“I haven’t heard any news of whom is going to field punts or kickoff returns. Any news?” – Andy Norman
Daniel: There hasn’t been too much to report there because they’re trying out a ton of guys and then weeding out as they go. That’s a spot they really are going to rely on the open practice and other scrimmage situations to help determine who can handle it when the pressure it on. These are some of the guys who have been getting work: Devrin Young, Vic Wharton, Cam Sutton, D’Andre Payne, Josh Malone, Evan Berry, Von Pearson, Adrian Gamble, Jacob Carter, Marquez North and Johnathon Johnson. Young is the odds-on favorite at punt returner. He has the most experience and he’s had a great camp overall. I’d say Wharton, Howard, Sutton and Carter are the other guys who stick out to me as being very comfortable in that role. We haven’t seen too much live kick return work, but Young and Wharton are certainly both possibilities there. Howard, Pearson and Ev. Berry all look very natural as well. The first scrimmage is Saturday and that should gives us some more clues.
“We all know it’s a forgone conclusion Peyton will be the third VFL to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining Doug Atkins and Reggie White. So who will be number four? Will it be Jason Witten or someone else?” – Doug
Houston: Yep, it will be Witten without a doubt. That guy has had just an outstanding career. His numbers are great and he’s just a prototypical pro player. He currently holds the NFL record for catches by a TE in a season (110) and catches in a game. He also sits in second for most catches by a TE in NFL history behind Tony Gonzales. Not sure that he can catch Tony, but there’s certainly a chance. Also, don’t forget that Cordarrelle Patterson is already in there with the longest play in NFL history (tie). I also think there is a great chance that he makes it in as an inductee down the road if he stays healthy. Just a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands.
“Have any of the newcomers had their black stripe removed yet? If not, who do you think will be the first?” – Phillip Bell
Daniel: Not that we’ve noticed. Admittedly, it’s been hard to keep up with all 31 newcomers on the field plus all the walk-ons with them on at this point. In terms of who might get it off first, projected starters like Coleman Thomas or Emmanuel Moseley would both be good guesses. From an approach/attitude standpoint, there’s also a good argument for either Vic Wharton or Jalen Hurd – both are very consistent and have drawn a lot of praise for their work ethic.
Houston: No, they have not to this point. My early money would have to be on one of the newcomers who really showed out in the spring. I’d say Coleman Thomas, Emmanuel Moseley and Von Pearson are all strong possibilities. Of the summer newcomers, guys like Derek Barnett and Vic Wharton have really done a great job of doing what the coaches ask of them. I’d feel pretty confident saying that the first stripe removed will come from those five guys.
“One mystical part of the UT experience to me is tailgating on the river and being a part of the VOL navy. What do I do if I don’t have a boat, and have no friends with a boat, but want to be part of the navy elite?” – Dale
John: You should go with a Somali Pirate theme. You could be like the So-Vol-i Pirate, or something. Clad only in an orange do-rag along with a matching (and cleverly placed) loin cloth. And maybe one of those bad plastic pirate swords clutched between your teeth. My boys have one you can borrow.
You might get a coupla funny looks when you first hop aboard, but, trust me, if you bring some bourbon, odds are you’re good to go.
Reed: Everyone’s so drunk there anyway, just bring some booze, pick a nice boat, but not THE nicest boat, and work your way there by claiming you went to preschool with the captain.
“Outstanding coverage guys! Quick question for the mailbag this week…Is it appropriate to propose to your girlfriend at your boss’ wedding event?” – Rocky Top 10 EC
John: First off, thanks! And if you think our coverage is good now, just wait till we finish our digital studios. RTI will be way more than just a website.
And second, fantastic question!
I’ll answer it by painting a picture for you. Let’s say your boss has called a huge meeting and invited not only his own staff, but also all his peers from across the industry. The people he loves and respects most. And let’s say he spent of ton of money to make it happen. And let’s say the entire point of that meeting was to allow him to unveil a new idea he’d poured all of his blood, sweat and tears into. An idea he was 100% certain would be a game changer, not just for the entire industry, but also for him on a personal level as well.
Then, let’s say that right after he announced this game-changing idea, you raised your hand and said “Gee, boss, that’s neat, but wouldn’t it be better if we did it like this?” before detailing your idea which had nothing to do with him and the people he’d assembled, but instead had to do entirely to you.
How do you think that’d go over?
I mean, why don’t you just wait patiently for Christmas Day to arrive and hit Santa over the head with a Festivus pole? Or break up an Easter Egg hunt by informing a bunch of innocent children that in real life, all bunnies are good for is playing hide the carrot in their moms’ freakin’ flower garden?
So, no, man, that’s a horrible idea. I’m not saying you should be some intolerable brownnose, but show your boss some respect him by letting his wedding event be all about (get this) his wedding.
“I know we have a tough schedule, but if you had to pick a team we could upset, who would it be and why?” – TJ Williams
Daniel: I’ll say lightning can strike twice and pick South Carolina. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are the three that come to mind. Florida might be the most obvious one, but I just can’t pick UT to win in that series until I see it. Plus, I’m not sure if they can block that front seven, especially Dante Fowler Jr. The Vols obviously will draw some level of confidence from beating SC last year and, though I like the potential of the Gamecocks’ offense, I also think Tennessee will be an improved football team by the time this game comes around in November. UT will be coming off of Alabama, but SC will also be travelling back from facing Auburn, so that’ll be tough on both sides.
Houston: I think this is a good year to get Florida at home, so I think there’s a chance. That said, I’m never picking the Vols to beat them again until they do it. I’ve read that book too many times.
Outside of them I actually think this is a really good year to get Georgia. They open with Clemson and then play at South Carolina – two very tough games – and then play an always scrappy Troy team the week before we head to Athens. They’ll be breaking in a new QB and they will have a lot of new guys on defense, so I think that’s a road game the Vols could possibly win in a shootout.
Reed: This depends on what you’d classify as an upset. When Missouri rolls into town on November 22nd, the Vols could very well be underdogs. That’s a game UT probably needs to win in order to pick go bowling – and a game I think the Vols get. I’ll disagree with my compadres and say the Vols aren’t likely to knock off Georgia, South Carolina or Ole Miss on the road.
The Vols haven’t notched a road win over a team with a winning record since 2009 (Memphis), haven’t beaten a ranked team on the road since 2006, haven’t bested a top-5 team on the road since 2005 – which also marks the last time they beat an SEC team with a winning conference record away from Neyland. Odds are an upset will come at home which leaves Florida and Alabama as the options. When given the choice of those two, you’ve got to go Florida. Muschamp is a loss to Tennessee away from losing his job. They play at Alabama September 20th then have an open date before coming to Knoxville October 4th. Bama will destroy them and they’ll have an extra week to think about it. When the going gets tough for Florida during the Muschamp era, they fold…but no matter how much they wet the bed, the Vols will have to exorcise some demons to win that one.
“With the number of legacies and in-state recruits now on the roster, do the coaches feel pressure to move them up on the depth chart?” – Phillip Bell
Houston: I don’t think any of those guys will climb the depth chart because the staff feels pressure to do it. I think many of those guys will climb the depth chart simply because they are better players. A ton of those guys are already making a big impact on this team. Guys like Wharton, Berry, Berry, Hurd, TK, Medley, and Malone – they are good football players, and that’s why they’ll play.
“I haven’t heard anything about Michael Sawyers so far. Anything of note to report?” – Caleb Chapman
Daniel: Not a ton yet – haven’t seen him do much live work. I’ve seen him take some walk-through reps on the third team and he certainly looks all of 6-3, 305+ pounds. He’s actually the heaviest D-tackle on the field right now. What’s amazing is Tennessee only has six active defensive tackles on the roster right now – Sawyers, Jordan Williams, Dimarya Mixon, Owen Williams, Danny O’Brien and Trevarris Saulsberry. Sawyers might have to play by default regardless of how he progresses this fall.
“Who are your favorite media member colleagues? Excluding those you work with of course!” – Riley Grant
Daniel: There are a ton of great people who cover the Vols. We have a partnership with The Drive on 94.3 FM and I really enjoy spending time with Russell Smith and Richard Daugherty from that show. Patrick Brown from the Chattanooga Times Free Press and Grant Ramey from the Maryville Daily Times are good personal friends of mine as well. Patrick was actually my roommate for a while before I got married and Grant and I have travelled together a ton to work events. We rode to the NCAA tournament in Raleigh last year in a rented tiny little smart car type thing that struggled when we went over 60 MPH, especially in the mountains. He was also throwing up along the way. Good memories. I try to befriend everybody from student journalists to long-time columnists and people from print, online, radio and TV. It’s been fun to get to know more and more people as I head into my fourth year on the beat.
Reed: I second everyone Daniel mentioned and would add Seth Stokes and Jayson Swain to that list. Stokes really helped me jumpstart my radio career and is a blast to hang with outside of work. Swain is a first-class person and his perspective on the Vols is always unique and informative. And he makes some fantastic ribs.
“Why does Butch always have on long sleeves during media sessions? Is he heavily tatted up?” – Joshua Frye
Daniel: I have no idea, though I have noticed many of the coaches have very odd seasonal clothing sometimes. I regularly see several of the assistants in long sleeves during sweltering practices and shorts in freezing ones.
Houston: He has a very extensive fine knife collection. Most days he comes with one strapped to each arm in case certain media members ask stupid questions. I haven’t seen him use them yet, but he’s come close.
Honestly, I’d say probably to avoid a farmer’s tan.
Reed: Don’t think I’ve ever seen Butch sweat. Maybe he’s cold blooded and has to insulate somehow?
“What’s with this weather lately?” – Mac B from Tennessee
Reed: We’re in the midst of the coolest summer on record which followed one of the coldest winters on record. My theory, though self-centered to the point of insanity, revolves around a pool. I spent my formative years either in a pool or in a lake whenever I got the chance. As I grew up, I dreamed of one day owning a house with a pool. I realized that dream in September when we bought a foreclosure with a pool, that, at the time, closely resembled a swamp. When I finally got the swamp pool in working order, the cool air of winter was moving in…and it apparently never left. So why has it been so cold? Because I finally have a pool and that spiteful woman Mother Nature doesn’t want me to enjoy it. Insane as it may be, I’ve yet to see a better explanation.
John: Oh shut up, Reed, you big wuss. My pool’s fine. What’s really up with this weather is God’s just like the rest of Vol Nation. Ready to get this things started. So why not throw out a fall-weather tease or two?