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Domestic assault, public intoxication charges dropped against Tennessee DL Darel Middleton

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One of the three Tennessee football players arrested this offseason has seen a resolution to his off-field issue.

In late February, Darel Middleton was arrested on one count each of domestic assault and public intoxication.  According to the arresting officers, Middleton was involved in a physical confrontation with another male.  At some point, Middelton’s girlfriend attempted to break up the fight.  That female was subsequently shoved to the ground, twice, by Middelton, resulting in minor injuries.

Four months later, the Knoxville News Sentinel is reporting that all charges against the Tennessee football player have been dropped.  According to the News Sentinel, Middleton was scheduled to appear in court later this month.

At this point, it’s unclear if Middleton will still face punishment from head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Shortly after his arrest, Middelton took to Twitter to issue a statement in which he apologized for the “negative attention [his actions brought] to my family, team, school Vol Nation and myself.” The starting defensive lineman also stated that he’s “seeking Alcohol Counseling now” through the university’s “Center for Health Education and Wellness.”

“I have come to realize that alcohol was an influence on my actions,” Middleton wrote. “Alcohol is not a problem for me in regards of how much, how often, etc. I realize it is a problem if it can cause me to act in a way [that is] not in my best interest.”

Added the lineman, “Again, I am sorry that I brought negative attention on this program and University. … Although my actions may not have shown it, I do value this opportunity to improve my family situation.”

Middleton came to the Volunteers from the junior-college ranks last year.

During his first season in Knoxville, Middleton started six of the 13 games in which he played.  The 6-7, 311-pound tackle was credited with 28 tackles, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one blocked kick.

Middleton will be entering his final season of eligibility.

SEC joins Big Ten, Pac-12 in going with a 10-game, conference-only football schedule for 2020

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The SEC has decided on the direction its football season will take.  If there is a college football season, that is.

Following a meeting of the league’s presidents and chancellors, the SEC announced Thursday that it will go with a 10-game, conference-only schedule for the 2020 college football season.  Originally scheduled to start the weekend of Sept. 5, the SEC has now pushed back the season’s kick-off back to Sept. 26.  Additionally, the conference championship game will be played Dec. 19.

John Talty of al.com was the first to report the development.  In confirming the report, the SEC added that each team will have two bye weekends during the regular season: one mid-season (different dates for different schools) as well as a league-wide bye the weekend of Dec. 12.  That, of course, is the weekend prior to the league title game.

“This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus,” commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”

It had been expected that the SEC would follow the ACC’s lead and add a plus-one to the schedule, a non-conference matchup that was previously on the schedule.  Instead, the move means games such as LSU-Texas, South Carolina-Clemson, Florida-Florida State and Georgia-Georgia Tech are officially off the schedule for the 2020 season.

The 14-member SEC will play its six division rivals as well as the regularly-scheduled pair of crossover games.  The additional crossover games that will fill out the 10-game conference slate will be announced at a later date.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 as previously announced that those leagues would be going to a conference-only schedule.  That leaves the Big 12 as the only Power Five to have not signaled its scheduling intentions.

Below are all of the non-conference games for each SEC school that will be canceled:

  • Alabama — USC, Georgia State, Kent State, UT-Martin
  • Arkansas — Nevada, Notre Dame, Charleston Southern, Louisiana-Monroe
  • Auburn — Alcorn State, North Carolina, Southern Miss, UMass
  • Florida — Eastern Washington, South Alabama, New Mexico State, Florida State
  • Georgia — Virginia, East Tennessee State, Louisiana-Monroe, Georgia Tech
  • Kentucky — Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Eastern Illinois, Louisville
  • LSU — UTSA, Texas, Rice, Nicholls State
  • Mississippi State — New Mexico, NC State, Tulane, Alabama A&M
  • Missouri — Central Arkansas, Eastern Michigan, BYU, Louisiana
  • Ole Miss — Baylor, Southeast Missouri State, UConn, Georgia Southern
  • South Carolina — Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Wofford, Clemson
  • Tennessee — Charlotte, Oklahoma, Furman, Troy
  • Texas A&M — Abiline Christian, North Texas, Colorado, Fresno State
  • Vanderbilt — Mercer, Kansas State, Colorado State, Louisiana Tech

Tennessee DB Brandon Davis seeking new home after entering transfer portal

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The positive for Tennessee football?  This departure, unlike two recent ones, wasn’t triggered by a dismissal.  So they have that going for them.  Which is nice.

In mid-June, UT dismissed Tim Jordan following the running back’s arrest on weapons and drug charges.  A month later, Emmit Gooden was given the boot by the Volunteers after he was arrested for felony domestic assault.

The weekend after Gooden’s off-field issue, Brandon Davis took the first step in leaving Tennessee football by entering the NCAA transfer database.  The defensive back made the announcement on his personal Twitter account.

“I would like to thank my family and friends [who’ve] been with me throughout this journey,” Davis wrote, adding he “would also like to thank the coaches [who’ve] helped me throughout my years at UT!

“I will be entering the transfer portal and reopening my recruiting process.

“Thank you Vol Nation.  You have been supportive the whole way!  Nothing but love!  I made friends at UT that’s going to last forever and thankful for everyone who took me in with open arms!  I wish nothing but the best for my teammates.  God’s Plan.”

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Davis was a three-star member of the Tennessee football Class of 2018.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Davis appeared in just one game in 2019.

It’s expected Davis will have to sit out 2020, but who knows anymore.

SEC guarantees scholarships for student-athletes who opt out of fall sports due to COVID-19 concerns

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While expected, the SEC has confirmed that it will not punish a student-athlete who opts out of fall sports due to CIOVID-19 safety concerns.  The only caveat?  They must remaining in good standing with their respective teams.

Below is the Southeastern Conference’s press release on the development:

Southeastern Conference student-athletes who elect to not participate in intercollegiate athletics during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team, the Conference announced Friday.

The action is the result of a unanimous vote of the SEC’s Presidents and Chancellors following a recommendation of the Conference’s Athletics Directors.

“SEC universities are committed to full support of its student-athletes, whether or not a student-athlete decides to participate in sports during these uncertain times,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “SEC student-athletes have frequently expressed their desire to compete, but it is important for student-athletes and their families to know the financial support committed to them by their institutions will not be at risk because of health concerns presented by the current pandemic.”

The SEC will continue to monitor developments related to COVID-19 to determine at a later date if the policy should be extended to the Spring semester of 2021 or beyond.

The SEC is expected to make a decision on fall sports, including football, at the end of July.

Tennessee starting TE Austin Pope undergoes surgery for herniated disc

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If/when the 2020 season kicks off, Tennessee football could very well be without a starting piece of its offense.

On Twitter, Austin Pope revealed that it was recently determined that he had suffered another herniated disc in his back. The tight end also confirmed that he underwent surgery to repair the issue Thursday morning.  That marked the second such surgical procedure on his back, although the one two years ago was on a different disc.

Below is Pope’s complete social-media post:

Sometimes life doesn’t always go the way we plan it. I’ve had had times and challenges in my life, so this is nothing new to me. I recently have been dealing with a lot of nerve pain coming from my low back. I went to get an [MRI] Monday morning and the results were not what I expected. Doc told me I herniated yet another disc in my back, this time being at L3L4. I’ve been very down and disappointed because I already had back surgery two years ago for a different disc. I had surgery this morning and am recovering at home right now. I really would appreciate any support in these tough times. I love this game, my teammates, and my coaches and I will do anything to help this program succeed. Prayers would be appreciated. Minor setback for a major comeback.

Pope did not give a timeline for a return.  At least one outlet, though, stated that the player “is expected to miss an extended period of time.”

Pope was a three-star member of the Tennessee football Class of 2016.  The Knoxville native redshirted as a true freshman, then started three of the 20 games in which he played the next two seasons.  In 2019, Pope started 11 games for the Volunteers.

Primarily a blocking tight end, Pope caught four passes for 21 yards this past season.  For his career, he has seven receptions for 85 yards.  51 of those yards came on one catch in a 2018 game against Florida.