If AJ Johnson isn’t part of the team, why was he in at least 3 different UT athlete graduation photos in his cap and gown. – @dlejefe
Houston: I see your point, and share your concern…so consider this just a plausible explanation. If A.J. were to be proven innocent and hadn’t been allowed in any of the graduation pictures, then he would have essentially been robbed of one of the most memorable and important days in his life – graduation day. So while there is still a lot to come in this case, the fact remains that he did earn his degree from the University of Tennessee. And, in this country, you are innocent until proven guilty.
I’m not saying it was a smart move – that will be determined later – I just understand why they handled it the way they did.
What pre-bowl activities are open to the public / you suggest attending as a fan in Jacksonville? – @aecrawford87
Daniel: There are three official free events that UT fans could be interested in. The bands from both schools will be marching/playing on Coastline Drive by the Jacksonville Landing at 2 p.m. on Jan. 1. There’s also a UT pep rally at Jacksonville Landing a 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 1, followed by a a 5:00 p.m. College Football Playoff watch party in the same location. There are some other events that do cost money and you can see the whole agenda here.
Reed: While not an official pre-bowl activity, if you’re traveling to Florida, make sure you visit Amelia Island and get to the beach. It’s absolutely beautiful and just a short drive from Jacksonville.
Who is the biggest loss of all the players that have decided to transfer thus far, and do you see any other players deciding to leave? – Franklin
Daniel: You just can’t have too many defensive linemen, so I’ll go with Dewayne Hendrix. I liked his size/speed combo and thought it could’ve been him, not Derek Barnett, that had the breakout season. In terms of other guys leaving, we still haven’t seen Michael Sawyers at bowl practice yet, but Butch Jones has said he’ll be back. It wouldn’t stun me if one or two more left, but I think the big wave is over.
Houston: I’ll echo Daniel in saying Dewayne Hendrix. He could have grown into a very good defensive tackle had he decided to stay at Tennessee and switch positions. Derrell Scott is a close second due to the depth concerns the Vols now have at running back for the bowl game, but Hendrix was a guy with a very bright future at a position where you can never have enough good players.
Reed: Dewayne Hendrix by a wide margin. He would have provided much needed depth next season and might have challenged for a starting job. I don’t expect the Vols to lose anyone else with the possible exception of Sawyers.
Why do so many get concerned over 2-4 players leaving a class? It happens most years and if a kid isn’t happy about being here they will not be as big of a help to the program or themselves. – Michael Edwards (@1inStripes)
Daniel: Agreed that it’s still in the ‘normal’ range of attrition, though a few more would push it past that. I think the concern is because these were guys that were highly-regarded coming in and they gave it up pretty quickly. It’s not a situation where the guys had been at UT for 2-3 years and clearly weren’t panning out. I’ve said that the level of concern for what’s unfolded should be able a 3 out of 10 at this point, so definitely no reason to be overly concerned yet.
Houston: There has been a little more talk than normal about coaches being “too hard” on the players, so I think people are nervous about that – simply because it could have an impact on the recruiting trail. That’s the kind of thing that the coaches will probably address internally over the offseason in regard to how they handle players. I think this coaching staff has goals of undefeated seasons…not 6-6 and barely making a bowl…so, even though the season is a “success” according to most, they aren’t going to let this team think they have arrived.
I do agree that they could/should probably do a better job with certain players, but I also think that the players have to understand what the expectation is at Tennessee with this staff calling the shots. Keep in mind that all of the players deciding to leave are freshmen and that a lot of the older players that were recruited by Dooley consistently talk about how much better things are under Jones and this staff. I think that is very important to note when trying to decide where the truth actually is.
So, what does our WR rotation look like for bowl game? Pig and all first year players other than Ryan Jenkins? – @RobM_
Daniel: There were seven guys in white jerseys (non-scout team) at practice on Tuesday: Pig Howard, Josh Malone, Von Pearson, Ryan Jenkins, Jacob Carter, Johnathon Johnson and Vic Wharton. I think Howard, Pearson, Malone, Wharton and Johnson probably get most of the reps with Carter and Jenkins maybe getting a little bit of run as well. It’s certainly not the rotation the Vols envisioned before the season, but I think with some help from the tight ends and backs, they’ll have enough guys step up to where this won’t be a big liability for them.
Also, where do you expect Tyndall’s first year to finish in comparison to year one of Cuonzo and year one of Bruce? – @fenner6_wfse889
Houston: I think it will fall well short of where Bruce had his team in year one (22-8 with a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament), and probably just behind where Cuonzo’s first team finished (19-15 with an NIT berth). I do think that this team will finish much higher than 13th in the SEC (where they were picked in the preseason), probably somewhere in that 4-6 range if I had to guess.
If they can sneak out a few road wins then they may have an outside shot at earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament this year, which would be an absolute miracle considering what this staff inherited when they arrived to Knoxville.
Reed: I expect this team to finish with somewhere around 17 wins. They should be 8-4 headed into SEC play and should be able to come close to 10 league wins. Jabari McGhee’s injury, which could sideline him for at least six weeks, would be as big blow even though he hasn’t been super productive. Tennessee just doesn’t have any front court depth. Like Cuonzo’s first team, they might put together a run late in the season and make a hard push into bubble talk. Pearl’s first team had drastically more talent – NBA point guard C.J. Watson, Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith – so this team’s ceiling just isn’t that high.
What’s your favorite holiday tradition? – Glenn from Kodak
Daniel: Nothing too fancy, but a nice Christmas Eve church service, a good dinner and presents on Christmas morning – giving and receiving – are the things I look forward to the most this time of year. I also love watching as much football as possible on New Year’s Day…it feels like my last full serving of college football of the year and because I miss so much around the nation during the year covering UT, it’s fun to see the big matchups.
Houston: I HAVE to watch four Christmas movies every year. There is no exception. It is something that has to be done every year.
1: How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (Not the new one…the classic.)
2: Home Alone. (No explanation needed.)
3: Christmas Vacation. (Most quotable movie in the history of movies, AND a movie that usually best describes the holidays for most people.)
4: A Christmas Story. (It’s on for 24 hours, and I usually watch it for 16 of them.)
So far, I’ve seen Home Alone and Christmas Vacation this holiday season – with Home Alone 2 thrown in for good measure – so all that remains is HTGSC and A Christmas Story. No problem.
Reed: I love going to Christmas Eve service at church with my family. Amidst the busyness of the Christmas season, that always provides a much needed time for reflection. Not near as reverent – watching Christmas Vacation no less than a dozen times is also a tradition in my family.