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Insider Mailing: 4 Days Until Kickoff Edition

Jalen Hurd-1-11

If Worley stays healthy, does Tennessee make it to a bowl game and will he finish the season as the starter? – @Rhickson87

Daniel: I just don’t see him making it all 12 games. I’m not sure if it’ll be injury or inconsistent play, but I’ll just have to see him own the starting job for the entire season to believe it. I will say this, if he does keep the job all season – meaning he stayed healthy and relatively consistent – I think that would bode well for UT’s bowl chances. I’m swaying back and forth between five and six wins literally by the minute. We’ll have our full season predictions later this week, by the way.

Houston: Great question. If Worley had stayed healthy last year I think the Vols would have made it to a bowl, so the addition of talent around him at WR and TE should only make him better in 2014. I think Worley remains the starter for this team as long as the coaches believe that he gives this team the best chance to win. If he starts getting careless with the football, or if his lack of mobility leads to too many sacks and the offense starts stalling consistently then I think you would see a change at QB. If I had to bet on it right now I’d say that Worley is likely to start every game barring injury as long as he can protect the football.

Reed: The absolute best case scenario for the Vols this year is that Worley stays healthy, plays well and starts all 12 games. Will that happen? Probably not. The Vols don’t need game breaking plays from the QB position, but they do need an average quarterback. Headed into his senior year (after seeing action every season he’s been on campus) Worley has been a below average SEC QB. The Worley I watched in fall camp looks a lot like the Worley who led the 109th ranked passing attack in the nation last year.

Inconsistency is still plaguing him. Interception sprees are also an issue. Don’t get me wrong, he has improved a little and his numbers will be better this year, but I’ve seen nothing to suggest he’s bound for a breakout senior year.

Maybe he turns it on when the lights come on, but I’ll have to see it to believe it. Do the Vols get to a bowl if Worley struggles or gets injured? That’ll depend on the ability of Peterman and/or Dobbs to step up. They both have more natural ability than Worley, but still have to be more consistent to be an upgrade. My money is on at least two QBs starting this year. Tennessee has start out 2-3 to have a shot at a bowl. If Worley (or whoever the QB is at the time) is struggling headed into the UTC game, look for them to make a change that week.

Where do you project Jocquez Bruce to play and will we go after any more WRs after losing out on Van Jefferson? – @BlevinsHeath

Houston: I would expect Tennessee to use Joc Bruce much like they will use Devrin Young this coming season. Bruce is a player that they will try to get into space and allow him to make plays with his speed and escapability; so swing passes, draws, quick screens, sweeps, quick slants, seam routes…etc. He could see the field in the slot at receiver or in the backfield as a RB and anywhere in between depending on what the defense is showing. They will likely use a lot of motion before the snap to get the defense to tip their hand while allowing Bruce/Young to take advantage of the best matchup.

Losing Van Jefferson certainly stung, but it isn’t the end of the world. He still plans on taking a visit to Tennessee for a game this fall, so the coaches still have the opportunity to get in front of him and convince him to change his mind – which they will certainly try to do. I actually think Tennessee still has a very good chance at signing Jefferson despite his commitment to UGA and will stay focused on recruiting him instead of pursuing other receivers at this time. If they were to go after some other players, I think Torrance Gibson, Juvall Mollette and maybe a guy like Ryan Newsome would be names worth watching.

What Happened to Kameel Jackson walking on at Tennessee, anyone know? – @CodyDerrick1

Houston: Kameel is enrolled and playing football for Grand Valley State in Michigan. I think that the idea of getting here late in the summer with so much talent already on campus AND having to pay his own way for at least one year was just too much for him. Also, some of his class credits weren’t likely to transfer to Tennessee, so there’s a chance that he wouldn’t have been eligible to enroll in school even if the other factors weren’t in place.

Peyton Manning or Casey Clausen? – @BucketHeadTN

Houston: Peyton. The guy was 39-6 as a starter and set nearly every passing record in school history while also being the absolute perfect representative for Tennessee during his time here. That isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate what Casey did here. Clausen was extremely good also, going 34-10 as a starter with only one of those losses coming on the road (2003 @Auburn), BUT he did lose a neutral site game every season, went 0-2 against Georgia and went 1-3 in bowl games in his career. Everyone talks about his 0-3 record vs. Florida, but Manning was 3-1 in bowl games, 3-1 against Alabama and actually only lost three road games in his time as a Vol.

I’ll tell you that I would take either of them this year in a heartbeat.

Reed: First up, Casey Clausen is waaaaaay underrated by most Vol fans. He won 14 road games, a record for Vol QBs, and is the second leading passer in school history. That said, Manning over Clausen all day.

Woo or no woo? – Mike from Wartburg

Daniel: I don’t have a strong opinion on it – I believe in the freedom to woo or not woo as one pleases. I did notice at a basketball game last year that Butch Jones appeared to pass on the woo, though.

Houston: I don’t necessarily love the woo, but it is what it is at this point and I think I’d miss it if it were to disappear. What if we replaced it with a gunshot sound from Davy Crockett’s rifle? You know, “Good ole Rocky Top, (POW!), Rocky Top Tennessee!

No? Ok.

Reed: I’m not a teenage girl and thus fall in the anti-woo camp.

John: I’m gonna clobbered for this. On paper, I’m anti woo. I mean, hell, I’m old school, so how could I endorse a woo that didn’t used to exist?

HOWEVER, have you ever sat there and consciously tried NOT to woo? It’s hard, man. Good for Butch. I’m glad he can pass. I sorta can’t. I mean, I’m not going nuts, but it’s there. Woo.

So I get conflicted. Especially because my kids LOVE the woo. And as a steward of their UT fandom, I feel it’s my role to facilitate as enjoyable a gameday experience as possible. So, yeah, man, the triplets woo. They’re six. What do you want? Pretty sure my oldest (13) woos, too. And I ain’t gonna stop ’em.

Times change. The woo snuck in there. And I’m okay with it.

If you could put a single NFL player from offense and defense on this year’s Vol roster, who would they be? – @AndrewisMcLovin

Daniel: Peyton Manning all day on offense. He would obviously be a colossal upgrade over any quarterback on the roster, but he would instantly make every player on offense better. He’d help set the pass protections, audible into the best available plays, hit receivers in stride and his overall ability to get the ball out quickly would help this particular team immensely. Quarterback is really the only way to go on this question, but of the non-quarterbacks, I’d look at Calvin Johnson (doesn’t matter how many receivers UT has, no college DB can cover him) or maybe an elite tackle like Joe Thomas.

Defensively, somebody like Ndamukong Suh would make a lot of sense. He’d be the largest regular up front for the Vols, yet is still athletic enough to pile up 10+ sacks. A front with Curt Maggitt, Jordan Williams, Suh and Corey Vereen would really get after the QB in passing situations. It would also pile up a lot of personal fouls. Other guys I would consider on defense would be Earl Thomas, J.J. Watt or Gerald McCoy.

Houston: On defense I’d probably go with a guy like J.J. Watt. In the 2012 season alone he had 42 tackles for a loss and 23 sacks (the Vols only had 18 sacks as a team last season). He’s a relentless pass-rusher who can absolutely take over a game from his defensive end spot, and at 6-5, 290 pounds he would have the size to slide inside and play tackle in certain situations.

Offensively, give me Peyton. Not because he’s a former Vol (although that is certainly a bonus), but because no QB in the NFL got the ball out of his hands faster than he did last year. With Tennessee’s laundry list of playmakers and suspect offensive line, having a smart quarterback who could get rid of the ball fast and get it into the hands of his playmakers would be the perfect fit for the 2014 Vols.

Reed: Since my compadres went with Peyton, I’m going with a healthy Cam Newton. The Vols could use a mobile QB with their inexperience up front and though Peyton is clearly the better passer, his lack of mobility would put his neck at risk behind this offensive line. Peyton can’t take the hits this line will give up and the Vols need someone who can make plays when the protection breaks down.

On the defensive side, Gerald McCoy, an underrated defensive tackle who plays for the Bucs, would be my pick. He’s stout against the run and nearly unstoppable in passing situations. Defensive tackle is the weakest link on the team and having someone of McCoy’s caliber in the middle would work wonders.

What level of drunk is “too drunk” for a Tennessee football game? – Dale

Houston: If you’re face down on a sidewalk somewhere, then you’re too drunk. If you’re in your seat slurring profanity and getting in fights with fellow Vol fans in your area of the stadium, then you’re too drunk. If you’re friends are holding your hair while you, um, “liberate” the contents of your stomach into the stands, then you’re too drunk. Basically, if I can look at you from 30 feet and tell you’ve had one too many, then you’re too drunk.

That is unless it’s the fourth quarter against a team like Florida or Alabama and the Vols are already down by 30. In that case, there is no such thing as too drunk.

Bottoms up.

Reed: If you trip walking to the stadium and/or entering your gate, you’re too drunk. If you can’t physically get food from your hand to your mouth, you’re too drunk. If you’re a Georgia fan, you’re too drunk. If you tried to fight anyone during your commute to the stadium, you’re too drunk. If the Vols are playing Florida, chances are you’re too drunk.

John: Okay, this is tough. First off, when it comes to being drunk in general, your mileage may vary. For example, a lightweight’s “drunk” is a heavyweight’s “buzz,” though cold hard data as gathered by, say, a breathalyzer may render the exact same level of intoxication.

My rule is this — if your level of intoxication in any way compromises your ability to not only enjoy the game, but also intelligently decipher / discuss the game, then you’re probably too drunk. And if your level of intoxication has compromised your ability to talk shit to some uppity Gator fan? You’re definitely too drunk. Because you gotta be sharp if the enemy starts to troll.

The other evening I was working around the house and something happened that I am not sure how to explain.  It all begin when I heard on ESPN that it’s never too soon to discuss the Heisman race.  Suddenly it happened.  Even after all the misery and the hours and days since Erik Ainge threw the Pick six against LSU in the SEC Championship game just hearing the Heisman triggered my mind into such a deep thought that I think I may have entered into a different realm.  What I saw was so real!  It was glorious!  It was like I was there in Downtown Athletic Club, then I hear the announcement “this year’s Heisman Trophy winner is Jalen Hurd from the University of Tennessee”.  When he walked up to the podium wearing a gray suit and orange tie he said the following words and this is why I think it is so real, “today I accept this award not on my own behalf but for my teammates and especially those who have came before me that deserve this award.  Hank Lauricella, Johnny Majors, Heath Shuler, and Peyton Manning all deserved this award and so I accept it for them and proudly will take it to its rightful home”.  I was almost in tears, but then I got myself together and suddenly I was back at home.

Considering Hurd has never played a down at UT and the fact that there is no way this kid knows who Hank Lauricella is do you think this could be a premonition of an event that has already happened? – RockyTopics

John: Sheee-it, RockyTopics. My goodness. Lemme catch my breath here.

Know what’s funny? Daniel, Reed and Houston sort through the comments/questions we get for the mailbag and then they’re like “alright, John, there’s a couple in there that’s got your name written all over it.” I can tell the ones they want me to answer because the John: part is already written.

So, I hop into today’s draft to find your question, assuming, in fact, you can call it a question. And I’m not even sure what to make of it. First, I’m a huge “jinx” guy, so I’m not entirely positive this is okay to talk about. Yet then you go time warp on me and wonder if it’s a premonition of something that’s already happened. And a premonition of something that’s already happened is obviously an oxymoron.

So really, about the only thing I can answer is this: Jalen Hurd has not won the Heisman. Nor has he been nominated. But the part of your question that intrigues me most? Does he know who Hank Lauricella is. I’m trying to find that out for you.

I’ll close by saying this: I wanna know how you thought of that question. And who your pharmacist is. Great stuff. Thanks for reaching out.

In my office Fantasy Football league, I drafted Peyton (1st), Foster (3rd), Patterson (4th), Witten (6th). Was I too excited about the upcoming Vols Season and have the Vols Goggles on or were they good, legit picks? Thanks! – @SudzVol

Reed: People may blast you for this, but if Peyton is healthy, he’s likely to be the top fantasy player in the league this year, so you’re good there. Foster was a solid pick and is likely to be a top-10 running back this year, with the potential for even more production if he can stay on the field. Getting him in the third round? No qualms here. Witten is always one of the top tight ends and Patterson should be in for a breakout campaign, especially if Bridgewater can win that job at some point this year. You may have selected both of them a little high, but Vol goggles will do that! Make sure to check out our friend Nate Hodges and his site for tons of fantasy football and NFL info.

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