunter recorded no stats on Sunday’s game.

Daniel McCullers: McCullers was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Cam Sutton: Sutton was activated on Nov. 21, but recorded no stats on Sunday’s game.

Seattle Seahawks 

Justin Coleman: Coleman had three tackles in the Seahawks 24-13 win over the 49ers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Robert Ayers: Ayers was out with a concussion and did not participate in practice prior to the game against the Falcons.

Luke Stocker: Stocker was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports 

Edited by Seth Raborn

Helmet Stickers from Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt

Interim head coach Brady Hoke and the Tennessee Volunteers dropped their last game of the season on Saturday to the Vanderbilt Commodores in Neyland Stadium. With the loss, the Volunteers logged their first 8-loss season in program history.

Here is who earned helmet stickers in Tennessee’s final game of the 2017 season.

Jarrett Guarantano

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano completed 14 passes out of 22 attempts for 183 yards and two touchdowns against Vanderbilt on Saturday.  On the opening drive for the Vols, Guarantano led the offense to a 85-yard touchdown drive, finding receiver Marquez Callaway in the left corner of the end zone for the first score of the game. Later in the second half, Guarantano was able to find tight end Ethan Wolf for a 20-yard touchdown to cut the Vanderbilt lead to 42-24.

Brandon Johnson

Wide Receiver Brandon Johnson ended the game with six receptions for 107 yards. Aside from not scoring a touchdown, Johnson led the Vols in receiving and also averaged 17 yards-per-reception. He also hauled in a big 32-yard completion on the sidelines on a third and long play late in the first half.

Daniel Bituli

The Tennessee defense racked up a total of 78 tackles and twelve of them were courtesy of sophomore linebacker Daniel Bituli. Bituli showed a lot of fight although still being down late in the game. Bituli is a very smart, young player for the Vols defense and really showed up this season when depended on. His play was substantial this season at middle linebacker, and he will surely be a staple in the Tennessee defense for years to come.

Marquez Callaway

Sophomore receiver Marquez Callaway racked up three catches for 16 yards and one touchdown. Callaway’s score came in the first offensive possession for Tennessee. It was third-and-goal from the 2-yard line when Jarrett Guarantano floated one in the left corner of the end zone to Callaway, who then makes an incredible one handed catch while falling backwards for the touchdown.

Micah Abernathy

Junior safety Micah Abernathy is a vocal leader for the Tennessee defense and was also the second leading tackler for the Vols against the Commodores, picking up 11 tackles while also interrupting a handful of passes thrown his way.  Abernathy will be a pivotal part of the Tennessee defense next season.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports