Insider Mailing: Mid-Spring Edition

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    “Ice cold can: Hamm’s, Schlitz or Pabst? And how worried should we be about all the kids missing Spring Ball w/injuries?” – @THEKID_

    Daniel: I don’t have enough sample size to answer the first question, but I think there is a fair amount of reason to be worried about the second. Not so much because they need them this spring. You don’t win games now. But more so because it’s been such a large trend last spring, last fall and again this spring. When does it stop? Is something amiss with the practices or strength and conditioning? I don’t have those answers, but the sheer quantity of guys in walking boots, braces and slings over the past 12 months or so is a bit alarming. If that trend continues into the season, that could put the brakes on some of the hype for 2016.

    Nathanael: Skipping that first part, but as for the second: I’m not worried at all, and I don’t think anyone else really should be just yet. Most of these “injuries” are minor or simply the player being held out for precautionary reasons. So unless these rash of injuries happen again in the fall, I wouldn’t worry about it as much in the spring.

    “If I’m yearning for the days when a Chavis defense would blitz every other play, does a Shoop defense satisfy my cravings?” – @jon_wims

    Daniel: Really too early to tell, but probably not that much. “Aggressive” is the word that keeps getting thrown around for Shoop’s defense, but that can take different forms – not just sending a bunch of guys on a blitz. I’ve said many times that the best defenses don’t need to blitz regularly. That should be the change-up, not the fastball. And I think this defense has the personnel to rush four a lot and still get to the quarterback. That’s the best-case scenario. Math works in your favor at that point. So you might see more blitzing, but I’m not ready to say every other play, and I’m not sure that’s what you want to see either, honestly.

    Stephen: Last season at Penn State, Bob Shoop’s defense recorded nearly 50 sacks – almost 20 more than Tennessee’s defense in 2015. So Shoop is definitely not afraid to send the house. However his defenses are also extremely difficult to pass against as Penn State had a top-10 passing defense in both of the last two seasons – and that was with a seemingly less talented secondary than he will have at Tennessee. So while you might not see blitzing every other play, I don’t think you will need to. If what you really want is to see opposing quarterbacks getting pressured more and sack numbers going up with passing yards allowed going down, Shoop’s record says you should be pretty satisfied in 2016.

    “What must we do to get the baseball jerseys available to buy?” – @neylandmafia

    Stephen: I don’t know @NeylandMafia, but I’m with you. Those jerseys are pretty sweet. If you figure it out, let me know about it.

    Nathanael: I’m sure you’ve Googled this and tried to find it somewhere, and that’s all I’d have to add to it. But I’ve thought for years the baseball team has the best uniforms of any of UT’s teams. And Nike just made them even better.

    “Best guess as to which Vol prospects will be holding a NFL scout day next year?” – @HinsonLain

    Daniel: Obviously most, if not all of the seniors will be there. In terms of non-senior guys, I’d say Jalen Hurd, Derek Barnett and Alvin Kamara will likely be there. Then I think there are some others that fall somewhere in the “maybe” category like: Josh Malone, Ethan Wolf, Justin Martin, Coleman Thomas, Jashon Robertson, Todd Kelly Jr. and Jonathan Kongbo III.

    Stephen: Daniel pretty much said everything that needs to be said, so I’m just going to kind of piggy back him a little bit. I’m not 100% convinced Alvin Kamara leaves after next season. And unless they make an unexpected decision, ala Marquez North, I don’t see Josh Malone, Ethan Wolf, or Coleman Thomas going pro early. However I do think the other guys Daniel mentioned could have a legitimate shot to go pro early and I think all would shine on their pro day.

    “Will Trevor Lawrence end up a vol?” – @CamCamKing64?

    Daniel: With so much time remaining and an in-state school and the scorching-hot Clemson also high on his list, I will probably take the field at this point and say no. But I do think UT is legitimately in it and has at least as good of a chance as anybody else.

    Stephen: I think he is a Tennessee Volunteeer IF certain conditions are met: 1) He is the only QB they take in 2018. 2) Tennessee passes the ball much more in 2016 and 2017. And 3) the Vols win the east in 2016 and, at minimum, finish second in the east in 2017. If those things do not happen, we might see Lawrence lighting it up for another school.

    Nathanael: I almost feel like I’m too biased on this one because I feel like Lawrence is the best QB prospect I’ve seen in years, but I honestly do think the Vols can land him. And I honestly think he’s leaning toward the Vols right now. So I’m gonna go ahead and say yes, I think he will end up a Vol.

    “Considering current roster + likely commits on horizon, is this program built for sustained success after 2016? 2017?” – @jon_wims

    Daniel: I think the days of scrapping for bowl eligibility are gone for the foreseeable future, but there’s certainly the potential for a step back in 2017, depending on who all leaves early. If one of the RBs comes back (or if they find a stud freshman who can play immediately) and the quarterback transition is relatively smooth, then this team absolutely can be a contender in 2017. The O-line should be really good, the receivers will likely be better and deeper and the defense should have enough pieces to be strong in 2017 again with guys like McKenzie, Tuttle, Kirkland, Kelly, Martin, Phillips, Kongbo, Gaulden and others likely back.

    Hard to look much beyond 2017, but there should be plenty of options at QB after that and enough talent from the 2015 and ’16 classes around that it doesn’t look like UT is going to fall off the map at any point soon. There’s certainly a lot of pressure on 2016, however, because there’s a lot that aligns well for the Vols this season.

    Stephen: Let me preface everything I’m about to say but first saying if Tennessee is found guilty in this lawsuit and the courts and/or NCAA drop the hammer on the football program, I don’t know if the program will see success after 2017.

    That being said, I have already gone on record in saying Tennessee might see a slight step backwards in 2017 just because of how many starters will graduate or leave early for the NFL. Looking at 2017, it’s inevitable that Tennessee will have more new starters on both sides of the ball than they’ve had in a few years. Some areas of strength should be both offensive and defensive lines, the quarterbacks, and receivers with several other talented individuals at other positions. So while you can’t really guarantee anything in college football, the good news is recruiting is healthy, the coaching staff is very good, and player development is really improving.