Insider Mailing: Post-Bristol Edition

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    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

    “Any chance that we aren’t seeing a ton of Kamara until UF/SEC play? Is there any type of hold going on? Or is it just bad?” – Michael Walker

    Erik: I think we’ll see more of him as the season goes on. I think he’s a specialty player, and the situations have to be right to utilize him properly.

    Nathanael: I think there’s a chance of that, yes. I do agree with Ainge in that I think he’s more of a situational player and will be utilized when his skills match the moment. He’s not the kind of player you want to carry the ball 15-20 times a game, but he’s dangerous in the open field. Get him the ball in space matched up on a corner, and watch him go.

    Daniel: Some of the lack of usage can be accounted to Tennessee only averaging 68.5 snaps per game through the first two games – that’s down from their pace of 76 per game last year. Kamara is averaging 7.5 touches per game so far after averaging 11.5 last year. A few of those touches also came on special teams last year, where he hasn’t had a chance to get a touch this year. So there’s not a massive overall difference in use, but what is there is hard to explain.

    He averaged at least 6.2 ypc in the three games that he carried 15 times or more last year, so I don’t necessarily agree that he has to just be a specialty player. I think the biggest factor is UT’s comfort level with Jalen Hurd taking a a high number of carries. But Kamara came into the season second among returning SEC running backs in yards per carry (minimum 75 carries) and third in yards per catch. He’s never going to be a 30-carries-between-the-tackles type of back, but find ways to get him the football.

    “How do I cope with the anxiety that the couple weeks before the UF game bring? #Iamfreakingoutalready” – Caleb Castleman

    Erik: and

    Nathanael: Exactly what Ainge said. Get yourself some Sugarlands and and go watch some of our tailgate videos and make yourself all kinds of great concoctions.

    Daniel: Expect the best, but be prepared for the worst. I think that’s pretty good life advice that also applies here.

    Stephen: Just embrace it Caleb. Tennessee needs a little more freaking out going on. Not in a “panic-mode, burn-the-place-down” kind of freaking out. But definitely some “get fired up because this means everything” kind of freaking out.

    “Two guys are noticeably absent on offense – Ethan Wolf and Josh Smith. Is the OL play to blame for this, or what?” – RockyTop10EC

    Erik: We only threw the ball 19 times against Tech, and our field position dictated a lot of play calling. I think, like Kamara, you’ll see them get more involved as the season goes on.

    Nathanael: It is puzzling to me that both haven’t done much in the passing game so far. They targeted Wolf early in the first game then never went back to him. Smith hasn’t been playing well so far actually. He’s not blocking well and dropping passing. I think that’s his biggest issue.

    Daniel: Statistically, Wolf is actually a touch ahead of pace of his productivity from the last two years, but Smith has been a pretty big no-show so far. I think it’s fair to say that he’s just more of a role player in this offense. He’s had some huge catches, but he’s only caught more than four passes in a game once in his UT career, so he’s a guy that kind of comes and goes from the offense.

    Stephen: I actually disagree with you a little bit about Ethan Wolf. Through his first two games last year he had four catches for 40 yards. Through his first two games this year, he’s had four catches for 40 yards. The main difference is he did have two touchdowns in the season opener last season against Bowling Green. Still, I’d say Wolf is just fine. As for Josh Smith though, I believe he is underutilized in this offense. He has deceptive speed and possibly the surest hands on the team. Between practices and games, I haven’t seen Smith drop a pass he should have caught since his true freshman season. Smith is probably one of the thicker receivers on the team at 6-1, 213 pounds and is a good run-blocker so he definitely helps the offense in that category right now. However, it would definitely be nice to see Mike DeBord find some new ways to get him the ball.

    Ben Miller Loans

    “Even though UT has higher expectations this year, are you more concerned about UF this year than last two?” – Mike Fenner

    Erik: This will be a good game and close game like 90 percent of the games in this series. I don’t think it will be a blowout. I hope the ball bounces our way.

    Daniel: I don’t know that this Florida team is better than the last two UT faced (especially last year, not sure about 2014 yet), but I think it’s fair for UT fans to be more concerned about this game because there’s so much riding on it for the Vols.

    Nathanael: I would say yes because this game this year is more than just the Vols trying to end a long losing streak; the game this year has significant postseason implications for the Vols. If Tennessee wins this game, the Vols have a great shot at winning the SEC East. If they lose it, however, they face a huge uphill battle from there. The stakes haven’t been this high in this game in almost a decade.

    Stephen: Mike, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Tennessee may have higher expectations this season – from myself included – but I have yet to truly see them live up to the expectation. Part of that is because Tennessee played poorly against App State, but it’s also partly because they’ve only played in two games. That being said, I definitely think there is more reason to be concerned about Florida this year. In my opinion, everything about Tennessee’s season rides on the Florida game. If they lose to the Gators at home, there is zero reason to believe they will beat Texas A&M on the road or Alabama later at home. In other words, it’s not just the most important game of the season. It’s the most important game of Butch Jones’ career. If he can’t beat Florida this year, I don’t believe he ever will.

    For the record though, I think Tennessee beats Florida.

    “Based on how HORRIBLE we have played (VT included) do u think we even win 9 games again?? Right now I say NO,” – Matt Gillenwater 

    Erik: My win forecast has not changed. I still think we’re a 10-2 at worst football team.

    Nathanael: I hope you were joking, even if just slightly on this. Because I absolutely think they’ll win at least nine games in the regular season. I agree with Ainge here too (sensing a theme?), they should still be a 10-2 team. I think nine wins is the floor for this team.

    Daniel: I feel worse about my 10-2 pick after watching the first two games unfold. I’m sticking with it for now until they prove me wrong in conference play, but 9-3 feels more likely now than it did a couple weeks ago. I would still be very surprised if they went lower than that, however. This team showed some flaws through two weeks, but also showed it can be resilient and find ways to win – aren’t those some of the things we questioned about the Vols all offseason?

    “Why do people who first week plummet to the bottom of fantasy football think they could OC the Vols?” – @NeylandMafia

    Erik: Football is the most watched and least known sport inside the minds of the coaches. The coaches don’t want to divulge their secrets and because of that, fans don’t really know what they’re trying to do when it doesn’t work. Hence, armchair quarterbacks.

    Daniel: I don’t think you have to be a great collegiate OC to criticize an OC. Sometimes you can just tell somebody isn’t being utilized or a type of play isn’t working, even if you can’t give a great technical explanation of why. I’ve defended Mike DeBord to an extent this year because I think he’s been a bit limited by the O-line, but since he also functions as a de facto O-line coach for the team, I can’t completely let him off the hook.

    Nathanael: It IS interesting how many people think they can be coaches online, isn’t it? I mean I absolutely welcome people criticizing a coach’s decision. I do the same. We all do. And I think what Ainge said is very accurate. Football is the most watched sport and the one that coaches give away the least amount about. I’d love to know the thought process in-game from an offensive coordinator. But that’s not likely to ever happen unfortunately. So instead, we’re left to question why because of the lack of information.

    “What’s the best explanation for the decline in play of the OL since last year?” – Mark Quayle 

    Daniel: I’m still trying to figure it out myself, but I think people are realizing a couple things: 1. Kyler Kerbyson did an admirable job at LT last year and 2. Chance Hall has been missed. I’ll be really interested to see what this group can do with Hall back. At that point maybe you flip Kendrick to LT, where he’s played some in the past, and then play the best three between Coleman Thomas, Dylan Wiesman, Jashon Robertson and Jack Jones inside.

    Erik: Unity, as of right now. That’s what I’m rolling with. They have to find the right five. I’m not sure otherwise, but they’ll figure it out.

    Nathanael: Injuries. I think (and hope) it’s as simple as that. Chance Hall is hurt, I think Coleman Thomas is too, and I just some of the rhythm has been disrupted from the unit from the start of fall camp to now. Jack Jones should play more, and Hall will once he recovers. It also doesn’t help that the depth still isn’t quite where you want it to be at that unit.

    “Don’t high ankle sprains usually require several weeks to recover?” – Phillip Bell 

    Erik: Unless you’re Brett Favre and you’re the last of the Mohicans, yes.

    Nathanael: It depends on the grade of the sprain, but yes, none that I’ve ever seen have ever fully recovered in just a week. So I wouldn’t expect Darrin Kirkland Jr. to be back for the Florida game.

    Stephen: The first thing I thought of when I heard Darrin Kirkland had a high ankle sprain was Josh Smith a few years ago. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the second week of the season against Oklahoma and missed the rest of the season. Granted, he received a medical redshirt, but that just goes to show you how long it takes to get back from that kind of injury sometimes. I think the early prognosis on Kirkland is a little more optimistic and he will only miss a few weeks, but you never really know with high ankle sprains.