We answer your questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Which hire was the best this offseason?” – @UnoHornVol
Daniel: We graded the hires recently, so check that out here, but I thought, in-terms of full-time assistant coaches, that defensive backs coach Charlton Warren was the best overall hire. He recruits well, the defensive backs always seem to get better anywhere he is, and I thought that was a really, really solid hire overall. Rock Gullickson as strength and conditioning coach was a coup as well, in my opinion. Anytime you bring in a former NFL Strength Coach of the Year, that’s impressive.
Nathanael: I would agree with Daniel. I think Warren is the best hire of the on the field coaches, and I think Gullickson is probably No. 2 overall. Don’t sleep on Kevin Beard, though. I have him No. 3 followed very closely by Brady Hoke at No. 4.
Will: Brady Hoke is a great hire. When you look at Michigan’s talented rosters over the past couple of years, Hoke was a huge part of bringing that together. Despite his struggles at Michigan and Oregon more recently, Hoke has been the head of a program, which I think is a major selling point when you’re talking to recruits. I definitely think Rock Gullickson or Charlton Warren would have to be next on my list. I was really impressed with Gullickson’s opening press conference, and his experience all around the country.
“How does the football roster look for spring health wise? Last couple years have been depleted and limited.” – Weston Demonbreun
Daniel: I don’t have the full list at this point, but I know the defensive line will be extremely thin with Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie among the players out or limited.
Nathanael: Throw in the departures of Charles Mosley and Dimarya Mixon, and once again, the Vols will be depleted at defensive line for the spring like they were last year as well. Not sure about the other positions yet really, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if Darrin Kirkland Jr. sat out or was limited, though, given his injury history and the fact that he doesn’t have much to prove this spring.
Will: Last year Butch said that UT could go three deep in scrimmages for the first time in his tenure at UT. So it could always be worse.
“Can Obi Wan save the BasketVols postseason, and is he their only hope?” – @neylandmafia
Daniel: I think there’s a lot to like about the direction Rick Barnes is taking the program in. Is it where the program should be? No. But Barnes is stabilizing it and the talent is getting better. If he’s not in the tournament in year four or five, then you have the conversation about if he’s doing enough overall, but I don’t think there’s a ton of reason for concern right now.
Nathanael: He’s not their only hope, Neyland Mafia. Robert Hubbs and Grant Williams should give the Vols some hope. But yeah, the likelihood of the Vols making a tournament run this year is very low. They may not even beat Georgia. And if they do, they have Kentucky up next. That doesn’t bode well at all.
Will: Obi Wan? No. Obi Loft-an? Maybe. A win over Georgia and I think there’s no question this season has to be considered a success. However, beating a pro-Kentucky crowd in Meowsic City would certainly require some divine intervention.
“Win over UGA – NIT bid in your opinion?” – Brandon Bassham
Daniel: Brandon, you made me look up NIT bracketology – shame on you. It says Tennessee is a team “under consideration,” so I guess a win over Georgia could do it, but who knows.
Nathanael: Yes, Brandon, how dare you make Daniel do his job. But in all seriousness, I think a win over UGA would get the Vols into the NIT, but only barely. They were considered a No. 1 seed just a few weeks ago, but now they’re considered barely a No. 8 seed. I think a win over the Bulldogs gets them in, but if they want to get a better seed, they’ll need to defeat Kentucky too. And if they can do that, why not just go ahead and make a run for the SEC Tournament title?
Will: Beating J.J. Frazier and Georgia definitely gets you into the NIT, in my opinion. I think that the win over Alabama is probably enough to get Tennessee in based on its strength of schedule and general star power in that tournament. The NIT loves to set up regional games between power-five teams and local mid-majors.
“If there is one thing we can learn about Vol basketball from this season what would it be?” – Tyler
Daniel: There’s still more work to do, but Rick Barnes is a solid developer.
Nathanael: That Vol fans are going to have to suffer through another “wait and see” offseason. But at least there’s hope and as Daniel said, we also saw that Barnes does appear to be a good developer of talent.
Will: For a guy who gets a lot of criticism in recruiting, Barnes is exceptional at evaluating talent. Don’t underestimate his recruiting classes, no matter how highly they are rated.
“Will John Currie bring back Guldens?” – @BigOrangeButch
Daniel: It should be priority No. 1.
Nathanael: If he could also help make The Strip actually driveable and have places worth going to again, that would be great too.
Will: Once I can drive a mile in under ten minutes on The Strip, we’ll talk.
“Not a but more of a suggestion, we need the Tennessee walking horse before every game. Not just HC. Gets the people going.” – Spencer England
Nathanael: There was a reason they took away the Tennessee walking horse, and I think it had to do with animal rights and how that type of walking for that breed of horse was cruel to it. I could be wrong, but if that’s the case, I’m fine with it no longer being a tradition. If that’s not the deal, then maybe we should look into it.
Will: If there’s a way to do it without upsetting animal rights activists, I totally agree. It’s one of the cooler, more underrated traditions throughout the years of Tennessee football.