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    Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

    The Vols have taken down Kentucky twice under Rick Barnes. They pulled off the massive upset last season when the unraked Vols took down No. 4 Kentucky 82-80 in Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee also defeated No. 20 Kentucky 84-77 at home in 2016.

    But both those Volunteer squads failed to capitalize on those victories. Last year’s win over Kentucky was huge for morale, but it mattered little in the long run as the Vols finished .500 on the year and missed out on postseason play.

    This season, however, appears to be different. And Sunday’s match-up with No. 7 North Carolina is arguably the biggest game of Rick Barnes’ tenure at Tennessee.

    The Vols are currently ranked No. 20 in the AP Poll, and that’s the highest ranking Tennessee has earned in the poll since 2010. Coincidentally, the Vols are off to their best start in a season since 2010 as well. Tennessee is currently 7-1, and the last time they were 7-1 was at the start of the 2010 season.

    Tennessee appears poised this season to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. And a win over the Tarheels would be huge for what is already an impressive tournament resume.

    And it would be another “first” since 2010.

    The Vols haven’t beaten a top 10 non-conference opponent since they took down No. 3 Pittsburgh 83-76 on December 11th, 2010. Every top 10 victory they’ve had from that point till now has been against SEC foes (Florida 2012, Florida 2013, Kentucky 2017).

    In fact, counting the two ranked teams the Vols have faced this season, Tennessee is just 4-10 against ranked opponents under Rick Barnes. The Vols have defeated a ranked Purdue squad and lost to a top 5 Villanova team this season already.

    The last time Tennessee and North Carolina played, the Tar Heels were No. 7 in the country just like this year. That meeting was on December 11th of last year, and the Vols jumped out to a huge lead early.

    But Tennessee couldn’t hold on, and the Tar Heels came away with a 73-71 victory on their home court.

    North Carolina has defeated Tennessee nine out of the ten times they’ve played them and own a four-game winning streak over the Vols. The last time Tennessee beat North Carolina was in 1949 when they won 84-56.

    The two teams have only played four times in the “modern era,” and North Carolina has won all four times. They won 74-69 in 2000, 94-81 in 2004, 101-87 in 2006, and 73-71 last year. The only other time these two teams have both been ranked in the AP Poll when playing each other was in 2006. The Vols were No. 22 and the Tarheels were No. 2 in the country.

    For national perception, the Vols need a victory over North Carolina on Sunday. They don’t necessarily need it to make the NCAA Tournament, but it would give them that “signature win” they could point to. And a win over the Tarheels would prove that this team is no fake contender either.

    This game isn’t “make or break” for Rick Barnes. But it’s still arguably his biggest game as the Vols’ head basketball coach. And a win would go a long way in giving fans reason to believe in him and this team.

      Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

      According to multiple reports, dismissed Vol wide receiver Jauan Jennings is hoping to meet with new Vol head football coach Jeremy Pruitt and Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer to discuss him being reinstated onto the football team.

      Both Trey Wallace of The Read Optional and John Brice of Gridiron Now have reported that Jennings is hoping to gain an audience with Pruitt and Fulmer. Wallace adds that Jennings is not currently enrolled at Tennessee according to the university’s database.

      Jennings was dismissed by interim head coach Brady Hoke in conjunction with then-AD John Currie after he posted a profanity-laced tirade on Instagram calling out Tennessee’s coaching staff and leadership. Jennings missed almost all of the 2017 season because of a wrist injury he sustained in the Vols’ season-opener against Georgia Tech. He finished the season with three catches for 17 yards.

      Jennings would later apologize for his actions via an Instagram video as well.

      If Jennings remains dismissed from the program and isn’t allowed back on the roster for the 2018 season, the Vols won’t have a scholarship receiver with more experience than a junior. Tennessee currently has no rising seniors or redshirt juniors in their receiving corps for 2018.

      In his Tennessee career, Jennings has caught 57 passes for 746 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also completed two of his four pass attempts for 62 yards, and both those completions have gone for scores. The bulk of Jennings’ stats came in his sophomore season in 2016 when he had a breakout campaign and hauled in 40 receptions for 580 yards and all seven of his touchdowns.

        Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

        Two of former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones’ assistant coaches have found jobs elsewhere this offseason already. And a third one reportedly moved on to a new job this weekend as well.

        According to Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, former Tennessee defensive backs coach Charlton Warren will be hired on to the same position at Florida for Dan Mullen’s new staff there. Warren was the Vols’ defensive backs coach for one season after Jones hired him away from North Carolina

        Warren got his start in coaching at Air Force in 2003 and stayed with them till 2014. He became the secondary coach at North Carolina State prior to the 2014 season and was hired on to be North Carolina’s secondary coach prior to the 2015 season.

        Warren made $455,000 in his lone season with the Vols.

        Tennessee’s secondary saw improvement under Warren in his one year with the Vols. Granted, Tennessee’s opponents didn’t have to pass the ball against the Vols a ton because Tennessee’s run defense was so bad (the Vols only had 279 passes attempted against them this season, second-fewest in the SEC). But the Vols’ secondary, while still prone to allowing some big plays, looked better this year than in 2016.

        The Vols allowed just 161.7 passing yards per game, which was the second-fewest in the conference, while giving up 15 touchdown passes and intercepting five passes as well. That’s up from the 230.7 yards allowed and 18 touchdowns given up in 2016. But last year’s Vols did have more interceptions with 11.

        Florida’s pass defense allowed 195.4 yards a game, which placed them eighth in the SEC. They allowed 16 touchdowns but had the second-most interceptions in the conference with 14. The Gators had a very young secondary this season and will benefit from all that playing time next year.

        Warren joins former Vols quarterbacks coach Mike Canales and former defensive coordinator Bob Shoop as former Butch Jones assistants to find jobs elsewhere. Shoop is now the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State while Canales is the quarterbacks coach at UTEP.

          Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

          Most every basketball analyst believes the Vols’ men’s basketball team will make it into the NCAA Tournament this season. Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Vols in the Big Dance as a 6-seed in his most recent updated projections, and the 20th-ranked Vols have one of the best NCAA Tournament resumes around.

          But one college basketball analyst not only thinks the Vols will make it into the tournament, but he’s expecting Tennessee to earn one of their best berths in school history.

          Jerry Palm of CBS Sports released his most recent “bracketology” projections on Friday, and he has the Vols not only making it into the NCAA Tournament, but he has them as a 3-seed in the tournament.

          Palm’s projections has the Vols as the No. 3 seed in the South region of the bracket, and he has them playing 14-seed Georgia Southern. He has Villanova, the only team that’s beaten Tennessee so far this season, as a 1-seed along with Miami, Arizona State, and Michigan State. Miami is the 1-seed in Tennessee’s region of the bracket.

          The team that Tennessee plays this Sunday, No. 7 North Carolina, is also a 3-seed according to Palm. He also has six other SEC schools making it into the tournament. He has Texas A&M as a 2-seed, Missouri and Arkansas as 6-seeds, Alabama and Florida as an 8-seed, and Kentucky as a 9-seed.

          If the Vols did earn a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, that would be their second-best seed in school history since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Tennessee has earned a No. 2 seed twice in program history, and both times were under Bruce Pearl. The Vols were a 2-seed in 2006 and lost in the second round and earned a No. 2 seed berth in 2008 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen that season.

          No. 20 Tennessee hosts No. 7 North Carolina at 3 PM Eastern on Sunday, December 17th. If the Vols can defeat the Tarheels on Sunday, then they stand an even greater chance of making Palm’s prediction come true.

            Jeremy Pruitt has been on the job for barely a week as the Vols’ head football coach, and he and his staff have been on the recruiting trail pretty much as soon as Pruitt was hired. And they’ve been hitting the trail hard.

            Pruitt and his staff were able to get four-star, in-state athlete Alontae Taylor to recommit to the Vols a month after decommitting earlier this week. And while Tennessee has suffered several decommitments since Pruitt and his staff took over, they’ve also been offering a ton of scholarships to many different players across the country.

            And a lot of those players are set to visit the Vols this weekend.

            Tennessee has a very busy recruiting weekend ahead of them. Don’t be surprised if they’re able to pick up a commitment or two as the weekend progresses. But even if they don’t, this weekend is very important to the Vols’ recruiting efforts moving forward.

            We have a list of all the recruits who are expected to be visiting Tennessee this weekend. And we’ll update as more names are added.

            And be sure to follow our new Twitter account that’s dedicated exclusively to Vol Recruiting! You can follow the link to the profile here or type in @RTIRecruiting in Twitter and find us there!

            All recruiting rankings are via the 247Sports Composite Rankings

            Olaijah Griffin, CB

            Rating: 4-star, No. 30 overall, No. 4 cornerback
            Top Offers: Alabama, Auburn, UCLA, Michigan
            School: Mission Viejo (CA)

            Jacob Copeland, WR

            Rating: 4-star, No. 53 overall, No. 9 wide receiver 
            Top Offers: 
            Florida, Alabama, Florida State, Clemson
            School: Escambia (FL)

            Alontae Taylor, ATH/WR

            Rating: 4-star, No. 118 overall, No. 23 wide receiver
            Top Offers: Tennessee (committed), Georgia, Alabama, Florida
            School: Coffee County (TN)

            Badara Traore, OT

            Rating: 4-star, No. 6 JUCO overall, No. 1 JUCO offensive tackle
            Top Offers: 
            LSU (committed), Auburn, Texas, Georgia
            School: ASA College (NY)

            Dominick Wood-Anderson, TE

            Rating: 4-star, No. 10 JUCO overall, No. 1 JUCO tight end
            Top Offers: 
            Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida State, USC
            School: Arizona Western College (AZ)


            Marcus Murphy, ATH

            Rating: 3-star, No. 370 overall, No. 19 athlete
            Top Offers: 
            Mississippi State (committed), Michigan, Stanford, Louisville
            School: West Point (MS)

            Johncarlo Valentin, OL

            Rating: 3-star, No. 21 JUCO overall, No. 2 JUCO offensive guard
            Top Offers: Missouri, Baylor, Kansas, Marshall
            School: ASA College (NY)

            Jahmir Johnson, OT

            Rating: 3-star, No. 27 JUCO overall, No. 5 JUCO offensive tackle
            Top Offers: 
            UCLA, USC, Arizona, Louisville
            School: Arizona Western College (AZ)

            Jeremy Banks, RB

            Rating: 3-star, No. 535 overall, No. 24 running back
            Top Offers: 
            USC, UCLA, Nebraska, Texas A&M
            School: Cordova (TN)

            Jaron Woodyard, WR

            Rating: 3-star, No. 40 JUCO overall, No. 3 JUCO wide receiver
            Top Offers: Nebraska (committed), Arizona, Maryland, West Virginia
            School: Arizona Western College (AZ)

            Glenn Beal, TD

            Rating: 3-star, No. 624 overall, No. 27 tight end
            Top Offers: 
            LSU, Alabama, Florida, Georgia
            School: John Curtis (LA)

            J.T. Shrout, QB

            Rating: 3-star, No. 679 overall, No. 26 pro-style quarterback
            Top Offers: Cal (committed), UNLV, Colorado State, San Diego State
            School: William S. Hart Senior (CA)

            Jacob Warren, TE

            Rating: 3-star, No. 691 overall, No. 32 tight end
            Top Offers: 
            Tennessee (committed), Auburn, Oregon, Mississippi State
            School: Farragut (TN)

            Ollie Lane, OL

            Rating: 3-star, No. 843 overall, No. 33 offensive guard
            Top Offers: 
            Tennessee (committed), Cal, Georgia, South Carolina
            School: Gibbs (TN)

            Greg Bell, RB

            Rating: 3-star, No. 77 JUCO overall, No. 4 JUCO running back
            Top Offers: 
            Nebraska, Louisville, Utah, Arizona State
            School: Arizona Western College (AZ)

            Kingston Harris, DT

            Rating: 3-star, No. 1128 overall, No. 69 defensive tackle
            Top Offers: 
            Maryland, Pittsburgh, Michigan State, UCF
            School: IMG Academy (FL)

            Dwayne Wallace, OG

            Grad-transfer from Cal
            Started nine of Cal’s 12 games in 2016 before leaving team before 2017 season

              Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

              Tennessee’s men’s basketball team continues to trend in the right direction. And they have a huge opportunity on Sunday to continue that trend.

              Joe Lunardi of ESPN updated his NCAA Tournament bracket projections in his latest “bracketology,” and the Vols have moved up in his predictions. Last week, Lunardi had the Vols as a 7-seed playing 10-seed Maryland in the West bracket. This week, Lunaradi has the Vols as a 6-seed and playing the winner of the 11-seed play-in game.

              The Vols haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2014 during Cuonzo Martin’s last season as Tennessee’s head basketball coach. Tennessee made a Sweet Sixteen run that year as an 11-seed, and they had to defeat Iowa in a play-in game to even make it into the main bracket field.

              A 6-seed would be Tennessee’s best seeding in the NCAA Tournament since they were a 6-seed in the 2010 bracket. That year was the Vols’ best NCAA Tournament run in program history, as the Bruce Pearl-led Vols dashed through the tournament and made it to an Elite Eight. That’s the furthest Tennessee has ever made it in the NCAA Tournament.

              Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the Vols have made it to the Big Dance 12 times. Of those 12 times, they’ve been a 6-seed or better only six times. And four of those times were under Bruce Pearl.

              Tennessee’s tournament resume this season is one of the strongest through the first month of play in college basketball. The Vols are 7-1, ranked 20th in the AP Poll, and have the No. 5 RPI in the entire country. They’re 3-1 against teams inside the top 100 of the RPI and own a top 25 RPI victory over Purdue. Their only loss this season so far is to the team currently ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, Villanova.

              And the Vols have a chance this Sunday to improve that resume even more.

              Tennessee hosts No. 7 North Carolina this Sunday. The Tarheels are a top 10 RPI team and will be the second-best team the Vols have faced to this point in the season. A victory over North Carolina would be a gigantic boost for an already impressive tournament resume.

              The Vols are off to their best start in seven years this season. And as long as they don’t have a complete collapse at some point this year, they should make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.