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How Tennessee will handle Senior Day given free year of eligibility

Tennessee’s game against No. 5 Texas A&M this Saturday will mark the end of the 2020 regular season. It will also serve as the final time seniors can play inside of Neyland Stadium. Well, maybe.

This year’s Senior Day will look much different than it typically does. That’s because players aren’t typically granted a free year of eligibility. But it’s 2020 and we’re in the midst of a global pandemic that has made it hard for many college football programs to put together a complete football season. So the NCAA went ahead and deemed this year a free year, meaning seniors can return for a second senior season if they choose to do so.

Tennessee has yet to reveal how many seniors will partake in Senior Day festivities this Saturday. According to head coach Jeremy Pruitt, it’ll be up to each of the 22 listed seniors on Tennessee’s online roster as to whether or not they participate.

“I think there may be some guys that may participate and some guys that may not,” Pruitt told reporters on Monday when asked how Senior Day will be handled since seniors are allowed to return for another season. “I don’t know.

“We’ve really been focused on improving as a team every single day. When you talk about this kind of unique circumstance we have with guys getting their eligibility back where they can play another year, we’ve kind of treated it like it would be a junior that may be thinking about declaring for the draft. We’re just going to wait until the season is over with, so we’ll have some guys participate and some won’t. It’ll be their choice.”

The Vols snapped their six-game losing streak this past Saturday with a 42-17 win over Vanderbilt. Jeremy Pruitt implored a two-quarterback system to propel the Vols to victory.

True freshman Harrison Bailey made his second consecutive start and threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-18 passing. Bailey did not throw an interception for the second week in a row. Redshirt sophomore JT Shrout also saw action. Shrout was 6-of-13 passing for 90 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

The Vols finished with season-highs in points (42), total yards (540) and passing yards (328). Their 28-first half points were a season-high as well and the most points the Vols have scored in any half this season.

Tennessee passed for 240-plus yards for the third straight game, marking the first time they have done that since the 2012 season. It also marked the first time that UT has passed for 240-plus yards in three straight SEC games since 2009.

The Vols were just as efficient on the ground. They had 200-plus yards rushing (212) for the third time this season and had five players rush for 20 or more yards.

Texas A&M did not play this past weekend. The Aggies, who are on a six-game winning streak, were scheduled to play Ole Miss in College Station, but COVID-19 issues within the Rebels’ program forced the game to be cancelled.

A&M defeated Auburn 31-20 in its last game out two weeks ago. Star quarterback Kellen Mond was efficient in the win, throwing for 196 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-23 passing. Talented running back Isaiah Spiller rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries.

Kickoff between the Vols and Aggies on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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