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    Photo Credit: Nick Davis/RTI

    After a slow start to the night, the Vols ended up putting a beat down on Mississippi State at home in Thompson-Boling Arena, rolling to a 91-74 victory over the Bulldogs.

    Tennessee (10-9, 3-4 SEC) ripped off 54 points in the second half and led for almost the entire half. Mississippi State (12-6, 3-3) jumped out to a 38-37 advantage to start the half, then it was all Vols after that point.

    The win comes just days after the Vols collapsed on the road against Ole Miss, losing 80-69 despite taking a double digit lead in the second half. The Vols wouldn’t repeat that blunder in this one, and they get back in the win column with a date with Kentucky next up on the schedule.

    Here are three observations from the Vols’ impressive victory over Mississippi State.

    Tennessee Lights Up the Second Half

    After an ugly beginning to the game, the Vols rolled all over the Bulldogs in the second half. Tennessee managed 37 points on 38.9 percent shooting in the first half, but the offense exploded for 54 points and shot 54.8 percent from the court in the second half.

    The Vols started the game missing their first seven field goal attempts, but they recovered and shot 46.3 percent for the game after their hot second half.

    Tennessee’s offense as a whole played one of their more efficient games of the season, turning the ball over just seven times while dishing out 20 assists on 31 made field goals. The majority of those assists came in the second half, as the Vols totaled 12 assists and committed just three turnovers the entire second half.

    Size Didn’t Matter

    Despite once again being out-matched in the height department, the Vols managed to hustle their way to out-rebounding and nearly out-scoring the Bulldogs in the paint.

    Mississippi State started two players who measured in at 6-foot-10, but it was Tennessee who ended up with more total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and tied the Bulldogs with points in the paint. The Vols grabbed 49 total rebounds including 19 offensive rebounds, and those boards led to 14 second chance points for the Vols. Mississippi State managed just 35 total rebounds and nine offensive boards. Both schools totaled 38 points in the paint.

    Vols Show Off Depth

    Robert Hubbs led the Vols in scoring with 19 points, but it wasn’t just a one man show for Tennessee. The Vols’ bench dumped in 28 points, and four Vols ended up in double figures in scoring.

    Admiral Schofield fouled out in the second half, but he finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. Lamonte Turner added eight points and six assists in 18 minutes off the bench.

    The other Vols that joined Hubbs and Schofield in double digit scoring were Grant Williams (17 points) and Jordan Bowden (14 points). As a whole, Tennessee shot 41.2 percent from three, hitting seven of their 12 shots.

      Photo Credit: Anne Newman/RTI

      For some, there was a level of controversy surrounding the decision of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band to head to Washington D.C. for the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Friday.

      But regardless of your political affiliation, most Tennessee fans have to agree that it’s pretty cool to hear the Pride marching through Washington playing Rocky Top:

      Trump even seemed to enjoy it:

        The NFL confirmed the list of 95 players who will enter the 2017 draft early.

        Absent from it is former Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd, who left the Vols mid-year after a loss to South Carolina and said he planned to transfer to another program that would be a better fit for his skill set.

        Even though he would’ve been eligible to go pro this year, and some think that’s the direction he should’ve gone, Hurd appears set to follow through on his plan. A Pac 12 school reportedly is getting the first visit from the former five-star recruit who likely would’ve been Tennessee’s all-time leading rusher had he finished out his career in Knoxville.

        At Cal, Hurd would be reunited with former Tennessee wide receiver Vic Wharton, who was in Hurd’s original signing class in 2014. Wharton transferred to the Golden Bears following the 2014 season, sat out in 2015, and had 28 catches for 293 yards and a touchdown in 2016.

        The Bears were ninth in the Pac 12 in rushing last season (154.3 ypg). Leading rusher Khalfani Muhammad was a senior and second-leading rusher Tre Watson was a junior in 2016, meaning there could be opportunities for playing time in the backfield for Hurd by the time he’d be eligible to play in 2018 under new Cal head coach Justin Wilcox, who is a former defensive coordinator at UT, but didn’t overlap with Hurd’s time in Knoxville.

        Hurd finished his UT career with 589 carries for 2,638 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns.

          Photo Credit: North Texas

          Tennessee officially announced the hiring of Mike Canales as their quarterbacks coach on Friday afternoon. On some levels, the hiring of Canales makes total sense and can be looked at as a good hire by Jones and UT.

          But there are other facts that make this hire a mixed bag at best for Tennessee heading into the 2017 season.

          Hiring Canalaes as Tennessee’s quarterbacks coach makes sense on the surface when you look at the other staff change Tennessee made on Friday afternoon. UT officially announced tight ends coach Larry Scott had been promoted to offensive coordinator despite just being at Tennessee for one season and having no play-calling experience at the collegiate level. Canales, meanwhile, has 23 years experience as at least a co-offensive coordinator as a college coach. Not only that, but Scott played under Canales when Canales was first at South Florida from 1996-2000.

          Canales gives Scott an experienced voice to fall back on should he have any concerns or bumps in the road as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator. But experience doesn’t always equal success, and Canales has had little in the way of that as offensive coordinator in the past.

          Canales was offensive coordinator for South Florida in 2009 and was some form of offensive coordinator for North Texas from 2010-15. Here are the national rankings his offenses achieved each of those seven years in terms of average yards gained per game:

          2009: 71st
          2010: 63rd
          2011: 96th
          2012: 67th
          2013: 64th
          2014: 117th
          2015: 118th

          Over his last seven years as offensive coordinator, Canales’ offenses were ranked 85th in the country on average. Granted, Canales was passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach for both the 2007 and 2008 South Florida squads that saw wild success on offense, but his effectiveness only went downhill from there.

          But Tennessee didn’t hire Canales as their offensive coordinator; they hired him as quarterbacks coach. And his track record there is a little more inspiring than his track record as offensive coordinator.

          While at North Carolina State from 2001-02, Canales, then just a quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, worked with Philip Rivers. That’s the same Philip Rivers who’s gone on to throw for nearly 46,000 yards and 314 career touchdowns for the San Diego Chargers. Canales has also worked with South Florida’s top three quarterbacks in terms of passing yards in a career (Marquell Blackwell, Matt Grothe, and B.J. Daniels) as well as North Texas’ all-time leading passer, Derek Thompson.

          There are some caveats to that, however. Most notably with Rivers.

          Yes, Canales worked with Philip Rivers at N.C. State. But Rivers’ arguably two best seasons with the Wolfpack came when Canales wasn’t there. Canales was at N.C. State during Rivers’ sophomore and junior years, and what Rivers did in those years certainly wasn’t bad. Rivers completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 2,586 yards, 16 touchdowns, and seven interceptions as a sophomore and completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 3,353 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions as a junior.

          But it was in Rivers’ freshman and senior campaigns that he really stood out.

          Rivers completed 53.7 percent of his attempts for 3,054 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions as a freshman and then went on to complete an astounding 72 percent of his passes for 4,491 yards, 34 touchdowns, and seven interceptions as a senior.

          This, of course, doesn’t discount Canales’ work with the quarterbacks at USF or North Texas. Nor does it discount what he did with Rivers either. But Canales hasn’t been purely a quarterbacks coach since 1995 at Pacific College. Canales has coached quarterbacks in the meantime, but he’s always had something else attributed to that too, whether it was offensive coordinator duties or coaching another position. This will be the first time in over 20 years that Canales will be focusing purely on coaching quarterbacks.

          Another downside is Canales’ lack of experience at the Power-5 level both in coaching and recruiting.

          Of the three decades Canales has been in coaching, only five of those years have been spent at a school in a Power-5 conference. He spent two years at N.C. State and three at Arizona. Canales also spent a year in the NFL with the New York Jets as a wide receivers coach. The vast majority of Canales’ career, however, has been spent at smaller schools. And it’s been over a decade since Canales has coached at a Power-5 school.

          Aside from his one season in the NFL, Canales’ new job at Tennessee will easily be his biggest in this three decades of coaching.

          This hire, much like the hire of Mike DeBord as offensive coordinator in 2015, isn’t flashy. It’s a safe, comfortable hire for Butch Jones, and it’s one that he will ultimately be responsible for no matter how it turns out. Tennessee has two very talented, inexperienced quarterbacks on the roster in Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano who will be fighting for a starting job before this season. Canales will be tasked with guiding those quarterbacks and helping whichever one wins the job to become the best he can be.

          Even with talent like this available on the roster, making the wrong hire can set everything back. Just ask Phillip Fulmer about the 2008 season.

          There are things to like about the hiring of Mike Canales as the Vols’ quarterbacks coach. But there are also things that will rightfully leave you scratching your head. Only time will tell how this hire will actually turn out, but right now it looks like little more than a mixed bag of positives and negatives.

            After over two weeks of searching following the departure of offensive coordinator Mike DeBord to the same position at Indiana, Butch Jones and Tennessee confirmed the new configuration of the offensive coaching staff on Friday afternoon.

            Tennessee is promoting tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Larry Scott to the role of offensive coordinator, while coaching veteran Mike Canales will join the staff as quarterbacks coach. New defensive backs coach Charlton Warren will take over Scott’s special teams coordinator duties.

            Scott joined the Tennessee staff last season in his 16th year of coaching. He came to Tennessee after a 4-2 stint as the interim head coach at Miami when he was promoted following the firing of Al Golden. Scott previously served as the tight ends coach for the Hurricanes from 2013 through the beginning of the 2015 season, and prior to that he coached tight ends, running backs and the offensive line during a stint as a full-time assistant at South Florida from 2007-2012.

            While he’s coached a variety of positions, Scott has never called plays at the collegiate level.

            “Larry played an important role in the success we had offensively last year and was heavily involved in all aspects of our game plan, both during the week and on game day,” Butch Jones said in a press release. “We felt it was vital to maintain our continuity on offense and keep building on what we have established the past four seasons.”

            Canales, a long-time friend of Jones’, joins the UT staff from his alma mater Utah State, where he spent last season as assistant head coach/running backs/tight ends coach. 

            He brings extensive quarterbacking coaching expertise with over two decades of experience working with that position, although a majority of it came below the Power-5 level.

            He had stops at Snow College, Pacific and South Florida (prior to moving to the FBS) before landing his first FBS gig as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for North Carolina State in 2001-02, where he coached Phillip Rivers.

            He had a one-year stint as a receivers coach with the New York Jets (2003) before moving on to be either the offensive coordinator or co-coordinator at Arizona from 2004-06. He’s since had stints at South Florida, North Texas and Utah State in a variety of roles – everything from interim head coach to position coach.

            “I’m also really excited about adding Mike Canales to our staff,” Jones said. “Mike has recruited, coached and developed numerous quarterbacks at the collegiate level. He will be of great benefit to our players and staff with his extensive experience and knowledge of the quarterback position.”

            Neither move will qualify as much of a “splash” to Tennessee fans, but Jones was adamant in comments made earlier in the month that he wasn’t looking for an offensive overhaul, but rather for staff pieces that would fit and enhance Tennessee’s current situation. He certainly will have a comfort level and plenty of continuity on his staff with these moves.

            While inconsistent at times, Tennessee’s offense has also put up impressive numbers over the past couple years, including an offense that finished second in the SEC in scoring in 2016 and second in school history in rushing in 2015.

            Heading into what could be a defining season for the fifth-year UT head coach, Jones is betting on the new staff configuration to continue those types of numbers, while also cleaning up some of the issues that plagued the Vols in a couple costly losses in 2016.

            Will Boling and Daniel Lewis both contributed to this report 

              You’d expect a UT fan to show up at a setting like College Gameday with a Tennessee sign.

              But Vol fans are apparently everywhere, including the Presidential Inauguration on Friday as Donald Trump goes from President-Elect to President of the United States during a ceremony at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

              No word if Trump can help Tennessee hire an offensive coordinator or an AD.