Butch Jones refused to call the past week a bye week, instead referring to it as a work week. For the staff it meant extra recruiting (more on that later), getting some miscellaneous sponsorship and promotional work in, in addition to pouring over UGA film.
It was also a busy work week for the strength staff and the ‘developmental squad’ portion of the roster. That consists of the players who aren’t playing significant roles this season and can focus a little more time and energy on developing physically. Strength coach Dave Lawson put them through a few strenuous workouts, including one on Friday right before the players were free for the weekend. All of the players also spent some extra time on the academic side as the team looks to continue its strong recent track record in that area.
Though some players went home or on various short outings, a fair amount also stuck around campus and got in some extra film/game prep over the weekend.
The Vols got back to the basics on the practice field last week, definitely beginning preparations for Georgia, but also working on fundamentals such as getting off of blocks so the defense will be ready to square up on Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who Mark Richt said has no health issues despite only playing in the first quarter against Troy on Saturday.
Speaking of Richt, he had some nice compliments for Tennessee on his conference call Sunday evening.
“The thing I see more than anything is just a high level of energy,” Richt said of Tennessee. “(I see) a bunch of guys playing really hard, a bunch of guys just playing with maximum effort. They look very well coached and really excited about playing. I think they’re doing a really good job.”
Health will be a big storyline for both squads on Saturday. We know Von Pearson (ankle) will be out. We’ll be closely monitoring Josh Smith (ankle) in practice. The training staff kept him off of it all of last week and we’ll see what kind of results that leads to going forward. It could be a little bit of a stretch for him to play this week, but it can’t be ruled out yet.
Expect Trevarris Saulsberry and Derrell Scott to both make their debuts this week if all goes as expected. Both moved well during the bye week and are in position to add depth to their respective spots. The tight ends are a little banged up with Ethan Wolf, Daniel Helm and Joe Stocstill all nursing injuries – though all three have a very good chance to be available at UGA.
It was an interesting week on the recruiting trail for Tennessee and Tennessee coaches as many members of the staff took advantage of the bye week to travel across the country and visit both committed players and targets alike.
Coach Zach Azzanni was seen on the sidelines of Lovejoy’s game on Friday night featuring wide receiver commit Preston Williams. Williams collected three catches for over 70 yards, had three punts that were downed inside his opponent’s 5-yard line, and added an interception while playing some spot-duty at free safety. Williams spent most of the night trying to get open against triple coverage and was unable to put up his usual elite numbers as his team fell to McEachern in the final minutes 7-3. Williams did make sure to sport a Tennessee skull cap and ‘Power T’ receiver gloves during the game and the ESPN announcers gave Tennessee a lot of good publicity when discussing Williams’ college decision.
Williams has remained firmly committed to Tennessee, but has mentioned recently that he will be taking some official visits to other schools in the coming months. Preston said this week that Tee Martin was recruiting him pretty hard for Southern Cal recently and that he will be taking an official visit there this fall, although he has not set a date for that visit. While he has maintained all along that he is and will remain solid to Tennessee, the coaching staff and fans of recruiting will likely be sweating this one out all the way to signing day.
On Thursday night, Butch Jones was in Texas to take in Quinten Dormady‘s game as Boerne High School hosted Antonian Prep. Dormady accounted for over 400 yards of offense and three touchdowns as Boerne blanked Antonian and won 34-0. After that game Butch traveled to North Carolina to see defensive tackle and possible soon-to-be-Vol Shy Tuttle.
Tuttle will make his college choice on Friday at his school and the Vols have been carrying the momentum in this race for a while. When you look at this 2014 Vol defensive line, they are much more talented than last year but still lack the size to hold up against some of the bigger offensive lines and power running attacks like OU and UGA will throw at you. If that Vols can secure Tuttle’s commitment this week – and I think they will – then that will give the Vols two defensive tackles who weigh more than 300 pounds in Tuttle and Kahlil Mckenzie (who will be visiting for the Florida game), as well as another who should easily reach 300 in his first year on campus in Quay Picou.
The thing about all of these guys is that even with their size, they are all exceptional athletes and should only get bigger and better when they are able to acclimate to a collegiate strength and conditioning program.
Back to Tuttle for a moment. A lot of credit has to go to Tennessee’s staff on this one regardless of where Tuttle ultimately signs. The Vols were battling the top programs in the nation just to get their foot in the door and have had to deal with a lot of in-state pressure on Shy and his family to stay in North Carolina to play for the Tar Heels or NC State. Even with all of that going against them and already having two very talented defensive tackles currently committed, the Vols continue to be in great shape to add Tuttle’s commitment on Friday.
There was also some discussion and maybe even some surprise when in-state defensive back Cam Ordway followed fellow Volunteer State recruits Drew Richmond and Alex Givens to Ole Miss. There are possibly some concerns with Ordway’s ability to be eligible at the next level and Tennessee’s staff chose to wait on his grades before accepting a commitment from him. We aren’t sure if this is something that could change if Ordway gets his grades in order or if the Vols have already moved on, but as it stands right now his commitment to the Rebels apparently did not catch anyone on The Hill by surprise.
Lastly, if you missed Daniel’s commitment stats post on Saturday, I suggest you take a look at it as it was another impressive week for Vol commits on the high school gridiron. Alvin Kamara really stood out. Kamara had an absolutely huge day for Hutchinson against Iowa Central, racking up 15 carries for 190 yards and four touchdowns to go along with two catches for 43 yards as Hutchinson rolled 42-14. Kamara and Rocky Reid – UT’s two running back commitments – combined for 460 yards of total offense and a staggering eight touchdowns over the weekend.
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. We’ll obviously know much more about the team when we can see them practice, but JUCO All-American Kevin Punter has been impressive during his short time on campus. More than any other newcomer, Punter is ready to make a big impact. He’ll get the first crack at point guard duties and will share time there with Ian Chiles. So far, the staff continues to be impressed with this team’s work ethic in general.
On the recruiting front, Tennessee will host several prospects the weekend of the Florida game. Five-star 2015 power forward Skal Labissiere will take an official visit to Knoxville that weekend. He received a visit from the coaching staff two weeks ago. Though the Vols aren’t the favorites for his services at present, they’re definitely in the running. Four-star shooting guard Chris Clarke will also take an official visit to campus for the Florida game. We’ll work on getting you a thorough list of expected visitors for that weekend as it nears.
Off-the-court, Tyndall, his staff, and the team will be participating in the inaugural “Tyndall Run for Veterans” which will take place on September 27th. You can find more information about it here. Also of note, all of Tennessee’s 2014-15 basketball games will be televised. The Vols will play 15 games on ESPN networks, 10 games on the SEC Network, four games on Fox Sports Net and one game on CBS Sports Network.