Jeremy Pruitt

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Tennessee storms back to stun Indiana in Gator Bowl

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Tennessee (8-5) overcame a 16-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to edge Indiana (8-5) in the Gator Bowl Thursday night in Jacksonville. Two touchdowns within 30 seconds of each other pushed the Vols out in front, 23-22, and Indiana’s long field goal attempt to regain the lead in the final minutes fell no good. Jeremy Pruitt won his first bowl game as head coach of the Vols, while Indiana’s bowl win drought drags on for another year.

After sitting out the first half to serve a suspension, Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings entered the game after halftime. Any hope of Jennings providing a spark for the Vols seemingly faded as Jarrett Guarantano was intercepted by Jamar Johnson on Tennessee’s third play of the second half (after Indiana scored a go-ahead touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter). Johnson returned the interception 63 yards for a touchdown, giving Indiana a 16-6 lead after a missed extra point attempt. Jennings ended the game with two receptions for 27 yards.

Tennessee pulled closer with a field goal on the next possession and came closer with a long touchdown drive with Quavis Crouch running form the one-yard line to bring the Vols within six points. Indiana was not prepared for an onside kick, which was recovered easily by Tennessee, and Eric Gray gave the Vols the 23-22 lead with a 16-yard touchdown run up the middle of the Indiana defense.

Tennessee had opportunities to build a big lead in the first half but managed to score just six points on three red-zone trips. Indiana had a turnover on downs and the Vols settled for two field goals on their other trips, allowing Indiana to hang around at halftime. Indiana dominated the third quarter with a 16-3 advantage in the third quarter to take a 19-6 lead into the fourth quarter.

The win by Tennessee improved the SEC to 7-2 this bowl season, easily the best bowl record among all conferences this bowl season. The SEC is 2-1 against the ACC (with LSU facing Clemson in the national championship game), 3-0 against the Big 12 and 2-1 against the Big Ten. The Big Ten closes out its postseason with a 4-5 record with losing records to the SEC and Pac-12 (1-2) and drawing even with the ACC (1-1).

Indiana will open the 2020 season with a Big Ten opener in Madison. The Hoosiers visit reigning Big Ten West Division champion Wisconsin on Sept. 5 to begin the new season. Indiana will host Western Kentucky in their home opener the following week on Sept. 12.

Tennessee will open its 2020 season at home against Charlotte on Sept. 5. The Vols travel to Oklahoma the following week and close out September with a home game against Florida.

Bryce Thompson returns to practice after being reinstated by Tennessee

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Tennessee defensive back Bryce Thompson was back on the practice field on Wednesday after being reinstated by the program. Thompson missed each of Tennessee’s first two games of the season as a result of his suspension, but it remains unknown just how soon Thompson may be rejoining his teammates in a game.

Head coach Jeremy Pruitt released a statement confirming Thompson is being allowed to practice but did not announce when Thompson will be used in a game again.

“As university processes have progressed relating to Bryce Thompson, we’ve all taken this situation very seriously,” Pruitt said in a released statement. “I believe Bryce can grow by following the plan the university has put in place for him. As a result, I am allowing him to return to practice.”

Tennessee suspended Thompson indefinitely on Aug. 26 following an arrest for alleged domestic assault. Thompson was charged with misdemeanor domestic assault following an incident in which Thompson allegedly threatened a woman and made a verbal threat to “shoot up the school.” Thompson denied making any such threats. He is currently scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 23, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Thompson earned Freshman All-American honors last season after recording 34 tackles and three interceptions for the Vols. He also forced one fumble and recorded four tackles for a loss with one sack. His return to the defense comes as the Vols are looking to get a win under their belts. Tennessee lost each of their first two home games against Georgia State (HERE) and BYU (HERE), with the defense being just one of the concerns in each loss.

Tennessee hosts Chatanooga this weekend.

Tennessee leading BYU at halftime in Knoxville

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A week after a humbling loss at home, Tennessee knew they wanted to get on the scoreboard early against BYU. And they did. The Vols also hold the lead on BYU at halftime in Neyland Stadium, 13-3.

After BYU opened the game with a drive that end ed with a punt, the Vols offense went to work to get an early lead. Not content to settle for a field goal, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt opted to go for it on a 4th & 3 on the BYU five-yard line, and it paid off. Jarrett Guarantano completed a five-yard pass to Jauan Jennings for a touchdown and the first points of the game. BYU would answer with a field goal on the ensuing possession.

The Vols tacked on a 51-yard field goal by Brent Cimaglia to add to their lead in the second quarter, and one more 39-yard field goal just before the end of the first half to build the lead to 10 points.

There may not have been as much improvement from Tennessee as fans may have hoped to see so far, and this game is very much still up in the air going to the second half. But the Volunteers have avoided turning the football over and the defense has held BYU to negative rushing yardage. Can Tennessee keep this going and avoid a second straight tough loss at home to start the year? We’ll find out in the second half.

SEC rolls out four-day summer media day schedule

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Once again, the SEC will be masters of media day coverage in the middle of the summer with a four-day media day extravaganza. This year, the SEC is returning to Birmingham, Alabama. The SEC distributed updated details about this year’s media day event including what schools and coaches will be speaking on what day.

The SEC will open up the 2019 media day fun on Monday, July 15 from the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – Wynfrey Hotel. Television coverage of the event will be available through the SEC Network as well as ESPN over the course of the four days.

The exact order of what coaches will be speaking at what times will be hashed out later on, but Florida’s Dan Mullen, LSU’s Ed Orgeron, and Missouri’s Barry Odom will be featured on Day 1 on Monday, July 15. Day 2 will feature Kirby Smart of Georgia, Matt Luke of Ole Miss, Jeremy Pruitt of Tennessee, and Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M. Alabama’s Nick Saban will highlight the festivities on Day 3, with Chad Morris of Arkansas, Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State and Will Muschamp of South Carolina also getting their time in front of the microphone. Day 4 will wrap things up with Gus Malzahn of Auburn, Mark Stoops of Kentucky, and Derek Mason of Vanderbilt.

Here is the full SEC Media Day schedule, for those planning ahead.

2019 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE

MONDAY, July 15
Florida – Dan Mullen
LSU – Ed Orgeron
Missouri – Barry Odom

TUESDAY, July 16
Georgia – Kirby Smart
Ole Miss – Matt Luke
Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt
Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher

WEDNESDAY, July 17
Alabama – Nick Saban
Arkansas – Chad Morris
Mississippi State – Joe Moorhead
South Carolina – Will Muschamp

THURSDAY, July 18
Auburn – Gus Malzahn
Kentucky – Mark Stoops
Vanderbilt – Derek Mason

While the SEC media days are going on, the ACC will also be holding their media day event in Charlotte, North Carolina. The ACC media day runs from July 16 through July 18.

Tennessee beefing up o-line with second five-star recruit

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Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt knew he needed to bulk things up on the offensive line if the Vols were going to begin making up any ground in the SEC. After signing one five-star offensive tackle in the early signing period in December, Tennessee added one more five-star player for the offensive line on Wednesday.

Darnell Wright, a five-star offensive tackle in the 247 Sports composite ranking out of West Virginia, followed up a recent official visit to Tennessee by declaring his commitment to the Vols on National Signing Day. Wright, who checks in at 6′-6″ and 320 pounds, chose the Volunteers over the in-state West Virginia Mountaineers as his recruiting process crosse the finish line on Wednesday.

Wright will saddle up next to Wanya Morris, another five-star tackle who enrolled at Tennessee in January after committing to the program in the early signing period. Tennessee’s efforts to improve the offensive line didn’t stop there, of course. The Class of 2019 for Tennessee also includes four-star guard Jackson Lampley from Nashville and extra bodies with Chris Akporoghene from IMG Academy in Florida, and Melvin McBride of Memphis.

The Vols needed to improve their offensive line in a big way. Tennessee was ranked 14th in the 14-team SEC last season in rushing offense, averaging just 3.7 yards per rushing attempt. Although the Vols fared better in limiting sacks compared to the rest of the conference, Tennessee still allowed 23 sacks last season, an average fo 1.92 sacks allowed per game. While that was sixth-best in the SEC, SEC East opponents Missouri, Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt all had better numbers protecting their quarterbacks.