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5 questions with Tennessee football beat writer Blake Toppenmeyer

5 questions with Tennessee football beat writer Blake Toppenmeyer

5 questions with Tennessee football beat writer Blake Toppenmeyer

5 questions with Tennessee football beat writer Blake Toppenmeyer

ATHENS Tennessee was ranked in the top 10 just three years ago, and coach Jeremy Pruitt has already beaten two Top 25 opponents in his short tenure.

But the Vols haven't beaten a Top 10 team since Phillip Fulmer was the head coach in 2006 (Georgia, 51-33) and the last win over a top 5 team came in 2004 (LSU, 30-27).

Georgia is more than a three-touchdown favorite with Saturday's game at Neyland Stadium fast approaching, and the Bulldogs are expected to bring a strong fan contingent.

Pruitt insists that Tennessee is "100 times better" than a season ago, despite a 1-3 record that includes a home loss to Georgia State.

Knoxville News-Sentinel beat writer Blake Toppenmeyer has covered the Vols the past three seasons and provided DawgNation with some insight into the current sate of Tennessee football.

1. Jeremy Pruitt says UT is 100 times better than last year where are the Vols better or worse?

Obviously Tennessee is not 100 times better than last year. It is better in some areas, worse in others.

The upside: The offensive line, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs are at least a bit improved compared to last season.

The negative: Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has regressed, and Tennessee's defense is worse at every level. The defense suffered more attrition than the offense, so perhaps its issues should have been expected. Having said that, most returners on defense did not improve, and some regressed.

2. Jim Chaney is a proven OC, what are the most noticeable changes in the UT offense?

Coach Jeremy Pruitt wants a pro-style offense and had one under offensive coordinator Tyson Helton, so the transition has not been drastic under Chaney.

There are some subtle changes unofficially, the Vols are using a fullback less and using two tight ends more and the quarterback has more pre-snap responsibility. To layperson eyes, though, this offense is similar to last season's. Pruitt wanted an offense that emulated Georgia's, and with Chaney at the controls, he's got the man to operate it.

3. There's a lot of chatter about a QB change. What percentage would you put on Pruitt giving a QB his first career start against this UGA defense?

20%. Pruitt has said consistently he thinks Jarrett Guarantano is the best quarterback on Tennessee's roster. The problem is, Guarantano is not playing like he practices. That's frustrating for Pruitt, but I'm not sure most rational people think turning to a freshman against Georgia is the answer to jumpstarting this offense. Neither Brian Maurer nor J.T. Shrout has been effective in his limited relief duty.

4. Georgia fans like to travel but Tennessee fans are known for their deep love of the Vols. What's the highest majority you could see of Georgia fans in the stands?

25%. By the fourth quarter, though, it could be a black and red party in the stands if this game gets out of hand the way the 2017 matchup did.

5: Phillip Fulmer is a first-ballot HOF Coach now acting as AD. What are some of the most significant highs and lows of his AD tenure, and is it fair to say most Tennessee fans are behind him?

The majority of Tennessee fans seem to be on board with Fulmer as AD, or at least are reluctant to make a change this early into his tenure.

Fulmer's lows: Failing to jumpstart football, not progressing the Neyland Stadium renovation and almost losing men's basketball coach Rick Barnes to UCLA.

Fulmer's highs: Not losing Barnes to UCLA and inking him to a new contract, and firing women's basketball coach Holly Warlick. The latter was a tough move, considering Fulmer and Warlick go way back, and he knows her role in the program's history. But it was time to make that move, and Fulmer did.

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The post 5 questions with Tennessee football beat writer Blake Toppenmeyer appeared first on DawgNation.

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  • A Kansas City man has been arrested in the killing Monday of a transgender woman, the second to die in the city so far this year and at least the 20th across the nation, authorities said. The Associated Press reported that Brianna “BB” Hill, 30, also of Kansas City, was shot around 11:30 a.m. Monday. Hill, who went by Breonna Be’Be Hill on Facebook, was dead when officers arrived at the scene. >> Read more trending news Kansas City police Capt. Tim Hernandez told the AP that the alleged shooter, whose name has not been released, remained at the scene and was taken into custody. As of Wednesday, no charges had been filed, the news service said. Hernandez said he could not discuss the motive for the shooting but said it was not related to Hill’s status as a transgender woman, the AP reported. Hill is the second transgender woman killed so far this year in Kansas City, records show. According to the Human Rights Campaign, she is the 21st transgender woman or gender nonconforming person to die by violence across the country in 2018. The Advocate puts the nationwide number of slain transgender women at 20, however, noting some confusion about the gender identity of one victim, Jamagio Jamar Berryman. “Transgender Americans are facing an epidemic of violence,” the Advocate reported, citing 24 known killings of transgender Americans in 2018. The magazine said the number could be higher “as, undoubtedly, some victims were misgendered by police or media, or their deaths not reported at all.” “The majority of victims in any year tracked by The Advocate have been women of color,” the magazine stated. Click here to see a report by the Advocate on all the transgender people killed so far in 2019. Hill, who was black, was killed the day before jury selection was set to begin in Dallas for Edward Dominic Thomas, 29, who is accused of beating another black, transgender woman, Muhlaysia Booker, in April following a fender bender outside an apartment complex in the Oak Cliff section of the city. Booker, whose beating was caught on video, spoke publicly at a rally the week after the assault to call for justice in her case, the AP reported. The 23-year-old was found shot to death May 18 on a Dallas street. Kendrell Lavar Lyles, 33, is charged with murder in the killing and is a suspect in the homicides of two additional women. >> Related story: Suspect arrested in death of transgender Dallas woman and 2 others, police say The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday that Thomas’ defense is arguing that Booker, who his attorneys call by her birth name and describe with male pronouns, brought the fight upon herself. Transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox spoke to Buzzfeed earlier this year about the rash of violence against the transgender community. “Your attraction to me as a trans woman is not a reason to kill me,” Cox said in an interview on BuzzFeed News’ Twitter morning show, “AM to DM.” “There’s this whole sort of myth that trans women are out there tricking people, that they deserve to be murdered, and that’s not the case.” Berryman, who also went by Ja’leyah-Jamar Berryman, was killed last month just across the Missouri state line in Kansas City, Kansas. Though area activists initially identified Berryman as a transgender woman, Berryman’s family released a video on social media clarifying that he identified as a gender nonconforming man. Berryman was found shot in the street around 2:30 p.m. Sept. 13 near 60th Street and Leavenworth Road, according to the Kansas City (Kansas) Police Department. Berryman died a short time later at an area hospital. Two days later, investigators released images of a person of interest and a white 2006 Pontiac G6 connected to the case. KMBC reported that the car was found abandoned in Kansas City, Missouri, three days after Berryman was slain. The person of interest, believed to be an ex-boyfriend of Berryman’s, has not been identified by police, the Advocate said. No arrests have been reported in Berryman’s death. Berryman’s cousin posted about his death on Facebook. “Ja’leyah-Jamar didn’t ask for this life,” Adriana Sanders wrote, according to the magazine. “No one can control who they love. God made us to live and love and to grow. It’s not our fault as a transgender woman or a homosexual man to want to live a normal life, wanting to be in love have a family, build your own legacy. “Because a man could not accept who he was as himself and individual, he felt the need to take my cousin’s life.” Berryman’s obituary said he “loved the artistry of designing hair, playing his game, playing with his nieces and nephews, nagging his siblings and spending quality time with his daughter, Ja’mya (Berryman).” Ja’mya was 5 years old when she lost her parent, KSHB in Kansas City reported. “She keeps, like (saying), ‘I want my daddy, where my daddy at?’ And it’s just, like, how do you answer that question to a 5-year-old?' Ronnie Gates, a friend and former longtime boyfriend of Berryman’s, told the news station. Berryman’s mother, along with other family members and friends, mourned Berryman by releasing red and black balloons in his honor three days after his killing. They gathered at the intersection where he was found. His young daughter was pictured sitting quietly on the sidewalk, wearing a backpack and gazing at the balloons near the curb. “That’s Jamar’s baby. She is now without a father,” a family member captioned the photo. “I’ll never be the same,” Berryman’s mother, Jennifer Gibson, told KSHB. “I’ll never be the same.” The Human Rights Campaign, which touts itself as the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, issued a statement following Berryman’s slaying. “This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets trans people of color -- particularly black trans women -- must cease,” read a post on the organization’s Twitter feed. Likewise, HRC officials spoke out this week about Hill’s killing. “Hill, like all of us, had hopes, dreams, aspirations and plans for the future,” HRC spokesperson Elliott Kozuch told Newsweek. “She had family and friends who are mourning this senseless loss, a loss that is part of a larger epidemic of violence against the transgender community in this country, spurred by a toxic mix of transphobia, racism, misogyny and unchecked gun violence.” Kozuch said while the transgender community has protections in employment, housing and public accommodations in Kansas City, there are no state nondiscrimination protections for the marginalized community. Transgender people are also not among the groups covered by Missouri’s hate crimes legislation. According to HRC data, all but five states across the country have laws addressing hate crimes, but the laws vary greatly in who they protect. Fifteen states do not address sexual orientation or gender identity in their hate crime laws, the HRC shows. See the Human Rights Campaign's map of hate crime laws in the U.S. below. Members of the LGBTQ community mourned Hill’s death on social media. “Rest in power, beloved,” one woman wrote on Facebook, adding a broken heart emoji. “Brianna Hill. #SayHerName.” Transgender actress, singer, teacher and activist Alexandra Billings also spoke out about Hill and every other transgender woman who has been killed or faces violence for who they are. “My sisters, I see you,” Billings wrote on Facebook. “I am with you because I am one of you, and we will survive this. Our government will not continue to ignore us, and our allies will speak up. We will revolt and we will rise. We are made of sturdy stuff. We have lived through the centuries and it will take more than a few violent men to eradicate us from the human experience. “We are part of this world and we deserve to be here. We will not let this stand.” Besides the death of Berryman, Hill’s slaying in Kansas City also comes on the heels of the June 25 killing of Brooklyn Lindsey, 32, who was found dead on the porch of an abandoned home on Spruce Avenue, court records show. She died of multiple gunshot wounds. Neighbors, who didn’t identify themselves out of fear of retaliation, told KCTV Lindsey had been badly beaten before they heard the gunshots that killed her. According to court records, investigators recovered five shell casings from around Lindsey’s body and tested the casings for DNA evidence. A profile was obtained and entered into CODIS, the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, which matched the genetic material to Marcus S. Lewis. Investigators learned that Lewis was in a relationship with the owner of a black Chevy Impala. The car was spotted by license plate readers driving in the area of the shooting around the time that the Kansas City Police Department received a report of shots fired about four blocks from where Lindsey’s body was found. Read the probable cause statement in the Brooklyn Lindsey slaying below. Charging Document in Brooklyn Lindsey Homicide by National Content Desk on Scribd Lewis, 41, was arrested in July and indicted last month on charges of second-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm, court records show. Court records, which identify Lindsey as male and by her given name instead of her chosen one, show that Lewis told detectives he shot Lindsey after she propositioned him, “attempting to solicit a date,” and would not leave him alone after he declined her advances. He said he sold the gun, which he had bought earlier in the day, to an unknown person after the homicide. “l believe that Marcus Lewis poses a danger to the community or to any other persons because he is a habitual unregistered sex offender,” Detective Ryan Taylor wrote in a probable cause statement. “He is under investigation for aggravated domestic violence involving a firearm and an armed business robbery involving a firearm.” Court records indicate Lewis has also been indicted in that case. He remained in the Jackson County Jail Friday, awaiting trial. The unlawful firearm possession charge stems from Lewis’ April 1998 conviction of first-degree statutory rape, a felony in Missouri. As a convicted felon, he is not permitted to have a firearm. Lindsey was described by friends as an activist who worked with organizations like the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project. The organization spoke out last month after Berryman’s death. “As we hold space to remember and uplift Ja’Leyah, we must also recognize the factors at play that contribute to the dramatically increased risk of violence that trans women of color, especially black trans women, face every day,” a post on the group’s Facebook page read. “Restrictions on basic needs and services like housing, employment, safe streets, healthcare and protection under the law are just some barriers that put our sisters in harm’s way daily. “The discriminatory and violent systems that perpetuate violence against transgender women of color are a direct result of bias from within and outside our own communities. Ja’leyah’s light shone to a select few, but we will let her light shine on all of us today.” Kris Wade, with the Justice Project Kansas City, told CNN she knew Lindsey well and had helped her for more than a decade. She described Lindsey as a “sweetheart,” and an intelligent woman who did not come from the streets, but sometimes ended up there. “She felt that she had not lost her humanity out there,” Wade told CNN. Wade said Lindsey, who had been brutally beaten and hospitalized just weeks before her death, needed to get off the street, but Justice Project was unable to find her a bed. “We didn’t have any money to put her up,” Wade said. Lindsey died at the same intersection where a Hispanic transgender woman, Tamara Dominguez, 36, was run over and killed Aug. 15, 2015. The driver of the truck, Luis Sanchez, ran over Dominguez repeatedly, according to witnesses. Members of the LGBTQ community condemned the “atrocious” act in the days after Dominguez’s death. “There’s this horrible dark underbelly of hatred that goes on and on and on and on and it must stop,” Caroline Gibbs, director of the Transgender Institute of Kansas City, told KCTV at the time. Dominguez’s brother, Alberto Dominguez, spoke to the news station through a friend, Juan Rendon, who translated his Spanish to English. “He just want to say to the person that did that to her, that he (Alberto) would forgive them for what he did to her,” Rendon translated as Dominguez started to cry, the news station reported. “We are not here to judge nobody, and he (Alberto) hopes that person really feels bad for what he did.” Sanchez, who was initially charged with murder, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in December 2018 and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Now 31, he is serving his sentence at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections. Tamara Dominguez was loved, her brother told KCTV. “He doesn’t know she has family. She had her mom. She had her nephews, brothers and sisters. That person didn’t think about what he did,” Rendon translated.
  • A guest was injured on a ride at a New Jersey theme park Friday afternoon and required medical attention, park officials wrote on social media. >> Read more trending news The person was injured while aboard the 'Out on a Limb' ride at Storybook Land, The Press of Atlantic City reported. The condition of the guest was not immediately known, and the ride was shut down pending an investigation, park officials tweeted. The incident comes less than a week after a 10-year-old girl died from a fall off a ride at the Deerfield Township Harvest Festival. The 'Out on a Limb' attraction at Storybook Land is a spinning, elevated swing ride, WCAU reported. Riders must be at least 3 feet tall to ride 'with a responsible person,' or stand 42 inches or higher to ride alone, according to the Storybook Land website.
  • A man will spend 17 years behind bars after breaking into a woman’s Duluth apartment earlier this year.  Victor Laquan Harris, 23, was convicted of burglary in the first degree after less than 30 minutes of deliberation by the jury, Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Warr said in a news release.  During the March 7 incident at the Gables Sugarloaf Apartments, the victim called police after Harris knocked on her door but hid out of view of the peephole, Warr said. She described him to police as wearing a dark hat and hoodie.  The victim returned to watching TV after making the call, according to Warr. That’s when she heard Harris coming into her apartment through a bedroom window, the news release said.  She then locked herself in her bathroom and called police again, Warr said. While hiding, she heard Harris going through her belongings and knocking her things over, the news release said.  As Harris was fleeing the scene, officers caught him outside the apartment building, Warr said.  They were able to recover some of Davis’ belongings, such as her Playstation 4, game controller and purse, according to Warr.  Harris will serve 17 years in prison and three on probation. Warr said the jury handed down the harsh punishment because Harris was convicted of a burglary in that same apartment complex in 2014. He was still on probation in March.  In other news: 
  • President Donald Trump said in a tweet Friday that he will nominate Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette to replace Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy. >> Read more trending news 'Dan’s experience in the sector is unparalleled. A total professional,' the president tweeted,.'I have no doubt that Dan will do a great job!
  • Deputies said two of the three people found dead inside a York County home in July had been there since as long as 2015. Authorities said they conducted a welfare check at the home on Griggs Road near Clover on July 31 when they made the discovery of the three family members. Deputies said they found 45-year-old Thomas Gardner dead inside the home by the front door. They said the bodies of two women were also discovered inside the house. The women were later identified as Thomas Gardner's mother, 69-year-old Susan Gardner, and her sister, 77-year-old Ruth Allred. >> Read more trending news  fficials said Thomas Gardner died by suicide days before the bodies were found and left a note with details about the women. According to the note left by Thomas Gardner, his mother died in November 2015 and his aunt, Allred, died approximately six months later. He also said in the letter that he was afraid that he would be blamed for the two women's deaths, and that was the reason he never contacted authorities. Investigators confirmed the condition of the remains matched up with the time frame given by Thomas Gardner. After the autopsies, Allred's cause of death was confirmed as probable atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and Susan Garner's cause of death was undetermined. Investigators said there is no indication of foul play in the deaths of Allred or Susan Gardner, but they believe Thomas Gardner wrapped the bodies and left them in a room for years. A relative said she was concerned about the family and had asked deputies to check on the house before. They did, but no one ever came to the door. Deputies said they went to the house to assist Adult Protective Services four times before finding their bodies -- June 28, July 5, July 16, and July 31. A neighbor who has lived next door for 10 years said she had only seen Thomas Gardner outside cutting grass. She said she hadn't seen the two women in years. Investigators said this case is closed and no charges will be filed. Detectives said they believe he didn't report the deaths to continue to collect their government benefits.
  • A pregnant Wisconsin woman is demanding action be taken against mall security officials who she said roughed her up during a security incident involving her daughter. >> Read more trending news  The incident took Saturday night at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, WISN reported. The situation began when mall security responded to a group of rowdy teens. Octavia Stitts told WISN that she received a phone call informing her that her 15-year-old daughter, who was on a birthday shopping trip, was attacked by a group of teens. Stitts, who is due to give birth in approximately two weeks, went to the mall to pick up her daughter. Mall security had detained Stitts' daughter, WISN reported. When Stitts asked for her daughter to be handed over to her, a verbal dispute between mall security and the pregnant mother began, which quickly turned physical, according to Stitts. She claims she was forced to the ground by mall security guards and ordered to roll over onto her stomach. In video from the incident obtained by WISN, mall security guards can be heard telling Stitts to roll over so they can handcuff her. Police arrived to the scene and asked that mall security take the handcuffs off Stitts and her daughter. Stitts said at a news conference that the incident almost made her go into early labor. She was taken to an area hospital and found she and the unborn baby were not injured, WISN reported.  'I just hope the security get fired, you know? I hope they lose they jobs for what they done to me cause I didn’t deserve that at all,' Stitts told WISN.  Mall security declined to comment on the incident, but police said they are gathering evidence that will be handed over to the district attorney's office, WISN reported.