Written by Rocky Top Insider contributor Spencer Morrell
Each Monday we recap the previous week’s news and notes from around Tennessee Athletics. This is the place for Vol fans to catch up on any of the action they may have missed from the last week. Last week on Rocky Top both men’s and women’s basketball teams were in action, and there was some football news as well.
The offseason is in full swing for Tennessee football, and personnel changes were the theme of last week. The Vols hired former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele as a defensive assistant. Steele is a Tennessee alumnus, who played college football for the Vols and began his coaching career under Johnny Majors. Steele had been the defensive coordinator at Auburn for the past four seasons.
Starting offensive lineman Wanya Morris, a former 5-star recruit, entered the transfer portal after two seasons with the Vols. He joins a host of other Vols who have announced their intentions to transfer from the program after going 3-7 last season. However, it was reported Sunday that tight end Austin Pope would be returning to the team after initially announcing his plans to transfer.
On a positive note, former Vol linebacker Al Wilson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last week. Wilson led Tennessee’s defense during the Vols’ 1998 National Championship season, earning consensus All-American honors. Wilson recorded 272 tackles during his storied career as well as two SEC Championships. Wilson is the 25th Volunteer to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Tennessee’s 25 inductees are the most in the SEC and sixth most in the nation.
The Tennessee men’s basketball team began last week ranked as the No. 10 team in the nation. It was scheduled to play Vanderbilt twice last week, once in Nashville on Tuesday night followed by a contest in Knoxville on Saturday. However, COVID-19 hampered the Vols’ scheduling once again this season, and Tuesday’s game had to be postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Commodores’ program. That left the Vols idle until Saturday, when they met in Thompson-Boling Arena as scheduled.
Tennessee secured an 81-61 victory over Vandy behind a 16-point effort from true freshman Keon Johnson. Senior John Fulkerson also poured in 15 points as well as grabbing eight rebounds. The victory marked Tennessee’s seventh straight win over Vanderbilt, and head coach Rick Barnes’ 719 career victory. Barnes’ 719 wins ties him at 20th on the Division I all-time wins list with legendary coaches Phog Allen and Don Haskins. The Vols are now 10-1 on the season.
Lady Vol Basketball
Coach Kellie Harper’s Lady Vols basketball team entered last week ranked 23rd in the country. They were able to avoid any postponements, and their games went on as scheduled beginning with a tilt against the Georgia Lady Bulldogs last Thursday. The Lady Vols appeared to be in full control of the contest, leading the game by 15 points at halftime. However, they melted in the third quarter, and Georgia came back to take the lead. The Lady Vols would never lead again, losing by a final score of 67-66. Senior Rennia Davis led the way with 15 points, but Tennessee could not overcome an eye-popping 24 turnovers. Those turnovers helped lead to 26 fast break points for the Lady Bulldogs, most of which were in the second half.
UT would have a chance to get back on track against Alabama on Sunday afternoon. The Lady Vols travelled to Tuscaloosa and rebounded with an 82-56 victory over the Crimson Tide. They led by 19 at the half, and this time they kept that lead. Davis once again led the Lady Vols in scoring with 21 points and 10 rebounds, securing a double-double. It was Davis’ 34th double-double in her Tennessee career. The Lady Vols are now 9-2 on the season.
The men’s basketball team is scheduled to travel to Gainesville, Florida on Tuesday night for a bout with the Gators (6-4) at 7 p.m. ET. Tennessee will then return home to Knoxville to face No. 17 Missouri (8-2) on Saturday.
The Lady Vols are set to take on an old rival on Thursday night as No. 4 Connecticut (7-0) travels to Knoxville for a titanic tilt. Tennessee will then finish out the week with a trip to Nashville on Sunday to face in-state foe Vanderbilt (4-3).