Insider Mailing: 2016 Expectations Edition

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    Joshua Dobbs-1-3

    “Which East opponent/game should the Vols worry about more in 2016: Florida or Georgia?” – @cgkelsey_

    Daniel: Florida, Florida, Florida, Florida, Florida. Florida. On paper, Georgia actually might scare me a touch more if it can figure something out at quarterback, but I have to emphatically say Florida until Tennessee can get that one. Tennessee just seems to play some of its better football against the Bulldogs and finds a way to be at its worst against the Gators. I think a win over Florida would be such a psychological boost for this team in 2016. That’s the game to worry about more than any other in my mind.

    Stephen: The fact that we southerners have to use all of our fingers AND a toe to count the years it’s been since Tennessee beat the Gators answers this question. Butch Jones proved he can beat Georgia in 2015, but he is 0-3 against the Gators and I’d be more worried about him being labeled “the coach that couldn’t beat Florida” than anything else.

    Nathanael: Florida. Not even a question. Many Vol fans would give parts of their body to finally beat the Gators, and I think Butch Jones might too. So yeah, Florida.

    Bob:  Florida…because, well, Florida.

    “What is the likelihood that Dobbs under center and variants of Power I formations now become a bigger part of the offense?” – @Neyland Mafia

    Daniel: There’s a high likelihood, I’d say. Mike DeBord has an extensive background running a lot of his offense under center and utilizing the I-formation, and while I don’t see Butch Jones drastically changing the overall look of his offense based on a little bit of success doing it in the Outback Bowl, I do think that’s a wrinkle you will continue to see. Personnel plays a role in it too. Jalen Hurd is a fantastic downhill runner, so giving him an extra step or two in that under-center look helps maximize his talent. Ethan Wolf is versatile enough to drop back and be an H-back or fullback as well, so I think with the player they have on the roster next year, the experience DeBord has with it and the fact that it worked in the Outback Bowl, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fair amount of it next year.

    Stephen: When I saw this happening in the Outback Bowl I looked over at Daniel in the press box and said Tennessee needed to do that more often. The read-option has definitely grown on me – especially since Joshua Dobbs has proven to be such an amazing athlete. But I am, and always have been, a Power I, west-coast guy first and foremost. That being said, I think the read-option, shotgun offense is working and shouldn’t change completely. However, throwing in 6-10 plays each game of some variation of the Power I would not only mix up the running game, but would also create the option for a Dobbs play-action rollout – which I think could be really successful and fun to watch. In other words, I think it’s very likely.

    Nathanael: I sure hope so. It was certainly highly effective against Northwestern (I believe the 10 plays from that formation went for 75 total yards), and it fits the MO of the powerful, smashmouth type of offense DeBord was allegedly brought in here to run. I think Tennessee’s offense would work better if they ran this formation more, so I hope they do just that.

    “What are the expectations for team 120s defense? Can this be a top 10 total defense?” – Zach Bales 

    Daniel: I think top 10 is a fair expectation. In five years at Vanderbilt and at a Penn State program recovering from sanctions, he’s averaged a top-15 defense nationally. Tennessee is going to return most of the key pieces on defense in 2016 that was 36th nationally in total defense and 16th nationally in scoring defense. I think expecting Shoop, based on his track record and the talent he has returning, to get UT back in or close to the top 10 in 2016 is realistic. Obviously recruiting, injuries, Cam Sutton’s decision and other factors will play into that as well. But Butch Jones had a good defense and a good defensive coordinator. He made this move to try to be great.

    Stephen: I think the Bob Shoop hire is an absolute home-run. He has a proven track record as a defensive mind and honestly I’d be surprised if he stays at Tennessee more than two or three years. However, Tennessee finished the season ranked 36th in total defense under John Jancek. And while I do think Shoop is a big time upgrade, I have some reservations about Tennessee’s depth at secondary – specifically safety. Evan Berry and Todd Kelly Jr. are going to be absolute studs. But other than Stephen Griffin, there is really no depth at the safety position. I do think the defense will be very good. Maybe not top 1o, but top 20 should be fair.

    Nathanael: I think it’s a fair goal to set, but I don’t think they’ll be a top 10. I think their peak is a top 15 defense, but that is definitely good enough to compete for championships. Especially in the SEC. This will be the most talented defense Bob Shoop has ever coached, and they have the pieces to be a top 5 or top 3 SEC defense for sure.

     “I got a CBJ signed Football Time mag for Christmas. If he really sucks it up and gets fired should I dispose of it or keep it. If it needs to be disposed what is the best way to do it?” – Tyler Dockery 

    Daniel: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I think, barring some horrible scandal or really painful exit, Jones has done enough at Tennessee that you won’t be embarrassed to have that in the future, so you’re probably ok to keep it, even if things go south this year and he’s not back in 2017. But If it comes down to it and it has to go, I think the only proper way is to make a bonfire with that and big cards with all the Butchisms on them. Then run around the fire chanting “Gruden, Gruden, Gruden” in that scenario.

    Stephen: If he really sucks it up and gets fired, I’d probably keep it. The guy has still brought in some elite talent and finished the 2015 season on a high note. But if it gets ugly, like he’s been cheating from day one ugly, then burn it and pretend you never had it to begin with.

    Nathanael: Yeah, unless Butch has done something John Calipari-like, I think you can bet on that scenario not happening. I certainly don’t think he’ll really suck it up next year, so you can keep it and be fine.

    Bob:  Keep it!  What a tremendous conversation piece it would be, particularly if CBJ makes a mess and is somehow shown the door (taking the “under” on that happening BTW).  Just imagine if the Vols win a Natty though.  Then with that magazine, you’d have something akin to fine art around these parts!

    “Can you confirm or deny that RTI is quietly making a play for majority ownership of the Titans?” – David Maxedon 

    Daniel: I can’t speak for the whole company here, but I’ve never bought a lottery ticket in my life, though if it ever gets to the point where I have a shot to win enough money to make a run at them, I’m going to do it. And I’ll make Jerry Jones look tame when it comes to the amount of meddling I’ll do.

    Stephen: I can only confirm everything Daniel  just said. And if it happens, Daniel will slowly start looking more and more like Al Davis – both metaphorically, and physically.

    Nathanael: BREAKING: Daniel Lewis is the new owner of the Tennessee Titans. You heard it here first.

    Bob:  Well, imagine tuning into RTI Radio with Erik Ainge and MARCUS MARIOTA.  Where’s my checkbook?!?

    “With Rams move to LA, any chance the Titans could bring Jeff Fisher back? Do you think there is risk of the Titans being lured to St. Louis? Why did [Daniel] turn down the Titans GM job?” – Phillip Bell

    Why do the #Titans hate us Titans fans?” – @CyndiVolFan

    Daniel: Thank you guys for having pity on me and asking Titans questions, I’ve been waiting a few weeks. Let’s see: No to Fisher, though I yearn for the days of 8-8 in Nashville. The Titans have a lease with their stadium through 2028, so I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon. I have not turned down the GM job, and am, in fact, anxiously awaiting their call. I’m actually hoping to be owner and GM if it all works out.

    And as for why the Titans hate us fans – I don’t know, Cyndi. Deep down, I keep believing they are going to figure it all out and become competitive again soon, but then I see reports that they’re seriously considering keeping Mike Mularkey (4-21 in his last 25 games as a head coach) and I start questioning everything. It’s looking more and more like they’ll bring in Jon Robinson from the Bucs (also with the Patriots a long time) as GM. That seems like a decent hire, we’ll see. And then he might bring in Josh McDaniels or keep Mularkey it sounds like. Not thrilled with either, but McDaniels would be my choice of that duo.

    Stephen: There’s definitely a chance Jeff Fisher returns to the Titans. There’s also a chance I win the lottery. Both scenarios have about the same chance of happening. Fisher is originally from Culver City (a suburb of LA) and he went to USC. The Rams moving to LA is one big homecoming for the ‘stache. He ain’t going anywhere… except maybe Santa Monica Beach.

    Nathanael: Even if there was a chance of Fisher coming back to the Titans, I would not want it to happen. Why handcuff yourself with a coach that has a known 8-8 or 9-7 ceiling? Yes, the Titans would kill to get back to that kind of record now, but why hire a guy you know has a ceiling like that when you can go hire a guy who could have a better one? And Daniel turned it down because he would immediately be the laughing stock of the rest of the NFL if he stepped into what the Titans are doing. Even the Cleveland Browns are laughing at the Titans.

    Bob:  Look, I’m a Colts fan, and as long as the Titans continue being the Titans, the happier I am…Ryan Grigson ineptitude notwithstanding.  That said, Daniel’s a friend and an esteemed colleague, so I’d like for the Titans to provide my buddy at least a little satisfaction.  But that won’t be by seeing Fisher coming back to Music City.  Happiness will blossom for DL with Peyton Manning getting full run of the franchise.

    “Where does this title game rank among all-time ones for y’all?” – Jake Tidwell 

    Daniel: It was up there. I thought it was incredibly entertaining. I think Alabama had a good bit more talent, but I thought Clemson wanted it more, and Deshaun Watson had an all-time level performance – he had to be awesome, and he was – it just came up a touch short. Not sure exactly where I’d rank it, but at least in the BCS/Playoff era, the only games I remember being that entertained by were UT in ’98, Ohio State-Miami in 2002, Texas-USC in 2005 and Auburn-Oregon in 2010.

    Stephen: Yes, the game itself was amazing. Probably one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen. I was on the edge of my seat for literally every, single play.

    That being said, I need to vent for a second. Tennessee fans that cheered for Alabama in this game because it “makes the conference stronger” need to have their fan card taken away for a while. First of all, there is nothing whatsoever that would make me root for my team’s hated rival. Michigan fans don’t cheer for Ohio State. Louisville fans don’t cheer for Kentucky. I don’t care if it strengthens the SEC, if you’re a Tennessee fan, you don’t root for the Alabama Crimson Tide… ever. Secondly, think about what happens when Alabama wins another title. That’s yet another national championship for them to use against you. If you’re a Tennessee fan that cheered for Alabama in the National Championship, I hope you’re okay with them using that as a weapon to recruit against the Vols, because they will as their seven years of having a top-5 recruiting class prove. And I hope you’re ready to hear it from their fans for the next year…because that’s exactly what’s coming. I understand the argument about making the conference look better, I just don’t care. Never cheer for your arch nemesis. #endrant

    Nathanael: It was great, but it wasn’t all-time great in my opinion. For personal reasons, the 1998 one will always be No. 1 until the Vols win another. Second on that list will be the 2005 Texas-USC one and then 2010 Auburn-Oregon. Because I’m only a wee child, I don’t remember any really before Tennessee’s 1998 game, so that’s the extent of my knowledge. But 2005 Texas-USC will always be the non-Vol game to top for me.

    Bob:  What a game!  And I can’t help but draw comparisons between Deshaun Watson and Vince Young in the Texas-USC title game in ’05.   Difference there of course, was that Vince led his team to victory, while Watson fell short.  But Monday nights game and the 2005 Rose Bowl rank as my top title games in the 2000’s.  Now, I’m going to date myself here, but I believe the greatest title game of all time was the 1984 Orange Bowl, where the University of Miami arrived as a legitimate power college football program, upsetting a juggernaut Nebraska team 31-30 to claim their first of many National titles.  Absolutely incredible game.

    “Does the signing of Shoop help us with any recruits leading up to signing day?” – @JTP_24

    Daniel: Yes. I can’t speak for each prospect, but I think his overall reputation in general should help the Vols with the big targets like Derrick Brown and Nigel Warrior. LaVert Hill, a former Penn State cornerback commitment, is a name to watch that I think Shoop will help with. Former UT commitment Jonathan Kongbo III said he liked the hire, so maybe the Vols can get back in it there, but that might be a stretch. Then we’ll see if he goes after any Penn State commitments or guys he was recruiting up there as well.

    Stephen: I don’t see how it would hurt. Having been at Vandy during their few decent years, Shoop knows the mid-state really well. He went to Yale as a player, and has coached at UMass, Boston College, Army, Columbia, Northeast, and Penn State University. In other words, he knows the northeast area about as well as any coach can. Recruits have already been tweeting their approval of the Shoop hire and if guys like Nigel Warrior or Johnathan Kongbo are on the fence about Tennessee, this hire could be the factor that swings them to Knoxville. Oh and Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib just won the Lombardi trophy for best college lineman/linebacker, which will surely be used as a selling point.