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Insider Mailing: FCS Edition

Neyland Stadium-1-6

Does the team have legit SEC caliber O-Linemen or is youth really the only thing that is the problem? Also do the coaches start thinking about going after a JUCO or graduate level QB for next year after JW graduates? – Daniel McInturff

Daniel: Great questions. There’s a lot in play on the offensive line and several reasons it is among the worst at Tennessee that we’ve seen in a long time. First, obviously, is the youth on the right side of the line. I think Coleman Thomas and Jashon Robertson are going to be fine SEC-caliber players – potentially very good ones. They just shouldn’t be forced to play yet. But there’s more going on.

Kyler Kerbyson is a natural guard and they’re asking him to play out of position at left tackle. He’s been exposed there a few times. I think it’s fair to call him an SEC-caliber guard, but probably not a tackle at this point. But there aren’t a ton of excuses for Mack Crowder and Marcus Jackson. Both have played well at times this season, but they both have had the development that Jones talks about and, overall, they’re not getting it done either. Some of that is on the coaching staff and some of that comes with the lack of communication and continuity the lines has as a whole. So I think it’s a combination of all of those factors. I do think this team is short at least one, possibly two SEC-caliber tackles at this point for sure.

And at quarterback, they’re not in on any JUCO guys too highly at this point, but that graduate-level transfer should be in play, in my opinion. I think Tennessee has a very attractive package to offer a QB who is looking to boost their draft stock. The offensive line will be back and improved and there are a ton of skill players to work with. They can’t contact anybody directly at this point, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s an option they at least look in to.

I will admit it. After the Florida game, I was depressed. But I have come out of my sadness to realize that we still have a decent shot to steal one or both of the Mizzou and/or South Carolina games. And assuming we beat UTC,Vandy, and UK we would be in a bowl. Am I crazy, ultra – optimistic, or a little of both? – Caleb Castleman

Houston: My preseason prediction was for this team to go 7-5 with losses to Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Ole Miss and Alabama… Based on what I have seen from the remaining teams on Tennessee’s schedule, I still think that this is a strong possibility. So, no, I don’t think you are crazy. I think that this team will improve as the season goes on and I think they will have a very good opportunity to finish the season on a 4-game winning streak to get to 7-5.

Reed: I had the Vols at 6-6 prior to the season. They still have a shot to get there especially with the struggles of Missouri and South Carolina. I like the Vols at home against Missouri but I don’t know if they’re ready for a big SEC road win, but we’ll see. Without Connor Shaw, South Carolina is very beatable. I don’t think the Vols get both of those games, but I think they get one, go bowling and take a tangible step forward.

Why is the offense so seemingly limited and predictable? Would just love to seem them mix things up a little more regularly. – Bob Yexley

Reed: The No. 1 thing limiting the offense in my opinion is personnel, not play calling. Heading into the Florida game, I had the Vols at 2-21 on passes longer than 25 yards. With numbers like that, it’s tough to stretch the field. Worley hasn’t been accurate down the field when receivers are open, so consistent down field play calls are out of the book. Run blocking has been far from adequate thus far. Several times against the Gators, the Vols had numbers in the run game but simply couldn’t execute the plays. In other words, they had the play called correctly, but the players just didn’t execute.

So the only thing that’s been consistently effective this season has been the short passing game. That’s the bread and butter of this offense. Could they use more jet sweeps and misdirection? Absolutely. But the playbook is extremely limited and predictable primarily due to a lack of execution from the QB and OL. Worley ranks second to last in the SEC in QB rating, the Vol OL is last in the SEC in sacks and the rushing attack also ranks at the bottom of the conference. Based on everything I’ve seen this year, those rankings have far more to due with personnel than playcalling.

After Michigan is turned down – again – by Miles and the Harbaughs, where does Butch sit on their list? And does Butch listen? – @BigOrangeJeff

Reed: Jones is definitely in their top-10, but I don’t know how high. If those close losses to Florida and Georgia were wins, he’d definitely be further up the line. That’s the only school Jones would listen to in my opinion, but even then I don’t think he’d jump ship. In other news, how screwed up is Michigan? Firing Rich Rod looks great now that Arizona is ranked in the top-10.

Daniel: I spoke to my Michigan contact about this recently. You’re right the Harbaughs and Miles are the top three. But you’re also right, there’s a good chance they go 0/3 on those. Butch would not be in that next tier, in his opinion. That would be the likes of Gary Patterson, Mike Gundy, Art Briles and Dan Mullen. But if the “no’s” pile up, he’s clearly on there somewhere in that third tier or so. He has to be. Michigan native – proven recruiter and high-level college football head coaching experience.

I don’t want to speculate too much about if he would listen or not. So much goes into that and I am not privy to his thoughts on what’s best for him and his family. But, personally speaking, I would listen to an opportunity for a raise to return to my home state. Wouldn’t you? I would just be surprised if it ever got to that point with him and Michigan. A lot could also depend on how the rest of this season goes for UT.

John: I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine him leaving, if for no other reason than he’s nearly gotten through the “abject train wreck” portion of his coaching duties on Rocky Top. Does he really wanna sign up for more of the same in Ann Arbor? If you’re counter is “yeah, but the fans here are unrealistic,” then I would counter with this: I’m sure they’re just as unrealistic there.

Besides “Coming to America,” what is the movie with a mostly African-American cast most beloved by white people? – Doug Brooks

Houston: ‘Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood’ is an all-time favorite of mine.

Reed: Friday. All. week. long.

John: WHOA, DB. Progressive question. I’m not sure I can answer it other than to rattle off a list of my favorite films that featured a predominantly African-American Cast. Boyz in the Hood, Friday, New Jack City, Juice (Tupac’s a legend), Poetic Justice (such a legend he was paid to kiss Janet Jackson in her prime), The Nutty Professor, (Buddy Love — also a legend), and any film that Iggy Azalea goes on to make.

But the list goes on and on. As well it should.

What would our run game look like today if Alvin Kamara was on campus and what should we expect next year? – @RockyTopics

Houston: Probably about the same, honestly. I do think he is better than Marlin Lane, so you would probably have a few more big runs sprinkled in here and there – but the guy isn’t Superman-meets-Reggie Bush. Tennessee’s offensive line isn’t good enough to create consistent running lanes right now, so Kamara’s talent wouldn’t be able to shine through as much as it will next year when this line has gelled and improved. I think that Kamara will be arriving at just the right time for Tennessee.

Daniel: Kamara would certainly be getting reps right now, but not sure anybody would be finding a ton of room on a consistent basis behind this offensive line. I think the run game has a chance to take a nice step next year. The blocking has nowhere to go but up. Kamara is a talented back who is tearing it up in JUCO right now. Jalen Hurd has massive potential and guys like Derrell Scott, Rocky Reid and, who knows, maybe even Evan Berry, will make it a deeper position.

Knowing our O-line is struggling and that we’ll probably start a freshman quarterback, do we take a step back in 2015? – @JoshuaFryeTN

Houston: I have stayed out on my Josh Dobbs limb all season, and I don’t plan on jumping off now. I really think that he has the skill set that this staff is looking for in a quarterback and I think that when he puts it together – and he will – people will be very impressed with what this guy is capable of. He has a better arm than Worley, (WAY) better mobility, and I think that when he learns the system and is more comfortable in it he will be a better decision maker than Worley has been to this point in his career.

I’m not going to call him the second coming of Peyton Manning or Tony Robinson, but his talent is unquestioned. As a true freshman with little help, Dobbs started on the road against Missouri and put up 285 yards of total offense against a top-10 defense. Now, he turned the ball over and drives stalled in the red zone but his ability was easy to see. I could ultimately end up wrong, but I actually think Tennessee gets better quarterback play next year with Dobbs at the helm.

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