We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“What impact do you think Coach Scott will have on this offense? Can we expect to have a better defense despite losing key players?” – @RockyTopBricks
Nathanael: I do wonder if Scott will implement more pro-style looks considering he played offensive line in college for USF back in the 90s. Overall, however, I don’t think the offense will change a ton other than the quarterback not running as much (even if Guarantano wins the battle). And the Vols’ defense better be better this year than last season. That defense last year broke a Sal Sunseri record, and that’s not something you want to do. As long as they can stay healthier this year. I do think the defense returns to form and is a top-7 defense in the SEC.
Will: Larry Scott’s biggest impact is on the recruiting trail, in my opinion. The on the field product isn’t going to change all that much as long as Butch Jones is the head coach. That being said, this coaching staff is adamant that they are always evolving and changing the way they go about their business. But I do think most of the changes will happen behind closed doors, rather than specific scheme changes on the field.
“Why are so many “fans” ready to fire CBJ when there are no TOP SHELF options? who we gone get? Saban, Meyer, Jimbo, Stoops? No to all!” – Jeff Cook
Nathanael: First of all, saying no to Saban, Meyer, or Jimbo Fisher is insane. Even someone who loves Butch Jones as head coach would (or should, at least) want one of those three over him. Those three are proven winners and have titles to back up their claims. Secondly, I think fans are wanting to fire Jones because of how the last two seasons have played out. The Vols have been oh-so-close to winning the East the last two years, and they fell short in heartbreaking fashion both times. In 2015, it was second half collapses against Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas that frustrated fans. Last season it was a loss to South Carolina coming off a bye week and losing to Vanderbilt when a trip to the Sugar Bowl was on the line.
As far as who the Vols would get if Jones was fired: I don’t know. But I disagree with the “no top shelf options” statement. Chip Kelly (although potentially a little far-fetched) would be a fan favorite immediately. And a program can’t let the thinking of “but who else is out there” keep them from making the right decision should firing Jones turn out to be the right path to take.
Will: Losing to Vanderbilt makes everyone lose their minds. But Jones has gotten more than his fair share of criticism. This fan base wants nothing more to erase the Dooley and Kiffin years and get back to where Tennessee football deserves to be. Last season was the first time Jones didn’t meet expectations at UT, and the current climate of the SEC punishes that scenario. This isn’t just a Tennessee thing. It’s the same hyper-critical climate that got Les Miles, and potentially Gus Malzahn and Kevin Sumlin, fired.
“If the Vols go 9-3 and play in the sugar bowl, will it silence the negavols?” – @SolidVolFan
Nathanael: No. Some of them, yes. But all of them, or even a majority of them? No. Only an SEC title would silence the vast majority of negatively inclined Vol fans.
Will: There will always be a faction of the fan base that will point to the losses rather than the victories. If those three losses are to Florida, Alabama and Georgia then I don’t expect the “Negavols” to quiet down whatsoever.
“With the hiring of Fulmer as an advisor to Dr. DiPietro, what impact if any will he have on UT Athletics, especially football?” – Bobby Brown
Nathanael: I don’t think it will have a huge impact on football, but I think it’s helpful to have him around for both Butch Jones and John Currie. Both men can turn to Fulmer to seek his advice, and I’m sure Fulmer will give advice unprompted as well.
Will: This is purely a PR move. It’s a really good PR move, but it’s still just for public appearance. It makes John Currie’s job much easier, because he doesn’t have to publicly mend UT’s relationship with Coach Fulmer. Fulmer was working with the university, now he just has an official title. I don’t think there will be too many changes.
“What did y’all think of the Vegas expansion draft, if anything?” – Karissa
Nathanael: Adding ten future draft picks from 2018 till 2020 was huge. The roster itself isn’t bad at all, but I don’t expect them to compete immediately either. They should be at the bottom of the league the first couple seasons, but landing all those picks was an extremely smart move. And they were smart to stock up on defensemen to trade later too.
Will: They got a crazy amount of draft picks. The price of avoiding certain selections was way too high, which is exactly why the Predators didn’t make a deal to protect James Neal. They’ll finish last for a few years, but built an impressive stockpile of picks to build upon over their first five years.
“What percentage of Fulmer’s new salary will be directly translated into cake?” – Andrew
Nathanael: If it were me, an embarrassing amount of my $100,000 annual salary in that position would go towards cake. As for Fulmer, I’m not sure.