Tennessee Vols morning report: Football No. 19 in 2020 ESPN FPI

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) /

A top 20 ranking by the Tennessee Vols football program in the ESPN Football Power Index leads our Volunteers news for Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

We’re not even through February yet, but the Tennessee Vols football team is already starting to get some love for 2020. Although lots of things can change between now and then, we still can’t ignore that news.

As a result, our morning update on Rocky Top leads with the respect UT is getting on a national level entering Jeremy Pruitt’s third year. That’s one of three football stories for the day. Another includes the addition of a walk-on, and the final one is about a player gaining a role within the SEC.

Beyond that, we have men’s basketball news involving things Rick Barnes said Monday to cover. Then we’ve got previews in baseball and swimming and diving along with ongoing coverage in men’s and women’s golf events. So it’s a big Tuesday for news. Let’s start with the football stories.

Football Vols No. 19 in ESPN FPI – ESPN.com

ESPN’s first Football Power Index rankings for 2020 came out on Monday, and the Tennessee Vols football program got some major love. Jeremy Pruitt’s team is ranked No. 19 in the FPI. Of course, that’s only seventh in the SEC, but it shows major improvement.

"The SEC (seven) and Big Ten (six) combine to occupy more than half of the top 25. Every Power 5 conference has at least three schools in this year’s top 25."

Walk-on linebacker added for 2020 – Lucas Panzica, VolsWire.com

While Tennessee football already has a top 10 recruiting class for 2020 and may add another five-star, the Vols are finding other ways to add talent as well. UT added local linebacker Eunique Valentine as a preferred walk-on for this upcoming year on Monday.

"The Knoxville Central High School linebacker had scholarship offers from other schools outside of the Power 5, and was committed to Navy late in 2019. Citing a desire to stay closer to home, Valentine will join Tennessee in 2020."

Alontae Taylor earns SEC leadership council role – SECSports.com

Rising junior Alontae Taylor has been named Vice Chair of the Southeastern Conference Football Leadership Council, with MoMo Sanogo of the Ole Miss Rebels being named Chair. The Tennessee football defensive back was voted to the position by his peers recently at league offices in Birmingham and will be involved in providing feedback on SEC legislative proposals.

"Taylor, a native of Manchester, Tenn., appeared in all 13 games this past season and started six in his sophomore year with the Vols. He finished the season with 33 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups. Taylor is a communications studies major, and he was recently named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll."

Rick Barnes speaks with media ahead of Vanderbilt – Grant Ramey, GoVols247

At 14-11 and 6-6 in the SEC after a heartbreaking loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks over the weekend, the Tennessee Vols men’s basketball program hosts the Vanderbilt Commodores Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. ET. Rick Barnes spoke with the media Monday ahead of the matchup. Here’s a bit of what he said.

"“We have gone through, you think about when the season started, we expected Lamonte (Turner), Jordan (Bowden) and Josiah James to play a lot. All three of those — one isn’t along with us, one is having as tough a year as he has ever had and one has been hurt from the start. For us to be where we are, I am really proud of these guys. I really am.”"

Baseball Vols host Charlotte – UTSports

After sweeping the Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks to open the season over the weekend, the 3-0 Tennessee Vols baseball program has a midweek matchup with the Charlotte 49ers, who come in at 1-2 after losing two of three in their opening series against the VCU Rams. The first pitch is set for 4 p.m. ET.

"The Vols and 49ers have faced off four times with UT coming away victorious on three occasions. Tennessee won the first meeting between the two programs, 7-4, in the 1993 NCAA Knoxville Regional."

Swimming and Diving begins SEC Championships – AuburnTigers.com

Ranked No. 4 on the women’s side and No. 12 on the men’s side, the Tennessee Swimming and Diving program begins SEC Championships, hosted by the Auburn Tigers, on Tuesday. The event will last through Saturday and begins at 10 a.m. today.

"Tickets are standing-room only and there is no pre-sale. Tickets will only be sold starting the morning of the first session at the Martin Aquatics Center. The aquatics center will be cleared after the conclusion of each session."

Men’s golf falls to No. 13 at Puerto Rico Classic – PurdueSports.com

Following a 10th-place finish on the first day of the event, the Tennessee Vols men’s golf team dropped to No. 13 after the second day of the Puerto Rico Classic, which is hosted by the Purdue Boilermakers and takes place at the Wyndham Rio Mar Golf Course in Rio Mar, Puerto Rico. UT is now seven-over par with a total score of 583. Tuesday is the final day of the event.

Women’s golf remains No. 12 at IJGA Invitational – GolfStat.com

With a score of 17-over par at 593 in total, the Tennessee Lady Vols finished the second day of the IJGA Collegiate Invitational tied at No. 12 with the Michigan Wolverines. The event is hosted by the Virginia Cavaliers but is taking place at the Guadalajara Country Club in Guadalajara, Mexico. It’s final day is Tuesday.