We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“What would happen to Vol football if you dunked the orange Dooley dog into the trash can while it was balanced on Fulmer’s synergy stick?” – Doug
Nathanael: My brain hurts just thinking about everything you just said.
Will: A wormhole would form at midfield in Neyland Stadium and we’d all be sucked in.
“How many years did Butch Jones shorten my lifespan during the GT game?” – Andrew
Nathanael: Well, if you’re still alive and kicking after the 2016 and 2015 seasons, I think your heart has built up a resistance to it at this point.
Will: If close Tennessee games actually shortened your lifespan, I would have died years ago. And I am 20-years-old.
“Why didn’t they try out Guarantano when our offense was stale?” – @TennesseePrick
Nathanael: I originally wanted the Vols to put him in during the game. You can check my tweets. I thought it was bad at the time that they didn’t at least give him a series. And I still kinda think they should’ve, but I’ve softened on that stance a lot since the game. Hindsight is 20/20 after all. But I think was good for Dormady’s confidence to keep him in the game and let him work through his issues on the field. He never gave up a catastrophic turnover or anything, and he eventually calmed down and started playing better. If he had thrown a bad interception or something, then I think Guarantano would’ve come in. But as it was, I think it was the right choice.
Will: When there are so many variables changing, you have to control what you control. Jennings’ injury created a lot of chaos for Larry Scott’s offense. And in his first game as coordinator, he stuck with what he knew — Quinten Dormady wasn’t going to lose Tennessee the game. And he didn’t.
That being said, I thought Guarantano deserved a chance in the first half when the offense was struggling. But when you look back at the film, the plays were there for Tennessee to succeed in the first half, but the execution wasn’t there. This competition is far from over, and I think Guarantano has an even better shot to win the job now than he did last week.
“If you could fire Shoop tomorrow and hire Chief back would you?” – Chris
Nathanael: I would not. Did you see Texas A&M’s defense collapse against UCLA and the way they performed last season? I like Chavis as a coordinator, truly. He was great while he was at Tennessee. But I think his time has passed as one of the top defensive coordinators in the country. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong, but that debacle against the Bruins wasn’t a promising start to this season.
Will: Are you kidding me? No way. Did you watch the A&M game last weekend? “The Chief” hasn’t been himself since he left LSU. Shoop is still young enough and talented enough for last year’s performance to be an anomaly. And thankfully for Tennessee fans, he’ll never have to play the triple option offense again. My evaluation of him for this season starts now.
“Will our defense be bad all year or was the triple option just that challenging?” – Lee
Nathanael: I think it was more about Tech’s offense than Tennessee’s defense. Keep in mind, that defense will be getting Shy Tuttle back here in a week or two. Yes, one player won’t make THAT much of a difference, but he’ll help a thin defensive tackle rotation. And the Vols’ defense wasn’t helped out by the offense against Tech until late in the third quarter and the fourth. The offense kept leaving quickly, and the defense was staying out there far too long. They were exhausted, and that hurt their performance, especially on the defensive line. The secondary does concern me, however.
Will: Maybe a little bit of both. I don’t expect Tennessee’s secondary to be as bad as it was on Monday night. I think that Charlton Warren is too good of a coach to let that happen week in and week out. But Justin Martin had an abysmal night. And he’s going to be heavily relied upon to turn things around in that unit. I do think that the poor defensive line play was simply limited to the flexbone. UT’s defenders didn’t do a good job avoiding cut blocks downfield, but they shouldn’t face much more of that this season.
“Depending on how the game plays out Saturday, how long should we expect the starters to play on a short week and with UF on the horizon?” – @clint_b83
Nathanael: I said this on a radio appearance earlier this week: The Vols NEED to get a lead early, and they need to get a big lead early. Tennessee can’t sleep walk their way to a win in this one like they have against other weak opponents in the past couple years. The good news is that the Vols typically don’t sleep walk against FCS schools, only weaker FBS schools. But to me, it’s important they get a big lead early so the second half can be about getting in younger guys to get them live reps to see what they have. Because the Vols are going to need those players this season.
Will: I expect Tennessee’s starters to play through the third quarter. But I think Jarrett Guarantano may get as many snaps as Quinten Dormady. UT will play a lot of wide receivers and defensive linemen to nail down a rotation at those spots. Butch Jones said that he wants to see a lot more individuals play at those positions. This weekend’s game will be an open tryout.
“Will Evan Berry EVER be used on offense?” – @NCAAFballGossip
Nathanael: At this point, I’m going to say “no.” Jones has said before he wanted to use him, and he said it again this season and didn’t even try against Georgia Tech. Maybe he will in SEC play, but even then I doubt it will be more than one carry in a game.
Will: No, and I think that means that the coaches know more than we do. Shocker, right? Berry is a great kickoff returner, but the fact that he doesn’t return punts says a lot. He’s great at running in a straight line, but I’m not sure he has the vision to succeed on offense.
However, Butch is known for throwing a lot of wrinkles in for the Florida game, so you never know.