State of the Vols: 2-0 Edition

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    Von Pearson-1-2

     Football

    2-0. Those are really only numbers that matter for Tennessee after knocking off Arkansas State by a final of 34-19 on Saturday afternoon. The Vols successfully navigated a tricky two-game stretch where they had a fair amount to lose and not a ton to gain from a national perspective. Nobody is pretending that the Vols have arrived, but there’s some real relief around UT’s facilities that the inexperienced Vols were able to take care of business against two quality programs.

    It was clearly an imperfect performance against the Red Wolves, however. The Vols never landed that decisive knockout punch in somewhat of a sluggish second half. There were a few breakdowns in pass protection, special teams had some lapses, the running game is still clearly a work in progress and the vertical passing game is still developing.

    But working on all of those things is much easier to do after a win. And Butch Jones was proud of his team for picking up the W even when everything wasn’t clicking quite the way it should’ve been.

    “These are going to be the days of a very, very young football team but we are learning how to win,” he said. “Teams find ways to win football games when they don’t play their best football. So I’m very proud of them that way, but make no mistake about it, we have a long ways to go.”

    We’ll find out very quickly how far the team has come this coming Saturday night in Norman, Okla. There are certainly a few question marks for this Oklahoma team, but make no mistake, the Sooners are loaded and certainly deserve to open up as a three-touchdown favorite.

    For Tennessee, injuries are on the forefront of a lot of people’s minds after a rough game in that department against Arkansas State. It was obviously a relief to hear that Ethan Wolf didn’t tear anything after what looked like a potentially very serious injury. His exact prognosis isn’t known yet, but it appears that he’s avoided anything major and could return to the field relatively soon. We don’t know if that’s a matter of days or weeks at this point, but we expect some kind of official word by early Monday afternoon.

    It’s looking like an ankle sprain for Von Pearson, but the extent and the exact location on his ankle haven’t been revealed yet. If it’s a bad high ankle sprain, as we’ve heard as a possibility, he would likely miss a fairly significant chunk of time. A lesser one could be overcome in a shorter period. Again, more official statements are expected Monday.

    Those injuries will be added to the season-ending ones sustained by Jacob Gilliam, Charles Mosley and Cody Blanc and ones that kept Trevarris Saulsberry, Derrell Scott and Rashaan Gaulden out against ASU. After a relatively successful camp on that front, they’ve begun to pile up the last couple of weeks.

    Moving forward, the development of the offensive line could be one of the biggest factors that determines how far this team goes. It had its moments on Saturday, but there were several breakdowns as well. And after studying some film, we noticed that Arkansas State primarily only had six or seven in the box. Quite frankly, the Vols have to run and protect better to have a chance against teams like Oklahoma, Georgia and Florida in upcoming games.

    Butch Jones is looking for more players to step up all over the roster and offensive line will be one spot where there could be opportunities. Brett Kendrick, despite a few mistakes, did an admirable job filling in at left tackle against ASU, but competition will continue there. Flipping Kyler Kerbyson over to left tackle and inserting Coleman Thomas on the right side remains an option. And though he didn’t play Saturday, Dontavius Blair can’t be counted out yet either. Also look for Dylan Wiesman to push for some snaps on the interior. At the very least, the versatile guard/center has secured his place as the first one off the bench at any of the three interior spots.

    Jones is also looking for more help on special teams. While he likes playing starters on some units, he also acknowledged the need to get more newcomers out there to help spell players like Cam Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who might be a little overworked during the course of a game.

     Recruiting 

    It was a slow weekend for Tennessee from a visitors standpoint, but the conversion rate proved to be high as the Vols were able to secure a commitment from 2016 North Carolina cornerback Marquill Osborne. Osborne possesses the speed and deameanor that the staff is looking for in the secondary and is a player that Tennessee will certainly be happy to have committed this early in the process.

    Osborne’s RTI scouting report is as follows:

    “Osborne is a surprisingly physical cornerback for his size who excels when he can get into his man and use his strength to jam or disrupt the route. He has a knack for knowing where the football is and getting his hands on it. That awareness helps him make plays by peeling off of his man and aiding his teammates when the pass doesn’t come his way. His understanding of route concepts allows him to see plays as they develop and react quicker than most other corners. He claims to run his 40-yard dash in the 4.35 range and his film would seem to support such a claim.”

    Osborne is a player that Tennessee coaches really fell in love with when he camped with the Vols back in July. The coaches were so impressed with Osborne during camp that they offered him on the spot and began setting up his visit once the season started.

    Osborne visited last weekend as the Vols hosted nearly thirty recruits and committed players for the Utah State game and really enjoyed his time in Knoxville. He enjoyed it so much that he decided to come back for the Arkansas State game and ended up committing moments before kickoff. Marquill credited the family atmosphere at Tennessee as one of the biggest reasons for his comfort level and ultimate commitment. While he currently has teammates committed to North Carolina, South Carolina and Clemson, it appears that Osborne is more than solid in his pledge to Tennessee.

    In Osborne the Vols are getting a very physical and fast cornerback who could play at an outside cornerback position or inside at the nickel spot. He will need to bulk up in order to consistently compete with SEC-caliber receivers on a weekly basis, but given the success that current Vol and fellow North Carolina native Emmanuel Moseley had gaining weight, I’m sure the coaching staff doesn’t see that as much of a problem.

    After the good news of Osborne joining the Vols over the weekend, all eyes will now shift to Memphis as in-state offensive tackle and 5-star prospect Drew Richmond is set to announce his college decision on Tuesday.

    Richmond appeared to be Tennessee’s to lose over the summer as Richmond really built a strong relationship with the Vol coaching staff, but recent conversations suggest that Richmond and Ole Miss have built quite a bond in recent weeks. Richmond went to Oxford on an unofficial visit in mid-August and Ole Miss made quite an impression on him. Since that visit he has remained in constant contact with the Vol coaching staff, but many in the Memphis area have been in his ear about playing for Hugh Freeze and the Rebels.

    Richmond and those close to him have maintained that his decision on Tuesday will not mean the end for his recruitment process and that he will remain open to hearing from other schools and potentially taking visits this fall. So, while Tennessee would certainly love to receive his commitment on this week, it would certainly not mean that the Vols were out of it if he were to announce for Ole Miss.

    With the next three weekends featuring two road games and a bye-week, don’t look for too much on the recruiting front from Tennessee in terms of visitors. The Vols will likely host an absolutely enormous list of names for their annual matchup against Florida on the first weekend in October, so stay tuned into RTI over the next few weeks as we will be announcing names of visitors for that game as we get them.

    Also, in case you missed it, RTI gathered up the stats from as many committed players as we could find in the 2015 class, including Preston Williams, Quinten Dormady, Jocquez Bruce and Jauan Jennings, among others. Here’s the link to the Commitment Stats.

     Basketball

    After a massive recruiting weekend saw Tennessee bring around 100 prospects on campus for the Utah State game, this week was much more tame. The Vols hosted just a handful of recruits for the Arkansas State game but they are making plans for two big games coming up in the next couple of months. Expect Tyndall and Co. to bring a ton of their top prospects in for the Florida and Alabama games. The staff’s use of football as a recruiting tool is definitely a departure from the previous administration and a notable improvement. It worked well for the Utah State game when they picked up two commitments.

    Tyndall is considering redshirting Memphis transfer Dominic Woodson if the NCAA rules him to be eligible this year. Woodson struggled to manage his weight at Memphis and, as we reported when he first transferred, the staff would like to see him lose around 30 pounds.  The 6-11 power forward weighs in at around 295 pounds right now, so he’s definitely got some work to do to get in shape to play in Tyndall’s up and down system.

    A few other notes: The Vols remain in an 8-hours a week training schedule through October 3rd – with two hours of on-court work and six-hours of off-court conditioning. The staff has welcomed back numerous alumni the last few week, something which has been received with open arms. That’s not to say the previous staff didn’t welcome former players, they did, but Tyndall and Co. have been taking a more proactive approach. Off-the-court, the “Tyndall Race for Veterans” will take place on September 27th – just another example of him reaching out to the surrounding community.