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    Back in March, four-star JUCO prospect De’Jahn Warren released a list of his top 11 schools. On Sunday, he trimmed down that group, and Tennessee made the cut.

    Warren, the top-rated junior college cornerback in the 2021 class, tweeted out a graphic featuring his top seven schools moving forward in his recruitment on Sunday, and the Vols were included along with Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Penn State, Florida State, and Maryland.

    According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, the 6-foot, 175-pound defensive back is the No. 2 overall JUCO prospect and No. 1 JUCO cornerback in the 2021 class. Warren plays for Lackawanna Community College, the same school current Vol defensive lineman Savion Williams played for before singing with UT in the 2019 class.

    Warren played for Suitland High School in Hyattsville, Maryland originally. But after missing his senior year due to academic reasons and not being recruited because of that, Warren caught fire after his first year with Lackawanna. He earned JUCO All-American honors in 2019, and he was named to the First Team All-Northeast Football Conference defense.

    The standout defensive back now holds 30 FBS offers, but he’ll be focusing on these seven schools moving forward.

    Warren has already tentatively planned an official visit to Tennessee’s campus later this year. He’s currently scheduled to take official visits to Penn State (Sep. 26), Oklahoma (Nov. 20), Tennessee (Dec. 4), and Georgia (Dec. 11).

    The 6-foot, 175-pound athlete is a hard hitter at the cornerback spot, and he’s very good at being in the right place at the right time to pick off passes. Warren has solid leaping ability and uses his athleticism to disrupt passes regularly. He moves well and plays good man coverage, something that is a must in Tennessee’s defense.

    In his first year at Lackawanna, Warren totaled 35 tackles, a tackle for loss, five interceptions, six pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and five blocked kicks according to the NJCAA.

    Tennessee’s 2021 class currently ranks fourth in the country and No. 1 in the SEC according to 247Sports. Of the Vols’ 23 current commitments, at least three prospects project as defensive backs with another prospect being able to play in the secondary if needed. Three-star defensive back De’Shawn Rucker, three-star safety Edwin White, and three-star cornerback Jay Jones are the Vols’ known defensive back commits, and four-star athlete Kaemen Marley could also play in the secondary.



      Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

      There’s a ton of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming 2020 college football season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But as of right now, Tennessee’s season opener against Charlotte is still set to happen.

      With the Big Ten announcing plans to play a conference-only schedule in 2020 and other Power Five conferences considering doing the same, smaller conference schools are beginning to worry about what their 2020 seasons could look like.

      Though the SEC has said they will discuss the possibility of playing only conference games this season, the plan right now is to still have the 2020 season proceed normally. That includes Tennessee’s season opener in Knoxville.

      According to Peter Burns of ESPN, Charlotte Athletics Director Mile Hill has contacted officials at UT, and Tennessee has confirmed to him that the two programs are still slated to play each other on the first weekend of September.

      The Vols open their 2020 season by hosting the 49ers in Neyland Stadium on September 5th. A kick-off time has not been announced for the game yet.

      All of this is, of course, subject to change. As noted by Burns, the Big Ten has already moved to a conference-only 2020 schedule, and the SEC will at least discuss doing the same.

      Not only that, but SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is feeling less and less optimistic that a 2020 season can proceed as planned with the ongoing pandemic.

      In an appearance on the Marty & McGee show on ESPN Radio, Sankey said his concern is “high to very high” over the upcoming season. He also noted that, “We are running out of time to correct and get things right.”

      So far, none of Tennessee’s 2020 football games have been canceled or rescheduled to another date. The Vols are still slated to travel to Oklahoma to take on the Sooners on September 12th and return home the following week to host Furman before starting conference play. Tennessee’s other non-conference game is against Troy on November 21st.



        A former Lady Vol standout is set to come back to the college basketball game.

        According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Kara Lawson has accepted the head coaching position of Duke’s women’s basketball program.

        The former Tennessee point guard had been an assistant for the Boston Celtics in the NBA through the current 2019-20 season after serving as a studio analyst for the NBA.

        Earlier this month, Duke head coach Joanne McCallie announced she would be stepping down from her position, citing uncertainty over a contract extension with the Blue Devils.

        “I am choosing to step away as head coach at Duke,” McCallie said in a video posted to Twitter. “As a coach in the final year of my contact, uncertainty is natural, and it takes away from confidence and fun. I am pretty sure there is a level of uncertainty among the Duke family.”

        Duke went 330-107 under McCallie, but Lawson takes over a program that has slipped as of late. After making the Elite Eight in 2013, Duke hasn’t made it beyond the Sweet Sixteen since, and the Blue Devils missed the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2019 both. Duke has gone 33-27 over the last two seasons, including a 6-10 mark in ACC play in the 2018-19 season.

        Lawson starred as the Lady Vols’ point guard under Pat Summitt from 1999-2003. During the course of her four-year career, the Virginia native averaged 13.6 points per game, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals in 143 career games. Lawson shot 45.8 percent from the field, 41.5 percent from three, and 84.7 percent from the free throw line.

        Upon graduating, Lawson was drafted fifth overall in the first round of the 2003 WNBA Draft by the Detroit Shock. Five days following the draft, Lawson was traded to the Sacramento Monarchs. She would win a title with the Monarchs two years later.

        Lawson was also a member of the 2001 and 2008 USA Basketball teams during the the course of her professional career. During both stints, she helped guide the USA to a gold medal.

        Following her career on the court, Lawson was named to the Board of Trustees of the University of Tennessee by Governor Bill Haslam in 2018. She also served as a television analyst for ESPN and the Washington Wizards. Lawson retired from the WNBA in 2015 to focus on her broadcasting career.

        In 2007, she became the first woman to work as an analyst for an NBA game when the New Orleans Hornets and Washington Wizards played. 10 years later, Lawson was named the primary television analyst for the Wizards, becoming one of the first women to be the primary analyst for an NBA team. She served as a studio analyst for the Sacramento Kings and worked as an NBA, WNBA, and college basketball broadcaster before making the jump into coaching this past year.

        Details of the deal have not been disclosed at this time.



          (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

          Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.

          “Odds Vols play a full season of football?” – @tjvol49

          Nathanael: Unless it’s moved to the spring, I think the odds of a full 12-game college football season and decreasing day by day. You already have the Big Ten moving to a conference-only schedule if the season is played in the fall, and the ACC is expected to do the same. The SEC will reportedly discuss doing the same, which would shorten the season to either eight or 10 games.

          I’m not betting on a full regular season happening this year. Not unless they make it doable in the spring semester.

          Ben: I personally don’t believe Tennessee will play a full football season in 2020. I voiced this opinion on The Swain Event on Wednesday that it was my belief that college commissioners would implement a schedule where only conference games would be played. I believe that simply  because the people making the decisions are going to try to squeeze in a season solely so that they can make as much money as possible off of TV deals. A day after I voiced that opinion, three major conferences announced that they were moving forward with a conference-only schedule or would likely do so. I imagine the SEC will follow suit rather quickly.

          “If they had a spring football season.. do they turn around in 2 months and play 2021 season in fall?” – Stevie

          Nathanael: I think that’s the biggest question you have to ask about holding football in the spring. I know the TSSAA specifically — and other high school sports organizations — have talked about doing that, but that’s also their biggest concern. The wear and tear on “amateur” bodies in that situation would be very rough. It would be one thing to do it in the NFL, where the players are being fairly compensated for the work they put in. It’s another to ask collegiate student-athletes or high school athletes to do it.

          “Rumors that Jeremy Banks is back. Is this true and if it is where does he fit into the rotation?” – Evan

          Nathanael: From what I can tell, Banks isn’t officially back with the team right now. His name has shown up on the online student database for UT, and he appears to be an active student. But unless he’s on campus and going through workouts and stuff with the team — which he isn’t, from what I’ve been told — then he’s not officially back yet. I do, however, think it’s just a matter of time before he’s officially brought back in and given a roster spot again.

          Ben: Banks will officially be back in August when camp begins. Well, technically late July. But he’ll slide in as the second team inside linebacker. Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch will be the starters to open camp, and Banks and J.J. Peterson will be the backups.

          “Terrence Lewis recent tweet said ”Thinking.” Are we still in a good spot to keep him? Does a Mondon commit make it the best LB class in UT History?” – Matt

          Nathanael: If there’s one commit in Tennessee’s 2021 class I’d worry most about not sticking around between now and signing day, it would be Lewis. The five-star can go just about anywhere he wants, and he’ll continue to listen to schools. With that being said, I think it’s easy to look too much into tweets from recruits. It’s easy to forget that these are still 16 or 17-year-old kids who are used to getting a lot of attention and crave that type of attention (usually). Not everything they tweet should be taken at face value, nor is it always a cryptic message that has something to do with their recruitment.

          As for your second question: If Tennessee lands five-star Smael Mondon to go along with Lewis and four-star Aaron Willis, you would be hard-pressed to find a better linebacker haul in the 2021 cycle. I’d hold off on saying it would be the best in UT history, but I’m having a hard time thinking of a better haul in one single class off the top of my head.

          Ben: Who the heck knows about Terrence Lewis’ tweet. That’s a battle that Tennessee will have to continue to win until National Signing Day. But his tweet could have been about anything. It could have been about his recruitment, a girl he likes, or what he wants to eat for dinner. All indications are that the Vols are still okay in that department.

          As for the linebacker class, it would definitely be the best in the country with Lewis, Mondon, and Aaron Willis on board. I would imagine it’s the best in program history as well from a recruiting rankings standpoint. But I’d wait and see how they produce on the football field before I label them as the best in school history.

          “What is the timeframe for commitment on Diego Pounds? I know he is viewed highly by the staff and there is mutual interest. Is this a reflection of waiting on Mims?” – @hesenij

          Nathanael: I’m not sure on a time frame for Pounds, but like you said, Tennessee’s staff really likes him, and he seems to very much be interested in UT. Don’t let his three-star rating fool you, either; I personally think he’s due for a four-star bump, and he holds legitimate offers from schools like Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Florida, Penn State, and Michigan among others. Pounds holding off on making an announcement could be a reflection of Amarius Mims’ decision, but I also think Tennessee would take Pounds even if they do somehow land Mims.

          Ben: I don’t believe Tennessee is telling Pounds to hold off on his commitment because of Mims for two reasons. One, I don’t believe Mims is coming to Tennessee. That’s a Georgia and Alabama battle. Two, Jeremy Pruitt has really grown on Pounds over the last couple of months. Tennessee really likes him. Pounds is still just weighing his options.

          “Class of 2021 could be absolutely amazing for Coach Barnes. Who is likely to come to Knoxville? Guess your class of 4 and say why.” – @volalum007

          Nathanael: To me, it all hinges on what five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler does and when he does it. If he commits to Tennessee — which looks at least somewhat likely at this point — then he could be the first of many highly-rated dominoes to fall UT’s way. Should the Vols land Chandler, you have to feel they have a much better shot at pulling five-star power forward Paolo Banchero from the west coast, and I think Tennessee is already in a decent spot with five-star Jabari Smith, too. Five-stars Harrison Ingram and Charles Bediako aren’t outside the realm of possibility, but I don’t feel quite as good about those two. Four-star guard Jahmai Mashack, who recently got an offer from UT and spoke with me about that, is definitely an option, too. I think there’s a lot of mutual interest there.

          If Tennessee doesn’t land Chandler, then that doesn’t exclude them from getting other five-stars. I just think it would make it tougher to pull others, though, like I said above, I think UT is in a good spot with Jabari Smith regardless of what Chandler does.

          Ben: I believe Tennessee lands Kennedy Chandler as of the beginning of July. After that, I truly don’t know, but I do believe he will be the domino that allows other dominos to fall. Banchero and Chandler have expressed plenty of interest in playing together, and if that happens in Knoxville, it would come to fruition because Chandler hopped on board. If not Banchero, I do believe Tennessee lands another big-time recruit, whether that be Ingram, Smith, etc. The possibility of playing with arguably the best point guard in the country will be too much to pass up for the elite prospects that the Vols are positioned well with.

            Tennessee may have a secret weapon on their men’s basketball roster. At least, according to rising sophomore guard Josiah-Jordan James.

            James spoke with the media via a virtual press conference on Friday afternoon, and during the session he was asked about Oregon transfer guard Victor Bailey Jr. becoming eligible this season after sitting out last year.

            According to James, the former Oregon sixth man and former four-star prospect is being undervalued across the country.

            “I honestly think Victory Bailey is the best-kept secret in all of college basketball,” James said. “He’s done some things that I’ve only seen pros do. He definitely brings a lot to this team.

            “Going against him every day in practice definitely made me a lot better, and I’m excited to do it again this year. We definitely bring the best out of each other.”

            Bailey transferred to Tennessee last offseason after spending two years with Oregon. Due to NCAA transfer rules, Bailey had to sit out the 2019-20 season and take a redshirt. The 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard will be eligible this season, and James thinks he’ll make a bigger impact than what outsiders are predicting.

            Why? Because Bailey apparently has elite athleticism and speed.

            “Just his athleticism, it’s just on a whole nother level,” James explained. “His shot-making ability and his speed is out of this world. He can get down the court in no time. He knows that, and he knows what he brings to the table, and he’s excited. I’m excited for him.”

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            While with the Ducks, Bailey averaged 7.0 points in 73 total games. He started eight contests as a sophomore and was one of two freshman to play in every game during the 2017-18 season for Oregon.

            As a sophomore last season, the Texas native averaged 7.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 0.9 assists. Bailey shot 41 percent from the field and had 13 games where he made multiple three-pointers. He ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in 3-point field goal percentage (.398) and shot 91 percent from the free throw line in his Oregon career. He led the Ducks in three-point shooting as a sophomore.

            Coming out of high school, Bailey chose Oregon over Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Tulsa, Missouri, and Nebraska. He was a four-star point guard prospect out of McNeil High School in Austin, Texas and was ranked as the No. 86 overall player in the country, the 19th-best point guard, and the fifth-best prospect in the state of Texas according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings.

            Bailey scored a total of 2,429 points during his time at McNeil. He helped lead his team to two district titles as well as qualifying for the playoffs all four years. Bailey was named district MVP as a sophomore, junior, and senior and won the 2017 American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk Championship.

            The redshirt junior will have plenty of competition for playing time at Tennessee this season, but James appears confident that the veteran guard will make his presence felt in UT’s rotation.

            Bailey becomes eligible just in time to join a crowded backcourt that includes James and fellow rising sophomore Santiago Vescovi as well as five-stars Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson from Tennessee’s 2020 signing class. Rising sophomore Davonte Gaines is also capable of playing as a guard.



              (Photo via Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics)

              After a stellar two-year stretch that featured an SEC regular season title, back-to-back appearances in the SEC Tournament Finals, back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths, a Sweet Sixteen run, and a month-long stay at No. 1 in the AP Poll, Tennessee’s men’s basketball program came back down to earth last season.

              The Vols lost four of their five starters from the previous two seasons heading into the 2019-20 campaign, and then starting point guard Lamonte Turner elected to have season-ending shoulder surgery in December, ending his UT career and giving the Vols another hole to fill.

              Even with the impressive play of freshman point guard Santiago Vescovi as a mid-year enrollee and the improved play of Yves Pons and John Fulkerson, Tennessee could never quite find consistency on offense to match their defensive intensity, and UT’s final record sat at 17-14 when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the SEC Tournament to be canceled the day the Vols were set to take on Alabama in the second round.

              Though last season was a drop-off from the previous two years, Tennessee returns almost all of their key contributors for this upcoming 2020-21 season, and the Vols also welcome in an elite signing class and grad transfer forward EJ Anosike.

              Because of that, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports not only expects the Vols to have a bounce-back year this upcoming season, but he also thinks UT should be the favorites to win the SEC.

              In a collaborative piece on CBS Sports, Parrish picked the Vols as his major-conference team to have a resurgence in the 2020-21 season.

              Here’s what Parrish had to say about the Vols for the upcoming men’s basketball season:

              Tennessee had a chance to be good — not great, but definitely good — last season. But when Lamonte Turner decided to have season-ending shoulder surgery in December, the Vols’ ceiling was lowered considerably. They immediately lost their next two games, dropped to 8-5 overall, and then limped to a 17-14 record featuring a mediocre 9-9 mark in the SEC.

              If there was an NCAA Tournament in 2020, Tennessee would not have made it.

              But a bounce-back season is on tap.

              Assuming Yves Pons withdraws from the 2020 NBA Draft, Tennessee will return five of its top six scorers and pair them with the fourth-best recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports, headlined by five-star prospects Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. That’s a super-strong roster for Rick Barnes, who will have a realistic chance to finish in the top two of the SEC standings for the third time in a four-year span. In fact, in my opinion, Tennessee should be the favorite in the SEC on paper, just ahead of John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, who are basically starting from scratch once again. It could take UK a while to get going, if it gets going at all. But the Vols are experienced and talented enough to be terrific from start to finish.

              While Tennessee has the chance to return the vast majority of their production from last season all while bolstering the roster with a couple five-stars, four-star forward Corey Walker Jr., and Sacred Heart grad transfer EJ Anosike, Kentucky has had to essentially completely overhaul their roster from last season.

              Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards, Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery, Nate Sestina, and Johnny Juzang are all gone from the Wildcats’ 2019-20 roster, and only rising sophomore Keion Brooks Jr. returns. Brooks averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game as a freshman last season.

              But in true Kentucky fashion, the Wildcats have brought in a high-profile recruiting class to try and fill those holes.

              Tennessee’s 2020 signing class in men’s basketball is second only to Kentucky’s in the SEC. The Wildcats signed five-stars BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke along with top-75 prospects Isaiah Jackson, Devin Askew, Lance Ware, and Cam’Ron Fletcher. Along with that, Kentucky brought in transfers from other programs, including seven-footer Olivier Sarr from Wake Forest, Jacob Toppin from Rhode Island, and Davion Mintz from Creighton.

              Though Kentucky’s additions seem promising, they’ll basically have an entirely new roster for the upcoming season. Tennessee, meanwhile, gets to supplement an already solid rotation that possesses a good amount of experience with even more talent.

              The 2020-21 men’s basketball season could be different than most thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but one thing is for certain: Expectations will certainly be high for the Vols this upcoming season, and UT should be right in the thick of things for the SEC regular season title.