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    On Thursday, the Big Ten announced that all conference teams would be moving to a conference-only schedule for the 2020 college football season. Could the SEC be following in their footsteps?

    According to a report, that will be up for discussion soon.

    Brandon Marcello of 247Sports reported on Thursday that the SEC plans to at least discuss the possibility of scrapping all non-conference games for all 14 SEC teams and playing a conference-only schedule for the 2020 season.

    As of right now, the SEC is not scheduled to discuss any such plans until sometime next week, but the Big Ten’s announcement on Thursday could accelerate that timeline. For now, though, the plan is for conference athletics directors to discuss those possibilities next week.

    Those discussions will debate the logistics of playing either an eight-game or 10-game schedule exclusively with SEC teams and no non-conference opponents. A final decision on the schedule is not expected to be reached during the meeting, however.

    Per Marcello’s report, all 14 SEC head football coaches conducted a meeting with conference administrators and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey on Thursday morning. In that meeting, the head coaches were told that the SEC will wait as long as possible before making any decisions about the upcoming 2020 football season.

    The ACC has already discussed a conference-only schedule for the 2020 season, and that plan has been shared with all ACC head coaches according to Brett McMurphy of WatchStadium.com. But as of now, the Big Ten is the only major conference to go ahead with that plan, as both the Big 12 and Pac-12 have not made any determinations, and the SEC is not moving that way just yet.

    Tennessee’s current 2020 football schedule features four non-conference match-ups and eight SEC games. The Vols open the season at home on September 5th hosting Charlotte then go on the road to face Big 12 foe Oklahoma on September 12th. Tennessee then returns home to host Furman on September 19th, and the Vols’ next and final non-conference game is a home game against Troy on November 21st.

    The eight SEC teams the Vols are currently slated to face this season are Florida (Sep. 26), Missouri (Oct. 3), South Carolina (Oct. 10), Alabama (Oct. 24), Arkansas (Oct. 31), Kentucky (Nov. 7), Georgia (Nov. 14), and Vanderbilt (Nov. 28).

    No SEC schools were scheduled to face a Big Ten team in the regular season of the 2020 season.

      Josiah-Jordan James came to Tennessee as a five-star prospect, the first five-star to sign on with the Vols’ men’s basketball program since Robert Hubbs in 2013. Needless to say, expectations were pretty high for the Charleston, South Carolina native.

      Unfortunately for the former five-star, his freshman season never quite lived up to expectations.

      James played in 27 of Tennessee’s 31 games and had injury issues at the beginning of the year and in the middle of SEC play. He got off to a slow start, and just when it looked like he was starting to find his groove, he had to sit out for two weeks after aggravating a groin/hip injury.

      All in all, the 6-foot-6, 207-pound guard finished his first year at Tennessee averaging 7.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 29.9 minutes a game in 27 contests.

      Coming out of high school, James was rated as the No. 22 overall prospect in the 2019 class per the 247Sports Composite rankings. Many Vol fans were hoping to see James average double figures in scoring at the very least, and others thought James could be a one-and-done type of player.

      Now, fans are left wondering if James can bounce back after a somewhat subpar freshman campaign.

      Were the “one-and-done” expectations too out-of-place for James? And could he be due for marked improvement in his second year in the orange and white?

      According to my research, the answer to both of those questions could very well be “yes.”

      I took a look at the last five recruiting cycles in men’s basketball (2015-19) and looked at the prospects who were ranked at or around where James was ranked in the 247Sports Composite rankings in each cycle. I looked at players rated two spots better than James’ 22nd spot and two spots lower, meaning the prospects in my research were rated between 20th and 24th in their respective recruiting cycle.

      The data came to a pretty stark consensus: Prospects in that range have rarely been true “one-and-done” players over the last five years.

      All of the college signees — including James — in that 20-24 ranking range in the 2019 class are coming back to their respective schools for a second year in the upcoming 2020-21 season. Isiah Mobley (20th) is returning to USC, Tre Mann (21st) just announced he’s coming back to Florida, and Keion Brooks Jr. (24th) is the only notable returning member from Kentucky’s 2019-20 roster. LaMelo Ball (23rd) is an outlier, as he elected to go pro overseas rather than head to college.

      In fact, out of the four prospects who went to college out of that group, James actually had the highest scoring average (7.4 PPG) and played the most minutes per game (29.9 MPG).

      Counting James, only four of the 25 prospects I looked at in that 20-24 range in the 2015-19 classes played one year at their university before going pro. Louis King (20th in 2018) attended Oregon for one season before declaring for the NBA Draft. Jaylen Hoard (24th in 2018) did the same for Wake Forest, playing one season then going pro. Trae Young (23rd in 2017) was a superstar in one season at Oklahoma and went to the NBA, and Omari Spellman (20th in 2016) technically counts as he only played on the court for one year with Villanova, though he redshirted his first year on the roster.

      Other than those four, LaMello Ball, and Billy Preston — who was ranked 20th in the 2017 class and signed with Kansas before getting hurt in a car accident, leaving in the middle of the 2017-18 season despite not playing any, and going pro — the rest of players I looked at stayed in college for two or more years.

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      The vast majority of the 25 players in that ranking range over the last five recruiting cycles played at least two seasons of college ball, with 16 of them (including James) sticking around for at least a second season at their school. Three more prospects ended up using all four years of their college eligibility: Mustapha Heron (22nd in 2016) played two years at Auburn and two years at St. John’s, Jalen Adams (23rd in 2015) played four years at UConn, and Carlton Bragg (24th in 2015) played two years at Kansas then 1.5 years at New Mexico before being dismissed.

      Interestingly, every player with the same ranking as James over the last five years (22nd) went on to play at least two years of college basketball. Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Mustapha Heron (Auburn, St. John’s), Jaylen Hands (UCLA), and Immanuel Quickley (Kentucky) all played at least two seasons at their respective schools, just like James is set up to do. In fact, Devin Booker (2014) is the only prospect ranked 22nd in the 247Sports Composite rankings since the 2010 class to go one-and-done in college.

      All of that is well and good, but did the players who stuck around for two or more years at their school end up getting better? For the most part, yes.

      Nine of the 15 players who played two or more years of college basketball (not counting the 2019 recruits since they haven’t played their second season yet) showed significant improvement from their first to second seasons (at least 3.0 more points per game or strong increases in other stats). Players like Thomas Bryant at Indiana, Mustapha Heron at Auburn, and Rawle Alkins at Arizona saw increases in their points per game and in other areas in their second season, just not as significant as others.

      Still not sold? Then let’s look at an example of a Tennessee player who entered UT with similar expectations as James, failed to live up to his billing as a freshmen, but still turned in a very impressive Tennessee career.

      Vincent Yarbrough joined the Vols as a top-20 prospect and a highly-coveted recruit out of Cleveland, TN in the 1998 class. Expectations were very high for the in-state standout, but his first season as a Vol — much like James’ — was far from what he and others hoped.

      As a freshman, Yarbrough played in 30 games and averaged 7.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals while shooting 41.7 percent overall and 27.4 percent from three in 23.5 minutes a game.

      Do those stats sound familiar?

      James’ freshman season saw him average 7.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 0.9 steals while shooting 37.0 percent overall and 36.7 percent from three in 29.9 minutes a game in 27 contests.

      Yarbrough, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound small forward, would go on to average 14.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.7 steals as a sophomore while shooting 46.7 percent overall and 35.8 percent from three in 33 games in the 1999-2000 season. In fact, by the time Yarbrough graduated and left UT after the 2001-02 season, he finished his career as a top-10 all-time scorer for the Vols, and his 1,737 career points still place ninth all-time in school history.

      Could a similar trajectory be in store for James? I actually talked extensively about that in an episode of the RTI Podcast with Gene Henley of the Times Free Press back in February of this year, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that could be the case.

      James, who has a similar build to Yarbrough at 6-foot-6, 207 pounds, had similar struggles to Yarbrough as a freshman, and injuries really held James back on offense. Defensively, James was one of the better players on the team, but his work on defense didn’t always show up on the stat sheet.

      What fans pay attention to more is what players do on the offensive end. And if Rick Barnes’ words this offseason are to be believed, fans may see a new, reinvigorated version of James in the 2020-21 season.

      Barnes said earlier this offseason that James has “transformed his body” and improved his flexibility by practicing yoga in the offseason. Last year, James missed essentially all of UT’s preseason preparation with an injury, and then injuries hampered him midway though the actual season.

      If healthy, James has a chance to really shine. Both the history of recruiting rankings and UT’s own history have precedent for this.

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      James played a significant role for Tennessee last season, and he had to. The freshman averaged the fifth-most minutes among UT’s players who played at least half the season, and when he was absent from the starting lineup in SEC play, Tennessee struggled to replace him with Jalen Johnson and Uros Plavsic taking starting duties temporarily.

      With Jordan Bowden and Jalen Johnson departing from the roster this offseason, James looks to be in line for a bigger role. But he’ll also have something this year he didn’t have much of last year: competition.

      James almost started by default last season. Yes, he was talented, but other than Jalen Johnson, Tennessee didn’t have anyone else to start alongside Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner in the backcourt. Then once Turner went down and Santiago Vescovi entered mid-year, James took on an even bigger role and consistently played large chunks of minutes. James played 30 or more minutes in 17 of the 27 games he appeared in for Tennessee last season.

      As a freshman, James didn’t have to worry too much about his starting job being taken from him. But heading into his sophomore year, he has some very talented youngsters ready to steal those minutes away from him.

      Five-star guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson will have roles of some sort on Tennessee’s team this upcoming season, and James will have to fend both off for playing time in what looks to be a loaded and deep UT roster. Not only that, but Santiago Vescovi will finally have a full offseason to learn and grow, likely further cementing himself as the team’s point guard. That doesn’t leave James a ton of options as a point-forward type of player he was at times last year.

      Competition brings out the best in true ballers, and James will have to prove that this upcoming season. Because there won’t be much lack of competition at any position for the Vols this season, especially in the backcourt.

      Were expectations too high for Josiah-Jordan James coming into Tennessee? Possibly. Is he capable of taking a pretty significant step forward as a sophomore and getting closer to living up to those expectations? History says that’s very likely.

      Only time will tell, but it’s far, far too early for fans to give up on James right now. The potential is there, and his defense alone will keep him on the court. He just needs to find more of an offensive identity, and the pieces are more than capable of sliding into place for the former five-star.



        Vol fans are well aware of who Brian Niedermeyer is on Jeremy Pruitt’s coaching staff at Tennessee. But those around Knoxville aren’t the only ones who have their eye on UT’s young assistant coach.

        Niedermeyer joined Pruitt’s staff as tight ends coach once Pruitt was hired as Tennessee’s head coach prior to the 2018 season, and Niedermeyer’s only on-field coaching experience before coming to UT was as a receivers coach at East Texas Baptist University in 2014.

        That didn’t stop Niedermeyer from making an instant impact with the Vols, though.

        The Alaska native earned the 247Sports National Recruiter of the Year award for the 2019 cycle after he helped Tennessee land five-star Darnell Wright, four-star Henry To’o To’o, and four-star Quavaris Crouch among others.

        On the field, Niedermeyer was moved to inside linebackers coach this offseason, and his recruiting prowess has continued to shine. He’s the primary recruiter for five-star Vol commit Terrence Lewis and is a secondary recruiter for four-star Vol commits Aaron Willis and Julian Nixon.

        Because of that stout recruiting track record and the ability he’s shown as an on-field coach, Niedermeyer has caught the attention of coaches all around the football world.

        Matt Zenitz of AL.com helped put together an article that looked at some of the “rising star assistant coaches” across the SEC according to other coaches. AL.com got feedback from more than 20 coaches and high-ranking officials around college football and the NFL, including five head coaches and granted them anonymity. Those coaches were asked about which SEC assistants they view as rising stars who aren’t coordinators or co-coordinators on offense or defense and are under the age of 40.

        In those conversations, Niedermeyer’s name was brought up fairly often.

        “Niedermeyer has been with Jeremy Pruitt dating back to Pruitt’s time as the defensive coordinator at Georgia in 2015,” Zenitz wrote. “The Alaska native followed Pruitt to Alabama in 2016 and is now a valuable part of Pruitt’s staff in Knoxville. Niedermeyer was the 247Sports national recruiter of the year for 2019 and is the lead recruiter on Tennessee’s top-ranked commit for its highly-ranked 2021 class — five-star linebacker Terrence Lewis. Niedermeyer had been coaching tight ends for the Vols but is now entering his first season as the team’s inside linebackers coach. The 31-year old had previously worked with linebackers as a graduate assistant at both Georgia and Alabama and also as a volunteer assistant for former NFL linebacker Michael Barrow at Miami in 2013.”

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        The young Tennessee assistant played tight end for two years at Arkansas Pine Bluff and eventually began his coaching career at his alma mater in 2012, serving as a defensive student coach at UAPB. From there, Niedermeyer became a volunteer assistant at Miami, wide receivers coach at East Texas Baptist University, a graduate assistant at Georgia, a graduate assistant at Alabama, then the Director of Recruiting Operations at Alabama before following Pruitt to Tennessee.

        Niedermeyer was one of 13 SEC assistants mentioned by the coaches interviewed by AL.com as “rising stars.” He joined the likes of South Carolina WRs coach Joe Cox, Ole Miss TEs coach Joe Jon Finley, Ole Miss special teams coordinator Blake Gideon, Georgia WRs coach Cortez Hankton, Alabama RBs coach Charles Huff, Florida QB coach Brian Johnson, Alabama DL coach Freddie Roach, Florida LB coach Christian Robinson, Texas A&M DL coach Elijah Robinson, Texas A&M LBs coach Tyler Santucci, Alabama CBs coach Karl Scott, and Kentucky ILBs coach Jon Sumrall.

        Last summer, Niedermeyer earned a raise and contract extension heading into the 2019 season. The new deal upped Niedermeyer’s pay to $355,000 annually, a $150,000 raise from his beginning salary. His new contract runs through January 31, 2021.



          Tennessee kicks off the 2020 season with a match-up against Charlotte in Neyland Stadium on Sept. 5. A decision on whether or not the season will be played as scheduled has yet to be made, nor have decisions been made in regards to how the season will look if it is indeed played.

          Still, Rocky Top Insider presses on to get Vol fans ready for Year 3 under Jeremy Pruitt by taking a look at the best players Tennessee will face at each position. First up is our look at the 10 best quarterbacks the Vols will take on this upcoming season.

          No. 1 — Kyle Trask, Florida (Sept. 26)

          Trask enters the 2020 season viewed by most as the top returning quarterback in the SEC. He isn’t the Tua Tagovailoa-type that has been at the top of this list in recent years, but Trask is still a terrific quarterback.

          He finally earned the starting job for the Gators last season after Feleipe Franks was injured in Week Two against Kentucky. Trask proceeded to lead Florida to an 11-2 finish as the Gators completed the season ranked ninth in the country. On the season, Trask threw for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He completed 66.9 percent of his passes.

          Trask ranked second in the league last year behind LSU’s Joe Burrow in passing yards per game (245.1), ahead of quarterbacks such as Kellen Mond, Ryan Hilinski, and Bo Nix. He also threw for more touchdowns (25) than the aforementioned quarterbacks, as well as Georgia’s Jake Fromm (24), and he threw fewer interceptions (7) than Jamie Newman (11) — Georgia’s transfer quarterback — did at Wake Forest. He even had a better quarterback rating.

          With the best tight end in the SEC in Kyle Pitts at his disposal along with a revamped offensive line and a trio of talented wide receivers, Trask is poised for a big year in his first full season as a starter.

          No. 2 — Mac Jones, Alabama (Oct. 24)

          Jones isn’t Tagovailoa, but he doesn’t have to be. He’ll be behind an offensive line that SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic considers the best in the SEC, and he’ll be throwing to a pair of likely first round receivers in Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. He’ll also be handing the ball off to arguably the best running back in the SEC in Najee Harris.

          The redshirt junior appeared in 12 games last fall including four starts following Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury. Jones averaged 293 passing yards, 3.25 touchdowns, and 0.5 interceptions per start last season. If translated over a 13-game season, those averages would total 3,809 yards, 42 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

          Jones will have to fight off incoming five-star Bryce Young for the job. His chances of doing so increased when spring practice was canceled due to COVID-19. Young will be breathing down Jones’ neck to get on the field, but as long as Jones plays well, Young will have to wait his turn.

          No. 3 — Jamie Newman, Georgia  (Nov. 14)

          The Wake Forest transfer is this year’s Kelly Bryant. After arriving in the SEC with 16 ACC starts under his belt, Newman is considered a Heisman favorite by many media publications and oddsmakers due to his dual-threat ability. Newman started 12 games for the Demon Deacons last season, completing 61 percent of his passes for 2,868 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He rushed for 570 yards and six touchdowns on 180 carries.

          Like Jones, Newman will have to win the quarterback battle during fall camp after JT Daniels announced at the beginning of the summer that he was transferring from USC to Georgia. First and foremost, Daniels will have to be granted immediate eligibility.

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          No. 4 — Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma (Sept. 12)

          Rattler is supposed to be the next great five-star quarterback to win a Heisman Trophy in Norman following the graduation of Jalen Hurts. The Phoenix, Arizona native redshirted last season following a prep career where he threw for an Arizona state high school record 11,083 yards and 116 touchdowns. Rattler completed seven of his attempted 11 passes last season while maintaining his redshirt. He threw one touchdown.

          The former consensus No. 1 overall quarterback in the country is now primed to take over for Hurts despite being in a position battle with redshirt sophomore Tanner Mordecai.

          No. 5 — Terry Wilson, Kentucky (Nov. 7)

          Wilson is dangerous with his legs, but he’ll have some rust to knock off after missing the entire 2019 season after tearing his patellar tendon in just the second game of last season. He was carted off the field following an illegal horse-collar tackle late in the third quarter of a 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan at Kroger Field on Sept. 7 and underwent successful surgery to repair his left knee on Sept. 19.

          The injury came following a breakout season in 2018 where he rushed for 547 yards and four touchdowns, though he rushed for just one touchdown over the final eight games of the season. Wilson had a high completion percentage (67.2) in 2018, but that was largely because Kentucky didn’t take many chances through the air. He only threw for 200 yards on three different occasions and averaged 145 passing yards per game.

          Wilson will help form a dominant rushing attack behind a great offensive line this season in Lexington. If he can prove his worth as a passer, he’ll end the year as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.

          No. 6 — Ryan Hilinski, South Carolina (Oct. 10)

          Most of Hilinski’s struggles as a true freshman can be attributed to injuries. He required a procedure to clean up his the knee following the season after dealing with elbow and knee injuries throughout the 11 games in which he started after taking over in Week 2 following a season-ending injury to senior Jake Bentley.

          Those injuries played a role in Hilinski finishing the season 11th in the SEC in passer rating (113.4). He was last among regular starters in yards per attempt (5.8) as he completed 58.1 percent of his passes and threw for 2,357 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions.

          A healthy Hilinski has the chance to be really good. That is, if Will Muschamp can find some good pieces to put around him following the departure of Bryan Edwards to the NFL.

          No. 7 — Feleipe Franks, Arkansas (Oct. 31)

          Another season for the Vols, another game on the schedule against Feleipe Franks as the opposing quarterback. Franks decided to transfer to Arkansas following his redshirt junior season that was cut short in Gainesville due to a season-ending lower body injury.

          The 6-foot-6 quarterback started 25 games for the Gators that proved to be a roller coaster of emotions. Franks has always had the arm talent, but he has lacked the pedigree between the ears to get the job done. He now looks to team up with Sam Pittman in Arkansas to end his collegiate career on a high note.

          Along with All-SEC running back Rakeem Boyd and a trio of talented wide receivers in Treylon Burks, Mike Woods, and Trey Knox, Arkansas’ 2020 offense has the potential to give defenses some issues with Franks leading the way.

          No. 8 — Shawn Robinson, Missouri (Oct. 3)

          The TCU transfer redshirted in 2019 at Mizzou after an injury-riddled season in 2018 with the Horned Frogs. In seven games as a sophomore at TCU, Robinson averaged 190 passing yards and threw for nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.

          Robinson will look to beat out Connor Bazelak for the job in Colombia. Bazelak, a redshirt sophomore, looked good in limited action last season but attempted just 21 passes and left the final game with a torn ACL. He was able to do some drills in the first three spring practices before COVID struck, and Mizzou expects him back for fall camp.

          One would assume Robinson is the frontrunner to win the job. The former blue-chip recruit is the only true dual-threat quarterback on the roster. That alone should be more of a fit for first-year head coach Eli Drinkwitz.

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          No. 9 — Chris Reynolds, Charlotte (Sept. 5)

          One of the most impressive coaching jobs in the entire country last year was what Will Healy did in year one at Charlotte. Healy led the 49ers to a 7-6 record to secure their first winning season and bowl bid in program history.

          Chris Reynolds guided Charlotte’s potent spread option attack at quarterback. Behind a school record 22 passing touchdowns from the rising junior, the 49ers averaged 29.8 points per game and 414.5 yards per game. Through the air, Reynolds threw 2,564 yards while completing 62.2 percent of his passes. He threw 11 interceptions.

          The true dual-threat quarterback added six rushing touchdowns to go along with his passing totals. Reynolds was the team’s second leading rusher at 791 yards on 153 carries. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry.

          No. 10 — Whoever wins Vanderbilt’s starting quarterback job (Nov. 28)

          Vanderbilt’s quarterback room isn’t all that threatening on paper entering the season. Four newcomers will enter fall camp with a chance to win the job. Former Hawaii quarterback Jeremy Moussa and Kentucky transfer Danny Clark will get the first crack at winning the job, but the freshmen duo of Mike Wright and Ken Seals will be gunning for the job the moment fall camp begins.

          Moussa was 4-for-9 passing in two games at Hawaii in 2018 as a freshman before transferring to the junior college ranks where he totaled 37 touchdowns and averaged 353 passing yards per game last year. The redshirt sophomore was on campus in the spring, but he was rehabbing an injury.

          Clark, a one-time Ohio State commit at the age of 14, spent two years at Kentucky before transferring to Copiah-Lincoln Community College last year. He did not play a snap during his two seasons at Lexington.

          Seals arrives on West End after throwing for 3,060 yards and 33 touchdowns in his final season of high school ball in the state of Texas. Seals added 500 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.

          Wright is the other possible option. Vanderbilt ramped up their efforts in his recruitment once it became clear that none of the three quarterbacks who played in 2019 would return. Wright is the biggest running threat of the group, but he would likely benefit from a redshirt year.



            (Image via Tennessee Athletics)

            Tennessee announced on Tuesday afternoon that Ashley Smith has been promoted to Assistant Athletics Director for Player Relations and Development. Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer announced the move in a press release.

            Smith is the older sister of current Tennessee senior offensive lineman Trey Smith.

            “I’m honored Coach Fulmer and Coach Pruitt have entrusted me to serve my alma mater in this capacity,” Smith said via a release. “We share a robust vision for VFL programming in order to prepare our student-athletes for life after football, and I’m excited to bring this vision to life. I am committed to helping our football student-athletes develop holistically by providing innovative programs and initiatives in the areas of leadership development, personal enhancement, community outreach, and career and professional development. It is my mission to educate, encourage and empower our young men to be leaders who embrace their position and platform as members of the Tennessee Football Family to make a positive impact on campus, the community, and their families.

            “The University offers an abundance of resources for all students, and I’m excited to partner with these internal as well as external constituents. Additionally, I am looking forward to building relationships with current and former players and their families in a way that makes them proud to call the University of Tennessee ‘Home Sweet Home.'”

            The older Smith takes over for former Assistant AD Dr. Mikki Allen, who was named Director of Athletics at Tennessee State in April. The position has been modified to work more closely with Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt according to the press release.

            Smith will oversee the football program’s comprehensive VFL programming initiative, which includes leading player development in creating career connections for current players in order to establish professional networks that consist of alumni, supporters of the program, and business partners of the university. She’ll also assist with on-campus recruiting and develop and lead community outreach programming.

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            “Ashley has an extremely impressive professional track record, and she’s a born leader,” Fulmer said. “She leaves things better than she finds them. As we discussed her vision for this position over the past several weeks, she articulated a comprehensive plan to take our VFL programming to the next level.

            “I talk a lot about the importance of developing our own—building leaders from within. Ashley’s a prime example of someone who bleeds orange and has worked their way up the ranks. I’m very confident in her ability to bring people together to accomplish great things because she’s already proven herself here at Tennessee.”

            Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and entrepreneurship collateral from Tennessee in 2013 after serving under Pat Summitt as head student manager for the Lady Vols basketball program her senior year.

            After graduating from UT, Smith worked for nearly three years at the NCAA’s national office in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she helped plan and execute 19 national championships across Divisions I, II, and III. She earned a master’s degree in sport management in 2017.

              (Photo via Rusty Mansell/247Sports)

              In this episode of the RTI Recruiting Podcast, managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and special guest Brandon Martin of VR2 discuss where the Vols stand with some of their top targets who made some announcements over the weekend. Can Tennessee steal five-star outside linebacker Smael Mondon out of Georgia? Could the Vols make up some ground between now and August 15th with five-star offensive tackle Amarius Mims? Plus, can Tennessee beat out both Clemson and North Carolina for four-star defensive tackle Payton Page? If not, where do the Vols turn on the defensive line?

              Make sure you don’t miss any episodes on the RTI podcast network! Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts here! And make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for another way to experience the podcast!