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Insider Mailing: The RTI Crew Answers your Questions

Neyland Stadium

“What’s RTI Insider Mailing?” – Jake

Reed: Glad you asked, Jake. Insider Mailing is a new weekly column where the RTI team addresses your questions about the Vols, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’ll run it every Wednesday so make sure to get your questions to us by Tuesday evening. You can tweet us or email:

“If the season started tomorrow, who do you think lines up in the secondary besides Cam Sutton?” – Don Mills

Daniel: As I worked through position previews, the DBs gave me the toughest time when it came to projecting a depth chart. You’re right, Cam Sutton is a lock. I view Brian Randolph the same way at safety. I don’t see him getting overtaken by any of the newcomers – they need his experience, instincts and playmaking ability. Beyond that, the other three spots are truly up for grabs (I’m including nickel here) in my opinion.

I would make Justin Coleman the odds-on favorite at nickelback going into camp. He seemed to settle in there in spring practice and they like having a little more experience at what is really one of the most important and difficult positions on defense.

Many have crowned Emmanuel Moseley the starter at the other corner spot, but I’m not as sold yet. He had a fantastic spring and will certainly be in the mix. I’m really interested to see what Evan Berry can do in camp, though. Like Moseley, he gives a level of speed (10.81 seconds in the 100 meter in high school) that is sorely missing in the secondary. But he also gives more size. He just looks more college ready than Moseley, in my opinion. Throw in guys like Malik Foreman and D’Andre Payne, and that should be a fun battle.

Finally, I think LaDarrell McNeil is in for a true fight for his job at the other safety spot. I think his skill set is more geared to outside linebacker than safety, honestly. Enter Todd Kelly Jr. and Cortez McDowell, and the safety options are intriguing. And then my wildcard for the whole secondary is Rashaan Gaulden. He can play. But where? I can see him factoring in at safety or maybe even nickel. I’ve heard some very positive comments about his potential from behind the scenes and wonder if he could be this year’s Cam Sutton – a guy who sneaks in under the radar a touch and becomes an impact player.

“Is Paulk a full go for fall camp? And do you think he can contribute this year? No one seems to talk much about him.” Thomas Dembowczyk

Daniel:  Robert Gillespie said Paulk was “ahead of schedule” back in June. We expect him to be on the practice field come Friday going through drills, but we’ll have to wait to see if they limit him at all. He’ll be about 10 months out of knee surgery when camp starts, so he should be in pretty good shape. That being said, running back depth is fairly strong and it’s hard to see Paulk as anything better than third string in any scenario unless there are other injuries. A redshirt might make sense for him anyhow with Marlin Lane, Jalen Hurd, Devrin Young, Derrell Scott and Justus Pickett all available. Know that the coaches are high on him overall, though. With all the needs they had in the 2014 class, they chose to keep him through the injury even with Hurd and Scott in the class.

 “I have two tickets in E for the Florida game and my girlfriend really wants to come with me. I typically like to watch big games in seclusion or around close guy friends that can handle my intensity. I really honestly don’t like even watching football with girls and this would be our first game together. How do I get out of watching it with her or should I bite the bullet and take her?” – Mike from Wartburg

John: Okay. So first off, Mike, your statement about only watching big games around “close guy friends that can handle [your] intensity” made me a tick uncomfortable. Is that some kind of bad euphemism I’m unfamiliar with, or something?

Still, I do know what you mean. I hate watching huge games with random people who could care less about the outcome. That’s actually why I stopped attending Super Bowl Parties. It’s like the same people who talk freely throughout the entire game will flat-out jump your ass if you even so much as utter a single word during Miller Lite’s 30-second masterpiece.

And maybe I’m cynical, but I, for one, think most of the Super Bowl commercials SUCK, though in their defense, not nearly as bad as the people who go apeshit over them. I mean, would they really think such spots were that funny if they aired in the middle or some random Law and Order? Because I smell a fake laugh. Color me jaded, but the E-Trade baby just doesn’t do it for me.

But I digress.

Your question has two components. The first, we’ve addressed. You prefer to watch huge games in seclusion or with only a select few. The second part ponders whether or not you should take your girlfriend to the Florida game. It’s safe to say it’ll be a huge one, so no matter what, you’ll be a bit out of your comfort zone. Unless, of course, section E happens to be chock-full of likeminded bros who can “handle your intensity.” (Again — ew.)

So it boils down to your feelings for this young lady. As a happily married man, I can assure you that “biting the bullet” is, indeed, part of the deal. So if this girl’s a keeper, take her. If she’s not, take one of your buddies. Though please limit any intensity that may transpire between the two of you to a brand that’s publicly palatable.

But what if she’s a tweener? If she’s one of those people who possess crazy luck, superstition suggests you should bring her. Otherwise, I’d cut her loose and take someone else. Because my mama always told me that maybe means no.

Speaking of, Mom sits in E, so be sure to say hello.

“Whats your favorite sporting event memory of your entire life?” Chris Henry

Reed: As far as games I saw in person, the 1998 Florida game was the most exhilarating – and I went to every game that year (except Syracuse) including the SEC and National Championship games. Deon Grant’s hanging interception. Spurrier throwing his visor playbook. The missed kick. Fans storming the field. John Ward’s famous “Pandemonium Reigns” call. It was all glorious.

Houston: I’m right there with Reed. I used to sit in section K with my dad in the 90’s for games and when Collins Cooper missed that 32-yard field goal the ball actually landed one seat to my right (no joke). I wish I’d have been paying attention and caught the damn thing, but it was still such a great memory as the student section literally washed over the fence and into the field. It looked like an orange avalanche.  I was 12 at the time, but my dad let me run down onto the field by myself to celebrate. I scooped up some orange and white grass from the end zone that still sits in a plastic bag on my shelf.

As far as favorite non-Tennessee memory goes, I’d have to say being in Denver and seeing Peyton throw his first touchdown in a Bronco uniform in 2012 is at the top for me. Some friends and I had to go to Fort Collins for a wedding and stayed an extra day to catch a preseason game against Reed’s 49ers. Peyton went 10/12 for 122 and a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter before they took him out. It was awesome to see in person.

“Should the top 300 recruits from each class have social media accounts?” Phil

Houston: Excellent question PB, and boy does this one have some layers. I think it would make things a lot easier on the recruits if they’d skip out on the social media thing, but I actually think that seeing how a kid uses Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…etc. is a good way to see where his maturity level is. Take a look at a guy like Kahlil McKenzie. He is engaging with fans, having fun with his friends AND recruiting other players to join him at Tennessee…He’s like the twitter Peyton. Now, take for example a guy like Davin Bellamy two years ago. He changed his leader every five minutes to get more followers, posted words and phrases that don’t belong on anything social or media, and then put up a picture of him on his Oregon visit with a bong on the table in front of him. Is it a coincidence that he got arrested for DUI and speeding this week at Georgia? Maybe, maybe not, but I promise that there were plenty of people who saw this one coming late during Bellamy’s recruitment.

My thing with twitter and recruits is this: if someone could ever, EVER, EV-ER  get so upset by what a 16, 17 or 18 year old kid does on twitter that they would feel the need to call him names, curse at him or tell him “You cain’t come here ta Tenuhsee,” then you shouldn’t follow them. A lot of these guys come from backgrounds that are tough to even imagine, so when they get a little bit of the limelight they don’t really know how to handle it. I’d say just let the coaches deal with recruiting, they know what they’re doing.

“How many times will UT wear the grey uniforms?”  Mac B from Tennessee

Reed: I’m going to put my money on once, but I’d set the over/under at 1.5. When the Smokey Grey uniforms were introduced, Butch Jones said they’d be worn once. As you know, UT broke them out twice, against both Georgia and Vanderbilt – two soul-crushing late game defeats for the Big Orange. I’m not saying they’re cursed, but unless they win their first game in them this season, I don’t see them wearing them a second time.

“Why does it take 15 minutes to cook minute rice?” Chris Henry

John: Because you’re a shitty cook. My rice is done in ten minutes. Eleven tops.

“Which Tennessee newcomer will have the biggest impact this season? Each side of the ball.” Wes Boling

Houston: This is a very good, and very tough question because there will be so many that are relied upon. I think on offense I’d have to go with Coleman Thomas. I know that isn’t a flashy position but to have a freshman come in and gain the coaches’ confidence so quickly should tell you a lot about the type of player he is. If you are specifically talking about people who will touch the ball, then put me down for Jalen Hurd. I think in short yardage situations and around the goal line he will prove to be a beast. Plus, I think that he will get a lot of touches because he and Lane will split the carries fairly evenly. That won’t be the case at wide receiver for guys like Pearson or Malone because they are so deep.

Defense is even tougher because very few of them could enroll early. Emmanuel Moseley has a good shot at starting at corner, so I’d say you’ll see him make quite a few plays as teams try to go away from Cam Sutton. But give me Dillon Bates. I think he is so smart and such a good athlete that he will have quite a few “game-changing” plays this season.

“You can give one object (the same object) to everyone in the world. What is it, and why?” Chris Henry

Daniel: I started thinking about things like food, water, clothing, shelter, a Bible, a computer or a car, but why not give everybody a chance to buy several of those things? Give everybody the most valuable piece of legal tender currency available. After careful research (about 30 seconds of Googling), I found that the highest piece of legal tender available in the world is the American $10,000 bill. Though discontinued in 1969, those still in circulation still must be accepted, according to the Federal Government. I don’t know if people in remote areas of the world would have access to convert it to their currency and I’m sure this idea would wreak havoc on inflation and probably the economy in general, but that’s the best I’ve got.

“Of Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, who is your favorite and why?” – David Cobb

Reed: This one has quite a back story. On the drive from Knoxville to Columbia, Missouri, last year, David Cobb, Grant Ramey, Daniel Lewis and yours truly debated this for longer than we’d like to admit. It wasn’t our finest moment, for sure, but it actually got pretty heated. I think most of you will agree, Carrie Underwood’s pipes, legs and overall attractiveness far outweigh anything “T. Swift” brings to the table.

If there’s one knock on Underwood, it’s that she married a Canadian, Mike Fisher. The points subtracted for entangling herself with a Canadian are more than made up by the fact Mike Fisher plays hockey for the Nashville Predators. She may be a Canadian-lover, but she’s wealthy, talented, gorgeous and loves sports. What’s not to love?

Daniel: Both are super talented in different ways. I agree that Carrie has the pure pipes advantage and she’s a great performer who is absolutely gorgeous. And she’s the First Lady of my hockey team, so tons of love to her. But here’s the cold reality for any T. Swift haters: she’s smarter than you. She’s an absolute mogul in the music business. Go ahead, say she can’t sing. She’ll write a hit song about it and make millions more than you ever will. I love that about her.

Houston: I don’t enjoy pop-country whatsoever. That being said, Taylor Swift is an excellent lyricist/writer who has been turned into a pop sensation by blood thirsty record companies. I wish she’d break loose from the pop-scene and go do some more serious music, but I think that’s still a few years away. I admire her talent for songwriting, so I’m going with T. Swift.

“Who is your favorite current footVOL player?” – Chris Henry

Daniel: In journalism theory, we’re not supposed to have any bias. But all of us – even the most old-school journalists on the beat – have “their guys.” I have several personal biases towards player on the team. I always cheer for the guys from Brentwood Academy, my high school alma mater. Derek Barnett is carrying the torch now after Alex Bullard’s departure. I also helped coach Brett Kendrick when he was a freshman in high school, so I obviously am high on him.

From a talent standpoint, I’m really looking forward to watching Marquez North develop along with the new skill guys like Jalen Hurd, Josh Malone (I’m a Nashville-area apologist as well) and Von Pearson. But overall, I think Joshua Dobbs is my favorite player on the current roster. How can you not like him? He’s such an interesting person and he’s everything a coach could want to represent a college football team. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a star or not, but it won’t be for lack of effort.

“Could you talk about offensive identity? Pound the rock or toss the pigskin?” – Brent

Daniel: I hit on this somewhat in my recent article about scheme adjustments. Butch Jones and Mike Bajakian will always be looking for balance, but they also have said multiple times that they adjust the scheme based on personnel. And I think UT’s personnel on offense this season will lead to more reliance on the quick passing game. With an inexperienced offensive line, I see them moving the pocket, getting the ball out quickly to playmakers and trying to create space for guys like Pearson, Malone, Pig Howard and North. I see less power in the run game and more zone reads, jet sweeps, draws and other ways to get Marlin Lane, Jalen Hurd and Devrin Young the ball with some room as well.


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