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    (Photo via Reg James/AccessWDUN)

    Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt is a fan of getting athletes who are used to playing on offense to play in the secondary in his defense. Both of UT’s projected starting cornerbacks for the 2020 season — Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson — played on offense in high school, and both have developed into solid defensive backs under Pruitt.

    Another do-it-all athlete is currently on Tennessee’s radar in the 2021 class, and he just included the Vols in his list of top teams on Monday.

    Christian Charles is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound athlete who plays for Chestatee High School in Gainesville, Georgia. On Monday, he tweeted out a graphic listing his top five schools, and Tennessee made the cut along with Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas State.

    Right now, Charles is not rated by 247Sports, but he’s seen his offer list grow substantially despite the current COVID-19 pandemic.

    Tennessee extended an offer to Charles back on April 23rd of this year, just a couple days after he picked up his first Power Five offer from Washington State. Since UT’s offer, Charles has added offers from Vanderbilt, Indiana, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Oklahoma among others. He also holds offers from Army, Navy, and Air Force among many other Group of Five programs.

    Charles has had a lot of contact with Tennessee ever since picking up an offer from the Vols, hearing from Pruitt and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley regularly. In an interview with Matt Ray of VR2, Charles said UT’s coaches have told him he has an “elite skill-set” as an athlete.

    “I talk to Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt and Coach (Derrick) Ansley all the time,” Charles told Ray. “They tell me that I have a pretty elite skill-set with what I bring to the table.”

    Though Charles is used as a quarterback and all-purpose offensive player at Chestatee, Tennessee is recruiting him as a defensive back, and that’s likely where he’ll end up in college no matter where he goes.

    Charles has superb athletic traits and is a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands. And at Chestatee, he has the ball in his possession very, very often, playing in all three phases of the game. He has a really good frame and shows off a lot of quickness with his acceleration.

    As a junior last season, Charles completed 170 of his 296 pass attempts for 2,092 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions while running for 921 yards and 10 touchdowns on 169 carries according to MaxPreps. He also totaled seven tackles, a tackle for loss, an interception, and a pass defended on defense.

    In three years at Chestatee, Charles has amassed 4,297 passing yards and 2,695 rushing yards, totaling 55 touchdowns on offense.

    According to Charles’ interview with VR2, he’s shooting to make a college commitment before the start of his senior season, “probably early August or late July.”

    Tennessee currently holds commitments from 23 prospects in their 2021 class, a class that ranks fourth nationally and No. 1 in the SEC on 247Sports.



      (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

      Former Tennessee running back Tim Jordan will finish out his college career in Bowling Green, Kentucky according to a report from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

      Jordan was arrested in May on gun and marijuana charges during a traffic stop while in Florida, and according to Mike Wilson of the News Sentinel, agreed to a plea deal to reduce those charges after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon.

      As part of that deal, Jordan will serve one year of probation, community service, and pay fines, but it will not exclude him from continuing his football career.

      Jordan will be allowed to transfer to Western Kentucky and travel with the team according to court documents obtained by the News Sentinel.

      Jordan will join former Tennessee offensive coordinator Tyson Helton, who is entering his second season as the head coach at Western Kentucky. Helton coached Jordan for one season as the Vols’ OC in 2018.

      Jordan was a three-star prospect out of Bartow High School in Florida and part of Butch Jones’ 2017 signing class. He was previously committed to Western Kentucky before flipping to Tennessee.

      During his junior season in 2019, Jordan appeared in 12 games and finished third on the team in rushing with 428 yards on 104 carries. Jordan tallied 46 more yards in receiving. The rising senior totaled just over 1,000 rushing yards in three seasons with the Vols.

      The absence of Jordan leaves a spot open in the Vols’ backfield, which now includes sophomore Eric Gray and seniors Ty Chandler and Carlin Fils-Aime, as well as newcomers Tee Hodge, Jabari Small, and Len’Neth Whitehead.

        Photo by Jake Nichols/RTI

        Tennessee sophomore linebacker Henry To’o To’o was named to the Bednarik Award watch list on Monday morning. The award is presented annually to the most outstanding defensive player in college football.

        To’o To’o was one of 11 SEC players named to the 90-member watch list. He joined LSU sophomore cornerback Derek Stingley as the only other second-year player from the conference who was honored.

        The Bednarik Award is named in honor of Chuck Bednarik, a former standout at the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. It has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995.

        Semifinalists for the Bednarik Award will be announced on Nov. 3, 2020, while the three finalists for the honor will be unveiled Nov. 23, 2020. The winner of the 2020 Bednarik Awards will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show held on Dec. 10, 2020.

        To’o To’o earned freshman All-America honors from several organizations and was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team after a tremendous rookie campaign in 2019. The Sacramento, California native finished second on the team with 72 tackles while starting 12 games at linebacker and playing in all 13 games. He added five tackles for loss, a half-sack, two pass breakups, three quarterback hurries, and a fumble recovery on the season. His 72 total tackles ranked second among SEC freshmen and fourth among FBS freshmen.

        To’o To’o signed with Tennessee as a top-50 recruit and one of the top five linebacker prospects in the country out of national powerhouse De La Salle High School in Concord, California. He earned 2018 First-Team MaxPreps All-America and USA Today All-USA California Team honors as he helped lead De La Salle to a 12-1 record and a state championship appearance as a senior.

        The Vols have never had a player win the Bednarik Award, but three UT players have finished as semifinalists for the honor. Most recently, defensive end Derek Barnett was a semifinalist in 2016, as were Eric Berry (2008) and Kevin Burnett (2004).

        Tennessee is scheduled to kickoff it’s 2020 season on Sept. 5 against Charlotte in Neyland Stadium.

        Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

        This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly series written by RTI columnist Lexie Little

        Last week, the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences announced fall sports will plan for in-conference only schedules. With the Southeastern Conference likely to follow suit, fans wonder about possibilities for national rankings and postseasons. However, fall sports remain largely in question on the whole as COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the country.

        Knox County gained national attention as a pandemic hot spot when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Department of Health and Human Services evaluated community case numbers and hospitalizations. With the virus’ increased presence around Rocky Top, health officials stress the importance of wearing masks and continuing social distancing measures. So, if Tennessee fans want any semblance of sporting activity in the fall, they’ll need to bear a torch for others by mitigating risks. Otherwise, bad news for Vol fans might hit the headlines.

        Good news, however, came last week for former Lady Vol basketball star Kara Lawson. Lawson, who most recently worked on the Boston Celtics coaching staff, will take over as the women’s basketball head coach at Duke University. The WNBA champion point guard played for Tennessee from 1999 to 2003.

        Lawson joins the ranks of several Vol greats turned head coaches, including Tennessee coach Kellie Harper. As these women continue to make history, check out other moments in the Vol annals, in “This Week in UT Sports History.”

        July 15, 1951

        With the recent decisions by some conferences to only play member teams, conference-less schools like Notre Dame face the possibility of no opponents for the fall. But in 1951, Tennessee B team coach Ike Peel reported the young Vol squad would face the Fighting Irish on Nov. 10 of that year. Freshmen, at the time, could not play varsity sports and instead played on a “B team” squad.

        Peel had played for head coach Gen. Robert Neyland on the 1939 varsity team, which went undefeated and unscored on in the regular season, and on the 1940 national championship team. He became an assistant freshman coach in 1942 and returned to Tennessee as a backfield coach following World War II. Peel had stormed the beaches of France on D-Day as a U.S. Army infantryman.

        Rejoining Volunteer ranks, Peel served the General on the football field as an assistant coach during Neyland’s final season in 1952. But from 1949 until 1951, he helmed his own men on the B team. An expert opponent scout, Peel’s work with the freshmen provided a crucial base to coach up potential stars. Tennessee’s varsity squad notably beat Texas by a touchdown in the 1950 Cotton Bowl before winning the national championship in 1951.

        But while the 1951 team prepped for the title run, Peel worked to schedule games. He needed to work around the primary Tennessee schedule to find time on Shields-Watkins Field. On July 15th, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported the match-up with Notre Dame and the date.

        “Since the Tennessee Vols will be playing Washington & Lee at Shields-Watkins Field, Nov. 10, the site for the Vol-Irish B game is not definitely decided on,” the News-Sentinel noted. “There is a possibility that it may be played in Memphis.”

        Other opponents for the freshmen included Kentucky and Vanderbilt’s B teams. That season marked the last for a freshman-only squad. Southeastern Conference rules allowed freshmen to play varsity ball beginning in 1952. That’s when Peel returned to the varsity coaching staff.

        Peel, a native of Dyersburg, Tennessee, died at age 91 in 2010. He was the last surviving member of Neyland’s final coaching staff.

        July 14, 2005

        Though football remains on the minds of many SEC fans, the absence of baseball this summer leaves many missing Major League Baseball. Around this time, fans would enjoy the All-Star break festivities and college players would win awards. Fifteen years ago, Tennessee pitcher Luke Hochevar won the Roger Clemens Award, an honor bestowed on the top collegiate pitcher.

        Traveling to Houston, Hochevar joined TCU’s Lance Broadway and Miami’s Cesar Carrillo at the Marriott Westchase Hotel for the ceremony presented by the Greater Houston Baseball Association. All Division I head baseball coaches, select national college baseball media, and the winners and prior three finalists of the award voted to select a winner.

        Majority vote: Hochevar.

        A first-team All-American, the Tennessee hurler earned accolades including SEC Pitcher of the Year. His 15 wins tied the NCAA best for the 2005 season as he led his team to the NCAA College World Series. In 2006, Kansas City selected Hochevar first overall in the MLB Draft. He became the first Vol ever taken at No. 1 overall in baseball.

        July 14, 2006

        One year after the Vol baseball pitcher took top honors, another Tennessee star made headlines on the mound. Softball Lady Vol Monica Abbott, one of only two college athletes on the U.S. National Team, worked for three perfect innings against Great Britain in the World Cup of Softball II. Six strikeouts capped the frames for Abbott at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.

        Playing alongside Alicia Hollowell and legend Jennie Finch, the three combined for a shutout win in five innings. Former Stanford standout Jessica Mendoza paved the way on offense, hitting two homers and chalking up five RBI. Final score: 14-0.

        Eight members of the Red, White & Blue earned at least one base hit. The U.S. hit total stood at 16 at game’s end. Abbott set the tone for the game defensively as starting pitcher, immediately retiring three in the top of the first.

        Abbott’s combined professional and collegiate careers make her one of the most decorated players in history. A world-class athlete, the left-handed pitcher became the first female athlete to sign a $1 million contract in 2016 as a testament to her career.

        In 2008, she pitched the first perfect game in Olympic history as she led the U.S. to a silver medal in Beijing. The three-time World Champion gold medalist also holds four NCAA records. Abbott holds the record for career strikeouts with 2,440. She became the first D1 pitcher to earn 500 strikeouts all four seasons of collegiate play. Her single-season record for strikeouts stands at 724. Abbott also holds the records for victories (189) and shutouts (112).

        The University of Tennessee inducted Abbott into its Hall of Fame in 2018.

          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.