30 Days 30 Vols
The Vols kickoff their season on September 1 against Ball State
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - It’s football time in Tennessee, and the countdown to Tennessee’s return to Neyland Stadium is on! The Vols are set to open the 2022-23 season on Thursday, Sept. 1 against Ball State.
30 - Jeremy Banks
Cordova, Tennessee native and converted running back Jeremy Banks is set to tackle his redshirt season on Rocky Top. The veteran linebacker is known for his speed, telling WVLT Sports that Coach Heupel tells him “everyday at practice” to slow down a bit.
When he’s not on the field, Banks likes to hunt and fish, he said. He’s also a movie fan, with Rudy and The Blindside making his list of favorites.
Banks is also a star player- holding the title as the Vols’ first player with 100-plus tackles since 2015.
29 - Brandon Turnage
A transfer from Alabama, redshirt junior Brandon Turnage told WVLT News that he can’t get enough of Tennessee.
“I actually love it. It’s pretty; it’s a great place. My teammates are always energetic. They’re good people. All of them; I trust them,” Turnage told WVLT News.
Turnage is also part of the Smoky Mountain Club, a program designed to let fans interact with athletes and see what their lives are like.
“Through the day, like class. They want to know things like that,” Turnage said. “What do you like to do in your free time? What snacks do we like to eat? It was one day we talked about how it’s like to balance a girlfriend and college life. It’s pretty fun. It’s a big deal.”
The answer to that important girlfriend question? “If you’re focused, it’s not too hard.”
28 - Jacob Warren
Redshirt senior tight end Jacob Warren is living his dream after growing up going to Tennessee football games. He told WVLT News that football is just plain fun.
“It’s fun playing the sport and playing the position,” Warren said. “I used to come here when I was a kid. Lived here pretty much my whole life. This was kind of a dream.”
Football isn’t Warren’s only love though- he also has an outstanding beach volley ball career.
“Anybody can see me,” he said. “Come to the sand, come to the beach whenever we do it. We really enjoy getting out there and playing.”
27 - Len’Neth Whitehead
Georiga native running back Len’Neth Whitehead said leaving his hometown wasn’t difficult as he loved Knoxville’s community and culture.
“I enjoyed Knoxville, I enjoyed the community, what the culture and tradition brought over what was happening in Athens,” Whitehead said.
He told WVLT News that he not only has a passion for football but also freelance painting.
“A mixture of graffiti and pop art I guess you could say,” Whitehead said. “I paint at home in my apartment and move the studio out on the balcony.”
26 - Dayne Davis
Redshirt junior offensive lineman Dayne Davis is from Bluff City and turned his preferred walk-on status into a scholarship in 2020.
“Really hoping to take the next step this year for not just myself but for everybody,” Davis said. “I am looking forward to a great year.”
Outside of football, Davis told WVLT News he loved to fish and golf.
25 - Ollie Lane
Gibbs graduate Ollie Lane has been a valuable addition in a reserve role for Tennessee. Lane told WVLT News that his brother was part of the inspiration that led him to Tennessee.
“Whenever I started playing football as a freshman, I had an older brother, Hunter Lane, who had gotten offered and went to play football for Austin PD. And so I kind of saw that there was some potential me to go play college football, but didn’t know at that time that it would be that level,” he said.
That need to play ball eventually brought him to Tennessee.
“I had those aspirations at that age- that that’s what I wanted to do,” Lane said. “I kept working, there was some times when I thought about maybe going to a different school in the area to kind of like get a little more notice, but I told myself, ‘I can get recruited from anywhere so why not do it here?’”
24 - Kamal Hadden
Redshirt junior and defensive back Kemal Hayden’s improvement has earned him the possibility of starting at Tennessee. He’s not just about the game, however; he also makes sure to interact with fans, including when he’s filming at WVLT News.
“I like to interact with them on there,” Hadden said while streaming on Instagram. “Just to feel like, you know, they can talk to us if they don’t see us a lot, you know, outside the football field.”
Hadden also likes to make sure he’s a positive influence on the people he’s around.
“I like to joke a lot man, and I just like to be around family and good vibes, man. Good friends. You just have a good time. I don’t really do too much game and stuff like that. So I just like to be in the moment and just be with friends and family.”
23 - Latrell Bumphus
Outdoorsman and linebacker Latrell Bumphus is ready to hunt his opponents down this season on Rocky Top.
Bumphus likes to fish when he’s not on the field, telling WVLT News “I did a little bit when I went home for the break, but I haven’t done much since.” Fish aren’t the only thing Bumphus is set to take on this season, however.
Bumphus will be up against some beefy linemen while he plays at Tennessee this season. He told WVLT News the biggest he’s faced was 6′ 7″ and 330 lbs- three inches and 50 pounds bigger than himself. He’s got them topped on speed, however.
22 - Cooper Mays
Another outdoorsman, offensive lineman Cooper Mays loves to go hunting and fishing. His favorite fishing spots are a secret though.
“I find some ponds every now and again throughout some of the golf courses here . But I don’t wanna disclose it. Can’t let your spots go,” he told WVLT News.
Family plays a large part in Mays’ football live, who said he leans most of what he does from his brother, Cade Mays. That relationship also came with pressure, however.
“I would say it’s a little bit of pressure maybe when you’re young,” Mays said. “I didn’t feel as much when I got older, but when you’re growing up, you’re kinda expected to go to Tennessee and everything. Kind of stand out, so I would say when I was younger, it was a lot of pressure. But there was a lot of good that came from it. My dad helped me grow a lot as a player. You know just my whole family cultivates a healthy lifestyle. Kind of gives you confidence.”
21 - Omari Thomas
Nicknamed the Big O, Omari Thomas is getting ready for his junior season on The Hill. He’s a gamer- he loves to play those video games. And whether it’s doing that, or in the trenches, Thomas is a force to be reckoned with.
What does the Big O do to wind down?
“I just watch movies, lay down, chill, talk to Jabari, talk to Elijah Simmons, play video games. Just watch TikTok,” Thomas said. He’s just as vulnerable to the TikTok addiction as the rest of us.
“Yeah it’s like, it’s when you’re sitting there just laying in bed just scrolling, it just becomes so easy to keep going,” Thomas said.
When he’s on the field though, he’s hoping some special folks are in the stands.
“Most definitely my parents. I know my family watches every game. So when I make a play just being able to know that they’re watching, and knowing my parents are in the stands. My sister. My family comes to every game, so I’m happy they’re always there,” he said.
20 - Jaylen Wright
Running back sophomore Jaylen Wright (also known as J Wright) models his game after VFL and NFL All-Pro Alvin Kamara. He’s dedicated to that game, too.
“I really like to play the game. I don’t really do a lot of stuff. I really just dedicate my life around football. Just practicing and training. Stuff like that,” Wright said.
J Wright has a biggest fan as well- his parents. He told WVLT News he always tries to scan the crowd for his dad.
“My dad. I always try to look for my dad. My dad and my mom are in the crowd,” he said. “What’s he thinking, or how he thought I did. How he thought the run looked and stuff like that.”
19 - Walker Merrill
One of Tennessee’s own Walker Merrill is a wide receiver and ready to go fast this season.
Although football is his game, the Nashville native loves to be out on the water, wakeboarding and surfing when he can.
“Wakeboarding is cool, but I like wake surfing more. Like when you fall it doesn’t hurt as bad. That’s mainly why.”
He told WVLT News that the slower the better on the water but not in football.
“Especially in this offense yea,” Merrill said. “Fast is what we do.”
While chatting with WVLT News, he shared that his favorite show was The Office, his favorite movie was Silence of the Lambs and that good music was his favorite music.
18 - Javontez Spraggins
Junior offensive lineman Javontez Spraggins said he is ready for people to see what the Tennessee Volunteers have in store for this season.
“It’s time to go. Like this ain’t gonna be like no season Tennessee seen,” Spraggins said. “I know people painting pictures and stuff like that but this is a different team. They gonna see.”
With leadership and experience on the team, Spraggins likes to be a role model, helping teach upcoming players in high school.
“I like to go to certain high schools,” he said. “Check out their teams and try to help out any way I can possible.”
17 - Matthew Salansky
Morristown’s Matthew Salansky is ready for his redshirt junior season on Rocky Top. The long snapper told WVLT Sports playing for Tennessee was a dream come true.
“It was a really cool transition,” he said. “Growing up you always wanna play here. So that was my goal. I figured I might not be able to make it being a linebacker. So that’s why I started snapping. Because I wanted to play here.”
His most hated team, other than Morristown East? Alabama, of course.
16 - Byron Young
An older player at Tennessee, edge rusher Byron Young has had a lot of experiences that help him on the field. He recently took a trip to Rawanda.
“Basically, went down there to have fun with kids,” he said. “Using our ability as an athlete. Trying to spread joy and excitement to kids that probably don’t have the resources we have or opportunities.”
He said the trip made him grateful for all the things he has.
Copyright 2022 WVLT. All rights reserved.