Tennessee Vols morning report: 4 players leaving UT football, Signing Day tour

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 09: Tennessee Volunteers fans cheer during the first half of the game against the Indiana State Sycamores at Neyland Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 09: Tennessee Volunteers fans cheer during the first half of the game against the Indiana State Sycamores at Neyland Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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The Tennessee Vols football National Signing Day caravan and news on four players leaving lead our Volunteers news for Friday, Feb. 8, 2019.

Happy Friday! After a huge week when it comes to off-field gridiron news while men’s basketball continues, this weekend represents some sort of return to normal for the Tennessee Vols. But before that, we have a ton of news to cover still related to Signing Day.

Our morning news on Rocky Top includes news about players leaving the program and the locations in which that news was delivered. Quotes from numerous UT coaches in football and men’s basketball lead the way.

However, we also have some baseball and softball news to bring you in previewing both seasons. Yes, those are now beginning to take off, hinting that spring is just around the corner. But let’s start with the big football news.

Four players leave Tennessee football – Blake Toppmeyer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee Vols offensive lineman Chance Hall is giving up football due to injuries. Offensive tackle Drew Richmond and tight end Austin Pope, who entered the transfer portal, will not be with the team in the spring. Meanwhile, tight end Eli Wolf announced his transfer to the Georgia Bulldogs. Pruitt made these announcements and said nothing has changed with Trey Smith while on his Signing Day tour across the state Thursday.

"Injuries plagued Hall’s career. He made seven starts as a freshman and six as a sophomore but missed the entire 2017 season with a knee injury. He had surgery last March before returning to appear in eight games last fall. He would have been a fifth-year senior.Richmond is also a fifth-year senior who will depart as a graduate transfer. The Memphis native started 25 games for Tennessee, including all 12 at right tackle last season. Smith, another fifth-year senior, appeared in 23 games during his Tennessee career."

Football coaches speak in Memphis – Evan Barnes, The Commercial Appeal

Tennessee football stopped in Memphis yesterday as part of its National Signing Day tour across the state. Jeremy Pruitt, Jim Chaney and Tee Martin all spoke, and Pruitt touted some of the talent from Memphis like recent four-star running back signee Eric Gray of Lausanne.

"“There’s probably five SEC schools that are closer than Knoxville. When you talk to the kids in Memphis, their address is still Memphis, Tennessee,” Pruitt said Thursday at the Memphis Hilton. “We’ve got to make sure that we sell it in this city.”"

UT football visits Nashville – Mike Organ, The Tennessean

Tennessee football went to Nashville after its stop in Memphis to talk about National Signing Day. While there, the coaches talked about the growth of the city of Nashville and how much it has helped the Vols in recruiting.

"“You see all these folks in here that’s got orange on, right? Everybody says Nashville is growing. Well, they’re probably not coming from East or West Tennessee. So whenever they come into the city of Nashville we’ve got to transfer them over to be Tennessee fans. So make sure after they move to Nashville, go introduce yourself and say, ‘Go Vols.’ “"

Rick Barnes speaks ahead of Florida game – Grant Ramey, GoVols247

Tennessee Vols men’s basketball head coach Rick Barnes spoke on Thursday ahead of his No. 1 ranked team’s match-up with the Florida Gators Saturday. Barnes talked heavily about his team’s defense and even touched on Pruitt’s comments about his team’s success helping with football recruiting, noting that everybody benefits from other programs on campus. Here’s a bit of what else he said.

"I tell everyone that there is no one that is going to have a better fall visit than us because of what the football team does. I think we all have to feed off of each other. I think we all know that when good things are happening within our university, athletic department, it benefits all of us. Again, I’ve been at football schools and I’ve been at some non-football schools. And I’ll tell you, you want to be at around a football program."

Tennessee softball to open season in Myrtle Beach, S.C. – UTSports

The Tennessee Lady Vols softball team will open its season Friday in its first of five games at the Kickin’ Chicken Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They’ll first play the UIC Flames Friday at 9:30 a.m. and then the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at 2 p.m. On Saturday, they’ll face UIC again at 4:15 p.m. and then take on Boston University at 6:30 p.m. Finally, they’ll face Rider on Sunday at 11:15 a.m.

"UT comes into the weekend ranked No. 8 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll, the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 and Softball America’s preseason poll. The Lady Vols return 14 players from last year’s Super Regional squad and welcome six talented newcomers."

Tennessee baseball picked 5th in SEC East – SECSports.com

The Tennessee Vols baseball team was picked to finish fifth in the SEC East by coaches Thursday. They also had no preseason All-SEC players. Tony Vitello enters his second season as head coach on Rocky Top after going 29-27 in 2018

"Vanderbilt University has been predicted to win the 2019 Southeastern Conference baseball championship as voted by the league’s 14 head coaches in the annual preseason poll released Thursday. The Preseason All-SEC First and Second Teams, as determined by the head coaches, were also announced."