Insider Mailing: Camp Questions Edition

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    We answer your question about the Vols or anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing. If you have questions about anything in the mortgage process, go to

    “Are Tennessee’s top 6 players, 3 best from each side, as good or better than anyone in the conference?” – @JTRock21

    Daniel: Great question. I’ll start by saying that I think UT’s reps would be (in order) Jalen Hurd, Joshua Dobbs and Alvin Kamara on offense, and Derek Barnett, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cam Sutton on defense.

    In my opinion, Tennessee is comfortably ahead of any team in the East in that regard. Georgia can’t match UT’s star power on defense and Florida can’t compete on offense. So that takes me over to the West. I feel pretty good saying UT is ahead of Arkansas, Mississippi State and Auburn. I feel ok about putting the Vols ahead of A&M and Ole Miss too, though I could understand some arguments for those teams.

    That brings us to Alabama and LSU, and that’s where the real argument comes. Let’s go head-to-head.

    Hurd vs. Leonard Fournette, Dobbs vs. Ethan Pocic and Kamara vs. Malachi Dupre on offense and Barnett vs. Kendell Beckwith, JRM vs. Tre’Davious White and Sutton vs. Jamal Adams. I’d give LSU a point for Fournette, UT a point for Barnett and then say I see a bunch of other good matchups of total talent that are almost impossible to call. I think it’s fair to say UT and LSU are very close.

    For Alabama, I’d go Hurd against Cam Robinson, Dobbs against Calvin Ridley and Kamara against O.J. Howard on offense, and Barnett against Jonathan Allen, JRM against Reuben Foster and Sutton against Eddie Jackson. All-in-all, I think Alabama wins a majority of those matchups from a pure talent standpoint.

    To finally answer your question, I’d put UT about tied for second in the league in terms of top three on both sides of the ball, but can’t say they’re as good as anybody quite yet. My opinion could certainly change once I see the on-field product.

    Erik: Yes.

    Nathanael: Goodness, I  think Daniel said all there was to say on this. I think the Vols’ best three are better than everyone’s except for Bama’s like Daniel said. But even those six players aren’t a great deal better than Tennessee’s. It’s quite close.

    “Which freshman will make the biggest impact on both sides of the ball this season?” – Ryan Bowden

    Daniel: I’m liking Tyler Byrd on offense right now. I think he’ll be a big part of the receiver rotation and could make some big plays. Defensively, I’ll go with Nigel Warrior or Marquill Osborne.

    Erik: Tyler Byrd…he wears No. 10 and that’s that. Let me say “newcomer” and let’s call it Kongbo.

    NathanaelI’ll make it a clean sweep and say Byrd on offense as well. And for freshman on defense, I’ll say Marquill Osborne because I think they’ll need to use him at cornerback more than Warrior will be needed at safety. I think Warrior will be a good special teams player, though.

    Ben Miller Loans

    “Is Tyler Byrd the new Pig Howard or does he have a much higher ceiling?” – @neylandmafia

    Daniel: Tough to judge his overall ceiling right now, but Byrd is off to a great start in camp, and I think UT will use him in multiple ways – much like Pig Howard. He’s a great athlete and can be a playmaker. UT needs more of that from the wide receiver position.

    Erik: Much higher ceiling, Byrd can be an impact player.

    Nathanael: Erik is trying to start the Tyler Byrd hype train like he did Riley Ferguson, just so you guys know. It’s too early to tell honestly. Anybody can look good in fall camp. We’ll see once he takes the field. But I think his ceiling is higher than Pig Howard’s was, yes.

    “Gravy…. With sausage, or without sausage?” – Zach White

    Daniel: Either is fine, but with sausage would be my vote if all else is equal.

    Erik: Without.

    Nathanael: It depends on if you’re talking about white or brown gravy. Because I think sausage is a must in white gravy, but I eat brown gravy without it.

    “How likely is it that Guarantano becomes the backup QB?” – Tyler White 

    Daniel: 30%. Dormady remains the favorite there, and you shouldn’t sleep on him. He’s a talented, polished quarterback. Guarantano has all the tools, however, and if he gets the offense down, it’s tough to put a limit on what he can do.

    Erik: This year, not likely.

    Nathanael: I think Dormady keeps it this year, but I’m sticking with my prediction of Guarantano as starter for 2017.

    “Does Florida or Alabama pose a bigger threat to UT based on off-season preparedness?”

    Nathanael: It depends on if you’re talking about mentally or physically at this point. I think for actual talent and physical match-ups, it’s Alabama easy. But when it comes to the psychological toil, I think it’s still Florida.

    “Can we get an update on the condition of Shields-Watkins Field? Any idea if it will it be as bad as last year?” – Matthew Brown
    Daniel: We haven’t been there yet this year for a practice, but I’m sure it looks great. The true test will come in November – when it has failed the past couple years. They put in a plan to make it better this year, but I understand the skepticism. At least it will be better than the field for the Hall of Fame Game, right?

    “What long-term effect will Bob Shoop have on Butch Jones’ coaching philosophy/tendencies?” – Todd Young 

    Daniel: If Shoop coaches as aggressively as he has a reputation for doing, I think that could rub off on Butch Jones and that would be a good thing. Bringing in Shoop and Larry Scott over the offseason proved that Jones is willing to think a bit more outside the box and push himself as a coach as opposed to bringing in guys he’d worked with in the past.

    Erik: I think he will bring a more aggressive approach to play-calling.

    Nathanael: I hope it makes Jones open things up more and not go so conservative. Especially late in games. Shoop, from what we’ve seen at previous stops, likes to open up his defense and blitz and get after offenses. I just hope this doesn’t happen the other way around where Jones’ conservative play-calling rubs off on Shoop.

    “Opinion on Whataburger?” – @MaxTE34

    Daniel: Pretty big fan. I wish Knoxville would get one.

    Erik: Great place, always eat there when I go to vacation.