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Insider Mailing: Hell Week Edition

Neyland Stadium

Do you think it is possible we exceed next year’s expectations and make a run at the college football playoffs? -@peyton_land13 

Daniel: I don’t, though I guess it kind of depends on what you mean by making a run. Could they get to 9 or 10 wins and maybe be in the conversation at some point only to fall short if all goes well? Maybe. I just think the schedule is too tough and the talent isn’t quite there on the offensive line to be an elite team in 2015. All the data and metrics show that the Vols’ talent level is rising closer to championship levels, but it probably won’t be until 2016 until it’s truly there. Just my opinion, though. I sold them a game short in the 2014 regular season, so maybe I’m doing it again. We’ll see – a lot can transpire over an offseason, and this coaching shakeup could affect it as well.

Houston: A lot of things would have to happen, but I can’t completely rule it out. I think that this team falls somewhere between 7-10 wins when all is said and done, but, with some luck, could possibly find themselves in a position to make a run. With so many question marks in the SEC East, there is a very real chance that the Vols could win the division, but I don’t know that they could do it with a perfect record. A road trip to Alabama looms large and isn’t likely one that Tennessee will win, but that may be their most likely loss in 2015. Can they avenge the 2014 loss the the Sooners? Can they finally snap the streak against the Gators? Can they get over the hump against Georgia? Can they get by Arkansas at home? Can they get their first win over Missouri? This team will be much better next season, but they still have a lot of monkeys on their back that they’d have to get rid of to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Reed: Possible? Yes. Likely? No. Teams don’t typically make a jump of more than 2 wins from the previous season. The Vols won seven games in 2014 – so around nine wins, if history is any indication, is probably their ceiling.

Would you rather be on a deserted island with either no fire, no internet (tablet, no phones), or no drinking water? GO! – @richmond_325

Houston: Well, if I had internet and water I could get a message to someone to come rescue me and survive long enough for help to arrive. I’d be cold and couldn’t cook anything, but at least I’d be able to play spider solitaire while sipping water from a hollowed out coconut.

Reed: Uh – I’m going no fire 100% of the time in that situation. Hopefully I could use my phone to call for help and I’d have enough water to survive til it got there. You can go much longer without food than without water – plus I can always eat some sushi. Plus, aren’t deserted islands supposed to be warm?

From multiple people: Who will the new offensive coordinator be?

Daniel: That’s obviously above my pay grade, but I do think, if they go with an outside candidate, it’ll be somebody that Butch has a pretty direct tie with in a coaching tree, or at the very least has a very similar philosophy as Butch. This offense won’t, and really doesn’t need, to make drastic changes in my opinion. Maybe a tweak here and there, but it’s still going to be a spread that tries to mix tempos, utilize some zone-read and gap-scheme runs and plays to its personnel strengths. We threw out an early hot board yesterday with some guys who make sense and we’ll continue to update that.

 If K. McKenzie were traveling at 45 miles per hour on a track and a train was coming the other way at the same speed what happens? – @ronwrightwanabe

Daniel: He’d probably stop it cold in its tracks and convince it to commit to UT.

Houston: The train would be in a lot of trouble, IMO.

Reed: This:


Should Vol fans be worried about all of the transfers/rumored transfers, or not concern themselves with how the bologna is made – Carl from Newport.

Daniel: Yeah, I think it’s at a point where if some of these rumored ones go through especially, that it’s passed what is a normal, healthy range of attrition. That being said, I’m reserving judgement until we get some more official word on who will and won’t be back. Truthfully, attrition of veterans who are buried on the depth chart isn’t a concern of mine at all. In fact, it’s fairly helpful in some situations. But the concerning part to me is the guys like Dewayne Hendrix and Vic Wharton (if he goes), who might not be starters in 2015, but would provide quality depth in the near future. Lack of depth has hurt this program in recent years, so while it’s obviously better than losing big-time playmakers, at some point the staff will need to be able to retain a higher percentage of players to keep that depth stocked at championship level.

Houston: It’s definitely something to take note of…you never want to see players leaving the program at this rate, period. However, I also don’t worry too much about players leaving unless they are a bunch of projected starters or guys in the 2-deep. So far, most of the players who have left or are considering leaving are either buried on the depth chart or have a true freshman ahead of them at their position. Obviously, you want to have quality depth – it’s the key to winning consistently at a high level – but when players come in expecting to start right away and have a huge impact, sometimes they get a little bummed out when their role isn’t what they thought it would be.

I’m not saying that the coaching staff is perfect, I’m just saying that it’s hard to keep a lot of highly regarded players happy when there are only so many snaps to go around.

Would a bidding war between San Fran and the Vols for Kiffin be enough to kill Reed? – @Tom_Howie_Jarv

Daniel: I don’t feel the least bit sorry for Reed. In his lifetime, he’s seen ELEVEN world championships from his professional teams, and he’s been old enough to remember and appreciate most of them. I’ve seen one from mine and was barely old enough to appreciate it. He could have Kiffin simultaneously coach every team he likes for decades and still wouldn’t understand the pains of cheering for semi-incompetent local small market franchises.

Houston: Yes, he’s already struggling enough as it is. Kiffin to San Fran would likely be the final nail in the coffin. RIP, Reed.

Reed: That would kill me instantaneously. I actually like Kiffin as a coach more than most people think. He’s a very bright mind but he consistently lets his ego get in the way of his coaching acumen. Everywhere he’s been has ended in a train wreck. The Vols are STILL on NCAA probation for violations committed during his lone year on Rocky Top.

Is Josh Richardson a legitimate NBA prospect? Also, what are your thoughts about the late-game comebacks by Kansas St, South Carolina and Arkansas?  Are those trends or anomalies?  Are the close finishes after being up by double-digits a function of something that we’re doing differently, the other team finally coming alive and hitting shots, a combination of both, or something different? – Ray

Houston: I said it after the first few games and still believe it…Josh Richardson could play for a long time in the NBA. I don’t know where he projects, but I could see him having a career at point guard if he keeps improving the way he has this season. He knows how to attack the basket, he has a nice mid-range game and is developing a pretty strong three-point stroke. He defends at an extremely high level and already has the leadership capability and mentality to run point, so I think he’ll get a look there.

To answer your second question, I think teams have hit some really fortunate threes down the stretch to pull back in games against the Vols. Arkansas was pulling from half court it seemed, and South Carolina hit some well-contested shots. Tennessee needs to do a better job at the free throw line in the final minutes to make sure they put the game away, but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.

Reed: To your first question, I believe Josh Richardson absolutely has a shot at making an NBA roster. He’s extremely athletic, a decent ball handler for his size and can beat you off the bounce and from behind the line. I don’t know that he’s a prospect that will be drafted, but he’d tear through the NBDL ranks. He can also guard his position extremely well. Richardson would be a great fit on the Spurs, the Grizzlies or the Bulls. Remember: C.J. Watson wasn’t drafted but kept working on his game and has carved out a nice niche as a backup point guard in the league.

As far as the late game comebacks, it’s definitely a trend at this point but not one that I think you should be particularly concerned about. Young teams typically struggle to close out games and, with the exception of Josh Richardson and Armani Moore, no Vol played such a significant role at this level before the season. I’d chalk it up to youth, not coaching or a lack of effort. Tennessee, notably, didn’t lose any of the games you mentioned and has been a very good second half team for the most part.

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