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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“How short is Butch’s leash if he loses to UGA?” – Tony
Nathanael: It becomes very short if they get blown out or lose in a really bad way. If it’s competitive and a close loss (minus a catastrophic ending), then I think his leash may not be as short as some fans want. But a loss this weekend against the Bulldogs would make the game against South Carolina after the bye week absolutely paramount.
Will: It really just depends on how bad the loss is. If Tennessee loses by one or two possessions, he’s completely safe. Even if this game turns out like the Florida game, and it’s because of bad coaching that UT comes up short. I just don’t see Butch losing his job because of this game under any circumstances. If he loses to Georgia and South Carolina, then he’s in serious trouble.
“Has Butch Jones lost the trust of most of the fan base? If so, what does it take to get it back? East Champions? SEC Champions?” – Brian
Nathanael: I’m not willing to say “most” as of yet. He’s lost a very large chunk, however, especially on social media. I think an SEC East title would help win a decent amount of them back, and an SEC championship would win many back because that would likely mean defeating Alabama. That’s highly, highly unlikely to happen, but that would certainly win man people back.
Will: I don’t think so. I think it’s probably split right down the middle right now. In our social media world dominated by Twitter, it’s easy to see Twitter as the norm. But it really isn’t. Social media is so often a small snapshot of the fringe, meaning that most fans are probably not on the “Fire Butch” train quite yet. The group that wants Butch gone isn’t going to change their mind until UT wins the SEC under Coach Jones.
“Will Butch be able to take UT to the next level?” – Tina
Nathanael: In my opinion, no. I think he was just what the program needed in 2013 and has helped build the program back to respectability in terms of talent and competition. But I think he’s hit his ceiling here. He has a few more opportunities to prove that wrong, but the history speaks for itself to me. Jones is an above average coach, but that’s not going to take the Vols to the next level.
Will: Butch Jones is a good head coach. But he’s not a great head coach. Tennessee’s conundrum is risking going from good to great with the chance of a regression to the Dooley days under another transition. He’s been a good stabilizer for the program, and whoever comes in next will be able to win right away. But I’m not sure he’s the guy to ever take the Vols back to Atlanta.
“Is Will Ignont redshirting?” @MBACSOLODOLO
Nathanael: Ignont is listed as having played in the Indiana State and UMass games, but he didn’t register any stats in those games. The staff could pull the old “he has sustained an injury” later in the season and apply for a redshirt for him. Curious as to why he hasn’t played more with all the injuries at the linebacker position, though.
Will: It depends on Austin Smith’s health. He’s supposed to play this weekend, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to jump back in to a starting role right away. So if there’s a long transition of getting him back to full strength then I think Ignont will have to play.
“Why do you run an offense not suited for your teams talent?” – Gregg
Nathanael: I don’t know. I’ve said this before about Jones, and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves with him; he doesn’t mold his offense around his players. Instead of structuring his offense to fit around the players he has, it always looks like he tries to force the players to fit the scheme he runs. That’s not how you have a successful team.
Will: That’s a great question. And it doesn’t fall on Larry Scott. This is Butch Jones’ offense. And he hasn’t done a good job adapting to Quinten Dormady’s style of play. I still think Guarantano takes over the starting job by the end of the season because he’s the clear system fit.
“It was said that our offensive line was a strong point this year, are they underachieving?” – Chris
Nathanael: When you look at the stats, you may not think they are. Tennessee has only allowed two sacks on the year, and the running game has put up some good numbers. But when you watch games and go back and watch film, the line play has been less than ideal. Aside from Jashon Robertson and Trey Smith, the line has been very inconsistent this season. So I would have to say that yes, the line has underachieved so far. Not horribly, but they have.
Will: I did, but the more I look at the film from the past couple games, the offense’s struggles aren’t all on the offensive line. They’ve been solid in pass protection, and do a great job getting downfield blocking for screen passes. Defenses are going to stack the box a lot in the coming weeks. And Quinten Dormady hasn’t done a great job adjusting the protection to accommodate for extra defenders. They haven’t been great, but it’s not all on the players on the line.
“Do you think Tennessee covers the spread?” – Peyton
Nathanael: The last five match-ups between these two teams have been decided by seven points or less. This one will likely go that same route, and the line is set right at 7.5 in favor of Georgia the last I saw. I think it will be close, but I think the final margin will be a 10-point victory for the Bulldogs. But I’m not feeling great about that pick.
Will: I’m picking Georgia by ten right now. But I think this game is either a Tennessee win or a blowout loss. We still don’t know a lot about this team, but we’ll know more this Saturday about how this team plays with their backs against the wall. Saturday’s result will set the tone for the rest of the season, win or lose.