State of the Vols: Winning on the Road Edition

    by -

    Donnie Tyndall-1-20

     Basketball

    The Vols bounced back from a tough home loss to Alabama with a home win over then–No. 19 Arkansas and a road win at Missouri last week. Tennessee is now 11-5 on the season – exactly where they were last year through 16 games – and 3-1 in SEC play. Don’t look now, but the Vols are 2nd in the SEC’s standings headed into a road game at South Carolina (Tuesday at 9pm, TV: ESPNU) and a home game against Texas A&M (Saturday at 1 pm, TV: Fox Sports Net).

    Tennessee doesn’t go 2-0 last week without Armani Moore. He earned SEC Player of the Week honors for his efforts against the Tigers and Razorbacks. Moore scored 15 points on 6-8 shooting and pulled in 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the year against Missouri – he recorded 29 combined points on 12-16 shooting and pulled in 19 rebounds against Arkansas and Missouri.

    Last week, the Vols were in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed according to Jerry Palm’s projections. This week they’re the first team out according the Palm and in the “next four out” – along with two other SEC teams (Florida and Ole Miss) – according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Tennessee stands at No. 52 in the NCAA’s latest official RPI and the SEC has nine teams in the RPI top-100. South Carolina is just outside that range at No. 107 while Texas A&M is in clear bubble territory at 39th.

    A 1-1 week from the Vols on the court should be a considered a success. South Carolina is a bit of a tough team to figure out. They’ve lost three of their lost four, but their one win in that stretch came at home over Alabama. They also have a neutral site win over Iowa State on their resume. Their personnel won’t scare anyone but they play tremendous defense. The Gamecocks rank 12th in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com and 7th in field goal percentage defense. For the Volunteers to move to 4-1 in SEC play, they’ll need to be more aggressive offensively than they were against Missouri. As always, we’ll have full game previews posted this week.

    On the recruiting front, top -2015 target KeVaughn Allen was scheduled to visit on January 10th but was a late scratch. The 6-2, 170 pound guard prospect is currently committed to Florida. He’s still considering Tennessee, but the Vols clearly have some ground to make up. Allen is a top-60 player according to both 247Sports and ESPN and would be a massive pull for Tyndall and Co. if they’re able to make up ground on the Gators.

    Tennessee offered JUCO power forward Kimani Jackson over the weekend. A 6-8, 230 pound prospect from Texas, Jackson is rated as the No. 6 junior college prospect in the nation by 247Sports. He’s currently in his redshirt freshman season at New Mexico Junior College and will have three seasons of eligibility remaining. We’ll keep you posted on the recruitment of Jackson and Allen moving forward.

     Recruiting

    The biggest news of the week came last Thursday when Tennessee received a commitment from Devante Brooks, their top target at tight end in the 2016 class. Brooks has a great frame, good strength and deceptive speed to go along with incredibly soft hands and has the potential to grow into a very nice tight end at the next level. Tight ends coach Mark Elder made Brooks a special priority at the position in 2016, and the early work paid off when Brooks announced on Twitter that he was committing to the Vols. Brooks is among the highest rated tight ends in the country in 2016, and should only continue to climb the overall rankings as he recovers from a torn ACL that forced him to miss most of his junior season.

    Along with six current Vol commits, Tennessee hosted two uncommitted prospects over the weekend in linebacker Quart’e Sapp and athlete/running back John Kelly. And while neither left Knoxville having committed to Tennessee the reports are that the Vols certainly made a positive impression on both players.

    Here’s a look at who all was in town this weekend from the 2015 class: Official Visitor List.

    Sapp is likely to visit a few more schools between now and signing day, and, as we hinted last week, room may be an issue for him in Tennessee’s class. While Sapp has been a Tennessee lean for quite some time, he may have waited too long before making his decision. With limited spots available, the Vols are still looking for a true offensive tackle and another running back to add to the 2015 class, so it appears that Sapp may be left on the outside looking in unless there is some shuffling.

    John Kelly is also an interesting target for Tennessee because of the remaining players left on the board at running back. With Tennessee still set to host Bryce Love this coming weekend and Jaason Lewis the next, it appears that they may be trying to get all of their targets to Knoxville before any final decision is made. Kelly is still being pursued by Michigan and Michigan State, as well as Minnesota. So the distance-from-home factor isn’t exactly in Tennessee’s favor as he nears a decision.

    Bryce Love is coming off of a recent visit to Stanford heading into this weekend’s official visit in Knoxville, and the Cardinal made quite an impression on Love during his time there. With his final decision seemingly coming down to Stanford or Tennessee, it will be interesting to watch what Love has to say coming out of his official visit to Knoxville next week. The Wake Forest, North Carolina native is not short on talent, but it’s hard to know exactly what the Vols looking for at the position to finish out their class. Love and Kelly are both shorter, quicker backs, whereas Lewis is a 6’4, 250-pound bruiser. I have no doubt that Tennessee will sign one more, but who it ends up being will be interesting to follow.

    Longtime Vol commit and talented wide receiver prospect Preston Williams was scheduled to be in Auburn over the weekend to check out the Tigers, but never ended up making it to the Plains – much to the dismay of Tiger fans who were hoping for the flip. The fact that Williams did not make the trip is an overwhelmingly positive development for Tennessee, as last-minute recruiting battles against Auburn over the years rarely favor the Vols. It isn’t clear if Williams will try to reschedule the visit or not.

    Tennessee’s other top target at the wide receiver position appears to be off the board after Ryan Newsome announced on Sunday evening that he would be making his final decision between Texas and UCLA, and eliminating the Vols as a possible choice. According to some close to Newsome, it appears that Tennessee informed him this weekend that they would not have room for him in their class, which lead him to trim the Vols from his list.

    On a personal note, I don’t think I can recall a player who has handled their recruitment with as much class and respect as Ryan Newsome has this year. Here is his tweet announcing that he was no longer considering Tennessee as an option:

    Check back later in the week as we update Tennessee’s official visitor list for this weekend.

     Football

    January 20 – which is this Tuesday – is a significant date for the 2015 squad. That’s the first time that the team will begin the more formal offseason conditioning program, headed up by strength coach Dave Lawson and his staff.

    That’s not to say that the team has been off, however, in between the TaxSlayer Bowl and that point. There have been meetings, informal workouts and players getting extra work in on the field on their own accord. Quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman have been a couple of the guys helping players get organized for extra work. And those veteran QBs are also helping newcomers Quinten Dormady and Jauan Jennings learn the ropes.

    “I think that the quarterback room as a whole is tight already,” Dormady said. “So being around [Dobbs] and following him around and picking apart his brain has definitely been an advantage since I’ve been here.”

    That’s a consistent theme for the veterans and the newcomers. The coaching staff paired the 10 early enrollees up with a big brother/mentor to help them get acclimated to their new surroundings. Freshman offensive lineman Jack Jones, who was paired with Coleman Thomas, discussed how the older guys on the team are helping him out.

    “Really all the guys have just taken me in and they’ve done a real good job of that,” Jones said. ” They’re already kind of showing me the ropes a little bit so I’m very grateful for the great offensive line guys – they’re really good dudes.”

    In future scheduling news, the Vols have confirmed a game against Charlotte in the 2018 season. That season will have a heavy Charlotte influence, as the Vols are scheduled to face West Virginia in the city of Charlotte and now they add the upstart 49ers to the schedule as well for a game in Knoxville. Charlotte started football in 2013 and will make the transition to FBS-level Conference USA in 2015. The 2018 season is the first year that they will be eligible for a bowl game, so obviously that program is hoping to be competitive at the highest level by that point.

    We also want to congratulate a pair of former Vols – Tony McDaniel of the Seattle Seahawks and Jerod Mayo of the New England Patriots – for being on teams that made the Super Bowl. Mayo (knee) won’t play in Super Bowl XLIX, but McDaniel has been a big part of Seattle’s defensive front. This marks the 23rd time in the past 24 years that at least one Vol will be in the Super Bowl.

    Also on the now former Vol front, several guys from the 2014 team are playing in various all-star games. Punter Matt Darr will participate in the College Gridiron Showcase All-Star Game on Jan. 31 in Arlington, Texas. Jordan Williams has already appeared in the Medal of Honor Game in Charleston S.C. And cornerback Justin Coleman appeared in the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday after what many described as an impressive week in practice. Nobody is confusing Coleman as an elite draft prospect, but he’s making a push to enter that draftable range and earn an NFL shot with some of his postseason work. Here’s how the Sporting News described his week:

    “The week was an excellent test for Coleman. He was forced to match up with receivers in tight man coverage more often than he did for the Vols. Coleman excelled in those drills. He also showcased excellent ball skills during position work.”