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 

Five takeaways from Tennessee’s loss to LSU

The Tennessee Volunteers will not make a bowl game for the first time in four years following their 30-10 loss to LSU on Saturday. Interim head coach Brady Hoke surely switched things up for the Vols, but they still came up short in their first game after the firing of Butch Jones.

Here are five takeaways from Tennessee’s messy loss under the lights on Saturday.

1. Tennessee offensive line is awful

The Volunteers offensive line had just five scholarship players available heading into Saturday’s matchup. To make matters worse, the only non-freshman on the offensive line, Jashon Robertson, was injured in the second half. This forced walk-on Joe Keeler into the game and made it nearly impossible for Tennessee to get anything going on the ground. The Vols rushed for just 38 yards on 34 carries, with the longest run going for just nine yards. Injuries have remained a problem for Tennessee, and especially the offensive line.

2. Weather made a profound impact on the game

About the time that the Volunteers and Tigers came back on the field after halftime, a near monsoon came upon Neyland Stadium. In fact, the wind bent one of the Tennessee goalposts and caused a piece of the jumbotron to fly off and hit a fan. To add on, the stadium lights were knocked out and ESPN was forced to use multiple different angles to capture the game because their view was limited. Both teams essentially ran the ball every down until the storm blew over.

3. Guarantano finally broke through

By no means was Guarantano’s game magnificent, but he did reach some milestones. Guarantano had just his second 200-yard passing game this season, and logged a passing touchdown for the first time since his debut in the Indiana State game in week two. It was his one of his best performances of the season, and considering the weather and the solid Tigers secondary, it was pretty impressive. Guarantano had one of his best games following the dismissal of Butch Jones, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

4. Hoke had the Vols playing loose

Regardless of the outcome of the game, the Tennessee players looked re-energized and loose following the firing of Jones. Hoke’s “tweaking” of the offense featured much more under-center playcalls and attempts to milk the clock. To keep it short, Hoke was handed the keys to a fractured team, but he stilled managed to bring life to it. The game and the weather were both messy, but Hoke still brought life into the football players and into the dedicated members of Vol Nation.

5. Tennessee looks to avoid a historic loss next week

The Volunteers lost to LSU and will miss a bowl for the first time since 2013, but next week’s game against Vanderbilt has a ton riding on the line. If Tennessee loses to the Commodores, they will have officially finished with the worst record in Vols football history. A loss to Vanderbilt next week in Neyland Stadium would put Tennessee at an abysmal 4-8 record, which would be the worst in the 126-year tenure of the Volunteers football program. Tennessee may not be going to a bowl game this season, but they still have something to play for.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of UT Sports

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

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 

Triple Play Podcast: Week of Nov. 14

In this week’s edition, Chase Carder joins host Danielle Whaley to discuss Tennessee’s win over Kentucky while also looking at the SEC, NCAA football and Tennessee basketball.

Featured Image by Danielle Whaley