Tennessee Vols morning report: Josh Heupel, Rick Barnes speak before Big Orange Caravan stops

It’s the heart of spring sports this weekend. Three are taking part in postseason play, and another three have regular season matchups. On top of all that, the Tennessee Vols have an annual event that kicked off Thursday and features its most recognizable coaches.

Our morning update on Rocky Top leads with interviews involving those coaches ahead of the event. Those aren’t the only interviews for us to cover today, as there’s a key baseball interview ahead of this weekend’s series to touch on as well.

In terms of postseason play, men’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis all provided updates for us to bring you. We also have a track and field preview and a women’s tennis award to touch on, so there’s plenty to get to. Let’s start with the interviews.

Josh Heupel speaks ahead of Big Orange Caravan stopGrant Ramey, GoVols247

Thursday marked the start of the Big Orange Caravan tour across the country for the Tennessee Vols. Josh Heupel, Rick Barnes and Kellie Harper are all taking part. Their first stop was in the Tri-Cities. Ahead of the tour, Heupel met with the media. Here’s what he said about how things have improved from over a year ago.

“Accountability, trust, communication, fundamentals, technique, scheme — we’ve moved. Our program has. And it should after a year. I’m really proud of the leadership and the steps they’re starting to take inside of our program.”

Rick Barnes speaks ahead of Big Orange Caravan stopGrant Ramey, GoVols247

Along with Heupel, Tennessee Vols men’s basketball head coach Rick Barnes spoke with the media ahead of the caravan. Here’s what he said it’s been like since the season ended.

“I think it’s something that all coaches have gone through, that we probably have never gone through before, in terms of the transfer portal being what it is, the NIL in play now. So to be quite frank, it’s a whole new ball game that we’re in right now. Everything is different. We’ll all have to figure out to adjust to it. But it is much different than anything we’ve had to go through in the past.”

Tony Vitello previews Florida series – Jack Foster, SI.com

Coming off a midweek win over the Bellarmine Knights and still ranked No. 1 across most polls, the Tennessee Vols baseball team begins a three-game series at the Florida Gators Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET. Tony Vitello, who still has two games left on his suspension, spoke about being out and the series. Here’s what he said the suspension has been like.

“The penalty is what it is, and probably deserving. So knock those two games out, and I cannot look forward to Sunday any more than I normally do — which Sunday’s a big day, as is.”

Men’s golf dramatically improves on Day 2 of SEC Championships – Austin Price, VolQuest

After shooting 12-over par on the first day of SEC Championships, the Tennessee Vols men’s golf team shot 12-under on Day 2, moving from 13th to ninth and one stroke out of the eighth spot, where they need to be to advance to the weekend. They have one more day to get there. Brennan Webb recapped the turnaround Thursday. Here’s a bit of what he said.

“I was very proud of how they responded. We had a pretty good meeting last night, talked about what the expectations are if you’re going to be an athlete at the University of Tennessee, and they certainly responded (Thursday).

Men’s tennis advances to SEC Tournament Quarterfinals – SECSports

With a 4-0 sweep of the Alabama Crimson Tide, the No. 5 seed Tennessee Vols men’s tennis team advances to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Athens, Ga., at Feild Courts. They will next take on the No. 4 seed Georgia Bulldogs Friday at 3 p.m. ET.

Tennessee (21-6) won the doubles point and five first sets in singles en route to Thursday’s convincing victory. Alabama (9-21) has now fallen to the Vols twice in seven days, failing to tally a point in either match.

Women’s tennis advances to SEC Tournament Quarterfinals – SECSports

A 4-1 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide Thursday at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, Fla., moved the No. 7 seed Tennessee Lady Vols tennis team into the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. They will next take on the No. 2 seed Auburn Tigers at 6 p.m. ET Friday in the event, which is hosted by the Florida Gators.

Three quick singles victories proved massive for the Lady Vols (14-8), who dropped the doubles point with losses on Courts 1 and 3. Daria Kuczer was the first to secure a win for the Big Orange, winning 6-1, 6-3 over Anne Marie Hiser, the same Alabama player she defeated last Sunday.

Women’s tennis senior recognized by SEC as scholar athlete – UTSports

On Thursday, Tennessee Lady Vols senior Tenika McGiffin was named the Southeastern Conference’s women’s tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2022. She is the second player from UT to win the award. Blakeley Griffith won it twice in 2005 and 2007.

The award is annually given to a student-athlete who best displays excellence, both on the court and in the classroom. Recognition for the achievement is voted on by all coaches in the league.

Track and field set for Crimson Invite – UTSports

Friday marks the start of the Crimson Invite, hosted by the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Sam Bailey Track & Field Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the Tennessee Vols track and field program. UT will begin play at 3 p.m. ET. The event will last through Saturday.

Tennessee’s middle and long-distance runners as well as throwers and select field athletes make up the 39 members of this weekend’s travel party. Featured among the travel party are four school record-holders – Jordan West (men’s shot put), Georgios Korakidis (men’s hammer throw), Latavia Maines (women’s shot put) and Hannah Jefcoat (women’s pole vault).