Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Tennessee Volunteers head coach Josh Heupel gestures on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Tennessee’s Josh Heupel gets raise, contract extension

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel received a $1 million raise to boost his annual salary to $5 million, multiple media outlets reported on Friday.

Per reports, Heupel’s new deal will extend one year through Jan. 31, 2028.

Heupel’s pay is fully guaranteed through the 2024 season, per the Knoxville News Sentinel. The newspaper reported Heupel would receive more than $15 million if he is fired without cause prior to that.

Heupel’s assistant coaches also received raises and a one-year contract extension, per reports.

Heupel took over a team that finished 3-7 in 2020 and led Tennessee to a 7-6 record in 2021. The Volunteers followed that up by winning their first two games this season.

Tennessee, which is ranked 15th in the AP Poll, hosts Akron (1-1) on Saturday night.

–Field Level Media

Sep 1, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Walker Merrill (19) scores a touchdown against the Ball State Cardinals during the first half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee bowls over Ball State

Hendon Hooker kicked off his longshot Heisman Trophy campaign by passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for two more scores in little more than a half as Tennessee rolled past Ball State 59-10 in the season opener for both teams Thursday night in Knoxville, Tenn.

Hooker completed 18 of 25 passes and extended his streak of games with at last one touchdown pass to 13, tied for second with Tony Robinson in the Tennessee record book behind Heath Shuler’s 18.

Jaylen Wright (88 yards) and Jabari Small (63) combined to rush for 151 yards and each scored as the Vols rushed for 218 yards in amassing 570 yards in offense.

The defense held the Cardinals to just 74 yards rushing.

Ball State’s John Paddock, a redshirt junior making his first start, passed for 269 yards and a touchdown, on a short pass to Tanner Koziol in the third quarter. Paddock completed 27 of 43 passes with two interceptions.

The Vols had the game wrapped up early. Tamarion McDonald’s interception on Ball State’s first play gave them the ball at the visitors’ 27-yard line, and Hooker cashed in with a scoring strike to Jalin Hyatt on his first play from scrimmage.

They kept on rolling from there. Hooker scored on two short keepers. Small scored from 7 yards out to put the Vols up 31-0, and Hooker connected with Walker Merrill from 16 yards to give the Vols a 38-0 lead at halftime.

Hooker directed an 11-play, 94-yard scoring drive, capped by Wright’s 3-yard rushing TD, to open the third quarter.

Joe Milton III, who started last year’s opener for the Vols, then took over. Milton finished 9-of-9 passing for 113 yards.

He directed a 78-yard march that ended with freshman Dylan Sampson scoring from 3 yards out for his first collegiate touchdown. Milton then hooked up with Jimmy Holiday on a 53-yard catch-and-run to cap a 93-yard drive.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Bru McCoy (4) is defended by Oregon Ducks cornerback Mykael Wright (2) during the Pac-12 Championship at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Oregon defeated USC 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former USC receiver Bru McCoy transfers to Tennessee

Former Southern California wide receiver Bru McCoy announced on social media Tuesday that he has committed to transfer to Tennessee.

McCoy, who has played just one season of college football and sat out two others, was in the transfer portal for the third time.

McCoy was a five-star recruit in the Class of 2019 out of Ranchos Palos Verde, Calif., ranked the No. 9 overall player in the class in the 247Sports composite.

He enrolled at USC in January 2019 but changed his mind and transferred to Texas. Less than six months later, he had decided to transfer back to USC.

McCoy sat out the 2019 season at USC because of an illness before compiling 21 catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

He never got into a game during 2021 following an arrest on suspicion of domestic violence. Charges against McCoy eventually were dropped, but the Trojans never reinstated him.

The Volunteers went 7-6 (4-4 SEC) in 2021 and are being projected as a potential preseason top 25 team for 2022, with last year’s starting quarterback Hendon Hooker (2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns, three picks) among those returning.

–Field Level Media

Nov 23, 2019; Columbia, MO, USA; A general view of a Tennessee Volunteers helmet during the second half against the Missouri Tigers at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee lands commitment from 2023 QB Nico Iamaleava

Tennessee landed the commitment Monday of five-star quarterback Nicholaus “Nico” Iamaleava Jr., a top 10 player in the Class of 2023.

The 247Sports composite ranks Iamaleava as the No. 4 quarterback and No. 7 overall player in the class, which is headlined by Arch Manning. Iamaleava’s commitment is a sign Manning likely isn’t interested in following his Uncle Peyton’s footsteps at Tennessee.

But Iamaleava, who will play his senior season at powerhouse Long Beach Poly in Southern California, told 247Sports that the Volunteers are the perfect program for him.

“They had everything I was looking for,” Iamaleava told 247Sports about his visit to Knoxville earlier this month. “I met some incredible people, not just with the football program but everyone we met was so welcoming to us and made me feel like home.

“It looks like a really fun offense to play in,” Iamaleava added. “I’ll be back there for the spring game and looking forward to that but I’ve studied what they do and feel I’ll be able to fit in really well.”

The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Iamaleava is the fifth-highest-rated recruit in Tennessee history, per 247Sports. He recently transferred to Long Beach Poly from Warren High School in Downey, Calif.

With his commitment, Tennessee moves to the No. 3 class in the Southeastern Conference for 2023.

–Field Level Media

Purdue wide receiver Broc Thompson (29) catches a pass as Tennessee defensive back De'Shawn Rucker (28) defends at the 2021 Music City Bowl NCAA college football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

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Purdue nips Tennessee in OT, wins high-scoring Music City Bowl

Aidan O’Connell threw for 534 yards and five touchdowns and Mitchell Fineran kicked a 38-yard field goal in overtime as Purdue nipped Tennessee 48-45 on Thursday in a thrilling Music City Bowl in Nashville.

In a game where the teams combined for 1,290 total yards, the Boilermakers (9-4) got the last laugh against the Volunteers (7-6) thanks to a dynamic passing attack. O’Connell found Broc Thompson seven times for 217 yards and two touchdowns, while Payne Durham collected five catches for 85 yards and two scores.

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker matched O’Connell with five TD passes and threw for 378 yards without an interception. Cedric Tillman registered seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns, Velus Jones Jr. had 10 catches for 85 yards and a score, and Jabari Small ran for 180 yards and a touchdown for the Volunteers.

Tennessee got the ball first in overtime and went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. However, Jaylen Wright was stood up at the goal line and the whistle blew before he was able to reach the ball across. That gave Purdue a chance to win, and Fineran snuck his kick inside the left upright.

The teams combined for four touchdowns in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

O’Connell began the wild sequence by throwing a pass to Durham, who spun away from three defenders, stayed inbounds and bolted for a 62-yard touchdown. The duo connected on the ensuing two-point conversion to give the Boilermakers a 38-31 lead.

However, the Volunteers tied it less than 1 1/2 minutes later. Small’s 60-yard run set up Hooker’s TD pass to Tillman on fourth-and-goal from the 13.

That deadlock lasted only 40 seconds, as O’Connell hit Thompson for a 70-yard go-ahead score with 2:57 to play. But Hooker and Princeton Fant quickly hooked up on a 58-yard completion to set up Hooker’s game-tying 2-yard TD strike to Jalin Hyatt with 1:35 remaining.

Each team had one more possession in regulation, but Purdue punted on its trip and Tennessee’s 56-yard field goal came up short.

The Boilermakers led 23-21 at the break before the teams jockeyed back and forth in the third quarter.

Tennessee regained the lead on Jones’ 15-yard catch-and-run, and then O’Connell and TJ Sheffield connected on a stellar 10-yard pitch-and-catch into the end zone to put Purdue back in front, 30-28. Chase McGrath’s 30-yard field goal flipped the scoreboard once again, giving the Volunteers a 31-30 edge at the end of three quarters.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) looks to pass as Tennessee offensive lineman Jerome Carvin (75) defends against Kentucky defensive end Josh Paschal (4) during an SEC football game between Tennessee and Kentucky at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky. on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021.

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Tennessee hangs on to beat No. 18 Kentucky

Hendon Hooker threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns Saturday night as Tennessee made the most of its limited opportunities, upsetting No. 18 Kentucky 45-42 in Lexington, Ky.

Hooker completed 15 of 20 passes for the Volunteers (5-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference), including a 6-yard scoring strike to Cedric Tillman with 11:40 left that gave them a 45-35 lead. The Wildcats (6-3, 4-3) pulled within three points when Will Levis hit Izayah Cummings with a 24-yard touchdown pass just over two minutes later.

But Kentucky’s last chance to win went begging with 29 seconds remaining when Levis’ 4th-and-10 pass from the Tennessee 38 sailed over the head of his intended receiver. It was the Wildcats’ third straight loss.

Levis completed 31 of 49 passes for 372 yards with three touchdowns and an interception that Alontae Taylor took 56 yards for a third quarter touchdown. Wan’Dale Robinson caught 13 passes for 166 yards while Chris Rodriguez rushed 22 times for 109 yards.

Kentucky lost despite enjoying incredible discrepancies in number of plays and time of possessions. It ran 99 plays to the Volunteers’ 47, enabling it to control the ball for a whopping 46:08, and finished the game with 612 total yards to Tennessee’s 461.

Tennessee took the lead 11 seconds into the game when Hooker and JaVonta Payton hooked up for a 75-yard touchdown pass. Kentucky equalized on its first drive, using up more than 8 1/2 minutes before Kavosiey Smoke rushed for a 9-yard touchdown.

That set the game’s tone — the Volunteers score in a hurry and the Wildcats answer by eating up clock before hitting the end zone. Hooker made it 14-7 26 seconds after Smoke scored, hitting Velus Jones for a 72-yard touchdown.

Levis gave Kentucky a 21-14 second quarter lead with an 8-yard touchdown run and a 3-yard scoring strike to Justin Rigg. But Tennessee rallied to grab a 24-21 halftime lead on Hooker’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Warren and Chase McGrath’s 43-yard field goal.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Tennessee Volunteers running back Tiyon Evans (8) is stopped by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (10) and linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Young leads No. 4 Alabama to rout of Tennessee

Bryce Young threw for 371 yards and accounted for four touchdowns Saturday night as No. 4 Alabama pulled away in the fourth quarter to subdue undermanned Tennessee 52-24 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 SEC
) led just 31-24 after the Volunteers’ Hendon Hooker connected with Cedric Tillman on a 70-yard scoring strike 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.

But Alabama responded less than two minutes later with Brian Robinson Jr.’s 15-yard touchdown run. After Jalyn Armour-Davis’ 47-yard interception return gave the Tide an 18-yard field, Robinson plunged in from the 1 to make it 45-24 with 8:51 left.

Young capped a 31 of 43 night by connecting with John Metchie on a 19-yard scoring strike at the 5:01 mark of the fourth quarter. It was Alabama’s 15th consecutive win over Tennessee (4-4, 2-3), dating back to Nick Saban’s first year as its coach in 2007.

Robinson added 107 yards and three scores on 26 rushes for the Tide, which finished with 574 total yards and possessed the ball for 40 minutes and 26 seconds.

Hooker completed 19 of 28 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns, finding Tillman seven times for 152 yards. But the Volunteers simply couldn’t produce enough in the running game, managing only 64 yards on 26 rushes, and wore down defensively.

Robinson’s 8-yard run opened the scoring less than seven minutes into the game. But Hooker lifted Tennessee into a 14-7 lead after a quarter by finding Velus Jones Jr. and JaVonta Payton for 8- and 57-yard touchdown passes, respectively.

Alabama controlled the second quarter, tying the game on Young’s 5-yard scoring scramble with 9:27 left and taking the lead for good when Metchie caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Young at the 2:34 mark.

The teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter. Chase McGrath connected from 32 yards for the Volunteers with 9:44 left, but Will Reichard responded with a 45-yarder just over three minutes later.

Tennessee went just 2 of 13 on third-down conversions and was flagged 12 times for 98 yards.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee running back Tiyon Evans (8) runs for a touchdown during a NCAA football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the South Carolina Gamecocks at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.

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Another fast start fuels Tennessee’s win over South Carolina

Hendon Hooker tossed three touchdown passes and ran for one score as the host Tennessee Volunteers rolled to a 45-20 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville.

Tennessee (4-2, 2-1 SEC) also got 119 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries from running back Tiyon Evans, who left the game due to a leg injury in the third quarter.

Vols wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. caught six passes for 103 yards and one TD.

Hooker completed 17 of 23 passes for 225 yards and no turnovers. He also rushed for 66 yards.

South Carolina (3-3, 0-3) got two touchdown runs from Kevin Harris. Luke Doty completed 19 of 31 passes for 167 yards. He was not intercepted, but he lost one fumble.

Tennessee — for the second week in a row — scored 28 points in the first quarter. Last week, the Volunteers overwhelmed Missouri 28-3 in the opening 15 minutes. On Saturday, the Vols dominated South Carolina, 28-0.

First, the Vols constructed a methodical 14-play, 66-yard drive, converting on third down four times. The TD was a 3-yard pass from Hooker as Jalin Hyatt in tight coverage.

Tennessee made it 14-0 on Hooker’s 39-yard toss over the top to JaVonta Payton. It was Payton’s fourth straight game with a touchdown grab.

South Carolina then put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive. But after getting a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, the Gamecocks tried a trick play, and it failed as Jalen Brooks’ toss into the end zone was intercepted by Jaylen McCullough.

That led to Hooker’s 11-yard TD run and a 21-0 lead.

On the next play from scrimmage, Doty fumbled the snap, and the ball was recovered by Tennessee’s Aaron Beasley.

From there, Hooker connected with Jones on a 21-yard TD pass and a 28-0 lead.

South Carolina finally scored with 2:04 left in the first half on Harris’ 6-yard run.

Tennessee ended the half on Chase McGrath’s 25-yard field goal with no time left, giving the Vols a 38-7 lead.

South Carolina used a trick play for the game’s only third-quarter score. Punter Kai Kroeger connected with Payton Mangrum on a 44-yard TD pass. It was the first career catch for Mangrum, a walk-on receiver.

The Gamecocks cut their deficit to 38-20 with 12:18 left in the final quarter as Harris scored from a yard out on fourth down, but Tennessee put the game away on Len’Neth Whitehead’s 2-yard TD run with 4:45 left.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. (1) dives over Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles defensive back Jamaal Boyd (8) for a touchdown during the first half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee steamroll Tennessee Tech in 56-0 win

Quarterback Hendon Hooker made his first start of the season a successful one Saturday, throwing for 199 yards and matching his career high with three touchdown passes as Tennessee rolled over Tennessee Tech 56-0 to wrap up a three-game homestand in Knoxville.

A graduate transfer from Virginia Tech who had 15 starts for the Hokies, Hooker completed 17 of 25 passes without an interception, though he lost a fumble at the end of an 18-yard run in the first half. He also rushed nine times for a team-high 64 yards and scored a touchdown on a keeper from a yard out.

Harrison Bailey, who started three of six appearances as a freshman in 2020, took over with a minute left in the third quarter and finished three of seven passing for 16 yards. He scored his first career touchdown on a 2-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.

Joe Milton III, who started the first two games for the Vols, sat out with a leg injury.

The Vols (2-1) rushed for 202 yards and passed for 215, and their defense held the Golden Eagles (0-3) to just 179 yards in total offense in posting their first shutout since a 49-0 blanking of Chattanooga on Sept. 14, 2019, They also came up with their first takeaways of the season with four interceptions.

The Eagles’ best chance of scoring came when Cameron Hudson returned Hooker’s fumble 35 yards to Tennessee’s 30-yard line, but Devin Parker missed a 41-yard field attempt.

Tech lost starting quarterback Willie Miller to injury in the second quarter. He passed for 18 yards with only two completions in 10 attempts and had 30 yards on 10 rushes.

Backups Davis Shanley and Drew Martin combined to go 15 of 24 passing for 126 yards.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2021; Orlando, FL, USA; Auburn Tigers interim head coach Kevin Steele walks on the field before the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Vols fire DC Kevin Steele after seven weeks

Tennessee has fired defensive coordinator Kevin Steele after less than two months on the job.

Steele was hired on Jan. 12, just six days before Tennessee fired head coach Jeremy Pruitt after an investigation into potential recruiting violations.

New head coach Josh Heupel, hired on Jan. 27, added Tim Banks as his defensive coordinator last month.

The university still owes Steele $860,870, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. That money would be offset if Steele lands a job with another team.

Steele, 62, spent the previous five seasons as the defensive coordinator at Auburn but was not kept as part of new coach Bryan Harsin’s staff.

A linebacker for two seasons at Tennessee in 1978-79, Steele worked for three seasons with the Vols as an assistant immediately after college to kick off a long career as an assistant.

Steele also served as head coach at Baylor from 1999-2002, with the Bears going 9-36 and just 1-31 in conference play during his four seasons.

–Field Level Media