Insider Mailing: Struggle Bus Edition

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    If Tenn loses to Fla, do you consider the season total loss? – @natewinstead 

    Daniel: Nope. It’s a big one, that’s for sure, but I had Tennessee losing to Oklahoma and Florida in my season picks and still ending at a respectable 8-4. A loss would put a lot of pressure on Butch Jones and the team though and it certainly would not be a pretty sight the week after in Knoxville.

    Houston: No, but it could certainly be heading that way in a hurry. If they lose to Florida, can the rebound for Arkansas? Then, if they don’t, do they then lose to Georgia and Alabama? That puts the Vols at 2-5…At that point, they’d have to win four out of five to make a bowl game…sound familiar?

    That said, Tennessee hasn’t beaten Florida in 10 years and not all of those seasons were “total losses” whatsoever. There are a lot of winnable games on the schedule, with Florida being one of them, but losing that game doesn’t mean the season is over.

    John: It’d be a different kind of season, that’s for sure. So while I try to stay away from sweeping conclusions like the one posed in your (admittedly fair) question, I would concede this: the season would fall way flat of what most expected barring some type of HUGE win, like, say, in Tuscaloosa or something. Which could always happen. Tons of football left, and I’m excited to see how it plays out.

    Reed: A portion of the fanbase will, and that’s understandable given how important that rivalry is, but I won’t consider the season a disaster if the Vols fall in The Swamp. The Vols have four tossups in their first six games (before the open date). It’s reasonable to expect them to win two of those then take care of business against Bowling Green (which they did) and Western Carolina (this weekend). If that happens, they’ll sit at 4-2 headed into the open date. Then, 9-3 or 8-4 is very doable.

    I caved to the belief that the Vols were finally going to get over the hump vs. OU late last week, but actually picked Tennessee to lose that game before the season. I thought they’d drop one to Arkansas, too, but that one is looking more and more winnable. No. A loss at Florida doesn’t doom the season, but it does put a ton of pressure on the team to beat both Georgia and Arkansas. Heck, even if the Vols lose to Florida then bounce back and beat Georgia, they’ll probably win the East.

    What are your real thoughts on the 4th down call? That or the missed FG is the difference in the game, or the PI call… – @richmond_325

    Houston: I didn’t like it at the time, and I don’t like it now. You can tell the decision had truly been made in advance because Jones didn’t even wait to see how close the ball was spotted to the goal line before sending out Medley and the kick team. To be so stuck in your game plan that you wouldn’t go for it there under ANY circumstances – even if you needed to gain an inch for the touchdown – is a questionable move…and a bit concerning, to be honest.

    The missed FG isn’t a surprise. Medley has struggled from 40+ throughout his career and a 48-yarder is no gimme, so I wasn’t surprised by that miss. The PI call was wrong…The ball was probably uncatchable, but the receiver had actually stepped out of bounds before Foreman crashed into him, making him ineligible on the play. But it’s hard to expect the ref to see that considering an orange-clad Malik Foreman was busy bulldozing the receiver with his back turned to the football.

    John: I get why that the fourth down call was so unpopular, but I remain more hung up on running Kamara the play before. And, man, I just can’t get on the whole “blown calls, bad breaks” deal that some people point to. Were there bad breaks? Absolutely. But that Dobbs-non-fumble was a gift from God. That should have been a scoop and score. And Jalen getting that fumble among all those Sooners? Improbable at best, but he covered it. So as tough as the breaks were for UT in the second half of the fourth quarter, they had some pretty good breaks and good bounces the first three and a half quarters.

    Reed: I get the questions behind all those calls but don’t put the blame on any of them. Pass interference wasn’t on fourth down. The game wouldn’t have been over. Unimaginative play calling in the second half, getting out schemed, not being prepared for obvious blitzes and the coaching staff taking their foot off the gas lost them that game. Simple as that.

    Daniel: I didn’t like the fourth-down call (nor having Kamara take the carry on third down) at all. It’s not so much just getting the three instead of seven, but the mentality and what that says to the team – that you have one of the biggest and best backs in the country and you’re not going to trust him to ram forward for less than one yard on two separate tries. For a team that time and time hasn’t played well in these types of situations, I just didn’t like the tone that set early.

    But yes, that’s one of many calls/plays that contributed to the final outcome. The dropped potential touchdown by Alex Ellis, the missed field goal, the 12-yard loss on the fumble by Hurd, the missed false start by OU, the holding on the kickoff return at the end and some missed opportunities for sacks were all among the things that could’ve easily changed the outcome.

    Kyle Phillips was the 1st freshman to have his stripe removed, why has he barely played?? – @dlejefe 

    Daniel: It’s a nice luxury to have Phillips be about the fourth best defensive end on the roster. It doesn’t necessarily say anything against Phillips, just speaks to the talent and depth that’s been compiled there. With Maggitt down, I see him playing a bigger role as he gets more and more comfortable at this level.

    Houston: Great question.

    Reed: Depth in front of him, more than anything, is a big reason he hasn’t seen much action. With Maggitt out for awhile that should change moving forward.

    Would UT football be a heart breaking run away bride at a wedding? (Answer:yes) –@Danksoup  

    John: On Saturday, UT football was a movie I’d seen before. A horrible one that I hated.  At least that’s what I started to feel like, say, midway through the third. But I just sat there and watched it anyway, presumably to punish me for being such a sheep, but also in the off chance it would somehow end differently that time than all the other times I had watched it. So my answer to your question is no. Runaway brides are in control. And on Saturday, it felt like UT football was anything but.

    Reed: Only if the groom is a ranked team.

    What game will they checker Neyland for next year? I want to get bets in early for #Vols to be thoroughly humiliated. – @angusparvo 

    Houston: They need to wear the gray jerseys and checker Neyland against a terrible team the they are guaranteed to beat so that they can go ahead and break all of the curses at once.

    John: I think a checkered Neyland is really cool. But I, for one, hope that things like Checkering Neyland stop until the Vols get a big-time home win. Then, let’s revisit it. That would be my vote.

    Reed: I do think it’s hilarious that fans are somehow blaming Checker Neyland for the loss. The stadium looked beautiful and that place was absolutely rocking. Tennessee is 0-2 in big games with checkered stands, that’s true. They’re also 1-27 against ranked teams WITHOUT checkered stands. Clearly, fan apparel isn’t the problem.

    As to your specific question, I’d be willing to bet the Florida game or the Alabama game – both of which will be likely losses if recent history is any indication.

    Daniel: I agree with Reed here – Checker Neyland should be nothing but helpful to UT’s chances of winning. Do it against Florida next year again, maybe even make that a tradition.

    On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you in our in game coaching? – @RockyTop10EC

    Houston: If Tennessee is down by 10-14, I think the in-game coaching is excellent. If they get an early lead, especially against a team with a pulse, then they go into a shell and allow the team to make some moves. They did it against Bowling Green and they did it against Oklahoma. It’s as if they know how they want to play, get the lead by doing so, and then panic because it’s working. Then, they either take their foot off of the gas or refuse to make adjustments to what the other team is doing. It’s perplexing, because they have clearly shown that they know how to coach and win close games, it just seems like they wait until they are down double-digits before letting loose and playing to win.

    John: Butch Jones scores quite high in things like recruiting, understanding how to run a bureaucratic program, marketing, etc… And given the state he found UT in, those are really important facets. And thus far, if you took a blended average of all the things a coach must do, he’d score well. But I’ve yet to see anything that proves Jones and company are a great gameday staff. Conversely, I have seen a few things that have given me pause. So if 6 is low average and 7 is average, I’m going with a 6 on gameday coaching with the following caveat: I still believe Butch Jones and his staff could have great success on Rocky Top, but by no means do I think it’s a foregone conclusion.

    Reed: Butch Jones is 9-12 in one possession games against major conference teams in the last 5+ years. I included the Big East (RIP) as a major conference during his time at Cincy. He was 6-6 at Cincinnati (mainly Big East games) and is 3-6 at Tennessee. The Vols, under Jones’ watch, have also blown 4th quarter home leads against Georgia (2013), Vanderbilt (2013), Florida (2014) and Oklahoma (2015).

    That doesn’t (and shouldn’t) inspire loads of confidence. That said, poor overall talent at some key positions played a role in a couple of those. For now, I’m going right in the middle with a five.

    Daniel: Maybe a 4 or 5 right now. I’ve seen this staff out-fox Steve Spurrier twice now and stick with some teams that out-talented and out-experienced them by a good bit. So I don’t think it’s an incompetent staff by any means. I have, however, seen enough questionable decisions that I don’t exactly know what I’m going to see on a week-to-week basis. I’m predicting five or six more one-possession games this year, so we’ll find out more soon most likely.

    Season predictions after OU game? – @JakeVFL

    Daniel: Sticking with 8-4. I have questions and concerns going forward about the Vols, but also about a ton about their opponents, so I think it all levels out to 8-4, though both 9-3 and 7-5 are both in play realistically too, I believe.

    Houston: I said 9-3. And I’m going to ride that horse until she bucks me. They were painfully close to beating Oklahoma…Here’s hoping they can figure some things out.

    John: Before the season, I was stuck between 7-5 and 8-4, though I was closer to 8-4. And before the season, I had OU as a 50-50 game. Now? I remain stuck between those two records, but am a little bit closer to 7-5. It’ll be one of those two.

    Why can’t our receivers get open?? They have great size and I’m assuming decent speed, so why are they always such a disappointment when they have some of the best talent of any position group. – Thomas Boydstun

    Houston: I have no idea. They are the most physically imposing group of receivers in the league, yet are among the worst in production. They rotate in and out so much that it’s hard to imagine any of them get into a rhythm. As a quarterback, you’d like to have a “go-to” guy or two, but with the rotation the way it is, Dobbs is probably looking around before every play wondering who’s in the game.

    I said last year that I thought they were too robotic in their route-running. What I mean is that it looks like they are taught how to run precise routes, but not how to get open.

    Reed: This is the most perplexing thing about the last couple of seasons and I don’t have a great answer for you. I will say that the season is young and that group can right a ton of wrongs if they go to Florida next week and perform.

    Is there any way to research and find out how many passes longer than 25 yards downfield have been completed since Butch Jones has been at Tennessee? It seems like every year there is a different reason/excuse of why we have no downfield passing ability. ’13 it was the receivers, ’14 it was more of the o line and qb, and I know it’s still very early this season and things could improve, but it’s looking like more of the same. Do you think it’s more of a product of this offensive system, or the players that we have? Thanks guys! – Ryan Douglas

    Reed: I tracked this for a while and the numbers were abysmal – Tennessee was something like 1-28 at one point before I just gave up. It’s extremely safe to say the deep ball has been consistently non-existent since Tyler Bray roamed the sidelines.

    I do not think it’s a product of the system. They try to stretch the field, but haven’t been able to execute.

    Do y’all think Marquez North will be the leading receiver for any game this season? After the last two weeks (and last season), it doesn’t seem like he is gonna be the real deal this season. – Lane Carasik

    Houston: Hard to tell. Maybe he’s still working back from the knee injury, and, if that’s the case, then he’ll make a bigger impact as the season unfolds. So, I’m going to buy him leading the team in receiving in at least one game this season.

    Reed: He looked great in camp before going down with a knee sprain and has been slowly working his way back since. After such a great freshman campaign, he clearly has the ability to dominate a game. I have faith in him when he’s healthy – so if he can get 100% healthy and stay there this season, I’ll say yes.