“Playing Devil’s Advocate but with the push for a O&W sellout, do 75,000 fans show up?” – Blake Richmond
“How many do you expect to have at the O&W game and who will have a breakout performance on either side?” – Todd Dillon
Daniel: The UT record is 73,801 and the SEC record, I believe, is 92,310 (Alabama). So 100,000, though not impossible, just seems like a long shot. I think 70,000-75,000 is a good estimate, though it could be more if the weather is good and UT does a good job marketing, promoting and surrounding the game with events. In terms of breakout performances, if Dillon Bates is healthy enough to participate, I think he could really be on display, possibly getting looks at both inside and outside linebacker. Offensively, they may use this is as an opportunity to get Josh Malone going again. He had a huge first O&W Game as a true freshman, and it didn’t carry over a ton into the season, but maybe getting him some catches would help help send off into a good summer of work.
Houston: I don’t know that they can hit 100,000 but this may be the perfect storm for it to happen if it ever could. The fan base is rabid after a strong finish to the season and another top-5 recruiting class, folks are going to want to see the ten early enrollees in action for the first time, there are a lot of second and third-year players that are due for a breakout and the marketing and promotions staff at UT is already making the push for 100,000.
The excitement surrounding Tennessee football is as high as it has been in nearly a decade, and if spring practice goes as planned and they can figure out a way to put an exciting and entertaining product on the field for the Orange and White Game, I’d say there is an outside shot at triple digits. I think 80,000 is a more realistic goal, and one they should reach with ease if the weather is good and they can maybe put on a concert after the game…or something else along those lines.
As far as breakout players…I think Alvin Kamara will really impress people and could have a big spring. I also think the staff will try to get Josh Malone involved in front of the crowd, if they can, in an attempt to help his confidence. Defensively, keep an eye out for guys like Cortez McDowell and Gavin Bryant at linebacker and Shy Tuttle at defensive tackle. I don’t think Tuttle is as physically ready to play as maybe Kahlil McKenzie will be when he gets here in the summer, but he is still more gifted than any other defensive tackle Tennessee has on campus. I’ll be watching the interior of the defensive line closely all spring.
Reed: I don’t see any way that Tennessee gets 100,000 at the Orange and White Game. That’s a really high number, especially since they haven’t truly scrimmaged in years. That said, if they change the format to a true scrimmage/mock game, I think they can get close to 80,000. And that should be considered a success.
As far as breakout players, Alvin Kamara should have a big day on the ground. Don’t sleep on some established players at receiver, like Josh Smith, Josh Malone and Marquez North, having big days. Jennings and Dormady will probably turn some heads at quarterback as well. On defense, Cortez McDowell, Owen Williams and Gavin Bryant would be my picks to perhaps make a few big plays.
John: I could see the attendance flirting with 70,000, but I just don’t see 100,000. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but it seems far-fetched. Speaking of far-fetched, the handful of folks out there who seem to be pushing for a checker-Neyland environment at the Orange and White Game? They do know people can sit wherever they want, right?
“Hindsight being 20/20, was last year’s play calling by Coach Jake bad, or was it mostly due to a underperforming O-line?” – @SolidVolFan
Daniel: I never thought play calling was just consistently bad, truth be told. There were some questionable ones for sure (they’re all questionable when they don’t work), but I thought poor offensive line play was the biggest factor, in addition to starting the season with a quarterback who couldn’t avoid the rush. I understood the decision at the time to start Worley, and it worked against defenses that the Vols could at least somewhat block, but they never had a chance to have a lot of success on offense against the likes of Florida, Oklahoma and Ole Miss with that setup.
Houston: I’ve said it before, but I think Bajakian was really handcuffed by sub-par offensive line and quarterback play over the first half of the season. When Joshua Dobbs was inserted into the lineup and the offensive line started to show some progress, I think you saw how dynamic this offense could be. Play calling is a lot easier when your players win their one-on-one matchups and quarterbacks can find open receivers – or take off running if everyone is covered.
Was Bajakian a perfect play-caller? No, but I do think he was much better than most people gave him credit for. The bottom line is that players make plays, not the other way around. Great players can turn a bad play call into a great play, while the perfect play call can be ruined by one player missing his assignment.
“What is y’alls favorite dinosaur?” – @gmannVols
Daniel: Not very creative, but have to go with the T-Rex. Its name literally means Tyrant Lizard King. How do you beat that?
Houston: I don’t know much about it (Mosasaurus)…but this one is pretty cool.
John: I’ve always been partial to the DT-Rex.
Reed: Which one killed Newman?
“Who is the must get Kahlil Mckenzie or Jalen Hurd for the class of ’16 that will help generate another top 5 ranking?” – @HinsonLain
Houston: What made Kahlil and Jalen great was the fact that they were highly rated prospects who recruited others to join them. Peer recruiting is a huge point of emphasis for Butch Jones and this staff, so those are the type of guys I’m looking at. Emmitt Gooden (4-star DE from Brownsville, TN) is probably the guy in this class with the type of personality to recruit other great players to join him at Tennessee. He is an outgoing person who is extremely talented and if (when) he commits to Tennessee, I think he will be the guy to really get the ball rolling. The most recent 2016 commit, 4-star TE Devante Brooks, has already taken the responsibility of being the “recruiting coordinator” for his class, so he is another guy who should help this class moving forward.
Daniel: Not sure if a top-5 class is realistic, honestly. I’m pretty sure they won’t take as many this year, so I’ve kind of set my sights on a top 10-15 class as a goal for UT in this cycle. We’ll be doing a lot more with 2016 recruiting in the next few weeks, but I think you start with in-state, top-10oish type guys like DE Emmit Gooden, DB JoeJuan Williams and LB Daniel Bituli. DBs Mecole Hardman and Nigel Warrior are some other guys they’re high on. I don’t see that consensus top-20ish player that UT is in great shape with this class, but I’ve seen enough from Butch Jones on the recruiting trail to not count him out of anything.
“How about some hoops recruiting? How many guys are we bringing in for spring signing period? Top targets and likely pickups?” – Andrew Reinart
Reed: They recently offered Khalil Iverson, a 6-6, 205 pound, small forward from Delaware, OH. Donnie Tyndall visited Iverson on Sunday and his recruitment is believed to be down West Virginia, Tennessee and Wisconsin. He could be a Josh Richardson type player, eventually, for the Vols if he ends up here. The Vols have two signees in this class and two additional open scholarships. Tennessee will be in the running for Florida commit KeVaughn Allen until he signs his papers. They’ll probably bring a couple JUCO guys in as well depending on how things go down the stretch. Keep an eye on Kimani Jackson, a 4-star, 6-8, 230 pound JUCO power forward prospect moving forward.
“Will you ever be able to listen to ‘Turn Down For What’ the same again?” – Samuel Chaffin
John: Confession time: I’m a contrarian, so when things get way to mainstream, I tend to think they suck. And in my humble opinion, Turn Down for What has jumped the shark. I’ll never, ever, ever be able to listen to it the same way again. A lot of fun for the 2014 season — hell of a run — but I hope UT moves on from it.
Houston: Never. I just wonder if they plan on bringing it back for 2015.
“Any chance the DeBord hire is a short term fix with long term vision is he’s here a couple years then Coach Z takes over?” – Jeremy McCann
Daniel: That might be part of the vision, but I also think it’s unrealistic to expect an assistant in this day and age to stick around and wait for something like that. I think Jones saw DeBord as the best fit for what he wanted, made the hire and then promoted Azzanni in part because he’d earned it, and in part to help keep him from going somewhere else. I’m sure there will be some mentoring going on in that relationship, but I don’t think that’s of much concern at this point. Winning games in 2015 and 2016 is the main concern for Jones right now, he knows those will be the years that he’s judged the most on and he thinks the current setup gives him the best chance to do that. Setting up his offensive coordinator for 2017 means nothing if he tanks the next two years.
Another thing is that if he’s good, DeBord could easily coach for another decade or more. Age is overrated in coaching – Steve Stripling (61) might be UT’s best assistant, Bill Snyder (75) is doing fine at Kansas State and the Titans, for what it’s worth, just hired Dick LeBeau (77) to run their defense.
John: I’ve actually heard that he’s more or less just keeping Gruden’s seat warm.
“Traditionally, the Gators are my favorite (i.e. most hated) rival. With Muschamp gone I’m considering a new target – ideas?” – Carter Lawrence
John: I think you’re all set, man. I mean, if I were you, I’d take aim yet again at the team that has beaten the Volunteers (usually quite handily) every single year since the days of Ainge and Swain. Last time Tennessee beat Florida, I wasn’t even dating my wife.
I HAVE FIVE KIDS NOW.
The teams I’d most like Tennessee to beat next year are Florida and Bama. That probably isn’t going to change any time soon…
Houston: No…You should still hate the Gators until Tennessee beats them. Ten years of losing is too long to just throw away your hatred. Bama should be right there with them, however.
Reed: Missouri. Hands down. Tennessee can’t beat them despite having superior talent across the board. Until the Vols do, you should absolutely hate the Tigers.
Daniel: Abstaining publicly, but I’ll be in touch with an idea
or two – no, just one.