published Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Vols set lineup for SEC Media Days

Jacques Smith of the University Tennessee football team poses for a photograph during media day at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.
Jacques Smith of the University Tennessee football team poses for a photograph during media day at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.
Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — If Butch Jones needs someone to show him where to go at Southeastern Conference media days next week, Tennessee's first-year coach simply has to ask Ja'Wuan James.

The senior right tackle will represent the Volunteers at the annual event for the second consecutive year, and left tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson and senior defensive end and former Ooltewah High School standout Jacques Smith also will be part of Tennessee's delegation.

"I appreciate the opportunity to represent the University of Tennessee and my teammates for a second time at SEC Media Day," James posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday shortly after the entire list of attending players was released by the SEC office.

For the third time in five years, the Vols will debut a coach at the league's annual July event in Hoover, Ala., as Jones makes his first appearance. Tennessee is scheduled to make the interview rounds opposite Mississippi State on Wednesday from 11:20 a.m. to 2 p.m. The three other programs with new coaches -- Auburn (Gus Malzahn), Arkansas (Bret Bielema) and Kentucky (Mark Stoops) -- are slated to attend the same day.

Tabbing James and Richardson, one of the nation's most talented tackle tandems, is a sensible move for a team whose strength is its talented and veteran offensive line. The Vols, one of five teams not bringing its quarterback to media days, replace nearly all of its production at quarterback and receiver from last season. James has started all 37 games of his career, and Richardson has first-round talent and is extremely likely to enter next April's NFL draft after this season.

Despite his own individual struggles and the program's skid, Smith has remained upbeat in interviews and is accustomed to dealing with the media.

The Vols took James, quarterback Tyler Bray and linebacker Herman Lathers to media days last year.

Vols on watch lists

Three Tennessee players have been named to preseason watch lists for national awards this week.

Linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive tackle Daniel McCullers were among 75 players on the list for the Bednarik Award, which is given to the country's best defensive player. Johnson led the SEC in tackles last season as a sophomore, but Tennessee's new coaches pushed the Vols' defensive leader in spring practice to add more disruption to his skill set. The 351-pound McCullers was likewise a target for the Vols' staff, which hopes the senior can become a every-down difference maker.

James Stone, a 27-game starter who's entering his senior season, was one of 44 centers on the list for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation's top player at the position.

Familiar face

Former Tennessee assistant basketball coach Steve Forbes told CBSSports.com on Monday he's joining the staff at Wichita State. Forbes spent five seasons with the Vols under Bruce Pearl and was involved in the staff's coverup of recruiting violations during an NCAA investigation that ultimately cost them their jobs.

Essentially banned from coaching in Division I by the one-year show-cause letter handed him by the NCAA, Forbes landed at Northwest Florida State, a junior-college in Niceville, Fla., led the Raiders to a 62-6 record and consecutive championship game appearances and coached point guard Chris Jones, the former Tennessee signee who's headed to Louisville.

Last December, the Vols beat Wichita State -- which went from No. 9 seed to the Final Four in last season's NCAA tournament -- and are slated to visit the Shockers this season.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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