State of the Vols: Gators on Deck Edition

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    Georgia Game-44

     Football

    Nobody in Tennessee’s complex was happy with the final outcome in Athens on Saturday, though a sense of optimism is clearly growing after the Vols played the top-15 Bulldogs for four quarters on the road.

    The resiliency was noted by several people we spoke to after the game. Going down 21-10 could’ve broken some other recent UT squads, but the Vols didn’t blink this time. Even the calmness after the fumble in the end zone was impressive. The staff scrambled to put together a plan to get a score, a stop and get in position for a game-tying or winning score and it came very close to giving the Vols a shot.

    There was some commentary about the end-of-game decision to go for the onside kick as opposed to kicking it deep with just over two minutes remaining and all three timeouts in hand. Truthfully – there’s a decent argument for doing it either way.

    But the coaching staff, correctly, predicted that it would be tough to stop Todd Gurley with Bulldogs needing just two first downs to seal the win. At least from our perspective, the onside made sense – even if it didn’t work in the end. It gave Tennessee the best opportunity to get their hands back on the football.

    Obviously the attention shifted to Florida almost instantly on Saturday. Curt Maggitt, who recorded the first multi-sack game of his career at Georgia, said the team had to have the UGA game out of its system by the time the bus ride to Knoxville was over.

    Tennessee hasn’t made a formal announcement for a sellout, though no tickets are available on UTTix.com and we expect Butch Jones or another UT rep  to announce the official sellout on Monday.

    And while there won’t be any alternate uniforms, the University has officially endorsed the #CheckerNeyland movement, originated by the design of Spencer Barnett (@CleVOLander on Twitter), to replicate the orange and white checkerboard design throughout the stadium. On a more personal note, it’s very cool to see an idea from Spencer, a friend of RTI’s, move to this level. It’s obviously a testament to his talent and the power of social media to spread what really was a grassroots movement to something that UT acknowledged and is now helping make a reality.

    On the injury front, linebacker Dillon Bates had a very limited role at Georgia and we’ve heard some level of concern about a potential injury for the talented true freshman. There’s no official word on that as of late Sunday night, but we’ll obviously keep you updated as the Vols prepare for Florida this week.

    It’s too early to tell on Von Pearson and Josh Smith, who are working their way back from ankle sprains. Both were spotted still heavily relying on crutches last week around the complex, so it’s a stretch to say they’ll definitely play. That being said, they can’t be ruled out yet either, so we’ll continue to monitor that as well. With the UTC matchup the following weekend, one plan of action would be to rest each two more weeks to get them as close to 100% as possible for the remainder of the season, though Tennessee would certainly love to have either or both against the Gators if they can be effective on any level.

    Trevarris Saulsberry saw some limited work at Georgia and expect his snap count to go up going forward as he gets back into game shape. We’re also still waiting on the debut of running back Derrell Scott. Marlin Lane is a touch under 100% with a sore ankle and the Vols need some more production behind Jalen Hurd. Expect Scott to be in the mix soon – he’s not expected to redshirt at this point despite missing the first four games of the season.

    There’s also no concern about the availability of quarterback Justin Worley for Florida. Numbness in his arm was the primary reason he was forced to sit a few series. There was initial fear of structural damage on the sideline, though, after a little prayer according to Worley, quick tests done at Sanford Stadium showed no damage.

     Recruiting

    What an enormous week for Tennessee on the recruiting trail, and, more specifically, what an outstanding Friday.

    The Vols were able to secure a commitment from longtime Vol-lean Shy Tuttle when he committed at an assembly/pep rally at his school before his team played that night. Shy told the Tennessee coaches a long time ago that he wanted to be a Vol and join Kahlil McKenzie to anchor the interior of the defensive line for years to come. Tennessee’s coaches and recruiting staff all deseerve a lot of credit for Shy’s recruitment. I know it may seem corny to some, but the photoshopped Rolling Stone cover featuring Shy and Beyoncé really stood out to him and showed that Tennessee wasn’t taking the fact that they were likely to get him for granted. We have seen the staff do things like this for various recruits this year – most notably Preston Willliams and Kahlil McKenzie – and as simple as it is, these younger guys really like the creativity and imagination shown in their recruitment.

    Speaking of Kahlil McKenzie, he Shy have formed a really unique bond over the last few months and will each be visiting this coming weekend for the Florida game. In fact, they have already planned to wear their bucket hats all weekend and are encouraging other visiting recruits to wear one as well and join their ‘Bucket Gang.’

    Tennessee got even more good news on Friday night when Hopewell, Virginia defensive end Darrell Taylor chose the Vols at halftime of his football game. Taylor had been considered a heavy lean to Virginia Tech for the last month or so, but a late push by Tennessee swung the momentum and he decided to join the 2015 class as a future Volunteer.

    Tennessee has been looking for another explosive rush defensive end to the class and Taylor fits the mold perfectly. He is rangy, fast, versatile and has the type of frame that should easily allow him to add another 30-40 pounds of muscle once he arrives to campus. He plays defensive end, linebacker, tight end and some receiver for his high school team, so he should really benefit when he is able to focus on learning the playbook and techniques for a single position.

    Taylor will be in Knoxville this weekend for a visit and to meet some of his future teammates. The visitor list for this weekend’s game against Florida looks to be an impressive one. Many names will be added to and dropped from this list over the next five days or so, but here are some of the names that we have heard will be in attendance for the game this weekend:

    (Click on linked names to view their RTI recruiting profile)

    Commits:
    Andrew Butcher
    Marques Ford
    Kahlil McKenzie
    Darrell Taylor

    *I would expect plenty of other committed players to make their way into town this weekend as well, especially the in-state players and guys who live within reasonable driving distance.*

    Prospects:
    Pat Allen
    Ugo Amadi
    Ricky DeBerry
    Johnny Frasier
    Kyle Phillips
    Mook Reynolds
    Quarte Sapp
    Ke’Shawn Vaughn

    We will have a complete list of expected visitors later in the week as more plans become finalized.

    Also, check out Saturday’s Commitment Stats post in our forum to see how some of Tennessee’s committed players fared in their high school games last week.

     Basketball

    The Vols remain in an 8-hours a week training schedule through Friday when they can start practice. JUCO All-American Kevin Punter continues to impress and would start at point guard if the season started today. Tyndall told Mike Strange that Richardson, Baulkman, Moore and Carmichael would round out the starting lineup if the season started today. If that lineup holds, the Vols will be short on bulk. Armani Moore, who came to Tennessee as a point guard, would be the heaviest starting Vol at 215 pounds and would likely play the four. That’s just one example of the roster challenges the team will face this year.

    Tennessee will host several prospects the weekend of the Florida game. We wrote about five-star 2015 power forward Skal Labissiere last week. He is still in line for an official visit to Knoxville that weekend. Four-star shooting guard Chris Clarke is also planning to take an official visit to campus for the Florida game. We’ll have a more thorough list of expected visitors for you later this week.

    Tyndall, his staff, and the team ran in the inaugural “Tyndall Run for Veterans” Saturday. You can read more about that event here.