Tennessee Vols set for takeover as NCAA lets athletes return to campus

Coronavirus-related shutdowns are ending, and the Volunteers are set to take over. Tennessee Vols athletes can return to campus.

When COVID-19 shutdown the 2019-2020 college sports season, the Tennessee Vols men’s basketball program needed a deep SEC Tournament run to get onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. Football had a recruiting class ranked outside of the top 20 for 2021. Women’s basketball was desperately hoping to back into the NCAA Tournament.

Well, over two months later, the NCAA has begun the process of returning things back to normal. Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported that the NCAA Division I’s Council voted to football, basketball and women’s basketball players to resume voluntary activities on campus beginning June 1. That includes things like summer workouts.

At the start of the process to return to normal, the Tennessee Vols are completely different. That football program now has a top two recruiting class for 2021. Women’s basketball returns all but two players and has added a transfer. Men’s basketball added a graduate transfer and secured a top five recruiting class.

Related Story: Ranking Vols sports worst affected by coronavirus cancelations

Simply put, things are different now, and Rocky Top is poised for an athletic takeover. The real story during quarantine was Tennessee football. Since the shutdown began, Jeremy Pruitt has secured 15 recruits, seven of whom are four-stars. He picked up 11 of them, including all of the four-stars, within a two-week frame.

Pruitt is not the only guy who scored big, however. Kellie Harper, while losing Jazmine Massengill and Zaay Green to transfer, added even more length by signing Liberty Flames forward Keyen Green. With Jordan Horston set to gain more experience, Harper has her elite guard already, and Green plus everybody else back should make the team much better overall.

Then there’s Rick Barnes and the men’s basketball program. Barnes had already secured commitments from two five-stars and a four-star, and they have all signed. But he also added graduate transfer forward E.J. Anosike, the brother of Lady Vol champion Nicky Anosike who averaged a double-double with the Sacred Heart Pioneers this past year.

So Barnes has dramatically upgraded the roster on Rocky Top, and that nearly NIT bid before coronavirus shut everything down is a distant memory. Should Yves Pons return, and all signs indicate that he will, the Vols could be a national title contender next year.

Next: Top 10 NFL Vols of 2010s

Taking all of this into account, the Tennessee Vols are rolling. Nobody wanted to get back to athletics more than that program, and they are finally set to do just that with this new NCAA decision. It doesn’t confirm the season will happen in the fall, and the workouts are restricted. But UT is set to dominate heading into next year, and returning to workouts was the first step.