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Insider Mailing: Tigers, Zombie, Food and Pokémon Edition

Lane Kffin-1

“Guys I am going to the SEC Nation broadcast before the game Saturday and I need some good sign ideas that will catch the guys’ eyes so that my wife can see me on TV back in Virginia. Thoughts? Go Vols! Beat Mizzou!” – Caleb Castleman

John: Wow. That’s a tough one. I wish I didn’t jump in here so late to write my part because I love thinking of things like that. I’ll tweet you up if I come up with anything, but at first blush, I recommend a Dobbs nickname that no one has come up with yet, which will obviously be tough. The Dobbit? With a photoshop of his mug over a promo poster for the movie the Hobbit?

Reed: The above sign was brought to Neyland the week Lane Kiffin was fired, so how bout “Will Muschamp Needs Obamacare”? Other than that, anything Dobbs would absolutely do.

“Which young offensive lineman do you anticipate having the most productive Tennessee career?” – Wes Boling

Daniel: Jashon Robertson is the first one that comes to mind. To say that the staff loves him is an understatement. He’s had his ups and downs as a freshman, but pretty safe to pencil him in as a starting guard for as long as he wants to stick around. He has a good build, good football IQ and a good skill set at guard. Not the most athletic guy ever, but moves well enough and is good with his hands. His ceiling could be somewhere in the Chance Warmack-Larry Warford range if he continues to develop. He’s still very new to the position overall. I think Coleman Thomas has a lot of upside this year. I know his stock is down in the eyes of many fans, but asking him to start at tackle as a true freshman after being a center in high school is tough for anybody. I see him growing into a pretty good right tackle in the SEC and starting multiple years.

“Without AJ, do you feel that TN has a chance Saturday?” – @RustyVol77

Reed: The Vols definitely have a chance. Tennessee has responded well to adversity under Butch Jones thus far. They were extremely focused and fired up in practice yesterday. Playing without their defensive leader will definitely be a challenge, though, and I’m not sure who I’ll pick this weekend. John Jancek is in for a test. If he can dial up some plays which trick Mauk into a couple turnovers, the Vols will be fine defensively…and that’s something I expect Jancek to do. Plus, there’s this:

Daniel: I was already on the fence on this one and UT’s absences are pushing me more towards Missouri. But to answer your question, I absolutely think Tennessee has a chance, even without A.J. It will make it tougher certainly, but I expect John Jancek to still get 11 guys on the field that he trusts and, though there’s nobody that can match A.J.’s specific skill set, there are ways they can scheme around it some. We’ll have our full/official prediction posted on Friday.

“If you had to eat one meal in Knoxville, where would you go, and what would you order?” – @SheaAntunes

Daniel: Just send me to Brazeiros, keep the little coaster thing on green and let me go full Ron Swanson.

John: Tough one, but I’m gonna go old-school iconic on you as opposed to the buttoned-down dining options. So, in that spirit, I’d recommend Wright’s Cafeteria, Long’s or, for breakfast, Rankin’s. Wright’s, it just doesn’t matter. Walk down the line and whatever you pick out is gonna change your life. At longs, I usually go with a double cheese burger, fries and a fountain coke because their fountain cokes are unreal. Rankin’s is top notch for breakfast, with a special nod to their hash browns and pancakes, though I’m an omelette/bacon guy so that’s usually where I land there.

Houston: For breakfast, I’m going to Gourmet’s market or Pete’s and getting whatever I want on that particular day. For lunch, I’m going to Chandler’s to get some fried chicken, Mac&Cheese, okrah and cornbread. For dinner…hmmmm…this is a tough one. For Mexican I’m going to Señor Taco off Broadway, for a steak I’d probably go to Ye Olde Steakhouse and for a nice “Tennessee” dinner, I’ll take Calhoun’s on the river for the ambiance and view.

If anyone has suggestions for places I should try, hit my up on Twitter at @VolRumorMill. I’m always down for new and different things. Like King Tut’s in south-Knox…that place is a trip. Or Big Fatty’s in Bearden. Great little spot that doesn’t get enough love.

Reed: I tell you what, this is a fantastic question. My answer depends on craving, but it’d be one of three options. The Grill at Highlands Row has fantastic food. Their steaks, specifically, are phenomenal. I had one of the best steaks in my life there a couple of weeks ago. It was a 16 oz grass fed ribeye seasoned and cooked to perfection. It melted in my mouth. If you haven’t been there, give it a try. Their sides and appetizers are also phenomenal.

Copper Cellar, the original one of the strip, is also a favorite. Sit downstairs with your significant other for a great date. If you extend the boundary to the greater Knoxville area, you can’t beat Foothills Milling Company. Everything they have is great and their menu changes every night. I try to get something different every time I go there, so I can’t really pick a favorite.

“Do you think with the commits and players we have that we can fill the void being left by Jacob Gillam at tackle and try to fill the void in the middle of our defense without AJ Johnson? Without Gillam it seems like possible people at tackle are Blair, Thomas, Jack Jones, Zach Stewart, and possibly another commit like Drew Richmond. On defense I like our options to fill the void by AJ. Seems like either bates or JRM could add weight a slide inside or Jakob Johnson/Kenny Bynum could step in.” – Mike Blanchard

Houston: I think that they will be ok at tackle next season. I think Blair will be ready to go by then and Coleman Thomas will be a year better and a year stronger. Drew Richmond would certainly have the opportunity to start immediately if he were to decide to come here in the end.

I also think they’ll be fine at linebacker. Don’t get me wrong, losing A.J. Johnson will be tough, but they really like where Gavin Bryant is in his development for next year and they’ve got a few younger players that could help give them valuable reps next year at both spots. Dillon Bates, Cortez McDowell, Gavin Bryant and Jakob Johnson will all have the opportunity to earn a lot of snaps, but let’s not rule out the possibility of a freshman coming in and making an impact as well. Darrin Kirkland Jr. is a name to keep an eye on and a player that – if he were to choose Tennessee – would have a very real shot at seeing a lot of playing time next season, in my opinion.

Daniel: At tackle, it’s hard for me to project somebody not on campus as a starter at this point. Richmond, if the Vols did indeed land him, would be the most college-ready of the options, but that’s still too much of a reach for me to project that at this point. It’ll really be interesting to see where Dontavius Blair is next year. I’ve said all along that the coaching staff choosing to redshirt him is somewhat of a compliment. He clearly hasn’t panned out exactly as they hoped this year, but the fact that they want him in the program two more seasons tells me something. I think you have to throw him in the mix along with Coleman Thomas and Brett Kendrick as potential starting tackles next year and we’ll see if any newcomers are in that conversation.

Linebacker will be interesting and the Vols will probably get a taste of that life without A.J. this weekend. JRM, Curt Maggitt (if he returns), Dillon Bates and Chris Weatherd will likely be the most talented returning players at LB, but none of them are true inside guys. Do they push one of them to bulk up and play inside or will a guy like Jakob Johnson be ready to take regular snaps inside? That will be one of the few questions the 2015 defense will have in my book.

“To the entire panel, what is your favorite pokemon?” – @gmannVOLS

Daniel: Quay Picou. Is that one?

Houston: Butchizard? Butchasaur? Bajaziken? I never did Pokémon, so I hope these are close.

John: This might be an age thing, but I literally had ZERO idea there was more than one pokemon, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to contribute to this question much more beyond that. Well, except to say this: I leave this question far less cool than when I began to try to answer it. Shame on you @gmannVOLS for stealing some of my swag in this pokemon hit and run.

Reed: I’m going to nerd out here. I used to LOVE Pokémon. Red and Blue came out when I was 11, I believe, and I ate them up on Gameboy. I got into the card game for a bit as well, before trading all of them for a Jerry Rice rookie card and a Jerry Rice jersey card (good move, too, because I still have both and they’re worth a ton more than Pokémon cards). I still, no kidding, remember getting the Charizard holofoil card.

And Charizard is really the obvious answer here. While he was definitely a favorite of mine, I’m going with Mewtwo. I didn’t play Pokémon past Red and Blue and Mewtwo was an absolute beast in those games. I also enjoyed playing with Mewtwo in Smash Brothers, so that probably plays a role in my answer.

Blastoise was fun. Articuno was as well. Zapdos was underrated. But Mewtwo was unstoppable in Red and Blue.

“Is this the week that a W will get Butch an extension?” – @BucketheadTN

Daniel: I do. Not so much because of this particular win, but the fact that it would likely put the Vols at 7-5 for the season with a decent bowl appearance. That in addition to recruiting well, plus handling the APR issues and really helping the overall brand and image of Tennessee football would all be enough to warrant a raise and extension in my book. Nothing drastic, but maybe add a year or two and bump his salary a little. There’s still work to be done with this program, obviously.

Houston: This, coupled with a Vandy win, should absolutely earn him something. I’m with Daniel, though. Don’t break the bank on him just yet – we saw what that did to Florida – but certainly reward him for a job well done.

“Which RTI staffer would last the longest in a zombie apocalypse?” – @jmccann02

Daniel: JCO would be like a cockroach in that situation – they could not get rid of him. It might end up being more like which zombie would last the longest in the John Cave Osborne apocalypse?

Houston: Me, and it really isn’t close (sorry guys). I have excellent survival skills and could live in the woods for months at a time; never subjecting myself to the chaos of such an apocalypse. I’m also an excellent fisherman, and could survive afloat while catching enough food to survive on and, again, avoiding the madness. Seriously, stealing a houseboat and retiring to the river would be like a vacation for me. I welcome the challenge. It’s not all about guns and weapons, it’s about survival.

John: A cockroach? Wow. Hold, please. I have to write a quick letter.

Dear Daniel,

You’re fired.

Kind regards


NO, I’m kidding. While DL’s metaphor may not be my favorite (it conjures up images of Gregor Samsa — serious props to anyone who caught that one without googling), it’s not like I could argue with him. I thrive in complete and total chaos. Something about five kids and a dog who often lays it down in the foyer. So if there were ever a zombie apocalypse, I love my chances.

Reed: I’m tempted to go with JCO as well, though, he has five kids and he definitely would have to care for them in a zombie apocalypse – that’d slow him down. Houston is the only bachelor among us, so he has an edge as far as standing responsibilities…but, sorry Houston, I’m going with myself. Why? My wife is a total asset here. When Houston met her the first time, he said her “biceps were rippling.” She lettered in five sports in high school, played a couple in college and graduated near the top of her class. She’s a beast. She’s brilliant. And we work pretty well as a team after five years of marriage – teamwork is vital in a zombie apocalypse.

We already have enough food for years in our possession, as well. Though we can’t rival Houston’s fishing skills, we can definitely fish and hunt…and garden which is an underrated survival skill.

I’m sure some watchful governmental eye will read this so I’ll leave it at this: I’m also a bit of a firearms enthusiast and have a small arsenal to my name – including some fantastic zombie fighting guns equipped with bayonets, grenade launchers, etc.

We have a motorcycle and several horses – fantastic modes of transportation when gas is scare during any apocalyptic scenario. Kayaks as well. I could go on and on.

Houston does bring up a good point though – why don’t the people in The Walking Dead live on a boat in the middle of a lake/ocean? Can zombies even swim?

“I would like to know if any on-field suspension has ever been successfully appealed. #FreeRandy” – @KentonOG

Daniel: I would guess so, but couldn’t find any specific examples. Regardless, it’s a moot point for Brian Randolph this week because the SEC does not allow appeals of ejections for targeting.

“What’s your best guess of what comes out of the Donnie Tyndall investigation and when will it conclude?” – @Sabanocchio

Reed: It’s still very, very early so I really don’t have any idea. There are people close to the investigation who believe nothing major will come from this and that the storm will pass quickly. There are others who believe it could lead to severe penalties. Right now, it looks more like a witch hunt than a real investigation – but again, it’s early. Lately, I’ve heard more positive news than bad news from people who know more about the allegations than any of us.

“Has a recruit ever cited “twitter love” or tweets from fans as a driving factor in their decision to attend Tennessee?” – @HippieH8er

John: My guess is that UT’s twitter passion hurts them more than it helps them when it comes to breaking points. In other words, overall, it’s a good thing. But seldom could it be decided as the reason why someone came, but I bet it might have played a role in driving the final nail in the coffin of a player not coming – like maybe with Cecil Cherry.

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