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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    On the eve of the NFL Draft, former Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett had a message for the 32 NFL franchises that will be picking this weekend.

    He’s more than just a name in Tennessee’s record book

    “Right now, you might know me as the kid who broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee, but that’s not the only thing I’m going to be remembered for by the time I leave this game,” Barnett wrote in a piece titled “NFL Draft Cover Letter” published in The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday.

    In the letter, Barnett highlights his impressive career numbers at Tennessee – 33 sacks and 197 tackles over the span of three season – but also acknowledges that he would trade any number or record for more team success with the Vols.

    “Achieving that sack record definitely meant a lot to me, but I would have traded it away in a heartbeat to have won a championship while I was in college,” he wrote. “So understand that even though I’ve achieved some noteworthy things and won some individual awards, they are not what drives me. I want to lead a defense. I want to be an important part of a winning team. I want to win a Super Bowl.”

    Barnett also mentions the work ethic that his mother, who at times worked up to three jobs at once to support him, instilled in him, and what it will mean for him to be able to take care of her after this week.

    “When I make it to the NFL, she knows that I’ll be able to take care of her,” he wrote. “She deserves for me to take care of her. But she doesn’t want that. She’s already told me that she’s going to keep her same job at the UPS warehouse — on her feet, sweating, sorting packages on a tight deadline — even after I make it to the league. Working hard is not optional — it’s in my DNA.”

    You can read more of Barnett’s open letter on The Players’ Tribune right here.

      Photo Credit: Louisville Athletics

      Tennessee picked up a commitment from graduate transfer Shaq Wiggins on Wednesday, giving the Vols a really big new piece in their cornerback competition in 2017 as the former Louisville Cardinal and Georgia Bulldog will come in and compete for a starting job from Day 1.

      RTI contributor Mason Burgin put together some of his best plays in one clip.

      Have a look:

        Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

        We answer your questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.

        “What is with Tennessee QBs leaving and then just suddenly unlocking their full potentials? Seems like it happens every single time.” – Nick

        Daniel: It’s pretty crazy. Nathan Peterman, Riley Ferguson, B.J. Coleman and even Nash Nance and Nick Stephens all seemed to flourish once they left Tennessee. Glass half full: Tennessee recruits a lot of NFL-quality quarterbacks. Half empty: Tennessee doesn’t utilize a lot of that talent.

        Will: Not to mention the guys who were committed at one point and changed their minds. Tajh Boyd, Bryce Petty and now Clemson’s Hunter Johnson. I’m interested to see how the current QB competition plays out this time next year. Because if Quinten Dormady isn’t the starter at the end of the season, I could see him joining this list and tearing it up in a pro style offense.

        Nathanael: At least it’s usually only contained to quarterbacks? Yeah, that’s not much of a silver lining. But very few other positions have seen that kind of success outside of quarterback for the Vols. But that’s the most important position on the field, so that still hurts.

        “Any word or updates on AJ Johnson? Any chance he could ever make an NFL roster?” – Robert

        Daniel: There was a pretty big update in the last couple of weeks when an appellate court ruled that the defense will be able to pursue the social media history of the accusers in the trial. That’s a pretty big win for the defendants. With that big decision out of the way, it’s up to the court to set a trial date and that’s what we’re waiting on now. It’ll be awhile until this is all over.

        In terms of the NFL, I’d be pretty surprised if Johnson ever made a roster. Maybe if he were completely cleared, and assuming he’s stayed in decent shape, he could work his way into a tryout of some kind, but my guess is that there wouldn’t be much of a market for him.

        “What do you think is more likely, a two quarterback system or Guarantano being named starter over Dormady?” – Tyler

        Daniel: I’ll say two-quarterback system. I think Dormady is the leader in the clubhouse right now, but I also don’t foresee Butch Jones putting Guarantano on the bench for two years and just hoping he sticks around. He’ll at least have a package of plays for Guarantano if, indeed, Dormady were to go on and win the job.

        Will: I think a two quarterback system is the most likely probability to start the season. At least for the first game against Georgia Tech. I don’t think there will be a definitive starter until the Florida game, and at that point I’d give the edge to Guarantano.

        Nathanael: At this point, I’m convinced Tennessee will have a two-quarterback system to start the season. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing either. The old saying that “if you have two quarterbacks, you have zero quarterbacks” doesn’t really apply to college football in my opinion. That’s more of an NFL mantra. Look at Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer in the past. They’ve used a two quarterback system. Even Fulmer did at Tennessee in 2004. And Butch Jones has too while at Cincinnati. It can absolutely work, and I expect that to be what they try in the fall.

        “On a scale of 1 to Beverly Davenport’s Twitter, how disappointing was the OW game?” – @UmbrAndrew

        Daniel: Big picture, it wasn’t the event it was the past few years, but my expectations were pretty low coming in, so I didn’t really view it as a disappointment. The quarterback challenge with the Hail Marry reenactment was a decent touch and it was fun to watch a true quarterback battle for the first time in a few years. The second half was going to be a walk-on-fest anyhow, so not a huge loss for the fans there.

        Will: It’s all about expectations. Whatever we saw wasn’t football in my mind, but it’s nearly impossible to play an exciting spring game in a spread offense without live quarterbacks.

        Side note: I don’t understand the hatred of Davenport. I doubt she even sends all of those tweets herself. I’d guarantee she has an intern to handle her social media.

        Nathanael: It’s not as bad as those tweets, but man it really was disappointing in my opinion. Even with lowered expectations, I felt bad for those people who, for some reason, showed up at like 7 AM at the gate, stood in the rain, sat in the rain, and then watched that one half of somewhat entertaining football. Or for the people who traveled a few hours or more to come and that’s what they got treated to.

        “What happens first? Preds win the Stanley Cup or Vols win the SEC?” – Bryan

        Daniel: Now we’re talking. I’m going to say Preds win the Stanley Cup. There’s at least some possibility that it could happen this year, but even if it doesn’t, the Predators have enough young talent to be competitive for the next few years. I can’t say Tennessee is that close to winning the entire SEC until either the Vols win the East and/or Nick Saban is gone. Since I don’t know when or if those things will happen, I’m going with the Preds.

        Will: Predators, no question. Nashville has already knocked down the perennial power in Chicago. This past year’s Third Saturday in October shows us that UT isn’t close to doing the same in the SEC against the Crimson Tide. Plus, Preds GM David Poile is one of the better front office guys in pro sports. He’s widely respected around the league and was the GM of US Hockey during the last Olympics.

        Nathanael: This isn’t even difficult. The Preds, easily. I don’t think it happens this year or even next. But if it happens within the next 5-8 years, that’s probably sooner than the Vols winning the whole SEC. Nick Saban will still be at Alabama for at least the next five years most likely. I don’t see the Vols winning the whole thing while Saban is still at Bama. And with the trajectory the Preds are on, I think it’s much more likely they reach that goal before the Vols reach theirs.

        “Is it coincidence that the words Heisman, Manning, Montana and Dormady all contain seven letters? Discuss.” – @neylandmafia

        Daniel: You also can’t spell Guarantano without the letters GOAT, so take that for data.

        Will: There are also seven letters in Russell, and I don’t think Vol fans want to see Dormady to have a pro career like Jamarcus.

        Nathanael: Jeez, Will. Way to be a downer. Although I think Vol fans would take the college career of Jamarcus Russell. Just not his pro career.

        “Being a big Vols and Browns fan, am I silly in thinking the Browns should take Myles Garrett at 1 and Derek Barnett at 12? Imagine the rush, 3/4 or 4/3.” – Shawn

        Daniel: That’d be a great duo, no question. But with all the holes on the roster – especially at quarterback – I’m not sure that the Brown can double up on one position with their two first-rounders at this point.

        Will: I agree. There are so many places that need help on that roster rather than just the D-line. But you should definitely be cheering for the Browns to pick Josh Dobbs if you want to see a Vol succeed in Cleveland.

        Nathanael: While I get the appeal of that, your Browns have so many more needs that drafting two players from the same position with their first two picks wouldn’t be the smartest move. They do need pass rushers in a bad way, however, so maybe taking two within their first four picks is a good idea. But not so much two in the first round.

        “Did you expect this big movement in recruiting following the O&W game?” – Clay

        Daniel: They had a little bit better of a turnout of recruits than I initially expected and they picked up a few nice pieces, so I’d say it exceeded my expectations a bit.

        Will: It surprised me that there were so many commits in a short period of time. I’d definitely expect things to die down a bit though until school starts back next fall.

          Photo Credit: Louisville Athletics

          Tennessee added a massive piece to its 2017 secondary on Wednesday afternoon when former Georgia and Louisville cornerback Shaq Wiggins announced via Twitter that he would be finishing up his career with the Vols.

          Wiggins, who will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer, comes to Tennessee following stints with both the Cardinals and Bulldogs. The Tyrone, Ga., native had an injury-plagued 2016 season where he appeared in just eight games, but was an honorable mention All-ACC player in 2015 for Louisville after recording 30 tackles, 11 PUBs and a pair of interceptions in 13 games for the Cardinals.

          The former four-star and top-200 recruit had a big impact for Georgia in 2013 as well after he started eight games as a freshman in 2013 with 17 tackles, four PBUs and two touchdowns that season. He had one of his most productive games against Tennessee that season, recording a season-high six stops against the Vols in 2013.

          Wiggins (5-10, 175) chose the Vols over several other SEC opportunities including Mississippi State and South Carolina this year. Tennessee’s depth chart at cornerback is most likely a big factor in that choice. The Vols are replacing Cam Sutton and Malik Foreman at cornerback with a group that includes Emmanuel Moseley, Baylen Buchanan, Justin Martin and others. Outside of Moseley, who has generally been a No. 2 cornerback for the Vols, none of the other candidates have been consistent SEC starters.

          That leaves Wiggins a great opportunity to contribute early in Knoxville as the Vols look to retool a defense that struggled in 2016.

            Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

            The 2017 NFL Draft is nearly here, and it’s crunch time for prospects looking to make last minute moves up the draft board. One of the players that’s seen his draft stock fly through the roof over the last couple months has been former Vol quarterback Josh Dobbs. And now he can add the compliments of a former Pro Bowl quarterback to his long list of praises.

            Ron Jaworski, a former 15-year starting NFL quarterback and current analyst for ESPN, likened Dobbs to New England’s Tom Brady and Dallas’s Dak Prescott on Tuesday afternoon.

            Jaworski was making an appearance at a school in Philadelphia when he was asked about his thoughts on the former Vol quarterback. And he didn’t hold back on his commendations.

            “Everyone talked about Tom Brady, you know, ‘Where do you get that guy at No. 199 in the sixth round?’ for a long time,” Jaworski stated. “Now, the en vogue player is Dak Prescott, taken in the fourth round by the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone wants to know, ‘Jaws, who’s that guy? You’ve looked at all the tape, who’s the guy that you like that could be the surprise?’

            “I think it’s Josh Dobbs, the quarterback out of Tennessee.”

            Dobbs finished his Tennessee career with 9,360 total yards and 87 total touchdowns and holds all of Tennessee’s rushing records for quarterbacks. He also finished his career with a 23-12 record as the Vols’ starting quarterback.

            “(Dobbs) made a lot of throws in college – just under a thousand throws,” Jaworski said. “He played a lot. He’s a bright young man, and he’s mobile. I like guys that have that experience in college. That projects them well to the NFL. It’s why I worry about a guy like Mitch Trubisky, who only played 13 games.

            “I like guys that have experience. It’s the old Bill Parcells rule — he likes guys who played four years, they stayed in school, they graduated. They come out not only as mature players, but as mature individuals. Josh Dobbs is a guy I’ve got circled.”

            The 2017 NFL Draft begins with the first round on Thursday, April 27th. The second and third rounds will be held on Friday, and the final four rounds will be on Saturday. Tennessee hasn’t had a quarterback drafted into the NFL since Jonathan Crompton was taken in fifth round by the San Diego Chargers in 2010. In fact, the Vols haven’t had a quarterback taken before the fifth round since Peyton Manning was selected No. 1 overall in the 1998 draft.

            With the way Josh Dobbs’ stock is rising, he could be the quarterback to break those streaks for Tennessee.

              Tennessee is getting some help at wide receiver from somewhat of an unlikely place this offseason.

              Chattanooga quarterback Zack Weatherly announced via Twitter on Tuesday evening that not only is he changing schools, he’ll also be changing positions.

              Weatherly sat out 2016 as a redshirt for the Mocs after being recruited out of Christ Presbyterian Academy in the Nashville area in the 2016 class. He was ranked by 247Sports as the No. 51 overall player in the state of Tennessee in that class as well as the No. 97 quarterback in the nation.

              He chose Chattanooga over offers from Appalachian State, San Diego State and UT-Martin.

              While he was listed as a pro-style quarterback coming out of high school, Weatherly has plenty of athleticism as well.

              A multi-sport athlete in high school, Weatherly also has some background in basketball and was a state champion high jumper in high school as well. All of that makes him an intriguing options for Tennessee receivers coach Kevin Beard and offensive coordinator Larry Scott as they look for more depth at receiver following the loss of Josh Malone.