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Insider Mailing: Cash Money Edition

Pig Howard-1-3

“What are the chances of us not getting either Preston Williams or Van Jefferson?” – @CGShaw114

Houston: It’s recruiting, so there is always a chance…But I happen to think that Preston Williams is very solid to Tennessee. The tweet that mentioned him not wanting to redshirt was probably taken out of context, in my opinion. There is no way to know who it was that told him that potentially redshirting may be his best option. Was it someone on Tennessee’s staff? A doctor? A friend? A high school coach? Nobody seems to know, but, ultimately, that decision won’t be made until he gets here in the summer and has a chance to go through some practices. At that time, Tennessee’s medical staff will evaluate him and the decision will be made.

I think that Jefferson is likely to stick with Georgia unless the recent addition of Darius Slayton causes him to look around. Jefferson is an early enrollee, though, so any decision to look around would have to be made in the very near future. If Jefferson stays with UGA then I think they’ll continue to recruit Slayton up until signing day.

“Is there a P.O. Box those of us old fashioned VFLs can mail GET WELL cards to @Stuntman1429?” – @CandiMathis

Reed: That’s a great one, Candi. You can send cards to Eric Berry here: Eric BerryOne Arrowhead Drive, Kansas City, MO 64129.

“What are your thoughts on Butch Jones and his coaching staff after year two? Obviously, he is a great recruiter, but how do you feel Butch has done as a coach and do you see him taking the vols to a championship in the future?” – Matt Rayburn

Daniel: I’ve been impressed overall. Jones and the coaching staff have exceeded my expectations. When Jones was hired, I knew he had a pretty strong track record in building programs and winning a lot of football games, but I just didn’t know how that would translate to the SEC. So far, so good, I would say. I think he’s left some very big wins on the table (Vanderbilt, 2013; Florida 2014), but has also stolen a couple from South Carolina as well that I didn’t necessarily expect him to. I’m far from a Butch homer. His game/personnel management confuse me sometimes, I’m not sure he’s always in touch with reality (saying things like the public perception of UT is at an all-time high), but I think there’s no way to deny the progress he’s made in upping the talent level, improving UT’s brand overall, digging UT out of an academic hole and changing a lot of the culture at UT.

I think the next question, like you ask, is if he can be a championship-caliber coach at this level. Dave Hart seems to think he can be, based on his new contract. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to have the Vols very competitive in the SEC East race over the next two years, but it still feels like quite a climb to get Tennessee in the same conversation as Alabama right now. It’ll be interesting to see if Jones does get UT to a place where the Vols are winning an average of eight or nine wins again, how long will fans be okay with that? Will they demand championships or be fine with just being relevant again, especially considering what UT has been through the past few years? We’ll see how that plays out over what appears to be a long time with Jones’ new contract situation.

“Are expectations for 2015 season becoming too big? I’m seeing 7-9 wins.” – @cmccain1

Daniel: I don’t think so. I’ve said, right off the bat, that I think the over/under should be somewhere in the 7.5 to 8 wins mark. There are several variables that still need to work themselves out in terms of recruiting, who will be back, and things like that, but, especially with Jones’ new contract, what I think is a more reasonable schedule and the fact that it’s Year 3 of the Jones era, it’s very fair for expectations to take a step up.

Houston: Nope. This team looks set to improve at nearly every position and all of these freshmen will have another year in the film room and weight room under their belt. The schedule is difficult, but actually sets up quite favorably with home games against Oklahoma, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina. I see five guaranteed wins on the schedule for the Vols next year barring any unforeseen meltdowns, so if they can win three of the remaining seven then that puts them at eight wins. Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina all look like they’ll be taking a step back next season as well, so the opportunity will be there for the Vols to surprise some folks.

Reed: Tennessee has another brutal schedule next season. Until I see better play from the offensive line, it’s hard for me to pick the Vols to win more than eight games at this point. Anywhere from seven to nine is where I’d put them as well. Eight wins would probably have the Vols at least in contention for the SEC East crown.

“On a scale from 1 to UT’s president, how happy are you that UT landed the gator bowl? Is that the best bowl we could get?” – @Luke_Stevenson8

Daniel: I truly think it was the best-case scenario for Tennessee. I projected some realistic bowls for UT before the season was over and I put this on it, but in the back of my mind I really didn’t see the Vols ending up there. For me personally, I didn’t have a huge preference – Nashville and Charlotte would’ve been great for me too – but I’m a fan of heading to Jacksonville over Memphis.

Reed: Tennessee, without a doubt, ended up in the best possible bowl. They get to play on January 2nd in Florida…after a 6-6 year. Dave Hart deserves a raise for pulling that one off. To top it off, they’ll face a team I think they can beat.

But can we talk about the “Happy” video? It’s simply painful to watch. Excruciating, even.

“Hey guys shouldn’t we keep recruiting receivers pretty heavily? Now that I think about it after next year Pig, Von, and North could all be gone possibly. That’s a bunch of production in this offense. What do you all think?” – Tanner Owens

Houston: Absolutely. They will have to add another receiver or two to this class and then get another one or two that have the potential to enroll early next year to get a head start on the 2016 season – especially if Josh Smith doesn’t come back as good as he was, struggles to stay healthy or if they can’t figure out a way to motivate Josh Malone.

It may be a little too early to push the “panic” button, but there are certainly some concerns at the position if things don’t go as planned in the 2015 recruiting class at receiver.

“With his raise, if Butch Jones was an adult beverage, what would he be?” – @thompsonVFL

Reed: He’d definitely be an expensive, yet classy adult beverage. If we’re talking cocktails, he’s an old fashioned. If you’ve never had one, stop what you’re doing and fix that. Jones has a little bite and fire, like bourbon. He’s also enjoyable, especially away from a traditional football environment. So old fashioned it is.

Jones has said before that he may be from Michigan, but he’s a Tennessean at heart. So if we’re talking straight liquor, he’s got to be moonshine. I picked up some Sugarlands Silver Cloud last week and it is fantastic. Like Jones, it flat gets the job done.

Worst gift received growing up for Christmas? What uniform/helmet combo would you like to see Nike unveil besides standard? –@VolStang11

Houston: The worst gift I ever got for Christmas…Wow. That’s a tough one. My grandmother gave me a bunch of frogs once. It was an order receipt that I had to redeem and some company in Texas would send me 10-20 tadpoles that would eventually turn into some specific type of frog. Needless to say, my mother stole the receipt and then “lost” it…So I never got my frogs. I suddenly feel sad.

As for uniform combos, I want this one…


This uniform is about as traditional as they come…worn first by the 1914 University of Tennessee football team. For a look at some other really cool uniform concepts, check out our Alternate Uniforms post from earlier in the year.

“WHEN we beat Iowa followed by ANOTHER top 5 recruiting class will Vols be ranked in top 25 to start 2015 season?” – @thompsonVFL

Daniel: I think they should be and I’m seeing the Vols pop up in the top 25 in some early projections. Hard to say if they actually will be, because voters often over-emphasize the past instead of studying what’s to come.

Houston: They’ll be on the borderline of a top-25 ranking, but I don’t think they’ll start out there. They will be if they can get to 2-0, however.

“Do you have advice for first time bowling fans?” – @_BaldChicken

Daniel: Jason Belmonte is leading the PBA Tour right now, so keep an eye on him to see if he can hold on. Anybody can get a strike on the tour, but what separates the elite players from the wannabes is those who can go get those tough pins when they’re split. You’re going to have to give up watching the NFL a lot because that’s when some of the biggest televised matches are, but it’s worth it.

I kid….just enjoy the fact that we’re still talking football in Knoxville right now and be happy for the seniors especially on this roster that have been through so much that get to go out on a high note. And, honestly, UT will do everything in its power to win the game, but don’t freak out too much about the result this year. This is part of the process and I don’t think it’ll have a huge bearing on the trajectory of the program. Try to make it to Jacksonville as well if at all possible. It’s been years since the Vols have been in a warm-climate bowl and you never know what the future holds.

Reed: One of my favorite things about covering the team is the ability to see different parts of the country. Make sure to hit up some local Jacksonville spots, not chains, and really take in the unique things about the city. If you’re a beach person, make the short trip to the beach. Get to know some Iowa fans as well. There shouldn’t be much hatred there since the pitted teams don’t play every year.

Enjoy the game regardless of the outcome. This is the first bowl trip since 2010 and first to a warm weather climate since 2008 (Outback Bowl after the 2007 season). It’s undoubtably a step in the right direction for the team, win or lose.

“How does UTs offensive line match up with Iowa Def line? Sure would like to get plays goin downfield.” – @rockytoppride

Reed: I don’t think UT’s offensive line is going to play great against anyone – they gave up five sacks to FCS foe Chattanooga, if you recall. That said, Iowa doesn’t have an imposing defensive front. The Hawkeye defense ranks 80th in tackles for loss (the Vols are 19th) and 63rd in sacks (UT is 19th). They shouldn’t* own the line of scrimmage like Missouri, Florida and Ole Miss did against Tennessee. They do play disciplined, gap assignment football and the Vol offensive front will have to play like it did against Kentucky and South Carolina to have a shot at the victory.

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