We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“When Rick Barnes misses the tournament again, can we run him out of here? Will any of you ask him about staying home during crootin?” – Jon
Nathanael: First of all, I don’t think the Vols miss the tournament this year. So I don’t think your scenario is going to happen. Secondly, I do take a little issue with him staying home during recruiting and leaving it up to his assistants mostly. I think that’s a very old school way of doing things and not the most effective. He should be out selling the program. However, recruiting has picked up in basketball lately, so whatever they’re doing is working apparently. So unless it drops off or they miss out on someone big time that they’re in on, it isn’t as big of an issue as some try to make it.
Will: Complaining about Rick Barnes’ recruiting is hilarious to me. Because anyone who’s complaining about his recruiting hasn’t watched the three stars that played like four stars last year. Barnes exceeded expectations last year, so he’s not remotely on the hot seat this year. But I think this team is going to be good. UT has crazy potential this year, enough to not just make the tournament, but make some noise once it makes the Big Dance.
“If Tennessee goes 10-2 does Butch deserve the coach of the year award he’s on watch for?” – Ben
Nathanael: Probably not at that point just yet, no. There’s no guarantee going 10-2 would even give the Vols an East title. It’s highly likely, but it would depend on who the two losses are to. But let’s assume they win the East and are 10-2. The only way I see Jones getting Coach of the Year is if they win the SEC Championship Game and go to the playoffs or a New Years Six bowl and then win that bowl game. But just a 10-2 regular season with a loss in the conference title game wouldn’t get him the award. But it would be a much better season than almost anyone is predicting.
Will: If one of those ten wins is against Alabama, then I think it’s a possibility. But he’d have to probably go 11-1 with a win over Alabama to win the Bobby Dodd award.
“Who are the biggest recruiting misses, in Butch Jones tenure?. And what would the teams have looked like, depth/record, had we landed them?” – Matt
Nathanael: The first one that comes to mind is Dontavious Blair. And that wasn’t just a Butch/UT thing; Blair was highly coveted by several schools, such as Auburn. But from your question I’m assuming you mean “misses” as in players who never committed, not “busts” that did come to UT. In that case, missing on Mecole Hardman and him going to Georgia was a big one. I personally think missing on all the running backs they missed out on in the 2016 class ended up being pretty big too. And, of course, there’s the in-state talent the staff couldn’t pull in last year such as Tee Higgins.
Will: Vonn Bell is one name comes to mind, even though Butch didn’t have long to recruit him in his first year. Torrance Gibson was a pretty big miss at the time, but he didn’t end up doing anything at Ohio State. I think Hunter Johnson and Tee Higgins will end up being the biggest misses. Higgins would’ve made a major impact this season. Although Johnson wouldn’t have really made a difference at quarterback this season, he’s got a huge ceiling.
“Should baseball move towards calling balls and strikes electronically to help umpires or are we gonna stay stuck in the ‘old ways’ forever?” – Barney
Nathanael: Yes. I don’t care about the “tradition” of it or because “that’s how it’s always been done.” Give me correct calls over missed calls any day of the week. I think the argument that having umpires with different strike zones every game just adds another dimension to the game and makes it more interesting is false. It doesn’t add more intrigue to me; all it does is add frustration. It would be one thing if umpires were consistent all game in what they called as balls and strikes, but they rarely are. Give me uniformity across the board.
Will: I’m not a huge fan of electronic umps. Umpires are a part of the game, to begin with. Secondly, if an electronic strike zone malfunctioned whatsoever, how much of a delay would there be to stop the game? Plus, different players have different strike zones. Jose Altuve has a slightly different strike zone than Aaron Judge. Is there a way to adjust the electronic zone for different players? If so, how much of a delay would there be in the game to do that? Until we have answers to many of those questions, I think it causes more problems than solutions.
“What’s the best single-game performance you’ve ever seen by one player at any sporting event you’ve ever been to?” – Martin
Nathanael: This is tough, but I may have to go with Josh Dobbs during the Florida game last year. I’ve unfortunately not been to many professional games, and the majority of the college football and basketball games I’ve been to (all Vol-related) have been during UT’s down years. But Dobbs was on fire in that second half against the Gators last year, and that was the first one that came to mind for me.
Will: Great question. Dexter McCluster’s performance against Tennessee in 2009 is probably number one. He had 324 all purpose yards in a thrashing of Lane Kiffin’s team. That included 285 yards rushing and five total touchdowns. I left near the start of the fourth quarter because traffic out of Oxford’s two lane roads is horrendous. But it was an insane performance.