Insider Mailing: Orange and White Game Edition

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    “The hype is real, isn’t it? The Vols REALLY are back? Lie to me, if necessary.” – @NeylandMafia

    Daniel: All the pieces are there for the Vols to be back, no lying necessary. Take care of business at the beginning and end of the schedule and then get at least 3/4 in the Florida-Georgia-A&M-Alabama gauntlet and then it turns into a three-game playoff for a national title at the end of the season in my opinion.

    Stephen: According to my little brother, Tennessee has a 57% chance to go undefeated this season. I don’t understand his math, but I love his spirit. And in all honesty, it might not be that high, but Tennessee’s chances of really doing something this season are higher than they’ve been in decades.

    Nathanael: If the Vols survive that mid-season stretch that Daniel pointed out, then I’ll buy in all day every day. If they get two of the four games, they’ll be where I expect them. If they get three, then they are legitimate threats to win the SEC. If they get all four, they’re Playoff bound.

    “Serrano’s contract will not be renewed after the season, will it?” – David Maxedon

    Daniel: I feel fairly unqualified to have an intelligent opinion on this so I kicked it to our contributor Will Boling, who has been covering baseball for us this spring…

    Will: Tennessee has a decent chance to sneak into the NCAA Tournament. They’ve been in the First Four Out for the past two weeks and just dropped out on Wednesday, so there is still a lot of room for improvement. If this team can find a way to win one game against Vanderbilt and Florida, and take a home series against LSU, they can definitely make the tourney. A lot of that will also hinge on their SEC Tournament performance, but if this team can find a way to weather the storm and make the tournament then Serrano will get at least another year.

    Serrano is a stubborn guy, he wants his west-coast style of “small ball” to work in the SEC. I’m not sure that it will, but with a senior laden team, this is his best chance to make the tournament. You also have to take into account some big injuries to Jeff Moberg and Kyle Serrano, which gives him a little bit of slack. After this year, you lose your best player in Senzel, who’s headed early to the bigs. He can save his job with an NCAA Tournament appearance, in my opinion.

    Nathanael: At this rate, no. I do think this upcoming series against Auburn is very winnable, but the SEC in baseball really is just as a stacked as the SEC in football. Maybe even more so to some extent. Serrano came in looking to play small ball and it didn’t work out. Give him credit for attempting to adjust this year and making offensive changes that have worked. But it might be a case of too little too late for him. The Vols are still making fundamental errors on the base paths and in the field. It’s not looking very positive for Serrano right now.

    “Who wins in an “anything goes” street fight: LeBron James or JJ Watt?” – Cameron Ramsey

    Daniel: I’ll take JJ Watt in that one all day. He has about a 30-40 pound weight edge and has a bit more crazy in him than LeBron it seems. LeBron might stick with him for awhile, but to actually win the fight, he’d need some help from his friends, if you catch my drift. 

    Stephen: First of all, LOL @Daniel. I’m taking JJ Watt all day. Not only is he bigger, he is younger and stronger. LeBron might have the speed on him but even if he did actually hit Watt, I don’t think it would do much. The guy is tough as nails. And after he won, he would stand over LeBron with his foot on the King’s chest and the heavens would part while DJ Sterl the Pearl played a new mix of Neyland Stadium’s favorite hit “Turn Down for Watt.”

    Nathanael: JJ easy. Unless LeBron makes a heel turn in the middle of it and tags in some unexpected help from Gronkowski or someone else.

    “Colton Jumper was much maligned last year. Yet early reports indicate serious improvement. True or not?” – @NeylandMafia

    Daniel: Jumper definitely took a lot of heat last year, and some of it was deserved, but the coaches asked a ton of a 220-pound sophomore walk-on in that situation. It’s hard for me to say a ton about his level of improvement this spring because he’s been in a non-contact jersey for much of the past few weeks, but I do know the coaches love his understanding of the defense and his work ethic. It will be interesting to see what direction they go if something were to happen to Kirkland, but I think Jumper is a guy that coaching staff wants to have some kind of a role in 2016 regardless of fan opinion.

    Stephen: First thing’s first, the Mike spot is Kirkland’s for the next 2-3 years. But I do think Jumper has made improvements. As Daniel said, it’s hard to really tell just how far he’s come since he’s been in the green, non-contact jersey. However his strength has always been his intelligence. He’s a smart kid. He knows the defense very well. It just doesn’t always translate on the field when there are likely 21 scholarship players surrounding him and he is playing arguably the hardest position on the field. He took a lot of grief last season, but I give the kid credit. He wasn’t AJ Johnson, but he was serviceable for a short time.

    Nathanael: I don’t think my colleagues realized this was a joke question. Or if they did, they were very keen not to let on they knew.

    “Kobe’s final game or Warriors’s shot at history?” – Morgan Knight

    Daniel: I respect all that Kobe has done on the court, but I’ve just never been much of a fan of his. I’m more interested in Steph & Co. all day.

    Stephen: If I had to choose just one game to watch, I’d probably watch Kobe. I have loved watching Kobe and it would be the end of an era. Not to mention it would be way more emotional than the Warriors getting 73. Luckily we live in a world where we can change channels and watch both!

    Nathanael: I love me some Kobe. As a Celtics fan, I despise the Lakers, but I respect Kobe so much. He’s truly one of the five best players I’ve ever watched in my lifetime. But I can’t bring myself to watch his last game when history could be made with the Warriors.

     “What is the ideal time to see all you can at the orange and white game? I’ve been to countless games but never the O&W” – Joe Everett 

    Daniel: I published an information guide a little earlier this week that might be of some help in terms of knowing everything that’s going on. Unless you’re doing the Fan Day stuff or tailgating, I’d just recommend getting to campus around 12:30-1 to give yourself some time to find a parking spot and then head in a little early to watch warm-ups and then enjoy the day. It’s pretty laid back compared to a game in the fall.

    Nathanael: Ignore Daniel. Get there at 8 AM and fill up on booze and food until the game so you don’t remember any of it except for yelling obscenities at Spurrier and cheering for Peyton as he schools Dobbs, Dormady, and the rest of the QBs in a skills competition.

    “Who will be the highest taken Vol in the draft next year?” – Braden Cloyd

    Daniel: My money would be on Barnett at this point assuming he has the type of junior year he’s capable of. I think Hurd is going to be the victim of being in a very strong class of RBs if he comes out early. Sutton certainly is in the conversation, especially if he has a strong year in coverage. Reeves-Maybin, Kamara and Dobbs are other guys that I think will ultimately be drafted, but none of them stick out as super early picks to me right now.

    Stephen: In a pass-happy NFL, quarterbacks are prized possessions. But that also means defensive ends who can pressure the quarterback are just as vital, and that’s exactly what Derek Barnett does. If he finishes the 2016 season with around the same numbers he’s had his first two seasons, Barnett will have about 30 sacks and 50 tackles for loss. This year’s top-rated defensive end in the NFL Draft is Joey Bosa, and in his 3 years at Ohio State he had 27 sacks and 51 TFLs. Since he is expected to go in the top 10, I’m gonna say Derek Barnett gets drafted pretty early as well.

    Nathanael: Let’s make it unanimous. Barnett goes first, but I think Cam Sutton will be next due not only to his abilities as a corner, but also his strength as a return guy. Then Hurd. Then I think, in a surprise move, Kamara goes next, followed by JRM.