Morning gang! Perhaps you think it’s March and there is literally nothing interesting going on with Tennessee athletics. Perhaps you think LINKS has nothing to write about. Perhaps you think we should just shut down the website until May (note to ed: can we just shut down the site until May?) But ho! Lest you forget, it’s a scant 160 days until football season; which means Spring Practice is in full swing. Let’s get caught up.
Spring Practice week three begins tomorrow, with practice #7; there will be fifteen practices total, ending April 16th with the annual Orange & White Game. All practices (other than the O&W game) are closed to the public. Here’s what we’re missing:
Following a alternately thrilling and ugh-puke-gross ‘16-’17 season, it’s not much of a stretch to say Butch Jones is entering next season with less-than-ironclad job security. And whether by choice or circumstance, in ‘17-’18 he’ll also be depending on a lot of new faces on his staff; the latest addition, Eric Lewis as Defensive Quality Control Assistant, marks the sixth new staff hire this offseason. Lewis, who previous coached the secondary at Georgia State, also formerly served as defensive coordinator for Eastern Michigan and Weber State.
As a refresher:
Here’s everybody new: Mike Canales (Quarterbacks), Brady Hoke (Defensive Line), Kevin Beard (Wide Receivers), Charlton Warren (Defensive Backs/Special Teams), Eric Lewis (Defensive Quality Control) and Rock Gullickson (Strength & Conditioning).
Internal promotions include Larry Scott (Offensive Coordinator; formerly Tight Ends) and Walt Wells (Offensive Line; formerly Offensive Quality Control).
Departures include OC Mike DeBord (left for Indiana OC position), WR coach Zach Azzanni (left for NFL), OL coach Dan Mahoney and DB coach Willie Martinez (neither retained).
Eight players are missing the spring sessions due to injury: Micah Abernathy (DB), Rashaan Gaulden (DB), Kyle Phillips (DL), Kendal Vickers (DL), Shy Tuttle (DL), Josh Smith (WR), Brandon Johnson (WR), and Brett Kendrick (OL).
JR S Stephen Griffin, who played in eleven games last season, has left the program seeking more playing time, according to SEC Country.
RSJR Jonathan Kongbo has moved back permanently to defensive end, after moonlighting some as a defensive tackle last season due to injuries.
SO Austin Smith, meanwhile, will (interestingly) be moving back to Sam linebacker, after filling in at defensive end last season. This would seemingly indicate a move toward Bob Shoop running more 4-3 under looks next season (most 4-2-5 defenses replace the Sam with a safety).
Much-ballyhooed incoming freshman OL Trey Smith, who enrolled in January, is already impressing.
Wes Rucker at 247 has been doing an exhaustive position-by-position overview of the team as it enters the spring; some of the articles are paywalled, but Outside Linebacker, Defensive Tackle, Middle Linebacker, and Safety are all look-at-able. Defense is cooler anyways.
Butch is nothing if not consistent with his motivational tactics, we guess: he has decreed “DAT Way” as the motto of the spring, which apparently is an acronym for “Details, Accountability and Toughness.” ::shrug::
No real news yet, but the expected Jarrett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady QB battle is fully underway.
After a year with the Vols, freshman guard Kwe Parker is leaving the program. Parker averaged 1 point, 0.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 8 minutes a game as a freshman.
New UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport got into some sort of Twitter thing.
Some actual good news for Holly Warlick: JR C Mercedes Russell has elected to forgo the WNBA draft and will stay another year with the program (JR G Diamond DeShields is still weighing her options). Russell will be joined on the court next season by the Lady Vols’ incoming No. 1 class featuring four high school All-Americans in Anastasia Hayes, Evina Westbrook, Rennia Davis and Kasiyahna Kushkituah. Interesting sidebar, the-rest-of-the-country-is-catching-up division: reports surfaced last night that the Florida women’s program had offered their open head-coach position to current Spurs assistant Becky Hammon. Hammon reportedly declined the offer, but it’s an impressive indication of Florida’s ambition to pursue a coach widely considered a NBA head coach candidate.
On April 16th at 6:30EST, Josh Dobbs will be featured on ESPN’s Gruden’s QB CamOOOOOOMMMMGGGGYOUGUYS IT’S HAAAAAPPPPEEEENNNINNGGG