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Insider Mailing: Late Spring Practice Edition

Butch Jones-1Has the TaxSlayer Bowl win become the most beloved bowl win by a sub-10 win, non-champion UT team? – Doug Brooks

Reed: 1. Everyone on UT’s coaching staff will tell you team 118 was a “championship team” – TaxSlayer Bowl Champions. 2. As much as I make fun of that, that bowl win was simply massive for the program. So yes, Doug. You’re right. Now the Vols get to build off that win in 2015.

Houston: The 1985 “Sugar Vols” (9-1-2) might be the favorites, although they “technically” won the SEC Championship that year due to Florida being on probation, so, maybe they don’t qualify as a “non-championship” team.

But, yes, the bowl win was big. Was it a great win over a great team? No. It was a slaughtering of a bad Iowa team who was disappointed with their season and ran into a buzz saw. I don’t think fans were thrilled because of a win over Iowa, I think they were, and are still celebrating it as a validation of real progress for a football program that has been on life support for a few years. That bowl game just gave fans something that has been hard to manifest recently. Hope.

There hasn’t been a lot to celebrate recently, however, so I’m not sure I blame anyone for squeezing every last drop out of this one.

Kevin: Yes. This is one area in which other fan bases have every right to just destroy UT. Vol fans have been trolling South Carolina people for years about their rings for 11 win seasons, a history of losing etc… Now Butch Jones and co. have made at least five videos that prominently feature members of the team and staff raising that Taxslayer Bowl trophy like it’s made of crystal. It was a good win over a horrible team, time to move on.

Daniel: I can’t break down the significance of some of the bowls in the 70s and 80s, but it has to be in the more modern era (since the 90s).

It really was the perfect storm in many regards. Expectations were high for the team after it played better later in the season, but the loss to Missouri and the sloppy game at Vandy kept them low enough that it made the TaxSlayer explosion unexpected to an extent. The matchup was perfect, the slip up by the NCAA’s website of putting UT in the Liberty Bowl made fans even more thankful to not be in Memphis and it all just kind of came together.

Would Butch have stolen Tebow out of Florida & away from Urban Meyer? – Blake Tucker

Houston: Yes. Butch gets who Butch wants at this point and it’s going to be better for everyone if they can just go ahead and accept it. He will go down as one of the greatest recruiters in the history of Tennessee football if he stays on this pace. (Ok, maybe not Tebow, but Butch is already giving Urban a run for his money…What happens if Butch Jones can show off a National Championship trophy or two? Scary thought for non-Vol fans, in my opinion.)

Kevin: I really want to say no, but at this point I don’t know that I believe that Butch Jones can’t bring in someone that he really, really wants. Jones is clearly a top 5 recruiter, and I think Urban is in the same list behind only Nick Saban. It would have been an epic recruiting battle, for sure.

Daniel: No way. Tebow’s slight infatuation with Butch is but a small drop in the bucket compared to his love for Urban Meyer.

What’s the date that the enrolling freshmen arrive on campus? Is it when the first session of summer school starts? Date? – Steve Sukonick

Daniel: To the best of our knowledge, they are all scheduled to be on campus by June 1, which is the first day of the full summer session. They likely will start moving in the week before to get settled. Transcript/academic issues can push that back like they did with Chris Weatherd last year, but at this point there’s no indication of that being an issue with anybody that we know of.

Which Freshman on offense and defense contributes the most this year? – Wes Whitener

Houston: At this point, I have to go with Shy Tuttle on defense. He’s big, strong, explosive and he’s learning exactly what coach Stripling needs him to learn in order to see plenty of time in the fall. Kahlil McKenzie, Kyle Phillips and Darrin Kirkland Jr. are all safe bets as well, but I haven’t seen them in pads yet.

On offense…ummmm…well… I think if Preston Williams is healthy, then he’ll have a chance, but I’m going to take John Kelly as a sleeper. Running back depth is already woefully thin, so I think they’ll try to get Kelly up to speed as quickly as possible once he arrives in the summer. They’ll need to do all they can to preserve Kamara and Hurd, and I think that Kelly is the beneficiary of quite a few carries late in games that are already decided.

Daniel: Offense: I’ll go with Preston Williams if his knee is in decent shape by early in the season. I haven’t been blown away by the receivers this spring. Not sure if there’s a guy who can really take the top of the defense per se, and I think Williams has that kind of capability and should at least work his way into the rotation.

Defense: Darrin Kirkland Jr. is a really intriguing name to keep an eye on when he gets healthy. Kenny Bynum is doing a good job this spring at MLB, but that’s going to be a heated battled when Dillon Bates, Kirkland and Jakob Johnson all get fully healthy. I see Kahlil McKenzie, Shy Tuttle and Kyle Phillips all being good bets to be in the defensive line rotation in some capacity as well.

In honor of the masters, which 3 people would complete your ideal golf foursome? – @chaz9908

Reed: My grandfather, Lou Gehrig and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Houston: Tim Howard, Peyton Manning and Emma Watson. (Emma would ride with me.)

Kevin: Bill Clinton, Don Draper, Frank Sinatra. I would be passed out drunk after the 9th hole but it would be glorious while it lasted. Honorable mention list includes Chris Paul, Peyton Manning, Jimmy Johnson (Cowboys), and Tiger.

How much has Dobbs progressed this offseason? – @sweatyvols

Reed: I’ve been very impressed with Dobbs this spring. He’s making throws he couldn’t make last year and definitely has more zip on the football. I expected him to progress, but maybe not this much this quickly.

Houston: Not a ton to the naked eye, but he does look better. He’s more accurate, stronger and appears to be stepping into that leadership role that you like from your starting quarterback. He’s been no-contact all spring, so we haven’t been able to see him run, which is a huge part of what makes him so dangerous. His development will really happen between now and the start of fall camp in the film room with DeBord.

With Matt Falcon going to Michigan, who is the most talented and and most guaranteed RB recruit for the ’16 class? – Matt Binkley

Houston: First off, NOTHING is guaranteed in recruiting, but two names I’m going to be keeping an eye on are B.J. Emmons and Elijah Holyfield.

Holyfield looks like he’ll end up at Auburn, but the Vols have a puncher’s chance. (See what I did there? Wait…you didn’t? Well, Elijah is Evander Holyfield’s son. Evander Holyfield the boxer. Get it, now?)

Emmons is currently committed to Georgia, but the Vols are trending there and It wouldn’t surprise me if they end up flipping him. I would also look for a few new names to be added to the board over the summer as the Vols start hosting players for camps.

Who all do you think will we lose/possibly lose going into 2016? – @twittenberry

Daniel: The rising senior class is: Von Pearson, Pig Howard, Johnathon Johnson, LaDarrell McNeil, Chris Weatherd, Trevarris Saulsberry, Brian Randolph, Patrick Ashford, Mack Crowder, Curt Maggitt, Matt Giampapa, Max Arnold, Owen Williams, Marcus Jackson, Kyler Kerbyson, Alex Ellis and Andrew Henry.

Cam Sutton, Marquez North, Joshua Dobbs, Alvin Kamara and Jalen Reeves-Maybin are all guys who could be early-NFL Draft entry candidates with a strong campaign in 2015. Of that group, Sutton is probably the only one at this point that I’d put at a higher probability of going early, but a lot can change in one season.

History tells us there will be some transfers too. It happens every year. Too difficult to tell you who those guys will be, but look for guys who have either graduated early and can transfer without sitting out or guys who are buried on the depth chart with younger guys in front of them.

Who is one guy that has surprised all of you thus far in spring practice? – Caleb Julian

Daniel: I don’t really think anybody saw Kendal Vickers having such a productive spring. He was an afterthought for most.

Houston: Vickers has come out of nowhere and I didn’t think Shy Tuttle would be this good so quickly.

Reed: I agree with my colleagues on Vickers. I also didn’t think Dormady would be consistently making some of the throws we’ve seen from him. He has loads of arm talent.

Do the Vols take the Natty this year? And next year? And the next year? Do you think we win 5 or 6 in a row? – @DrunkVolFan

Kevin: Look for UT to win 9 games this year, with a possbility of a 10th in the bowl game. That would be a monumental leap for Jones and the program. Part of the challenge for Lyle this season is rapidly developing his young talent to be ready to meet what will surely be insanely high expectations in 2016.

Houston: Anything less than 7 in a row is a disappointment, IMO.

Daniel: At least 5 or 6 straight before Butch moves on to be coach/GM of the Cowboys at $100 million per year in the early 2020s. Vols will taper off after that until around 2035 when the Legacy Class, Part II returns, with Peyton coaching, of course.

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