Tennessee Vols morning report: Keon Johnson gone, football players speak

It was a huge day for the Tennessee Vols men’s basketball program. Former Vol Drew Pember announced on Twitter he was transferring to the Bulldogs after being in the portal for less than two weeks. Meanwhile, 6’6″ shooting guard Quentin Diboundje Eyobo became the third commitment in the Vols’ 2021 recruiting class.

Our morning update on Rocky Top, however, leads with a story involving a player who has been in the program the past year. He is the second player to announce he is leaving for the pros, and we’ll detail that news. Speaking of players, football players giving interviews Wednesday also earned some coverage from us. Our final individual story involves SEC recognition of a volleyball player.

Beyond the individual coverage, though, we have an update on the softball schedule to bring you, previews of women’s tennis and track and field and recaps of two golf tournaments. So there’s plenty to get to. Let’s start with the player news.

Keon Johnson declares for NBA DraftJonathan Givony, ESPN

Less than a week after Jaden Springer announced he was leaving for the NBA Draft after one year with the Tennessee Vols men’s basketball program, Keon Johnson followed suit. Johnson made the announcement on Twitter Wednesday. With Yves Pons also gone, UT has already lost three of its seven rotational players and could lose four if John Fulkerson doesn’t return.

Johnson is considered one of the quickest and most explosive players in the college game in terms of his ability to accelerate from a standstill and get off his feet for dunks and blocks. As the season progressed, he started flashing real upside as a ball-handler in pick and roll situations.

Four football players meed with mediaAustin Price, VolQuest

In between their sixth practice Tuesday and their first scheduled scrimmage Thursday, the Tennessee Vols football team had multiple players meet with the media on Wednesday. Edge rusher Tyler Baron talked about working with the defensive line and the linebackers, his relationships with Rodney Garner and Mike Ekeler and his role. Here’s a bit of what he said.

“It’s been really great learning from a guy like Coach Garner. I think he does, probably, one of the better jobs in the country, and in terms of what I’m going to be doing, it’s going to be a lot of split time, playing with my hand down, playing up and, in a lot of different coverage situations, rushing the passer. I really love what these guys have put together for me this season.”

Running back Jabari Small discussed the praise he’s received from the coaching staff. He touted his relationships with the coaches, including his Memphis ties that connect him to Jerry Mack, and where he is trying to improve from last year.

“I just tried to work on things that I thought I was weak at last year as far as protection, running more physical, getting accustomed to the speed of the game. I just felt like, just me, it’s knowing my weaknesses from last year and getting better at those.”

Defensive back Theo Jackson talked about the adjustment to Tim Banks’ defense. Based on his comments, it seems to be about playing more up-tempo and thinking less.

“It allows us to play fast, and not have to think as much. It’s really just allowing us to get the call, and then it’s like simple calls that we can just go in and then make them and then focus on other things like splits or like the offensive formation.”

Tight end Princeton Fant talked about the offense being at a different level than anything the team is used to. Here’s a bit of what he said.

“It’s a whole lot faster than we’re all used to, but we’re all starting to buy in as an offense, and we’re all starting to really understand what Coach really wants from us, and I’ll say that it’s definitely a whole lot faster. It’s going to be fun.”

Open practice scheduled for SaturdayPatrick Brown, GoVols247

After their first scrimmage on Thursday, Tennessee football will hold an open practice on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Fans will be allowed to attend.

The practice is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. with Gate 21 opening up 45 minutes earlier, though if weather forces the Vols inside the practice will be closed. Per Tennessee’s release, ongoing Covid-19 protocols will be in effect with face coverings required upon entry and movement through the stadium and physical distancing enforced in the lower bowl of the stadium.

Softball series with Mississippi State postponed – WBIR

A positive COVID-19 test is still affecting the No. 21 ranked Tennessee Lady Vols softball team. At 28-6, their three-game road series with the Mississippi State Bulldogs scheduled for this weekend has been postponed.

The Lady Vols were set to host Tennessee Tech on Tuesday in a double-header, but it was also canceled due to the positive COVID-19 test and contact tracing. The Lady Vols next game is scheduled for April 14th with a double-header against Tennessee State.

Giana Pellizzon makes Community Service Team – SECSports

Junior Defensive Specialist Giana Pellizzon represents the Tennessee Lady Vols volleyball program on this year’s SEC Community Service team.

Pellizzon has been very active in community service efforts since her arrival on Rocky Top. She has spent time working with the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission, Eagleton Clinic, VolsHELP, Night to Shine, a variety of SAAC projects as well as helping with UT’s Sports Fest.

Women’s tennis to face Auburn – UTSports

On Thursday, the No. 16 ranked Tennessee Lady Vols tennis program will host the No. 17 ranked Auburn Tigers. They will try to extend their winning streak to three games.

First serve between the Lady Vols (12-6, 6-4 SEC) and Tigers (12-5, 7-4 SEC) is set for noon ET. All home matches played inside the Goodfriend Tennis Center will be conducted without fans per SEC COVID-19 protocols.

Track and field to begin Tennessee Relays – UTSports

Beginning Thursday, the Tennessee Vols track and field program will host the 53rd annual Tennessee Relays. They will host 16 other programs in the event.

The annual home meet will run Thursday through Saturday at Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium. Due to university COVID-19 guidelines and protocols, attendance for the Tennessee Relays will be limited to guests on the Tennessee student-athlete pass list.

Men’s golf finishes second in Birmingham tournament – GolfStat.com

At eight-over par, the Tennessee Vols men’s golf team finished second behind the Clemson Tigers at the The Collegiate Invitational at the Country Club of Birmingham in Birmingham, Ala., hosted by the Auburn Tigers. However, Bryce Lewis finished first individually, shooting six-under par.

Women’s golf finishes 10th at Tiger Golf Classic – GolfStat.com

With a score of 27-over Par, the Tennessee Lady Vols golf program came in at No. 19 at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic, hosted by the LSU Tigers. Nicole Whiston was UT’s top performer, finishing tied for sixth at Even.