Insider Mailing: Halfway Point of Spring Practice Edition

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    Alvin Kamara-1-5

    Do you all think “Down The Field” is an underrated fight song? I like hearing it after we score. – Tanner

    Houston: I certainly do. It’s a true, official “fight song” written for the university, whereas Rocky Top was just, sort of, adopted by fans as an unofficial fight song that gets way more play than the original. I wish more fans knew all of the words to Down the Field and would sing it before jumping into Rocky Top after the extra point clears the goalpost, but I’ll live.

    Reed: Fans love Rocky Top and I get that, but Down The Field has always been my favorite. I specifically remember the Pride of the Southland playing it with fervor on several occasions during the 1998 championship season – when things weren’t looking hot for the Vols (Syracuse, Arkansas, etc.). I’ve had nothing but fond memories ever since.

    Who are some current prospects Barnes is eyeing and can we expect any more defections? If so how many scholly’s will be available? – Drew Lee

    Reed: Typically, defections are decided within the first week or so of a new hire. Barnes appears to be past that point – but nothing is a given. It wouldn’t surprise me to see one more at this point but that’s still up in the air. Remember, several players looked at leaving last year after Cuonzo left but decided that, despite the transition, Tennessee was the place for them. That could be one reason why you haven’t seen a mass exodus from the program at this point. Assuming no one else leaves and Tennessee’s two signees stick with the Vols, Barnes has three scholarships to work with this spring.

    Daniel: I’m still tracking down some names and some connections, but I dropped this in our forum yesterday with an update on a trio of players the Vols have an in with.

    Who is ahead on the depth chart come football season, Tuttle or McKenzie? – @SmokeyGreyVol

    Daniel: My, how the times have changed. We’re a couple years removed from talking about walk-ons playing defensive tackle in huge situations and now the Vols are trying to sort out which stud recruit or returning veteran will get playing time. I think, truthfully, they’ll be about even, and it wouldn’t stun me to see them play some together in the rotation. I guess, since you said come football season, I assume that means the season opener, and I think Tuttle might be a touch ahead overall due to spring practice and the fact that McKenzie missed all of last year. I like McKenzie’s upside better overall, and I think both have a very nice future.

    Houston: I’m with Kevin in saying that I don’t think that either of them will start, but I wouldn’t even wager a dollar on that prediction. It’s hard to see McKenzie ahead of Tuttle based on an understanding of the system and quality reps in practice, but I also have little doubt that McKenzie will come in ready to go. Both will play…a lot…and both will have some big plays this season, but don’t forget about the guys that are already here. Danny O’Brien played well last year, as did Owen Williams. Another year in the system and now a guy like Kendal Vickers stepping up means very good things for Tennessee’s defensive line in 2015.

    Kevin: Tuttle has played a lot more football of late than McKenzie, most importantly he’s played football against other SEC caliber players. I think they both will play, and both will be relied upon this season but this staff has done a good job of developing its players. Owen Williams and Danny O’Brien are better than they’re often given credit for, i’ll be surprised if those two don’t take the first snaps at tackle come fall.

    Reed: What a great problem to have! I wouldn’t rule out seeing both of them on the field at the same time in certain situations, but right now I’d have to go with Tuttle. He has really surprised me thus far.

    What players are facing make-or-break years? Two that come to mind for me is Blair and North. If North doesn’t translate potential into stats this year, then I will begin to doubt what he can really do. I know there has been shaky QB and O-line play but this year there should be no excuses. – Adam Parsons

    Daniel: Would agree with you on North. He’s been long on potential and injuries and short on consistent results so far. There’s no doubt that the talent is there though. Blair’s an interesting case because he’s the backup LT and the starting LT (Kerbyson) is leaving after 2015, so, in theory, he could still have a productive senior season there, though I know the arrival of Drew Richmond and others might affect that.

    A few other returning guys that need to step up this year in my opinion: Josh Malone, Brett Kendrick, LaTroy Lewis, Rashaan Gaulden, Emmanuel Moseley, Malik Foreman, Corey Vereen, Dillon Bates, Kenny Bynum, Gavin Bryant and Jason Croom

    Kevin: You’re dead on about North, he absolutely needs to hit the next gear this year, he’ll finally be in a system that suits him with a competent quarterback. Marquez was most effective on fade routes against weaker competition last year, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t dominate his side of the field, I’m really excited to watch him play. Blair looks like he’s likely a bust, so i’ll go with Chris Weatherd. Weatherd has received praise from the coaching staff and I think he could end up being a NFL prospect if he continues to develop. If he does, UT has the best pass rush in the SEC by a significant margin.

    Who rushes for more yards this season: Hurd or Kamara? – @HinsonLain

    Daniel: Hurd: More carries, more yards, more touchdowns. Kamara: Better average. I could see it splitting like 1,100 for Hurd and 800 for Kamara.

    Houston: I think this one’s too close to call right now and might not be decided until the final game of the season. If they both stay healthy and the offensive line can take a step forward, then it wouldn’t surprise me to see a neck-and-neck battle all year long.

    Kevin: Hurd if he’s healthy. Kamara won’t be far behind him though, if that unit can stay healthy (HUGE if) its a formidable one-two punch.

    Reed: Kamara. He’s bound to break off more long runs with his speed. Though I doubt he gets the same number of carries as Hurd, yards should be easier to come by for him. Hurd leads the team in attempts and touchdowns, Kamara in yards and yards per carry.

    What is your favorite bourbon? – @chaz9908

    Houston: Maker’s Mark. I don’t stray too far away from what I know.

    Kevin: Buffalo Trace and Maker’s Mark are the only two I have much experience with, but bourbon is damn good and I should drink more of it. I’m making a promise to @chazz9908 right now to drink more this year.

    Reed: Great question, my man. I’m a huge fan of Four Roses, 1792 and lately, Belle Meade has been my favorite.

    Does Jarrett Guarantano sign with Ohio State, Tennessee or Rutgers? Please give me some good news.  – Paul P.

    Houston: Wednesday. 3:00pm. Jarrett Gaurantano will (in my opinion) pick Tennessee. And, not to over-hype him, but he may be the best fit at quarterback for the system that Tennessee runs. He’s big, strong, insanely fast and has a rifle of an arm. He’s a prototype spread quarterback with just a ton of upside.

    Daniel: I wasn’t sold just a couple weeks ago, but seems like there’s a ton of momentum is in Tennessee’s favor right now. I’m projecting Vols unless I hear otherwise, but I’m not 100% positive. Recruiting against an in-state school and Ohio State is always tricky on both accounts.