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(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

When the 2019 NCAA baseball tournament is announced at noon on Monday, Tennessee will be in the field of 64 for the first time since 2005 barring some sort of shocking decision.

As for where the the Vols will head for regionals — which are held from Friday, May 31st to Sunday, June 2nd — that is yet to be determined.

According to D1 Baseball, Tennessee (38-19) projects as a 2-seed in the Chapel Hill Regional. Along with North Carolina (42-17), the hosting team, the Vols would be joined by 3-seed Campbell and 4-seed UNC Wilmington (32-29).

The Tar Heels are coming off a 10-2 victory over Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament Championship Game. Across four ACC Tournament games, North Carolina’s relievers allowed just six earned runs over 25 innings.

Campbell, the Fighting Camels, also won its conference tournament and are reigning Big South tournament champions. UNC Wilmington won its conference tournament as well, the Colonial title, with a 6-5 win over Elon.

The five-hour drive to Chapel Hill would be a favorable draw for Tony Vitello’s squad. But in Baseball America’s latest tournament predictions, the Vols are projected to head out to the west coast.

Baseball America has the Vols as a 3-seed in the Corvallis Regional out in Oregon with last year’s National Champion, Oregon State. With the Beavers (36-18-1) hosting, Tennessee would be joined by 2-seed UC Santa Barbara (45-9) and 4-seed Bryant (40-20).

UC Santa Barbara is coming off a 7-0 win over Cal Poly that resulted in the Gauchos’ first Big West title since 1986. In Oregon State’s last outing, it lost two of three to USC. Meanwhile, Bryant lost to Central Connecticut 3-2 in the NEC title game.

Should Tennessee win its regional, the Vols would advance to Super Regionals, which are held from Friday, June 7th to Monday, June 10th. The College World Series is held in Omaha, Nebraska from June June 15th to June 25th or 26th.

Tennessee is coming off a season where it finished third in the SEC East with a conference record of 14-16. It’s the highest Tennessee has finished within the division since 2005, which was also the last UT team to make the NCAA Tournament.

Sticking with the 2005 trend, Tennessee’s 38 total wins and 14 conference victories in year two under Vitello are the most for the program since that 2005 squad. The 2005 Tennessee baseball team went 46-21 overall, 18-11 in SEC play, and finished second in the SEC East. In the NCAA Tournament, the Vols were a No. 1 seed in the Knoxville Regional and defeated Austin Peay, Winthrop, and Wichita State on their way to the Super Regionals. The Vols then took down Georgia Tech in the Super Regional to make it to the College World Series. There, Tennessee lost 6-4 to Florida and then fell 4-2 to Arizona State in the loser’s bracket.

In the opening round of the SEC Tournament, the Vols lost to 8-seed Auburn, 5-3. Tennessee was a 9-seed in the tournament. It was the first appearance in Hoover for the Vols since 2016, though the program still hasn’t won a game in the tournament since 2007.



    (Photo via Andrew Ivins/247Sports)

    The Vols will likely take several defensive linemen in their 2020 class to help bolster depth moving forward and to find future starters for the 2021 season and beyond. One of their more recent offers on the recruiting trail has released his list of finalists, and Tennessee is one of them.

    Four-star defensive tackle Westley Neal plays for Gulliver Prep down in Miami, Florida. On Sunday afternoon, he trimmed down his list of nearly 20 offers down to just eight finalists, and the Vols made the cut. Tennessee is joined by Kentucky, West Virginia, Pitt, Virginia, Indiana, Rutgers, and South Florida.

    Per the 247Sports Composite rankings, Neal is the No. 304 overall prospect and No. 30 defensive tackle in the 2020 recruiting cycle. Tennessee offered Neal back on May 8th, and the Vols are his most recent offer. He’s only about 5-foot-11 in height, but he weighs around 311 pounds and moves exceptionally well for his size.

    The athletic defender also participates in track for Gulliver Prep, and he participates in the shot put and discuss. He’s also been timed running the 100-meter dash in 13.74 seconds, which is pretty astounding for someone weighing over 300 pounds.

    Neal is an explosive athlete off the defensive line, and he has much better speed and burst off the point of attack than most defensive tackles. He doesn’t look like he’s over 300 pounds, and he certainly doesn’t move like it. Neal plays aggressively and has very good strength. He’s able to use his lack of elite height to get good leverage on offensive linemen, and he’s a relentless pursuer. Neal’s technique will need work in college. He does a good job with his hands and getting low, but he’ll have to improve in a number of areas to really tap into his potential.

    As a junior for Gulliver Prep, Neal totaled 70 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble according to MaxPreps.

    Tennessee has a commitment from two defensive linemen in their 2020 class right now. Four-star defensive tackle Dominic Bailey and four-star JUCO defensive end Jordan Davis are the Vols’ two defensive line commits so far in the 2020 cycle. Tennessee will likely take a couple more defensive linemen in this class.

      (Photo via @_ejda1 on Twitter)

      Tennessee will likely take three or more receivers in their 2020 recruiting class because of departing seniors after the 2019 season. The Vols have targeted several different pass catchers so far this cycle, and one of their top targets at the position listed the Vols among his list of top teams moving forward.

      EJ Williams is a four-star receiver who plays for Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama. On Sunday morning, Williams trimmed down his list of teams to just seven, and Tennessee made the cut along with Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, Florida, and LSU.

      According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Williams is the No. 93 overall player, No. 19 wide receiver, and No. 3 player in the state of Alabama. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound receiver holds more than two dozen offers, but he’ll be focusing mainly on just the seven schools he listed on Sunday.

      Tennessee and Williams have had a relationship for a while. Vol wide receivers coach Tee Martin is his primary recruiter at UT, and Williams has visited Knoxville a couple times already. He took an unofficial visit to Tennessee in March for a Junior Day event, and he used his first official visit of his recruitment to come to Knoxville. Williams officially visited during the Vols’ Orange & White Game on April 13th. He also has an official visit planned for Auburn on June 23rd.

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      Williams doesn’t have blazing speed, but he’s fast enough to make a difference. He has a great catch radius and can make some very difficult receptions look like they’re nothing. His route running is actually pretty good, especially for a high school junior. He’s effective on post routes, streaks, and slants. Williams is dangerous in the red zone and is a bad match-up for cornerbacks when he runs a fade route or slant into the end zone.

      As a junior for Central High School, Williams totaled 40 catches for 688 yards and nine touchdowns. He helped his team to an undefeated record and a state title in 7A last season, the largest classification in the state of Alabama.

      Tennessee will likely take at least three wide receivers in their 2020 class, and Williams is one of their top targets at the position. The Vols are losing several receivers because of graduation after the 2019 season, so they need to use this class as a way to bolster their numbers moving forward. Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, Brandon Johnson, and Tyler Byrd are all set to graduate after the 2019 season, and Josh Palmer could leave early for the NFL if he has a very strong season.

      The Vols currently have one receiver committed to them in their 2020 class. Three-star athlete Jimmy Calloway from Morrow, Georgia committed to Tennessee after the Orange & White Game in April, and he’ll play wide receiver in college.



        (Photo via Washington TOC)

        Tennessee’s top point guard target in the 2020 class will be making a visit to Knoxville soon.

        According to Jake Weingarten of StockRisers.com, elite four-star point guard Caleb Love has rescheduled his official visit to Virginia and now also has unofficial visits planned for Kansas and Tennessee in the coming weeks. The visit dates haven’t been finalized as of yet, but the Vols will be getting a visit from the high profile point guard.

        According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Love is right outside the five-star range and is the No. 31 overall player and No. 5 point guard in the 2020 class. He’s also the No. 1 player in the state of Missouri. The 6-foot-3 170-pound point guard plays for Christian Brothers College in St. Louis.

        The Vols extended an offer to Love back on May 8th, and the borderline five-star prospect also picked up an offer from North Carolina a couple weeks ago. Love also holds offers from Virginia, Texas, Louisville, Purdue, Indiana, Xavier, Missouri, Butler, and many others.

        With Tennessee likely losing Jordan Bone to the NBA this offseason and losing Lamonte Turner to graduation after the 2019-20 season, the Vols will be in need of a point guard for the 2020-21 season. Five-star guard and 2019 signee Josiah Jordan-James is expected to get a look at point guard for the upcoming season, but he could also be a one-and-done type of player, so his status for the 2020-21 season is a little more up in the air than the rest of the Vols’ 2019 additions.

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        Love has a phenomenal offensive game, and it’s easy to see why he’s rated so highly. He can create his own shot just about anywhere on the floor, and he’s extremely athletic and can sky for dunks just as easily as he can pull up and nail a jumper. Not only that, but Love has some incredible vision and is a highly capable floor general. He’s a crisp and accurate passer who has a knack for finding the open man and can get the ball to his teammates in difficult situations.

        Right now, Love is playing with the Brad Beal Elite team in Nike’s EYBL. That team was created by two-time NBA All-Star Bradley Beal in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Love was also named to the first team of the ALL-USA Missouri Boys Basketball Team by USA Today Sports. As a junior this season, Love averaged 18.9 points, four rebounds, just under three assists, and two steals per game while shooting over 200 free throw attempts on the season.

        So far in this year’s Nike EYBL circuit with the Brad Beal Elite team, Love has been a phenom. In 10 recorded games, he’s averaging 17.1 points, 5.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game while shooting around 46 percent overall, 42 percent from three, and 80 percent from the free throw line according to D1Circuit.com. He has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.93 in those 10 games.

        Tennessee currently has a commitment from five-star small forward Corey Walker in their 2020 class. He’s rated as the No. 22 overall prospect and a five-star on 247Sports, and their composite rankings list him as the No. 29 overall player and a four-star. The Vols are also major players for five-star guard Jaden Springer, five-star center Walker Kessler, four-star guard and No. 1 in-state player Keon Johnson, four-star forward PJ Hall, and four-star guard Bryce Thompson among other prospects.



          Photo by Allie Suber/RTI

          After going 4-8 and 5-7 in back-to-back seasons, you’re not likely to get much respect from national media outlets. Such is the case with the Vols this offseason.

          Athlon Sports released their 2019 preseason All-SEC teams this week, and there were very few Tennessee players to be found on any of the teams. Athlon didn’t just have a first and second team; no, their preseason All-SEC teams went into the third and fourth team selections as well.

          Of the 108 possible spots in Athlon’s teams, only six were occupied by Vols, and no Vol players made it onto the first team.

          Only one Vol was even voted as a Preseason Second-Team All-SEC player by Athlon, and that was wide receiver Marquez Callaway. The rising senior didn’t get voted as a second team receiver, though; his selection was for punt returner. Callaway has returned two punts for touchdowns in his three seasons as a Vol, and he averages 13.4 yards per punt return on 29 career returns. Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle earned the first team punt returner spot.

          Callaway and running back Ty Chandler were the only Vols on offense to earn a spot on any of the All-SEC teams for Athlon. Both Callaway and Chandler were voted to the fourth team offense.

          On defense, three Vols were voted as All-SEC performers. Linebacker Darrell Taylor and safety Nigel Warrior made it onto the third team defense, and cornerback Bryce Thompson was voted to the fourth team.

          All in all, only Mississippi State and Ole Miss had fewer overall selections to Athlon’s All-SEC teams. Both Mississippi schools ended up with five All-SEC performers, but Ole Miss didn’t have a player voted to either the first or second team. Vanderbilt had six All-SEC selections just like the Vols, though they had two players voted to the first team offense.

          Unsurprisingly, Alabama led the way with 13 overall selections, including seven first team choices. Florida and Auburn both had 10 All-SEC selections, and Georgia and Missouri came in fourth with nine players voted to the teams.

          The only other teams with no first team selections along with Tennessee were Ole Miss and South Carolina.

          Here’s a breakdown of how many players each team have on Athlon’s All-SEC teams with the number first team selections in parenthesis:

          Alabama – 13 (7)
          Auburn – 10 (2)
          Florida – 10 (2)
          Georgia – 9 (4)
          Missouri – 9 (3)
          South Carolina – 8
          Arkansas – 7 (1)
          Kentucky – 7 (1)
          LSU – 7 (2)
          Texas A&M – 7 (2)
          Tennessee – 6
          Vanderbilt – 6 (2)
          Mississippi State – 5 (1)
          Ole Miss – 5



            (Photo via Jeff Ireland/Collierville Herald)

            Tennessee is targeting several prospects within their own state borders during the 2020 recruiting cycle. One of those targets has included the Vols among his list of finalists.

            Jabari Small is a three-star running back who plays for Briarcrest Christian in Memphis. On Friday, he tweeted out his list of top six schools and said he would be focusing on those specific schools “until I commit.” Tennessee was included with Michigan, Texas A&M, Missouri, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. Small also acknowledged that “some things may change over time,” but he intends to focus on just those six schools moving forward.

            According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Small is the No. 736 overall player, No. 10 all-purpose back, and No. 23 player in the state of Tennessee in the 2020 class. Small measures in at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds and has played mostly at running back at Briarcrest Christian but has also lined up at slot receiver and on defense.

            The Vols first sent an offer out to Small back on June 25th, just a couple days after he camped at UT. Small unofficially visited Tennessee when they hosted Alabama during the 2018 season, and he again visited the Vols in mid-March of this year. Small’s primary recruiter at Tennessee is Vol running backs coach David Johnson, and the two have a strong relationship. Tennessee’s defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley has also been in contact with Small and visited him in mid-April.

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            Not only is Small a top in-state target for the Vols, but he’s teammates with one of UT’s top overall targets in the 2020 class. Small plays with offensive tackle Omari Thomas at Briarcrest Christian, and the two have expressed interest in playing together in college. Thomas is rated as the No. 72 overall player and No. 3 prospect in the state of Tennessee per the 247Sports Composite rankings.

            As for Small, he’s a quick back who displays really good vision and footwork. He’s a shifty running back who sees a hole and attacks it. He doesn’t have a lot of wasted movement, and he tends to go north-south far more often than trying to dance around and go east-west. Small is also tougher than you might think, and he just bounces off defenders at times. He’s also a very productive returner on kick-offs and just has a lot of dynamic ability. He’ll need to add some more muscle to his frame, and he’s not a bigger, every down back most likely. But Small has a lot of potential to like.

            In his junior season with Briarcrest, Small amassed 1,118 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on just 141 carries according to MaxPreps, giving him a 7.9 yard per carry average. He also pulled down 21 receptions for 244 yards and three scores, and he returned a kick-off for a score as well. Small also plays on defense and had an interception last year, giving him five in his high school career.

            Tennessee had a running back committed to them in the 2020 class in three-star Ebony Jackson, but the Georgia running back prospect decommitted from the Vols a little over a week ago after giving UT his pledge in April. The Vols are likely to take two running backs in their 2020 class.