Tennessee chair shortage and other bits ‘n pieces

Marvin Westwestwords

This is not headline material but it is too good to throw away.


In this time of deficit financing for University of Tennessee athletics, far more senior administrators are arriving than departing. From a distance, it appears there is an abundant supply.

Danny White

Several experienced staffers who came with John Currie were retained by Phillip Fulmer because they knew what they were doing. Fulmer added a few.

Dr. Danny White, athletics director for the next several years, has surrounded himself with a full circle of very interesting people. He may not be finished. He may want two circles.

Unless some associates and assistants have departed under cover of darkness, it is surprising that there are enough chairs to go around.

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Something else is going on in the great state of Tennessee. Michigan is gaining a disproportionate share of football recruiting commitments. The Wolverines’ latest success is four-star defensive back Kody Jones of Germantown.

For three or four weeks, they thought they had Taylor Groves from Cross Plains. He said yes but just changed his mind.

The next Michigan project is Walter Nolen, No. 1 high school defensive tackle in the country, a 6-4, 300-pound man playing with the boys at St. Benedict at Auburndale. He has just returned from a three-day, self-guided Michigan tour.

Nolen knows the way from Cordova to Ann Arbor. He says he’s going back in June to see more.

The Vols’ new coach said on introduction day that keeping Tennessee prep stars in Tennessee was going to be a high priority. Building a wall takes time but Josh Heupel might want to at least stretch some barbed wire around the boundary to tell intruders they are trespassing.

Keep an eye on old Vol Buck Fitzgerald of National Playmakers Academy. Groves has been getting extra coaching and mentoring from him.

There was a similar connection between Buck, another prep star and Michigan a few months ago. Linebacker Junior Colson of Brentwood signed with the Wolverines. He was ranked No. 8 at his position – in the country.

In that story, Fitzgerald was described as Colson’s personal trainer.

There was a time I thought Tennessee maintained appropriate ties with Buck Fitzgerald. Maybe everything is OK or maybe not.

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Honest recruiting is almost always based on personal relationships between college assistant coaches and prospects, their families and high school coaches. Friends and neighbors and favorite girls may be relevant. Handlers and facilitators pop up now and then.

Advantages are wherever you find them.

Tennessee has found a prospective linebacker in Florida with a tie to Tennessee. DeMario Tolan of Tohopekaliga High in Kissimmee has scholarship offers from nine of the 14 SEC schools. He said he was especially pleased to get one from the Vols.

“My dad is from Nashville, born and raised, and that’s his favorite team,” said DeMario. “He is a diehard fan of Tennessee in everything.”

Tennessee has two ties with four-star corner Ephesians Prysock of Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills, Calif.

Former Vol quarterback Casey Clausen is his head coach. Former Vol quarterback Rick Clausen is offensive coordinator.

Ephesians seemed surprised that Tennessee knew enough about him to offer a scholarship. Could be the new UT staff is wide awake and working overtime to catch up.

The extra-large question hanging over Heupel and associates is whether they can recruit at a championship level without going to NCAA jail. The SEC is a different world from where some of them have been.

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You didn’t ask but former Vol Trey Smith bench-pressed 225 pounds an impressive 32 times and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.11 seconds at Tennessee’s Pro Day – with a crowd of NFL scouts as witnesses. Trey’s frightening health problems appear to be history.

Trey Smith

I don’t know but I’ve been told that he was some degree of awesome in interviews. And why not? He is experienced far beyond his years.

A few days ago, he added a crowning achievement. Trey was named a Torchbearer, the University of Tennessee’s highest student honor. The award goes to seniors “who embody the Volunteer spirit while demonstrating academic excellence and a commitment to serving others.”

So said chancellor Donde Plowman.

The Torchbearer tag is not exactly tossed willy-nilly to Tennessee football players. Quarterback Josh Dobbs was honored in 2016. Center Bob Johnson was a Torchbearer in 1968.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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