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Insider Mailing: Special Post-Christmas Edition

Jalen Hurd-1-27

“Do early enrollees get to travel (not play or dress) to bowl games? Can we host recruits?” – Ben Bowers (@bfbowers)

Houston: As far as I know, early enrollees are not permitted to travel to the bowl game as a member of the team. Obviously, they can pay their own way to Jacksonville and attend the game, but they are not permitted to participate in any bowl activities in Jacksonville.

And as for recruits, that would also be a negative. Coaches aren’t allowed to host or initiate any contact with recruits until the dead period ends on January 15th. Starting at 12:01 on January 15th, recruiting for all schools will pick back up until the week of national signing day. The dead period is to allow high school recruits the opportunity to spend time with their families over the holidays without being harassed by coaches the entire time. Recruits are allowed to call the coaches, but not the other way around. And, much like the early enrollees, recruits can buy tickets to the bowl game and attend, but are not allowed to receive any assistance or meet with any staff member from the University of Tennessee.

“So what’s the scoop on LB Austin Smith – how good is he? Looks like he’s Kirkland Jr. (Lil taller) size wise? What about his game?” – Daniel Church (@utvols1dc)

Daniel: Good question, he’s been one of the quieter commitments and I’m interested to see what he can do. I really like his junior film, but haven’t seen any updated senior film come out. As a junior Buford used him primarily as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. You can see him rushing off the edge and dropping into coverage – he’s very versatile. He didn’t seem to have a monster senior season, but I think he has the size/speed you’re looking for in an SEC linebacker and could outplay his three-star ranking.

Houston: I’m with DL. I need to see some senior film before I can really tell where Smith is at, but he looked extremely polished as a junior. He’s extremely versatile and could play inside or outside once he gets to Tennessee – with an outside shot at growing into a defensive end.

I will say that his Buford defensive squad was a nightmare all season for opposing offenses and were an extremely well-coached group. So the Vols should be getting a player that comes in with a tremendous understanding of the game and of his role at the linebacker position – whichever one he ends up playing.

Here’s a look at his film from last season where you see him rush the passer, cover tight ends, stuff the run, play special teams and even split out to cover wide receivers in the slot. A very impressive set of tools for the coaching staff to work with.

“Even after everyone told me I would shoot my eye out, do you think I could win a lawsuit for injuries sustained?” – Travis Cabage (@Travis_Cabage)

Reed: As long as you get one of Jameis Winston’s lawyers? Yes.

Houston: Hmmm, I’d say probably not on a ricochet shot. Now, if something were to have gone wrong with the gun that caused you serious harm – maybe a malfunction of some sort – then yes. Maybe it could even be proven that said malfunction did, in fact, cause the ricochet in the first place?

You could possibly sue your parents for purchasing the gun and allowing you to use it without making sure you were properly trained to handle a firearm.

“I’ve seen a lot of media people project Tennessee to finish 1st in the East next year. Is that too far of a stretch for year 3?” – Jake Woods (@jakeVFL)

Daniel: I’m not ready to go there, but I don’t think that’s completely unreasonable. Georgia has a chance to be pretty good next year if some thing come together and it’s hard to pick UT over Florida or Missouri until the Vols can get a win over those teams. Pretty easy to see UT in front of Vandy, UK and South Carolina at least on paper, but you never know. I think the Vols are closer and probably will receive first-place votes, but it’s still a slight stretch in my eyes.

Reed: I don’t think it’s crazy by any stretch, but I do think that’s jumping the gun a bit. There are still a ton of real questions about this team moving forward. They won’t win the East without better offensive line play. They won’t win it until they stop giving up huge plays on defense. And they won’t win it without more big plays of their own. Combine that with Butch Jones’ 1-3 record as a home favorite against SEC foes, and the Vols don’t yet look like a real contender.

Now, that could all change between now and August depending and how healthy the team is, how much the offensive line improves and how many of the talented members of the 2015 class will be able to contribute early in the season. Get back to me during fall camp and I may change my tune. Until then, Missouri has won back-to-back SEC East crowns and returns enough to compete for another. A top-3 finish in the East is where I’d put the Vols at this point.

Houston: It’s a stretch, but probably not as crazy as you think. They lost by one point to Florida, three points to Georgia and eight points to Missouri. Florida will be playing under a new coach, Georgia will be breaking in a new quarterback and Missouri loses a lot of proven playmakers on both sides of the ball. Tennessee beat South Carolina, who will likely be much worse next year as well, and will pick up a winnable game against Arkansas at home in 2015 in place of a tough road game against Ole Miss this season.

I’m not ready to predict them to Atlanta just yet, but they should be in the hunt next season, for sure.

“What’s the protocol for handling a bad Christmas gift from your significant other? Asking for a friend, maybe.” – Anonymous

Anonymous: Time is your friend. You LOVE it for the first few days. But after a little bit of time, start shifting the conversation. Never call it a bad gift, but begin talking about how you might want to browse around to see if there’s anything else you might want. If it’s an item of clothing, you can always say it doesn’t fit how you like. If it’s something like a TV, you can say you might want to check out Smart TVs, or something along those lines. There are some things that are just unavoidable, but weather the storm for a few days if possible and then jump into action.

“What are your top 3 Vol Christmas gift needs? What are your top 3 wishes for 2015 for the Vol football program?” – Todd Mawyer (@ToddMawyer)


2015 Vol Needs:

1. An offensive line that is an asset not a massive liability. Tennessee won’t win a division crown until the offensive line improves significantly. Next year is a big one for Butch Jones and the Vols. A 7-5 season is probably the ceiling without better play up front – and that probably won’t be enough for a large portion of the fan base in year three.

2. Improved play from corners not named Cam Sutton. Teams finally figured out late in the season how to attack UT’s secondary – target anyone other than Sutton. Coleman, Williams and Moseley all got exposed for big gains in key moments. Alabama did it. South Carolina did it. Missouri did it. Heck, even Vandy did it. Tennessee doesn’t need three players of Sutton’s caliber, but they do need more consistency from their other corners in 2015 to limit big plays.

3. Big plays. Outside of some electric plays from Joshua Dobbs, big plays were hard to come by this season. The receiving corps has to stay healthy and increase production next season. Malone, North, Smith, Howard, Croom, Pearson and Co. have loads of ability. Without a rash of injuries, they should produce and open up things for Hurd and Kamara in the backfield.

Christmas gift needs:
1: Apparel – It’s good year-round and is necessary for any and all Vol fans. Make sure your loved ones are decked out in Vol gear from head-to-toe.
2: Wall Swag – I don’t care if it’s posters, flags, paintings, FatHeads, blown up pictures…etc. Every Vol fan needs stuff to hang on the wall.
3: Tickets – Football or basketball tickets are never a bad gift…ever.

2015 Vol needs:
1: The offensive line needs to take a huge step forward…HUGE.
2: Someone has to step up at middle linebacker to replace the void left by A.J. Johnson’s departure.
3: Health. Health. Health. If the 2015 Vols can have a relatively healthy season, then they should be in for a much-improved record with a couple of eye-opening wins.

“Does the BGSU player’s targeting ejection last night carry over to the first half of the UT game (next year)?” – Doug Brooks (@DesertVol)

Reed: If you missed this hit, you can view it below. Bowling Green’s Ronnie Moore was ejected in the 3rd quarter of the Camelia Bowl for this hit on South Alabama’s punt returner. He WILL be suspended for the first half of BGSU’s game with Tennessee to open the 2015 season. Moore had 56 receptions for 690 yards and five touchdowns this season and will be a junior next year.

“I’m looking for some experts to weigh in on the best “kids” cereals. My list is 1. Cinnamon Toast Crunch 2. Fruit Loops 3. Sugar Smacks. I’m also wondering if there’s any shame in purchasing these cereals as an adult?” – Carter Lawrence

Daniel: It’s absolutely acceptable to buy those cereals as an adult. I regularly toss similar cereals into my cart. Sadly, I think some of the best kids cereals are either out of commission or hard to find. I had an obsession with one called Peanut Butter Toast Crunch, the PB variety of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I also liked the Rice Krispies Treat cereal. I can’t find either anymore in the store and I may or may not have searched for them on Amazon and I may or may not have them pop up on my Google Ads. So, those make my list, so does Reese’s Puffs cereal and some classics like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cap’n Crunch and Lucky Charms.

Houston: First off…Sugar Smacks? Really? Now, onto more pressing matters. NEVER be ashamed of your cereal choices. It’s YOUR life and what you eat for ten minutes in the morning is your business. Here is a random blog of some thoughts I’m having right now:

Cinnamon Toast Crunch is fantastic.
I am with Daniel in saying that some of the greatest cereals of all time are, sadly, lost forever.
Fruit Loops are great.
I did find Rice Krispies Treats cereal in Nashville last year, but haven’t been able to find it since.
I actually like the “oaty” cereals…Honey Bunches of Oats, Cracklin Oat Bran, Oatmeal Squares…etc.
Chocolate Lucky Charms will change your life.
Reese’s Puffs are delectable.

“To what degree should UT fans be concerned about the attrition of this year’s freshman class. Is it standard roster evolution, or a negative trend?” – Wes Boling (@TVsWesBoling)

Daniel: I’ve called it about a 3 out of 10 in terms of concern. I don’t want to say it’s nothing. At least five talented freshmen have exited the program (Paulk, Helm, Henderson, Henderson and Scott) for various reasons, so that’s kind of a big deal. But in a class of 32, that’s still just over 15% of the class, which is still in the “standard” range for me. But the season isn’t even officially over, so we’ll have to see if that’s all. If they lose a few more and get up to 20-25% of the class in one year, that’s a little bit of a red flag to me.

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