We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Starting QB?” – @leonarddallas2
“The LOS is key to our success…but who’s gonna be under center come Monday?” – @Elvisnga
Nathanael: Ah, the most asked question of the offseason. In my opinion, the Vols’ starting quarterback against Georgia Tech will be Quinten Dormady. He’ll be the first quarterback to take snaps for Tennessee in 2017. But I believe Jarrett Guarantano will undoubtedly see action as well unless Dormady just comes out and tears it up.
Will: Quinten Dormady will be the starting quarterback for at least Tennessee’s first three games. If he loses the competition in that time, then Jarrett Guarantano will have a chance to make his case. But Guarantano doesn’t have enough opportunity to win the job. He can only hope that Dormady loses it this season.
“Which is ugliest: red team vs Florida St., Florida vs Michigan, UGA vs Notre Dame? What awful couple of games.” – Monte
Nathanael: Phew, tough question. I think the Florida and Michigan game has the potential to be a very ugly game, but don’t overlook that Georgia and Notre Dame game either. Florida has so many players missing their games against Michigan, but their defense is still mostly intact. And Michigan is replacing so many starters from last year. That could be a very defensive game.
Will: Michigan and Florida will be ugly aesthetically simply because of the terrible jerseys that the Wolverines are wearing. Let’s leave Color Rush uniforms for the NFL only.
But, I think Tennessee fans need to be cheering for the referees across the country this week. There are so many big teams that are very easy to hate. And all of them are playing each other this weekend. So all you can really do is cheer for lots of yellow flags.
“What sort of sacrificial offerings are appropriate for the elimination of injury-related insects/ailments? Asking for a friend.” – Tim
Nathanael: It’s not been a fun start to the season in terms of injuries. The Vols have been lucky they haven’t lost an absolute game-changer yet like they did (multiple times) last season, Losing Kirkland Jr. for potentially six weeks is bad, but it’s not devastating. Losing Chance Hall was rough too, but that was even less of a blow. Still, not been a great start, especially considering last year.
Will: Just get a flyswatter and destroy a hive of yellow jackets.
Just kidding. If you value your life, this is probably an absolutely terrible idea. I don’t think Tennessee is as cursed as fans like to think it is with injuries. This happens to everyone. But the negative disposition of the Vols’ fan base makes every injury the end of the world. Let’s all just breathe and realize that it could be worse. You could have eight key players suspended for credit card fraud.
“Who will be UT’s offensive, defensive, and special teams MVPs for the GA Tech game?” – Jeff
Nathanael: On offense, it probably needs to be John Kelly for the Vols to have success on offense against the Yellow Jackets. The defensive MVP will likely be Rashaan Gaulden. He’s going to be used a lot on defense, and he is going to be crucial to the defense’s success (or lack thereof). And on special teams? Probably Trevor Daniel. I don’t imagine Tech will give Evan Berry many chances to return kicks, so Daniel will have to help control field position with his punts.
Will: Offensive MVP has to be Jauan Jennings for me. He’s the most consistent player returning on the Vols offense, and I think Larry Scott will rely heavily on him in his first game as offensive coordinator. The defensive MVP will be Micah Abernathy. The more Tech film I watch, the more I realize that UT’s safeties have to be flawless in order to stop the flexbone. I think he’s the most consistent guy out of the three safeties that will play, meaning he’ll play the biggest role in stopping the option. Special teams — Evan Berry. Because that guy is really good at returning the football. It’s pretty simple.
“What ceiling do you give our QBs in win totals???” – Hank
Nathanael: I think the ceiling is fairly similar with both quarterbacks honestly. I don’t think either one is a bad quarterback. I think the highest ceiling this season regardless of who is at quarterback is nine or 10 wins. That’s the highest, mind you. Many things would have to go right for Tennessee to get nine wins, let alone 10.
Will: Tennessee’s ceiling, regardless of who’s under center, is ten wins. I don’t think one quarterback gives you more or less in that category.
“This is going to be the big workhorse, Ethan Wolf’s year. Agreed?” – Brian
Nathanael: I actually wrote about this on Tuesday of this week, You can check that out here. I think this year could be a big one for Wolf, yes.
Will: It needs to be. Outside of Jennings, he’s the only proven pass catcher on the Vols offense that’s healthy for week one. Tennessee will find ways to get him the ball, because it needs the leadership of perhaps the most consistent offensive player for the Vols from week one to week 12 last season.
“What do you expect to see from the defense against GT? Do you see a lot of blitz schemes or staying back to keep the run from finding gaps?” – Brandon
Nathanael: We’ll have a piece on something similar to this a little later this week. Will broke down film of Georgia Tech’s offense from last year. But the early results from his film study certainly seem to make blitzing Tech seem like a gamble. It can work, but they can also really burn teams who blitz liberally.
Will: Three safeties will be on the field at virtually all times. It’s all based on assignment football. If a corner and safety both bite on the pitch man, someone is wide open in the pass game or option run for a big gain. If you simply put a hat on a hat, stay at home and keep contain, there’s nothing to worry about. I think that you’ll see the corners in a flat cover two coverage, meaning they aren’t jamming wide receivers (in order to get off blocks), but they also aren’t blitzing. It’s kind of like a spy, but on the outside near the sidelines.
The linebackers will have to be in the right spot as well. The best way to disrupt the timing of the flexbone is to blitz up the A-gap between the center and the guard. It forces the quarterback to make a snap decision, usually the wrong one. And even if the QB makes the right read, the line has collapsed and you can’t pitch the ball to the outside. In passing situations, expect zone with the linebackers spying the quarterback.
“Hearing good noise about Ty Chandler, is he the ‘real deal’? Most physically talented back on the team?” – @Tennesota
Nathanael: I think it’s a little early to really say he’s the “real deal” right now, but he has a really high ceiling in my opinion. We didn’t get to see a ton of actual running back work this fall, but everything we did get to see him do really impressed me. And fellow running back John Kelly and Chandler’s coaches have spoken highly of him. I expect him to get a good amount of touches as a freshman this year for sure.
Will: Chandler is a special talent. I’ve called two of his games when he was in high school, and I think he gets 40% of the Vols’ carries by week eight. I wouldn’t say he’s the most physically talented, because he isn’t the biggest player in that crowded backfield. But he’s so quick and possess outstanding vision between the tackles. He’ll be a staple of Tennessee’s offense for years to come.