The Checkerboard Mailbag 2.0

Welcome to the Orange and White Mailbag 2.0. After a busy week or so to end May, it’s been a slow news week for Tennessee. Shocking, I know. Even though it was a slow week, there’s still topics to discuss.

With that being said, let’s chop it up.

Good bye Dr. Davenport

The biggest news of the week came when the University announced that it was parting ways with former chancellor, Dr. Beverly Davenport. On Tuesday, Tennessee’s Board of Trustees Audit and Compliance Committee unanimously approved a proposed separating agreement that included a $1.3 million settlement. Tennessee president Joe DiPietro suggested for the move to be made.

The decision comes after a short stint in Knoxville for Davenport. After just over a year as chancellor, the two sides split, determining that she would serve in a faculty role in the College of Communications and Information.

From an athletic standpoint, Davenport will be most remembered for hiring John Currie as athletic director and then having to fire him eight months later due to the Greg Schiano and coaching search debacle.

On the academic side, she was loved by many students and faculty members. Davenport often stood up for both sides. However, Davenport was a poor communicator as President DiPietro stated in his termination letter. The job always seemed too big for her, and that’s not a knock against Davenport. That falls on the administration, starting at the very top, for putting her in a bad position. She never should have been hired in the first place.

Vols in the MLB Draft

On the field, the biggest news surrounded Tennessee baseball when three of its top signees were drafted in the first round.

Jonathan Ornelas, a middle infielder from Peoria, Arizona, was drafted 91stoverall by the Texas Rangers in the third round. Ornelas is the No. 98 overall prospect in the country according to Perfect Game and is the diamond of Tony Vitello’s No. 8 overall recruiting class. The projected slot value for this pick is $622,800.

Aaron Ashby, a left-handed pitcher from Crowder College who threw three no-hitters this spring, was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 125thoverall pick in the fourth round.

The Los Angeles Angels then took William English, a right-handed pitcher from Western International High School in Taylor, Michigan with the No. 151 overall pick.

With the heart of Vitello’s recruiting class back on the market, the Vols first-year head baseball coach has to get back in their living rooms and re-recruit the young men deciding if he wants to make $500,000 or go to school.

“It’s certainly a conundrum,” Vitello said on the Swain Event when asked how he manages recruiting elite talent that may sign a professional baseball contract. “The goal every coach has in recruiting, at least in my mind, is that we can’t come up short in a certain area.”

We can’t put all of our eggs in one basket, in a J.P. Arencibia type catcher, and not have a backup plan if he does sign. Whether it be a really talented walk-on behind him or a returning veteran player or a guy we’re going to pick up the phone and call as soon as this kid decides to sign.”

The signees weren’t the only ones drafted this week. Rising junior pitcher Zach Linginfelter was drafted in the 19thround by the Washington Nationals. According to Vitello, he has told teammates he plans to return Tennessee. 

Catcher Benito Santiago was then drafted in the 34thround with the 1,023rdpick by the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Question from Dylan Palmer (@DPVols97): Where will TK Jr. fit in the new defense?

This is a really good question because in my opinion, it’s one of the two most intriguing questions on the defensive side of the ball entering the season. The other being how fast does it take for J.J. Peterson, the four-star linebacker out of Georgia, to have an impact.

Todd Kelly Jr. had a strong three years to start his career, totaling 150 tackles and eight interceptions. Unfortunately, his senior season was cut short after two games due to a knee injury. As a result, Kelly enters his redshirt season in a weird position.

I’ve long thought that Kelly should be a linebacker based on his build and speed, but with just one year remaining, it seems a little too late to make the switch. At safety, it looks as if TK Jr. sits behind Nigel Warrior and Micah Abernathy on the depth chart. So, I don’t believe he’ll start, but I do think he’ll have a big impact on this team.

TK will provide a great veteran presence for a defense transitioning to a different system. First things first though, he’s got to get healthy. After that, he’ll find a way to have an impact on the football field. He’s too talented of a player not to.

What you need to know: 

Pruitt not concerned about switching to a 3-4

One of the biggest hurdles a new coach faces when taking over a program is adjusting the players to his system. It’s something that Jeremy Pruitt isn’t concerned about as he begins to transition Tennessee’s defense to a 3-4.

"Really when you talk about 3-4 and 4-3, to me there's not much difference," Pruitt said during his interview on The Swain Event on Thursday. "If you watched us play (at Alabama last season), if you watch us play this year, we'll probably be half and half. There will be some games where we're all 3-4. There will be some games that'll be mostly four-down fronts. You've got to be able to do both, to me, if you're going to be dominant on defense. You've got to be able to give the other team various looks that make them have to prepare for both.

Pruitt went on to explain what exactly he looks for in a linebacker, a position that is critical to success in the first-year head coach.

"But as far as an inside 'backer, to me, you're looking for a guy that's instinctive. He can play the blocks. He can tackle from sideline to sideline. He can play all three downs, so you don't have to take him off the field on third down. Outside linebacker, we're looking for pass rushers. That's the most important thing."

Quinten Dormady

On Monday, Houston announced the addition of former Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady. The Texas native announced in January that he would be leaving Knoxville as a graduate transfer. 

Number of the week: 11

Only 11 more Saturday’s to make it through without college football.

Have a blessed weekend and remember to spread love and peace. Talk to y’all on Monday.