Insider Mailing: Finally Game Week Edition

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    Kahlil McKenzie-1

    “Where are the worst problem positions for the 2 deep?” – @BodeanSmith 

    Daniel: It’s trite, but have to start on the offensive line – center in particular. I think Coleman Thomas will get the nod ahead of Mack Crowder, and I think, long term, that’s the best move. But I have concerns about him setting the offensive line and the protections since he doesn’t have nearly as much as experience as Crowder. I think Kyler Kerbyson has been a pleasant surprise at left tackle this camp, but he got beat a fair amount at tackle last year, so he has to prove he’s taken that next step. I’ve been a big Dylan Wiesman fan since his freshman year, but he didn’t get a ton of work in camp and has never been a consistent starter before, so how will he fill in at that guard spot left vacant by the Marcus Jackson injury? A lot of questions with that group.

    Beyond that, I’m interested to see how Colton Jumper plays at middle linebacker and how Malik Foreman fares as the starting nickel. I don’t have reasons to doubt these guys per se, just haven’t seen them play a lot of live football.

    Houston: The O-line jumps out because they just don’t have a ton of guys you feel confident in if things go south. There are a lot of talented freshmen who have bright futures ahead of them, but relying on those guys to consistently win in this league with this schedule is a tough spot.

    After that, I’d say the secondary is really close to being a concern. With Gaulden and McNeil out and a lot of the other guys being banged up over the summer, you wonder how this group would handle another serious injury. Luckily, they won’t face too many prolific quarterbacks or receivers this season, and the d-line should help them out a ton, but they are hurting for quality depth unless some of the new guys take a big step forward.

    Kevin: Linebacker and O-Line are the obvious answers. Colton Jumper is the latest in a long series of local walk-ons who have moved themselves into the starting lineup and that is NOT a good thing. Tennessee needs Darrin Kirkland Jr. to be ready to start by the Arkansas game, if not much sooner. Daniel mentioned that Kyler Kerbyson had a nice offseason, but he also accurately pointed out that Kerbyson has never been able to compete with athletic ends, so it’s still a problem until proven otherwise. That line is most likely in for a long season, but if they can improve even slightly from their 2014 campaign the offense should be in good shape.

    “How do u react when another fanbase shows up @ our tailgate claiming they have better shine?” – @TheRobertoUTVol

    Houston: They know not what they do.

    Kevin: I elect to not speak to other teams fans unless I am forced to, those interactions never seem to end well.

    Reed: Men have been killed over less.

    Daniel: That’s about like Tennessee fans showing up at LSU and claiming to have better jambalaya. They’re just wrong.

    John: How do you react when illiterates discuss their favorite book?

    “Is @BigJohnJanitors the biggest winner of the offseason?” – @BigJohnJanitors

    Houston: This man’s improvement has been critical to the growth and development of the Vol Twitter team. He has a pride in his performance, represents our culture and knows what it means to tweet like a winner. I couldn’t be happier for him and I’m really excited to follow him this season. Even the coaching staff has taken notice of his ability to clean sh*t up.

    Reed: My favorite offseason moment was probably The Janitor tagging @BigJohnJanitors in a tweet. Football aside, I’ve always enjoyed speaking with Jancek. He’s a class act.

    Kevin: Big John Janitors has been electric, and @popcornsutton’s “trolling with testicles” campaign has also been on point. True heroes always present themselves when they are the most needed.

    Daniel: If anybody else had asked, I might say yes, but I’m throwing the flag here for shameless self-promotion and giving those honors to Jauan Jennings. UPDATE: I changed my mind after the Vol Family Matters video, you win

    “Where and when is the VolWalk on Saturday?” – @BigOrangeButch

    Daniel: 12:45 p.m. CT on Saturday between Lots D & J, at the corner of Shelby Street and South Second Street.

    “What’s BGSUs defense looking like? #breakdown” – @BigOrangeButch

    Daniel: Not great. Bowling Green was second-to-last in total defense in the MAC last year, giving up almost 500 yards per game and nearly six yards per play. The rushing defense was possibly the worst part – checking in at 101st in the nation. On top of that, the Falcons lost seven starters (for better or worse) on that side of the ball, including some of their most experienced players in the front seven. They brought in a new defensive coordinator, Brian Ward, over the offseason to try to fix that unit, but it’s a long shot that they’ll be able to slow the Vols down with much consistency on Saturday.

    Reed: Sunseri-esque last year, but they do have a new DC.

    Houston: No coach-speak here. They are atrocious.

    “Been thinking about Saban rumor. How legitimate is this? And suppose he leaves – does that help or hurt SEC?” – Drew Horner

    Daniel: If you missed it, Drew is referring to this prediction from FootballScoop.com that Nick Saban won’t return to the Tide in 2016. It’s hard for me to give a ton of credence to it because we’ve heard things like this so many times and Saban just keeps going. It’ll be interesting to watch this year. Alabama has some good pieces, but is far from a sure-fire national title pick. Let’s say some things don’t go well and Alabama “only” wins eight or nine games. Saban’s own success has entitled that fanbase to expect more, so he’ll get absolutely blasted. That has to grow old quickly.

    Still, I think if he wanted one more era in his career, he would’ve and should’ve taken that Texas job. As for if it helps or hurts the SEC, depends on your perspective. It certainly doesn’t help the conference’s national prestige if Alabama takes a step back, but it helps open it up a good bit for everybody else and might be one of the best things that could happen for UT, though I’m sure Alabama would make a splash hire to replace him if he does go.

    Reed: Look, he flirted HEAVILY with that Texas job a few years ago. There was a ton of fire there but he just didn’t pull the trigger. He should have and anyone who covers that program will tell you that he knows that. I’ve long thought his run at Bama was coming to an end, so that report wasn’t surprising.

    As for helping the SEC? He’s still a top-3 coach in the game and, assuming he goes to another conference, losing him doesn’t help the league. But it would certainly help Tennessee’s title chances.

    Kevin: You have to think that this rumor has legs, if not next year then soon. The Alabama fan base (or any SEC fan base really) has to get extremely tiresome for a head coach. Especially one who has been as successful as he has when the negative chatter returns after every loss.  Saban messed up by not taking the Texas job, and I mentioned on the show yesterday that it wouldn’t totally surprise me to see him return to LSU for one last campaign before his retirement. Having Saban out of the league would certainly help the parity within the league, but it does hurt the conferences title chances.

    John: While I can’t speak to the legitimacy, I can say this: When Steve Spurrier left the SEC for the Redskins, I was incredibly bummed out, this despite the fact that he was one of the largest and most painful thorns in the big orange saddle of all times. Because, love him or hate him, Steve Spurrier makes the SEC a much better place. I feel the same way about Nick Saban. (That son of a bitch.)

    “I want a BOLD prediction for the game Saturday on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.” – Blake Richmond

    Daniel: Offense: The young Middle Tennessee natives at receiver (Jauan Jennings and Josh Malone) combine for 200 yards or more of total offense. Defense: Evan Berry has at least eight tackles and has a hand in at least one turnover.

    Reed: The Vols have a return of at least 40 yards and Alvin Kamara scores at least one electrifying TD.

    Houston: Quinten Dormady will throw for at least 150 yards and two touchdowns, and there will be a pick-six by the Vol defense.

    John: On defense, JRM forces and recovers a fumble. Possibly scores because he’s a badass like that. And on offense, UT’s longest rush of the day goes for 40 or more.

    “Other than Rocky Top, what’s your go to Tennessee gameday song?” – Ryan Coleman

    Reed: Fight Vols Fight + Down the Field.

    Houston: 865 by Mr. Mack.

    Kevin: “Tennessee” by Drew Holcomb, “Tennessee” by Charlie Daniels, any other song with the state title in the name. Also tons of gangsta rap to get the blood flowing.

    John: Just wanted to point out that the criterion for Kevin’s list means that one of his favorite gameday songs is by Kenny Chesney, and I find that unacceptable.

    “Which “easy” game should I travel to KnoxVegas for?” – Chris is Disgusta 

    Reed: South Carolina – not trolling. The Vols should roll in that one.

    Daniel: Not exactly sure what you define as “easy,” but I’d qualify that as Western Carolina, North Texas and Vandy this year and I’d go Vandy of those three. I just can’t see Western Carolina or North Texas being any kind of a good game. So unless you’re going for cheapest ticket or to see young guys get a lot of snaps, I think Vandy is your best bet – last year proved that anything can happen in that game.

    Kevin: If seeing the team play is your primary objective then come for an easy game, but why not roll the dice and come see the Vols play a good team and enjoy the atmosphere around Knoxville. Who knows, you might find a passed out fraternity kid and grab his ticket right out of his hand.

    John: Don’t be a wuss. Come for Georgia.

    “Who will be the Vols freshman of the year?” – Logan Brown

    Reed: Jauan Jennings. It’s been tough for me to really embrace this season thus far (please come quickly, OU game), but I can’t wait to watch what Jennings does the field this fall. He has spectacular potential.

    Houston: Kyle Phillips.

    Daniel: I’ll keep it simple – Jauan Jennings. He’s had the best camp overall, and though his numbers won’t be massive because of the talent and rotation at receiver, he brings an edge to that group that’s been sorely missed. He’s a threat to line up at QB or do a reverse pass or something like that as well – he’s very versatile – could turn into a Pharoh Cooper-like player. Darrin Kirkland Jr., Jack Jones, Kyle Phillips, Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle are some other names to watch as well.

    “What’s the percentage of snaps (against Bowling Green) we’ll see from the starters compared to the backups?” – @seanwalsh21

    Daniel: I’m going to say about 60/40. And that doesn’t mean I think UT will have Bowling Green blown out a little bit after halftime necessarily. I think there’s going to be more depth shown overall this season, so backups will be rotating in, especially at places like receiver and all over the defensive side of the ball, as early as the first couple drives. I’ll predict UT has it turned over pretty much exclusively to the backups by early in the fourth quarter.