“Kyle Phillips has become a ‘forgotten man’ with our beast DL’s. Think he can maximize his snaps this year and explode?” – David Maxedon
Daniel: I think it just all comes down to health for him. He had shoulder issues in high school and then couldn’t stay on the field in 2015. All the talent and athleticism is there. He just has to stay healthy long enough to only play a full season, but also to get in the weight room and add muscle. Most of his potential coming out of high school was based on athleticism – he didn’t have huge numbers in the weight room. So if he can do all that, then yes, I think he could be a breakout candidate in 2016, but too early to tell.
Stephen: You know David, I don’t think he’s as “forgotten” as other might. Remember, he was only a true freshman last year, whose season was cut short by injuries. I know they just brought in Kongbo, but that’s all the more reason why I think Phillips will get more snaps in 2016. With Kongbo, Phillips, AND Vereen, it will really take the load off Barnett’s shoulders and I expect a healthy rotation between all four of them. Phillips probably won’t get the same amount of snaps as Barnett, but no one will probably. I do think we’ll see plenty of him though, and he will perform at a high level for a true sophomore.
Nathanael: I still think Phillips is a year away from truly maximizing what he brings to the table. Like Daniel said, health is a big concern with him, and I think he’ll end up being behind Jonathan Kongbo and Corey Vereen to start the season. Barnett is the obvious starter on the other side, so that leaves Phillips as a rotational player without a starting role unless someone gets hurt.
“What is the legitimate expectation for Team #120 this year? Are we Championship bound?” – @PrayersforAJCucksey
Stephen: I am hesitant to say “championship bound” ….but yes. I think a legitimate expectation for Tennessee in 2016 is, at minimum, representing the east in the SEC championship. Everyone has said 2016 would be the year for Butch. Well, it’s 2016. It’s time to put up or shut up in my opinion. I’m not saying anything less than going to the SEC title game should garner Butch’s firing or anything like that. But it’s definitely SEC East or bust for Tennessee this year.
Nathanael: I’m resisting the urge to go full troll here and just scream “VOLS WIN THE NATTY!! BOOK IT!!” With that being said, I do think the Vols have the potential to compete for an SEC Championship at the very least. I’m not saying they will win it, but I think they have the players and coaching staff, especially on defense, to finally make it back there.
Bob: I’ve said it before, and I still stand by this. I definitely feel an SEC East title is there for the taking. Making it to the SEC Championship Game, win or lose, would be a huge step forward for this program, and by the way, would be an awesome reward for an incredibly loyal and resilient fan base. Following that, I feel a New Years Six bowl game is realistic for this team and again, would further reinforce that Tennessee is back in the mix as a perennial national power.
“Do you see this basketball team making the NIT? If not, do you think Barnes would accept any other postseason bid?” – Clay G. Kelsey
Bob: Not gonna happen. As great as Tuesday nights come from behind win was, and as proud as I can be about the teams heart and effort in just about every game, this is still a middle of the road unit that is going to lose games that seem winnable on paper. A .500 season will be a successful finish at this point, which no longer cuts it (nor should it) with the NIT selection committee. As for any other postseason bid, I hope they don’t take it if offered. Those tournaments are frankly less meaningful than any season opening tourney out there, so other than having the opportunity to have more sanctioned practices with the team to build towards next season, why bother?
Daniel: I do not see them making the NIT. That was a great win over Kentucky, but they still haven’t shown much consistency this season, and that’s especially true on the road. The Vols finish with five of their final nine games away from Thompson-Boling Arena, including very difficult trips to Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Kentucky. In terms of if Barnes would accept another postseason bid, I honestly have no clue. He went to the NCAA tournament so regularly at Texas that there’s very little information on his approach in that area.
Nathanael: The only way they make the NIT is if they can bottle up whatever they found against Kentucky and finish the season above .500 and make at least a small run in the SEC Tournament. But as Daniel points out, the schedule down the stretch isn’t very kind, so making the NIT won’t be easy. Finishing above .500 won’t even be easy. And as for accepting another tournament bid: No way. Barnes won’t do it.
“Most and least impressive parts of Tennessee’s 2016 class?” – Rob Shelby
Daniel: How they finished was most impressive to me. I thought they needed to get three of the big five (Warrior, Byrd, Dickerson, Brown, Kongbo) down the stretch for it to be a successful close. They did that and more – flipping Latrell Williams from Miami on Signing Day as well. They got a ton of quality guys in this class, but least impressive might be just missing on a handful of top offensive guys like Mecole Hardman, Kyle Davis, B.J. Emmons, Eli Holyfield, Tavien Feaster and Landon Dickerson that they targeted for so much of the recruiting cycle.
Stephen: The most impressive thing to me was how they addressed so many needs with so few scholarships available. They needed receivers. They got ’em. They needed secondary depth. They got it. They needed speed. Check. They did about as good as a team could do with their scholarship limitations. Now, least impressive, they could really use more help at running back. Carlin Fils-aime looks great, but only taking one running back when they could lose both Hurd and Kamara after 2016 is definitely risky.
Nathanael: The most impressive part of this class to me was that they hung on to everyone the week leading up to and on National Signing Day itself. Defections are commonplace in the craziness leading up to NSD, and the Vols had it work in their favor with Tyler Byrd and Latrell Williams. But nobody flipped from the Vols, and I’m impressed. That and what Stephen said about addressing needs with such a limited space. The least impressive part to me was missing out on all the wide receivers they did. Honestly, I understand why those wideouts didn’t come to Tennessee. But it still looks bad on the staff and team that they missed on almost all their top skill position players.
“Guarantano or Dormady once Dobbs’ last year is over?” – @nposey23
Daniel: That’s tough. I’m already looking forward to covering that competition, and I think you need to toss Sheriron Jones’ name in the competition as well. If I had to guess right now, I’d give the opening-day edge to Dormady because he’ll have the experience edge. But it’s tough to bet against Jarrett Guarantano. He’s so impressive and seems custom-made for Butch Jones’ offense.
Nathanael: I’m gonna go out on a limb here and pick Guarantano. I think he’s just that good. Nothing against Dormady, because I think he’s a stud too. I just think Guarantano fits this system better and is an elite athlete. Dormady has the potential to be a fantastic quarterback, but I just think Guarantano is a once-in-a-decade type of talent if he pans out.