We answer your questions about Tennessee athletics or anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing:
“In your opinion, what is the minimum number of wins (total and/or conference) the Vols need to make the tourney?” – Caleb Castleman
Daniel: Based on recent history, I think the absolute minimum would be 18 – and that’s only happened once for an at-large team in the last two tournaments (Oklahoma State, 2015). With UT’s strong SOS and RPI, I’d feel pretty good at 20+. If they can get to 10 regular-season SEC wins and then pick up a couple in the SEC Tournament, they should be in good shape.
Nathanael: I agree with Daniel that it has to be 18 at the absolute minimum, and that would be assuming none of their remaining losses are considered “bad” losses. I, like Daniel, would feel much better about their chances if they finished with 20 or more wins (including SEC tournament) and had no truly bad losses. They can afford to lose to, say, Kentucky, South Carolina, and maybe a team like Alabama down the stretch because those are all either ranked teams or top 100 RPI teams.
“How far do you think this basketball team can go if they keep playing like this?” – Robert Grissom
“What’s the ceiling for Tennessee basketball?” – Erzhan Cochran
Daniel: I think the making the NCAA Tournament and winning a game or two is probably the ceiling this year. I don’t think anything is a given, however. This is still a young team with some deficiencies, but I’m extremely impressed with the last four games.
Nathanael: You mean how far in the NCAA Tournament? Or are we talking SEC Tournament? Or just overall? Because if they keep up this style of play for the next two months, they could easily win at least one, if not two games in the NCAA Tournament depending on their seed and who they match up against. If they’re an 11 or 12 seed, they could go up against a weaker 6 or 5 seed depending on what region they’re in. It will just depend on who they draw if they make it there.
“I used to be a Jimmies/Joes guy. But after seeing Butch w/talent last 2 yrs I’ve switched to X’s/O’s. What about you guys?” – Mike Jehle
Daniel: I think Jimmys/Joes always have the power to overcome some X’s/O’s situations (see Auburn with Gene Chizik and Cam Newton and Oregon with Marcus Mariota and Mark Helfridge), but I’ve shifted a little bit more to the X’s and O’s side over the past few years.
The importance of the college football head coach can’t really be overstated. There’s a more logical division of power in the NFL (coach/GM/team president, etc.), but in college football, the head coach essentially takes all of those titles and more. So I think, in most cases, having a good head coach is more important than being the most talented team (to an extent). But being a good head coach goes beyond just being schematically sound. It comes down to how he delegates, manages situations, prepares, motivates, hires and runs the entire program. I’ll take a coach that does all that very well over anything, because the schemes and the recruiting will all fall into place if you have a head coach that knows his strengths and weaknesses and sets other up to succeed.
I think Dabo Swinney is the best current example of that in college football. But the easiest way to win big is to have both – the talent and the coaching. That’s why teams like Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State have won so much in recent years.
Nathanael: I’ve always been more an X’s/O’s guy myself. Dooley had the Jimmies and Joes (at least on offense) and we saw what happened there. Coaching cost them so many games in his three years at Tennessee. Same thing with Georgia over the years. They’ve had loads of talent and they’ve done little with it.
“What has a better chance of happening, Peyton becoming governor of Tennessee or becoming an NFL head coach?” – Tyler Wright
Nathanael: I’d say governor, honestly. I don’t Peyton ever becomes an NFL head coach. I think if he does anything in the NFL, it will be as an owner or director of football operations. I’d be surprised if Peyton ever actually got into coaching.
Daniel: I’m all in on Peyton the political figure. I think the 2020 senator rumblings plus his appearance at the GOP retreat recently point to this being a possibility for him. What else does he have to prove in football? He’s a people person, his popularity is through the roof, and I could easily see him parlaying that into a successful political career. So I’ll say governor over head coach.
“Night before Final Four game Hubbs gets caught with Satan’s leaf lettuce – does Barnes suspend him?” – @TSPN_VOL
Nathanael: Nope. The news wouldn’t come out that night. It would be pushed till later.
Daniel: 100% yes. This guy won’t even lie about heights on the roster.
“What’s going to be the slogan for the class of ’19? #Dom1n8-4″ – @MaxTE34
Nathanael: Apparently it’s “Five-Star Hearts” now.
“Will the 2017 season include a QB transferring?” – Grant Winfree
Daniel: I’d say about 75% yes. It’s just part of college football. It happens everywhere and it will likely happen at UT at some point in the next year.
Nathanael: Absolutely. Why else would the staff make adding preferred walk-on QBs such a priority? And make a late scramble to add Will McBride to the 2017 class? Whichever quarterback doesn’t win this battle is transferring in my opinion.
“Better comeback story, Lew Evans or Colton Jumper?” – Nick Weathers
Nathanael: Man, this is tough. Right now, I’m going to side with Jumper. He had received nothing but hatred and criticism for over a year before putting together a solid game against Florida, Georgia, and other SEC teams down the stretch for the Vols. What Lew is doing is great, but he still makes some bone-headed mistakes. He’s a little too inconsistent to overtake Jumper right now. Plus, Jumper was a walk-on. Evans is a transfer with a scholarship. I side with Jumper here.
Daniel: It’s Colton Jumper all day. Fans were literally calling him one of the worst players they’ve ever seen and he turned into a solid piece for the defense at times in 2016. That’s a comeback. Lew’s story is more about getting more comfortable in the system and taking advantage of extra playing time after John Fulkerson went down.
“Holly Warlick has to be the best at keeping a job by winning 2-3 significant games. Can you think of anyone who has been better?” – Ryan Williamson
Nathanael: The only other person that comes to mind is Mark Richt when he was at Georgia. Johnny Jones still miraculously has a job at LSU despite not even getting those significant wins.
Daniel: Les Miles was pretty good in this area. He was literally able to change the administration’s decision in the middle of a game in 2015, so that’s tough to top.