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    Photo By Alison P. McNabbTennessee Athletics

    The mailbag is brought to you by Mid Tenn Ford. They are Middle Tennessee’s oldest Ford Dealer, and they offer a full line of Ford Trucks, Vans, SUVS and Crossovers. They have both a light and heavy duty Service Department to get you back on the road when needed. Call 1-888-409-0306 today for your no-obligation price quote from their sales department.

    We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.

    “Reading the tea leaves… Renovations + $14M in buyouts= Year 6. I nailed it, didn’t I?” – Scott

    Nathanael: You may be on to something there, Scott.

    No, I don’t see any scenario at all where Jones is back next season for a sixth year. If that happens, I would be floored.

    Will: I’d say there’s about a 90% chance Butch Jones isn’t Tennessee’s coach that season. The firing should, but may not happen next week. That being said, I don’t see any way he survives this disaster of a season.

    “When is Gruden arriving to coach UT? Follow up: When is Gruden leaving MNF to coach the Vols? Lastly, Gruden?” – @NeylndMafia

    Nathanael: Boy, these Grumors are making everything fun again. They’re much more fun to talk about than the current state of Tennessee football at least.

    Will: Jon Gruden will not only be hired, but will also broadcast his team’s games on ESPN while still coaching from the sideline. It’s the next wave of media.

    “Is Tyler Byrd in Butch’s dog house?” – @river_tennessee

    Nathanael: I honestly have no idea. I want to say “yes” just because I can’t think of any other reason why he’s not being used. At all. On either side of the ball. He’s an extremely talented kid, and it blows my mind that he’s being underutilized so badly like this.

    Will: I think so. He was visibly frustrated after not being targeted at one point against Georgia. Byrd is the best athlete on the wide receiving corps, and the fact that he isn’t getting opportunities is troubling. He needs to be moved to defense.

    “Which will Tennessee have more of on Saturday: 3 and outs or points scored?” – Jason

    Nathanael: Yikes…this isn’t fun to answer. Well, since I only think Tennessee will score between 0-6 points, I’m going to say they’ll have more three-and-outs than points. That will easily be done if they get shut out again, obviously.

    Will: Three-and-outs. Because I think the Vols will have double digit three-and-outs, and there’s no way they score twice unless one or both scores are against backups.

    “Do you think Lane Kiffin is on the vols radar?” – Nicholas

    Nathanael: I don’t think so, no. Is he on Vol fans’ radars? Absolutely. But would Tennessee ever hire him back? I would be truly stunned if so.

    Will: No. Next question.

    “I love Gruden and Jim Bob Cooter rumors. Play along and dream. What appeals to you about that combo?” – Pete

    Nathanael: Okay, I’ll play along (because there’s no way that actually happens). In this scenario, your offense should be explosive. You’d still need to go find a suitable defensive coordinator, but if you’re willing to dump all that money for Gruden and JBC, then finding an elite DC is just a matter of “who” not “how much” at that point.

    Will: It would be incredible. Tennessee would certainly get back to the pro offense, but how would this roster quickly adapt to a brand new scheme that’s the total opposite of what was being run under Butch? The power run game those two would bring is appealing, but so is the quarterback development. Most importantly, it wouldn’t be one dimensional anymore.

    “How do you feel about the idea of 20 wins in basketball this season?” – Shea

    Nathanael: I think it’s very doable. The Vols just got picked to finish 13th in the SEC for this season at SEC Media Day, but I think that’s absurd. Tennessee has a decent amount of unknowns on the roster and have a fairly young team once again, but young teams can contend in basketball much easier than they can in football. Tennessee looked like they could get to 18 or 19 wins last season before injuries caught up with them and they sputtered down the stretch. As long as they avoid a catastrophic injury this season or avoid a litany of injuries, I think 20 wins is definitely within the realm of possibility.

    Will: I think they can certainly get to 20 wins. This team is going to be good. I’ve been on the Rick Barnes hype train for the past couple of seasons, and I said at this time last year that 2017-18 would be the season to finally get back to the tournament. With the additions this team has made to get bigger and deeper, they can live with a few injuries. Unlike past season, the bench is filled with experience. I think they find a way into the NCAA tournament.

      Butch Jones talked to the media on Wednesday for his weekly mid-week availability.

      He updated the status of a few injuries, gave a scouting report on Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, and also addressed some changes on the offensive line.

      Here are our notes from everything Jones had to say.

      Injury Update

      Jones started his press conference by updating the status of multiple injured players, starting with a few starters who have been at practice.

      “Jakob Johnson will play,” Jones said of the senior tight end. “We’re excited to have him back. Evan Berry has been practicing…he’s questionable. Justin Martin will be at practice today. Cheyenne Labruzza will be out for the remainder of the season.”

      A few more players who were out last week will progress in practice as the week continues.

      “Deandre Johnson is questionable. We’ll see where he’s at with practice today,” Jones said of his young defensive end.

      Jones also added that running back Carlin Fils-Aime and corner Justin Martin are both questionable as well.

      He also updated the status of Jauan Jennings, who hasn’t played since the Vols’ season opening win against Georgia Tech.

      “I don’t see Jauan Jennings being back this season,” Jones stated.

      Scouting Alabama

      Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts led the Tide to a massive win in Knoxville last season.

      But he’s come a long way since that game, according to Jones.

      “The thing with Jalen is he can beat you in every aspect,” he said. “He’s really improved…he’s very comfortable in the pocket. He does an excellent jobs with the RPOs and moving the ball down the field.”

      Hurts’ legs aren’t the only weapon though. Jones also raved about Hurts’ arm, emphasizing the importance of keeping him in the pocket when he gets rid of the ball.

      “He’s a very very good quarterback who can make all the throws…with his speed, he turns into a running back. A great, great challenge defensively,” Jones said.

      When Jones looks at Bama’s running backs, he made observations that go beyond the running game.

      Each of their top three backs also play on the special teams unit. And that’s what impresses Jones the most.

      “The thing that’s probably as impressive is his play on special teams. They’re the top three running backs. The value that they bring to their team on special teams as well,” Jones said.

      Guarantano Prepares to Improve on First Start

      Jarrett Guarantano did some good things against South Carolina. But Jones stressed that his freshman quarterback also has to improve.

      That includes pre-snap calls, where Tennessee struggled at times to get lined up and avoid a penalty.

      “It starts with focus and discipline on the small details,” Jones said. “We stress it everyday in practice, our players understand it. It’s those small things we talk about that leads to playing winning football or losing football games.”

      In the first half, Jones was impressed with how Guarantano made plays. On third downs, his mobility was the driving force to keep the offense on the field. Then in the second half, UT got away from that running ability when Guarantano was under pressure.

      “I thought particularly in the first quarter he was able to give us some yards. Being able to make something out of it and keep us on schedule. He was able to get us a couple third downs with his legs. I thought his energy and the way he approached his leadership, the quarterback characteristics we talk about all the time,” Jones added.

      Changes on the Offensive Line

      We reported yesterday at practice that the Vols’ were looking to change things up on the offensive line with a new rotation.

      Jones says that decision is still ongoing. But he’s looking at every possible rotation up front.

      “We’ll still continue to evaluate,” he said. “That’s a position that’s challenged by depth. So we’ll continue to move individuals around because of necessity and need.”

      Freshman Ryan Johnson is one guy who could get a look at more playing time very soon. Jones was complimentary of the former Brentwood Academy product.

      “Ryan works very hard everyday,” Jones said. “He’s very consistent, he’s going to come to work every single day and it’s important to him. Been very encouraged by what we see from him at practice.”

        Photo Credit: Craig Bisacre/UT Athletics

        SEC Basketball Media Day got underway on Wednesday, October 18th. And just like the football equivalent over the summer, the media in attendance voted on the predicted order of finish in the conference for all 14 teams.

        And according to the media members at SEC Media Day, the Vols’ upcoming 2017-18 basketball season will be one to forget for Vol fans.

        The media picked Tennessee to finish 13th in the SEC on Wednesday, finishing ahead of only LSU. Kentucky was, unsurprisingly, picked to win the conference yet again. Florida was picked to finish second, followed by Texas A&M, Alabama, and Missouri to round out the top five.

        Tennessee is having to replace a number of key contributors from last season, and that includes leading scorer Robert Hubbs III. The Vols welcome in a host of new faces from transfers James Daniel III (whom Sports Illustrated has high hopes for) and Chris Darrington along with freshmen Yves Pons, Derrick Walker, and Zach Kent.

        Under Rick Barnes, the Vols have failed to finish better than 10th in the SEC. Tennessee placed 12th in Barnes’ first season in 2015-16, and they finished 10th last season. Tennessee also finished 10th in the conference in Donnie Tyndall’s lone season in 2014-15.

        The last time Tennessee finished better than 10th in the SEC was in 2013-14, Cuonzo Martin’s last season as the Vols’ head basketball coach. The Vols finished fourth that season, and that’s also the last time Tennessee has made the NCAA Tournament.

        Tennessee’s 2017-18 season begins on November 10th when the Vols host Presbyterian College in Thompson Boling Arena.

          (Photo by Rodney Pierce)

          According to Sports Illustrated, fifth-year transfer guard James Daniel is poised to have a solid season in his first and only year with the Vols.

          Sports Illustrated released their list of projections for the top 100 transfer scorers for the upcoming 2017-18 season, and Tennessee’s James Daniel came in at No. 10 on the list.

          According to SI, their list is limited to “players debuting on the 115 teams in the nation’s top nine conferences (American, ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC) plus West Coast Conference contenders BYU, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.” And according to their calculations, 128 players transferred to other Division I schools this offseason.

          And according to Sports Illustrated, James Daniel has the potential to be one of the best of those transfers.

          Their projections have James Daniel scoring 12.9 points per game this season. Granted, that’s down from his 21.5 point per game average he earned in four years at Howard University, but he was essentially the main scoring threat for Howard; at Tennessee, Daniel will be one of a handful of scorers.

          Tennessee is replacing a bevy of offensive talent from their 2016-17 squad. Robert Hubbs, Kwe Parker, Shembari Phillips, and Lew Evans are all no longer on the team. Hubbs and Evans both graduated while Parker and Phillips both transferred.

          The Vols’ top returning scorer from last year is Grant Williams, who averaged 12.6 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Lamonte Turner is the next-highest returning scorer with an average of 8.2 points per game last season.

          At Howarad, James Daniel led the NCAA in scoring in the 2015-16 season, putting up 27.1 points per contest. An ankle injury sidelined him for the vast majority of his senior season last year, and that’s why he was eligible to transfer to Tennessee in the off-season.

          Daniel joins fellow guard Chris Darrington as transfers in to the Vols this season, and Tennessee also added forwards Yves Pons, Derrick Walker, and Zach Kent as freshmen in their recent recruiting class.

            Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

            Tennessee hit the practice field on Tuesday to prepare for No. 1 Alabama.

            They did so to the sounds of “Sweet Home Alabama” and crowd noise from Bryant Denny Stadium.

            RTI writer Will Boling gave a full report on what he saw, including a notable change on the offensive line moving forward.

            Our practice report video is brought to you by Nautical Boat Club of Knoxville. Call them at 865-234-000 or visit their website to find out more about how you can spend your weekends on the lake!

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              Butch Jones’ job security has been the hot talk around Knoxville and the nation as it pertains to college football lately. And now we have two conflicting reports attempting to lay down a timeline as to when Tennessee’s athletic director may make a change at head coach.

              According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, UT AD John Currie may not be in any rush to make a change. At least not before the 2017 season ends.

              Thamel shared his weekly 10 Takeaways in an article, and No. 2 on his list dealt with Jones and Currie. “After Tennessee gets blown out at No. 1 Alabama on Saturday to fall to 0-4 in the SEC, don’t expect Currie to react,” Thamel writes. “The end is coming for Jones, just not as fast as some may like.”

              According to Thamel, Currie can be described as “a hardline pragmatist” and is “the opposite of emotional or reactionary.” He believes that Currie wouldn’t react to a blowout loss to Alabama in the way fans would, even with losses to South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida already having occurred.

              “The weekly predictions that Tennessee will fire Butch Jones soon after emotional losses or listless victories are really just knee-jerk fodder and clickbait,” Thamel writes. “Currie wanted nothing more than Jones to succeed upon arriving in Knoxville, and it would go strongly against Currie’s nature to execute a mid-season firing.”

              Thamel did go on to admit that Jones’ job is now on a clock, and he stated that Jones’ tenure at Tennessee “can now be reduced to a timing issue.” But he states that the firing of Jones is more likely to happen later in the season or even at the end of the regular season rather than after this weekend or in the near future.

              But Thamel claims that Currie is well-connected when it comes time to searching for a coach. Here’s his full breakdown of Currie’s ability to find a coach and Currie’s unwavering patience:

              There’s little advantage to firing Jones now. Currie spent his final years as Kansas State’s athletic director preparing to someday replace Bill Snyder, a common-sense approach when your coach is in his 70s. Few athletic directors have worked harder over the years networking with up-and-coming coaches, getting to know established ones and generally navigating the intricate football coaching market. The aura of mystery that’s surrounded the end of Snyder’s tenure at Kansas State forced Currie to have a real-time understanding of the nuances of the coach hiring space. In other words, Currie is as prepared to hire a new coach as any athletic director and won’t be starting from scratch.

              But according to Paul Finebaum, Tennessee will look to make a move sooner than Thamel believes.

              Finebaum appeared on Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN on Tuesday, and he had a different take. Not only does he think the Vols will make a move to fire Butch Jones mid-season, but he threw out some interesting names to watch out for as well.

              “I think after Saturday when Tennessee rolls into Tuscaloosa and loses by some historic proportion, that could be the end,” Finebaum said on air. “It’s hard to predict the end for Butch Jones because it’s already over.

              “A lot of names are surfacing for this job. Dan Mullen’s name is being mentioned…(Dino) Babers will get a look at a big job.”

              But those weren’t the only names Finebaum threw out as potential replacements at Tennessee.

              “They want Jon Gruden,” Finebaum said of Tennessee fans. “He was in town over the weekend before the Monday Night game, and I think he flirted with that job a couple of years ago. His wife was a cheerleader there.

              “I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I think you’re going to see a lot of interesting names for that job. And I think you’ll see them very very quickly”

              Only time will tell how soon and when a move will be made at Tennessee. Butch Jones is still the Vols’ head coach as they prepare to take on No. 1 Alabama this weekend, and if Pete Thamel is to be believed, he’ll be the head coach for several games after that as well.

              But if Paul Finebaum is correct, this weekend may be the last time Vol fans see Butch Jones at the helm of Tennessee’s football program.