Insider Mailing: Breakout Vols Edition

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    We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.

    “I miss Alvin Kamara. What are the odds he hates beignets and comes running back to Knoxville for another year?” – @NeylandMafia

    Nathanael: Unfortunately, I don’t think Kamara will be carrying the ball ever again for the Vols. Sorry, Mafia. You and many, many other Vol fans have that same wish, though.

    Will: Well, the odds of that happening are a maybe higher than Jalen Hurd coming back. So…positive thoughts?

    “Just how good are Callaway and Johnson? Any former Vols you can compare one or both to?” – @dannyfromnash

    Nathanael: I’m always hesitant to compare young, unproven players to anyone who has come through and actually proven themselves. So I’m not too sure about comparing them to any former Vols. But Marquez Callaway especially has impressed me this fall. Brandon Johnson has certainly looked good too, but I’ve been impressed with the strides Callaway has made in a year’s worth of time. He has a good chance to be the starting punt returner for the Vols as well.

    Will: Those two guys have separated themselves from the rest of the young wide receivers. And one of the two will need to step up to replace the production lost by Josh Smith in the first couple weeks of the season. They are both hard to compare, in my opinion. I’d say Callaway is a little bit like Cordarrelle Patterson. He’s got better hands, but maybe isn’t quite as quick. Johnson’s game, to go with the same era for this comparison, could be similar to Da’Rick Rogers. That being said, both guys have a long way to go before they can live up to those expectations.

    “What would you trade for a victory over Bama and Saban?” – Alan

    Nathanael: I think at this point, most Vol fans would trade a great deal to see that happen. Maybe some family members.

    Will: My unfinished college degree. (I asked a fifth year senior next to me and he agreed).

    “Trey Smith absolutely dominated Kongbo in the col drill…does he start this year and if so do you see him receiving any freshman honors?” – Zack

    Nathanael: Trey Smith will absolutely start for the Vols this year. I would be stunned if he didn’t other than because of injury. And as far as freshman honors: That wouldn’t surprise me either. I could see him doing what Jashon Robertson did a few years back and be selected as a First Team All-Freshman in the SEC, maybe even in the whole NCAA. He won’t win Freshman of the Year because as an offensive lineman, he won’t really register any stats like other freshmen at skill positions will or freshmen along the defensive line either. But he is already impressing in fall camp, and there’s a good chance he can live up to expectations in his career.

    Will: Yes, Trey Smith will start. I think that’s a forgone conclusion by this point. He’s probably already the most talented member of that unit. I think there’s no question he’ll get some kind of freshman All-SEC honors. But I expect him to be a freshman All-American as well. It’ll help that Smith has a loaded group of veterans around him too.

    “Am I the only one who thinks that choosing Shurmur over the current Vols QB situation is just insane? Or am I just missing something?” – Dane

    Nathanael: I can understand why someone would choose Shurmur over either Quinten Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano. Shurmur has far more experience than both the Vols’ quarterbacks combined. When ranking quarterbacks or voting for them for all-conference teams, analysts will almost always choose a player who’s done it on the field and produced results rather than someone with potential. Shurmur wasn’t necessarily impressive for most of last season (54.4 completion percentage, 9 touchdowns, 10 interceptions), but he had some great games last season too. He also had some bad ones. Shurmur had four games where he threw for over 250 yards, but he also had four games in which he attempted 18 or more passes and completed less than half his passes.

    Like I said, I can understand why someone would choose Shurmer over the Vols’ quarterbacks right now just based on experience. But I personally wouldn’t do it just based on everything we’ve seen from Shurmer as a whole compared to the potential the Vols have at QB,

    Will: It is insane. The only explanation is Tennessee fans are reacting emotionally to the loss to Vanderbilt. An unknown quantity shouldn’t be a negative. Just because you know what you have with Shurmur isn’t a good thing. Because it doesn’t make him better than he really is. As Nathanael pointed out, his stats aren’t even mediocre. I expect Dormady and Guarantano to be more efficient in 2017 than Shurmur was last year. But as a whole, this is a problem with UT fans. Just because there’s a question mark, fans assume the negative. The roster is filled with unknowns, but there’s opportunity for lots of breakout performers across the board. Settling for a mediocre Vanderbilt player who lit up a bad Tennessee defense makes no sense.

    “Has Carlin Fils Aime dropped off the face of the earth?” – Tre

    Nathanael: No, but he’s just not receiving the attention of the Vols’ other backs right now. John Kelly has looked very impressive in fall camp thus far, and the trio of freshmen are getting rave reviews too. I still think Fils-Aime will be third string at worst to start the 2017 season, but right now it does look like he has plenty of competition as the main backup behind John Kelly.

    Will: The most popular players on the team are always freshmen. The newness of Tim Jordan, Trey Coleman and Ty Chandler is interesting to fans and coaches alike. They get more attention. That being said, I do think Fils-Aime has fallen down the depth chart. UT feels really good about its running backs at the moment, which isn’t a knock on Fils-Aime. It says more about the three freshman and their maturity than it does him.