We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Why is everyone so worried about the RB position? Kelly is a stud and Chandler and Fils-Aime, though unproven, have solid potential.” – Jeremy
Nathanael: I wasn’t aware people were that worried about the running back situation, but I’ll take your word on that. They shouldn’t be, in my opinion, for the reasons you just said. I think John Kelly will be a very solid player this year, and I think he’ll have a 1,000-yard season for sure. I also think Ty Chandler will be one impressive freshman.
Will: Chandler will be a solid contributor this season. He has major feature back potential. But you can’t blame people for worrying about replacing Alvin Kamara. Tennessee may not see a player of his caliber at that position in a while.
“Do you see Butch starting both Dormady and Guarantano against Georgia Tech? Like switching them in and out?” – Kyle
Nathanael: The more and more I think about it, the more I do believe the Vols will run a two-quarterback system to start the season. I don’t know if that trend will continue all season, but I think at least through the first two games, Tennessee will have both quarterbacks on the field playing close to an equal amount of reps. I think once you get to the Florida game, you need to have someone taking 75 to 85 percent of the snaps, however. You can keep some packages in for whomever isn’t the starter, but I think at that point you need to figure out who the definite leader is.
Will: I think it will be a two quarterback system until the Florida game. Because that’s when Butch Jones has to decide on a starter, in my opinion. I think we’ll see special packages for both players in the first couple weeks.
“What do you think will be the most fun game to watch this year? What about the closest or most intense?” – Karissa
Nathanael: The most fun may be the one right out of the gate against Georgia Tech. I think it will be that or Missouri since the Tigers look poised to have another pretty solid offense, and I think Tennessee will too. Even if they don’t, Missouri’s defense doesn’t project to be very good, so the Vols should be able to take advantage of that. But as for the closest/most intense, I’d have to say the Georgia game. That one has been a one-score game for six consecutive seasons, and I think this year will make it seven years in a row. I don’t know if the Vols will come out on top in that one, but I think it will be close once again.
Will: I think the LSU game is going to be amazing. It has been a while since UT has played an elite opponent in Neyland Stadium in October. Plus, there could be major SEC East implications at that point of the season if the Vols are still in the hunt. And also, who doesn’t love Coach O? It’s a treat to have him in town.
“Who will be a surprise standout on this years team?” – Jobe
Nathanael: I’m not predicting he will as my answer, but do keep an eye out for Daniel Bituli this year and next. I think he could be special. But as for my actual answer to this question, I think the surprise standout this year will be either true freshman running back Ty Chandler or redshirt freshman receiver Latrell Williams. I really like what Chanlder brings to the table as a running back, and I think he can contribute immediately as a freshman. I also think Williams will work his way into the slot rotation and really surprise with his speed and hands.
Will: Darrell Taylor. He impressed me the most at practice this past spring, and I think he’s ready for a breakout season. He has huge shoes to fill in Derek Barnett, but I think he can handle that as well as anyone else on the roster.
“Why are the Preds pursuing Joe Thornton? Don’t they need more scoring, not an aging center?” – Jonathan
Nathanael: It makes sense to an extent for me. I’d still rather have Nick Bonino if the Preds can land him, but with Fisher still contemplating his future and with somewhat inexperienced centers on the roster behind him, someone with Thornton’s experience and stellar history would make sense despite him being in his late 30s and coming off a surgery recently.
Will: Everyone needs help at center. I think that shows Freddy Gaudreau is a couple years away from actually contributing day in and day out. Plus, you can move Calle Jarnkrok to wing to make room for Thornton. I think it’s a huge move.
“I’ve heard all the hype, seen all the grades and stuff from PFF. Are the Titans actually going to be that good or are they destined to disappoint?” – Tyler
Nathanael: I don’t know if I’d say they’re destined to disappoint, but I’m holding off on praising them just yet. Covering the Vols for the last three years and growing up watching them since I was a kid has made me realize it’s better to be cautious on a team than to buy in to the hype without the results to back it up. I do think the Titans will be improved this year and can nab a wildcard spot and should be in the thick of things in the South, but they have to prove it to me first before I go and start saying they have the third best roster in the NFL like PFF did.
Will: The hype train is rolling on 2016 UT levels. Where do I buy Super Bowl tickets?
In all seriousness, if Marcus Mariota stays healthy, which is a big if, I think the Titans are an 11 win team. As long as they at least split against the Colts, I think they win the division.