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    (Photo via Andrew Ivins/247Sports)

    The No. 1 prospect in the state of West Virginia and one of the top cornerbacks in the 2021 class has Tennessee among his top teams moving forward.

    Isaiah Johnson is a four-star defensive back who plays for Bluefield High School in Bluefield, WV. He tweeted out a graphic showing his top eight schools in his recruitment on Tuesday, and the Vols made the cut along with LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, and West Virginia.

    According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Johnson is the No. 75 overall prospect, the No. 6 cornerback, and the top-rated recruit in West Virginia.

    The 6-foot-2, 180-pound athlete holds nearly two dozen scholarship offers, but he’ll be focusing on these eight schools the most in the coming months.

    Johnson suffered a season-ending injury in Bluefield’s second game of the 2019 season. He only appeared in six quarters during his junior campaign, but he’s maintained his spot as one of the top defensive backs in the 2021 class despite that setback.

    Tennessee extended an offer to Johnson back on August 24, 2018. He came to campus to attend a camp on UT’s campus in early June of 2019, and the Vols have been among his top schools for a while. He has a good relationship with defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley, and ace recruiter Brian Niedermeyer is also involved with his recruitment with the Vols.

    Not only that, but Johnson has family that lives close to Knoxville. Johnson’s grandfather and wife live only about an hour away from UT’s campus.

    Looking at Johnson’s sophomore tape, his speed immediately catches attention. He plays on both sides of the ball and uses that quickness effectively as both a receiver and a defensive back. Johnson makes good reads on defense and does a great job of following his assignment. His height and physical presence makes him intimidating on defense, and he can take down ball carriers one-on-one pretty well. He has the size to play safety, but he looks comfortable at cornerback too.

    The Vols’ 2021 class currently ranks No. 2 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC. Tennessee has 24 prospects committed to them at this point, and six of those commits project as defensive backs.



    Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

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

    Last week, Vol Nation joined the entire nation in facing history. History often repeats itself, and an invisible malaise of a different kind took center stage over COVID-19.

    Repetition of years of systemic marginalization, oppression, and racism came to the forefront of the American narrative. This particular disease, thousands of years old, prompted University of Tennessee Athletics Leadership to issue a statement saying, in part, “Vol Nation, let’s rise to the challenge to meet a new standard. If you’re going to support our black student-athletes when they compete, please have the courage to support them and their families in their daily pursuit of peace, happiness and equity.”

    This column follows sporting events throughout Volunteer athletic history. Though reflecting on favorite plays and players often remains light and fun, it must be acknowledged that at each juncture in that history, athletes have faced hatred and criticism not for the way they play, but for the color of their skin. Sports, which often act as forums for togetherness in support of favorite teams, also often serve as reflections of inequality and strife. Tennessee football did not integrate until 1968, 14 years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and Tennessee basketball did not integrate until 1971. Tennessee baseball integrated in the early 1970s as well when quarterback and shortstop Condredge Holloway represented the Vols as a two-sport athlete of national acclaim (and backlash).

    While players crusaded for wins against Southeastern Conference foes, they also crusaded — and continue to crusade — for equity and success. In order to truly embrace the Volunteer spirit, this crusade must be supported. Though the remainder of this column will continue with content and tenor typical of others in this series, take a moment to consider what happened this week, not just in UT sports history.

    June 6, 1952

    Coming off a year where the baseball team reached the NCAA World Series Championship, the Vols struggled on the road to Omaha in 1952. Despite a strong first inning, Tennessee allowed SEC rival Florida to earn twice the amount of runs in the postseason NCAA District Three match-up on June 6th in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Having already dropped a game to Duke in the double elimination tournament, the Vols left the border state without victories to laud.

    The Florida Gators exploded for a 10-5 win against the Vols. Tennessee demonstrated improvement in the batter’s box. UT had only scored one run against Duke in the prior 7-1 loss, but mayhem on the mound midway through the game led to a loss.

    Lead-off hitter Bill Asbury commenced a quick start for the orange and white. Gator Jim Gardner misjudged Asbury’s flyout to center field, dropping the ball while the Vol stormed to second. Asbury would later hit a line drive to open the second. However, Bert Rechichar made the biggest difference in the box with a three-run homer in the first. The Vol bats got hot early on while pitcher Don Williams kept the Gators hitless and scoreless through two.

    Then, the third spelled trouble.

    Florida put up four runs on three hits, an error, and a walk. Billy Joe Bowman relieved “rangy righthander” Williams in the fourth when the Gators took a 6-5 lead. His first pitch resulted in a ground rule double. Fortune favored Florida, as the Gators jumped out to a 9-5 lead.

    The Gators failed to score again until the ninth inning, but the Vols never got back on the board to keep the game competitive. The foes from Florida took the win and postseason bragging rights. In 2020, both the Gators and the Vols stood poised to make runs toward the top of the SEC before COVID-19 quelled conference play.

    June 2, 2006

    The softball team in orange, white, and Lady Vol blue remains no stranger to postseason play. In 2006, the Lady Vols reached their second consecutive Women’s College World Series. The first task proved a tough one: No. 1 UCLA. The Bruins set their sights on the university’s 100th national title.

    Spoiler alert: they didn’t earn it.

    Tennessee, the top fielding team in the country with a .980 average, defeated the No. 1 team in the first round, eliminating UCLA from what was the team’s eighth consecutive WCWS appearance. With the win, the Lady Vols’ neutral site record improved to 23-0 on the season. But the one-point win did not come easy.

    Behind Monica Abbott’s 11 strikeouts, Tennessee held on to win 4-3 after two errors in a game. The match-up ended at 2:05 a.m. after a true pitcher’s duel. UCLA pitcher Anjelica Selden, like Abbott, performed solidly, pitching a no-hitter until Shannon Doepking tore a single up the middle in the fifth inning. Both pitchers allowed nine hits. In the sixth, Lady Vol Tonya Callahan tied the game at two-all on a single.

    In the top of the seventh, Sarah Fekete set the SEC single-season record for hits with 108. Teammate Lindsay Schultzer held the previous record of 107, which she set the year prior. Another record holder stole the show, however. The SEC career RBI leader, Kristi Durant, hit what would be the game-winning RBI in the same inning. With two RBI in the game, she extended her record to 203, 12 more than the previous record holder, Alabama’s Kelly Kretschman (191).

    Unfortunately, the stunning high for the Lady Vols ceased the next day when Northwestern blanked the typically explosive squad, 2-0. Monica Abbott struck out 15 batters, but her teammates could not get the bats going.

    The 2020 squad opened the season with a 6-3 win over Northwestern. The Lady Vols finished 14-9 when COVID-19 forced the end of the season. They finished the abbreviated year with a 3-2 loss to North Carolina on March 10th. They would have faced Texas A&M on March 13th to open SEC play, aiming for their 17th consecutive postseason run during the program’s 25th anniversary season.

    Tennessee’s defense proved a strong point this year, recording 17 double plays. With a young team of returning players, they will look to capitalize on that momentum cut short heading into 2021, which will hopefully be a better year for everyone on and off fields.

    Photo credit: Will Boling/RTI

    The University of Tennessee issued a joint statement from Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer and all 15 of Tennessee’s head coaches across all of UT’s athletics programs on Sunday. The statement is in response to the murder of George Floyd by a police officer and the protests and outrage following his murder.

    Fulmer and UT’s 15 head coaches all demand “progress” and “action that leads to change” in society, not just on the university’s campus. They also implore Vols fans to support UT’s black athletes not only when they compete in sporting events, but also to help “support them and their families in their daily pursuit of peace, happiness, and equity.”

    Here’s the full statement from Fulmer and all of Tennessee’s head coaches:

    We hold our student-athletes to very high standards. With rare exceptions, our young men and women meet those standards and represent themselves, their families, their teams and the University of Tennessee with excellence—academically, athletically and socially. Right now, our student-athletes are hurting. They navigate an emotional road of sadness, confusion and rage. Our black student-athletes carry the added burden of fear and hopelessness—an old wound torn open again by the horrifying, auto-repeat playlist of viral violence in our country that seemingly will not cease.

    As Tennessee head coaches, we are now calling on anyone who is a fan of the Vols and Lady Vols to meet and expect a standard in our daily walk. Let us all refuse to accept or tolerate the unjust treatment of our black neighbors. Let us challenge those who attempt to justify, dismiss, ignore or explain away mistreatment of blacks or any other person of color. Let us meet this standard head-on, out loud and outside our homes. Demand action that leads to change. Demand PROGRESS. This is a basic, human principle that, among some, seems to have become as endangered as basic human rights for blacks in our communities.

    Society could benefit by injecting into our communities an element of the “team” mindset that exists in a sport locker room. It’s widely accepted that sport teaches valuable lessons about leadership, discipline, collaboration, dependability and perseverance. However, the most IMPACTFUL and life-changing lesson sport teaches might actually be the lesser-touted ability to fully accept and embrace people who are different from us and have very different life experiences. On healthy teams, if you wear the same jersey as me, I’ve got your back—regardless of race or ethnicity, it doesn’t matter. Let’s go work together and win. Period.

    Wherever you’re reading this, it likely holds true that the cultures that exist in the sports programs at your local high school or college are much healthier than the culture in your local community. Why do these healthy cultures exist in small sports teams’ locker rooms all across the country, but not in our larger communities? What can we study within a healthy team dynamic that can be applied to a metropolitan city or a rural farm town? As coaches, we don’t have all the answers to fix what’s been broken for so long. But if total acceptance, understanding and empathy—regardless of human differences—can coexist on sports teams, those things should be able to coexist anywhere.

    Vol Nation, let’s rise to the challenge to meet a new standard. If you’re going to support our black student-athletes when they compete, please have the courage to support them and their families in their daily pursuit of peace, happiness and equity.

    The end of the statement was “signed” by Fulmer and all of Tennessee’s head coaches.

    • Phillip Fulmer, Director of Athletics
    • Beth Alford-Sullivan, Track & Field/Cross Country
    • Rick Barnes, Men’s Basketball
    • Lisa Glenn, Rowing
    • Kellie Harpter, Women’s Basketball
    • Matt Kredich, Swimming and Diving
    • Alison Ojeda, Women’s Tennis
    • Judi Pavon, Women’s Golf
    • Brian Pensky, Soccer
    • Jeremy Pruitt, Football
    • Eve Rackham, Volleyball
    • Tony Vitello, Baseball
    • Brennan Webb, Men’s Golf
    • Karen and Ralph Weekly, Softball
    • Chris Woodruff, Men’s Tennis

      Photo by Jake Nichols/RTI

      According to Travis Dorman of the Knoxville News Sentinel, Tennessee running back Tim Jordan was arrested on gun and marijuana charges after a traffic stop in Florida early Saturday morning.

      Jordan, a native of Bartow, FL, was pulled over in his home county after two Lakeland police detectives on patrol claimed they saw a vehicle speeding and repeatedly swerving into the bicycle lane per the arrest warrant. The officers stopped the vehicle and reportedly smelled “a strong odor of cannabis emanating from inside.”

      Jordan was behind the wheel of the vehicle, and a 17-year-old male was in the passenger seat. The teenage passenger’s name has been removed from the warrant.

      After being pulled over, Jordan reportedly told officers he had a gun in his back pocket but did not have a concealed carry permit. The handgun was a Ruger LP pistol and was loaded and unholstered in his back pocket. Inside the vehicle, the officers reportedly found a small bag containing 9.25 grams of marijuana along with a scale and several other empty plastic bags.

      The rising senior running back faces charges of carrying a concealed firearm, possessing narcotic paraphernalia, and possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana. He was arrested before 5 AM in Lakeland.

      Jordan was booked into the Polk County jail and remained there late Saturday afternoon per the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

      A concealed carry charge is a third-degree felony in Florida, punishable by a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

      The 5-foot-11, 219-pound back joined Tennessee as part of the Vols’ 2017 signing class. He appeared in all 12 games as a freshman in 2017 and made a small impact. In 2018, Jordan finished second on the team with 522 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 132 carries while adding 12 receptions for 116 yards, appearing in all 12 games and making two starts. This past season, Jordan appeared in 12 of UT’s 13 games and made four starts, totaling 428 yards and a score on 104 attempts while also catching six passes for 46 yards.

      In his Tennessee career, Jordan has totaled 1,002 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 247 carries while catching 26 passes for 227 yards in 36 games.

      The University of Tennessee has yet to comment on the situation, but we will update as more information becomes available.

        (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

        The hype train continues to roll for Tennessee’s men’s basketball program as the e 2020-21 season aproaches.

        Multiple outlets have continued to rank the Vols inside their way-too-early top 25 rankings for next season. Most have even gone as far to include Rick Barnes’ sixth-year squad in the top 15, while some analysts have projected Tennessee as the team most likely to win the SEC.

        In ESPN’s Jeff Borzello’s initial Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2020-21, he listed Tennessee at No. 13. In his most recent rankings, Borzello has moved the Vols up to No. 11, just outside of the top 10.

        “I get more optimistic about Tennessee’s roster every time we update the rankings,” Borzello wrote. “Here’s how deep Tennessee’s talent level is this season: The Volunteers might not have to start both incoming five-star guards, and they could have someone who averaged 15.7 points and 11.6 rebounds last season coming off the bench.

        “Four starters are back from a season ago, and five-star guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson will push for starting roles immediately. Sacred Heart graduate transfer E.J. Anosike provides depth and experience on the interior. Among the returnees, Santiago Vescovi might be the key. The Uruguayan point guard became eligible in January and gave Barnes a lift in the starting lineup immediately — but Vescovi needs to become more efficient and cut down on his turnovers if Tennessee is to reach its potential. He had five or more turnovers in seven of his 19 games played and a negative assist-to-turnover ratio in eight of 19.”

        Borzello projects Tennessee’s starting rotation to consist of Vescovi, Springer, Josiah-Jordan James, Yves Pons, and John Fulkerson.

        “The Volunteers struggled last season and would have missed the NCAA tournament,” Borzello wrote. “But I think a big bounce-back campaign is in store for Rick Barnes’ team.”

        Tennessee is one of three SEC schools ranked in Borzello’s latest way-too-early top 25. Tennessee was the highest-rated school inside the SEC. He also ranked Kentucky at No. 13 and Florida No. 21, respectively. He also included Arkansas as one of his teams that just missed out on being ranked in the top 25.

        The Vols will be deep and talented next season. Jordan Bowden and Jalen Johnson the only notable departures from the roster this past season as the Vols add Anosike to a top five recruiting class.

        As of right now, Yves Pons currently has his name in the draft pool for this year’s NBA Draft, but it’s assumed that Pons will ultimately pull his name from consideration before the deadline and return to Tennessee for his senior season.

        Barnes’ best recruiting class while in Knoxville is led by Springer and Johnson, a pair of five-star guards. Tennessee also signed Corey Walker Jr. out of Chatham, Virginia as part of the highly-touted recruiting class. Oregon transfer Victor Bailey Jr. will also be eligible this season after having to sit out last season due to transfer rules.

        Under Barnes, the Vols are 49-36 in regular season SEC games, going 37-17 in conference play over the last three seasons. Tennessee made the NCAA Tournament the previous two seasons before the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic this spring.

          Photo by Jake Nichols/RTI

          In this episode of the RTI Podcast, managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee discuss whether or not Tennessee has an advantage over the big four teams on their schedule this season and if the Vols can pull off at least one upset in 2020. Does the fact that Tennessee returns so much on both sides of the ball and isn’t having to break in a new coordinator or head coach give them an advantage over teams like Oklahoma and Georgia since no teams got to have a traditional spring practice session? Plus, what are the odds the Vols can actually upset Alabama or Florida? Which of the four big teams on UT’s schedule do the Vols have the best chance of beating?

          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!