What’s going on lately with Tennessee athletics and some thoughts about what’s happening:
Vols get defensive: During his first few seasons at Tennessee, Vols basketball coach Rick Barnes showed video of South Carolina playing defense to his players and told them “This is what it takes to win.”
Barnes shared the story after the Vols did a good impression of Carolina in beating the Gamecocks 66-46 Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols had 11 steals, reaching double figures for the ninth time this season.
They also held Carolina to 0.667 points per possession, the second lowest mark of any UT opponent this season.
Thoughts: Tennessee will be hard to beat if it plays up to its defensive capabilities.
The key will be defending well enough to overcome what’s hard to watch regarding the Vols’ play. On Tuesday, it was free throw shooting. They were 11-for-25 from the line. On many nights, shooting like that will get you beat, regardless of defense.
The Vols could use a video model for offense right now.
Lady Vols keep rising: The Lady Vols (15-1, 4-0 SEC) jumped two spots this week to No. 5 in the Associated Press’ top 25 weekly rankings for women’s basketball. They hadn’t been ranked that high in the national poll since 2015.
Thoughts: The ranking makes for good conversation and even better debate about UT’s potential. With that in mind, I'm thinking about some other numbers as well.
Stanford and South Carolina, two of the top national championship contenders, played a competitive, entertaining game about three weeks ago in Columbia, S.C. In the end, just four points separated the two teams. More importantly, the outcome was decided in the 60s with Carolina prevailing 65-61.
I watched that game and made note of the score. The Lady Vols are better suited for outcomes in the 60s. The more they have, especially against stiffer competition, the better their chances of playing up to their potential.
Good catch: The Vols landed one of the top wide receivers in the transfer portal when former
Wyoming standout Isaiah Neyor announced last weekend that he’s bound for UT. The 6-foot-3 210-pound redshirt sophomore caught 44 passes for 878 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Neyor was rated by 247Sports as the No. 22 player in the portal and the fourth-best receiver among the transfers.
Thoughts: It’s hard to forget the damage done by Purdue’s passing game in the Music City Bowl. Therefore, it’s not hard to think UT needs defensive help above all. Calling all cornerbacks.
The offense is the Vols’ biggest attraction, however. It got Neyor’s attention and was one of the biggest reasons behind him choosing UT.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker and top receiver Cedric Tillman already had announced their return for next season. Neyor will provide vital balance for UT’s attack. The 12 TDs suggest strongly that he will be a scoring threat too.
In the meantime, he can use his talents during practice to help with the development of Tennessee’s cornerbacks.
Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at email@example.com.