It has been a while since Tennessee football played a role in the national championship picture, but the Vols hope things turn around soon under the leadership of new head coach Jeremy Pruitt. In the meantime, plans are coming together for Tennessee to pay tribute to the 1998 national championship team, the first school to claim victory in the BCS era. This season marks the 20th anniversary of Tennessee’s last national championship.
A ceremony to honor the 1998 Tennessee team is scheduled for September 22 when the Vols host Florida. A number of players are expected to make an appearance at Neyland Stadium for the ceremony, although it remains in question whether or not one key member of that team will be there.
Tee Martin, who was the quarterback for the Vols after Peyton Manning graduated, may have the schedule work in his favor to make it happen. Martin, who is the offensive coordinator at USC, will be coaching a game for the Pac-12’s Trojans on Friday night. USC hosts Washington State on Friday, September 21. That game will be played at night, which means Martin would have to take an overnight flight across the country to show up, and then he would have to fly back across the country to begin preparing for USC’s next game the following weekend. The game time for Tennessee’s home game against the Gators has not been announced yet.
One former coach from the 1998 staff that won’t be in attendance will be David Cutcliffe. Then the offensive coordinator of the Vols and now the head coach at Duke, Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils are scheduled to play a home game against North Carolina Central for Duke’s homecoming game. Although, if Duke plays in the early afternoon and Tennessee gets to play at night, you never know.
In 1998, Tennessee got their promising season off on the right track thanks in large part to snapping a losing streak to SEC rival Florida, upsetting the No. 2 Gators 20-17 in overtime in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee completed their 13-0 march to the national championship by dispatching of No. 7 Georgia (22-3) on the road and No. 10 Arkansas (28-24) before beating No. 23 Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game (and yes, Tennessee also beat Alabama, 35-18, but the Tide were not quite on the same level they are today). A clean 12-0 record and an SEC championship to their name sent Tennessee to the inaugural BCS National Championship Game to face No. 2 Florida State, and the Vols defeated the Seminoles 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl while also limiting Peter Warrick to just one catch for seven yards.
UCLA redshirt junior Jordan Wilson has announced he is leaving the Bruins. In a post on his Twitter account on Friday afternoon, Wilson announced he is entering the transfer portal with the intent of finishing up his collegiate career with some other program.
“[I’d] like to announce that I will be entering the transfer portal, graduating at the end of the Spring quarter, and playing my final year of eligibility somewhere else,” Wilson announced in a statement on his Twitter account.
The decision of Wilson to leave UCLA comes at an unfortunate time for the Bruins. Wilson was likely to be a starter at tight end for UCLA in the fall. Wilson is the third tight end to leave UCLA this offseason. Devin Asiasi previously made the decision to declare for the NFL draft a year early. Matt Lynch also stepped into the transfer portal. Now, UCLA has a wide-open competition for playing time at the tight end spot beginning this spring.
Wilson caught seven passes for 72 yards for UCLA in 2019. He will leave UCLA having caught 25 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the past three seasons. As a graduate transfer, Wilson will be eligible to play his final year of eligibility anywhere he ends up this fall.
USC has a new defensive coordinator. The Trojans announced on Friday the school has officially hired Todd Orlando to fill the role of defensive coordinator. Orlando joins USC after coaching the past three seasons at Texas.
Orlando actually joined the Texas Tech program after being let go by Texas following staff changes with the Longhorns. Despite landing a job with the Red Raiders, Orlando remained a top target for USC head coach Clay Helton.
“We are excited to have Todd join our Trojan football program,” Helton said in a released statement. “He is an experienced and successful defensive coordinator who has made an impact everywhere he has coached. He brings a passion, energy, toughness and discipline to his coaching and those characteristics were evident in our discussions. His defensive system poses an extreme challenge to offenses.”
Orlando replaces Clancy Pendergast, who was let go by Helton amid USC’s own staff changes after a down 2019 season. As previously mentioned (HERE), Orlando actually had worse defensive numbers compared to what Pendergast coached with USC last season. However, a contrast of playing styles and offensive outputs between the schedule Texas faced in 2019 (including games against LSU and Oklahoma) and what USC faced could lead to some skewed figures.
Orlando’s first test as a defensive coordinator will be a monster. USC opens the 2020 season in Arlington, Texas against Alabama.
Cal assistant coach Gerald Alexander is leaving to coach with the Miami Dolphins. Alexander confirmed in a message posted on his Twitter account he is heading to the NFL for a coaching opportunity. Multiple reports have confirmed it will be with the Miami Dolphins.
Alexander thanked Cal head coach Justin Wilcox for the opportunity to be a part of Wilcox’s first coaching staff at Cal.
Alexander joined the Cal program in 2017 and spent the past three seasons as a defensive backs coach for the program. He has played a role in helping to coach one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. He previously coached at Montana State, Indiana State and with Chris Peterssen at Washington. Alexander played for Petersen at Boise State.
This will mark a return to the NFL for Alexander. He previously played in the league for five seasons with the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and, appropriately enough, the Miami Dolphins. Alexander was a second-round draft pick of Detroit in 2007.
One of the nearly dozen Oklahoma State football players who entered the transfer portal this cycle has found a new collegiate home.
Thursday, Tulane announced that Kevin Henry has officially been added to the program’s roster. As the linebacker left the Oklahoma State football team as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play for the AAC team immediately in 2020.
The upcoming season will serve as Henry’s final year of eligibility. Henry had previously been awarded a sixth season from the NCAA after taking a redshirt as a true freshman and then missing all but one game of 2017 because of a torn ACL.
A three-star member of the Oklahoma State football Class of 2015, Henry was rated as the No. 25 safety in the country. He was also the No. 20 player regardless of position in the state of Louisiana. Only one signee on the defensive side of the ball in OSU’s class that year, defensive tackle Darrion Daniels, was rated higher than Henry.
Daniels, incidentally, ultimately finished up his collegiate playing career at Nebraska after transferring to the Cornhuskers in December of 2018.
During his time in Stillwater, Henry played in a total of 36 games, including a dozen appearances this past season. He started one of those three-dozen games, Oklahoma State football’s Liberty Bowl win over Missouri following the 2018 regular season.
In those appearances, Daniels was credited with 51 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception, one forced fumble, one quarterback hit and one pass defensed.