Tennessee AD urges vaccinations to have 'packed Neyland'

Tennessee Athletics photo / New Tennessee athletic director Danny White hopes for a packed Neyland Stadium later this year, which would be a far cry from what was present to witness this Velus Jones touchdown reception in the final minute of last December's 31-17 loss to Florida.

The University of Tennessee drew 112,660 fans to its five home football games last season, with that socially distanced total due to the coronavirus outbreak barely eclipsing Neyland Stadium's 102,037-seat capacity.

New Volunteers athletic director Danny White is planning on that being a one-time deal.

"I'm hoping for a packed Neyland Stadium," White said Wednesday in a video released by the athletic department. "I can't wait to see it. Obviously we're going to work closely with medical experts and make sure that we're being responsible. I know all of us across college athletics and sports in general are hoping we can get back to normalcy come the fall.

"We certainly plan for that."

Tennessee's largest home crowd last season was 23,394, which witnessed Alabama's 14th consecutive win over the Vols. The smallest such audience was the Oct. 3 opener, when 21,159 watched the Vols thrash Missouri 35-12 in their most complete performance of the season.

White finished his thoughts on the upcoming season by asking the Tennessee faithful to do its part to make his desired full house happen.

"For our fan base, we're asking for everyone to consider getting vaccinated," White said. "It's going to be a huge lift for us to get that stadium packed."

Forbes magazine last weekend, citing a Morning Consult poll, reported that the state of Tennessee is fifth nationally as far as the fewest percentage of residents to receive at least one vaccine dose. The Volunteer State, according to the same survey, also has the fifth-highest percentage of residents who are still uncertain whether they will get vaccinated.

Tennessee opens its first season with White as AD and with Josh Heupel as coach at home against Bowling Green on Sept. 4.

Jackson commits

Tennessee received its third commitment for the 2022 recruiting cycle Wednesday, getting a nonbinding pledge from quarterback Tayven Jackson of Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana. The 6-foot-4, 195-pounder is a four-star prospect, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, and the nation's No. 18 pro-style quarterback recruit.

Jackson, the first four-star commitment of the Heupel era in Knoxville, threw for 1,756 yards and tallied 17 touchdowns against five interceptions as a junior in leading Center Grove to the 6A state championship. He picked the Vols over scholarship offers from Arizona State, Florida State, Texas A&M and UCLA.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.