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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“With Butch’s statement about no starters is there any chance Jarrett gets the start against SCAR?” – Robert
Nathanael: I absolutely think there’s a chance. I wrote about that earlier this week actually. I think it’s time for a change at quarterback. But we know Jones has been stubborn about switching quarterbacks before, so it’s also entirely possible that Dormady remains the starter.
Will: Yes, there’s a pretty good chance. I would be surprised if Guarantano doesn’t start against South Carolina. This is a natural time for him to take over the job with an extra week of preparation. I think his ability to run the offense effectively and give the Vols a rushing threat could turn UT’s season around.
“How soon do you think we could REALISTICALLY make the desperately-needed move?” – Kenny
Nathanael: Well if it hasn’t happened by now this week, I’m betting it won’t happen till at least after the South Carolina game if the Vols lose that game. Even then I’m not sure it will happen because John Currie can just let Nick Saban and Alabama hand Jones his pink slip in Tuscaloosa that following week.
Will: If Tennessee loses to South Carolina, I think John Currie will be forced to make a change. Another 40+ point loss to Alabama may be the deciding factor as well. I think if Jones loses two more SEC games to teams not named LSU or Alabama, he’s done. Of course, a loss to Southern Miss would be the end as well. But UT might already have Larry Scott or Brady Hoke in the interim role at that point.
“I know there is still a lot of season left to play but do you think it’s time that some of the younger players get some PT for experience?” – Ryan
Nathanael: Finding that right balance is tough. You don’t want to give up on the season just yet, but I do think younger players need to get in at the same time. Jones said after the Georgia game that all starting jobs are up for grabs. If he truly means that and isn’t just talking to appease people, then some younger players should get larger roles moving forward. Because some of the older players haven’t impressed thus far.
Will: You’re seeing a lot of them already get a chance. Quart’e Sapp, although he’s only playing because the linebackers have been decimated by injuries, has really impressed me. But there’s a lot of football left. A lot of us predicted UT would be 3-2 at this point in the season. I certainly didn’t expect a 41-0 loss, but I did anticipate this team having two losses right now. There’s still time to right the ship, with lots of winnable games coming up. There’s never a reason to just “play younger guys” in my opinion. You owe it to the fans to put the best team on the field every week.
“If these athletes were SO good to be recruited…have they forgotten the basic fundamentals?” – Cathy
Nathanael: It all goes back to coaching. I’ll say it over and over again: I don’t think the majority of these coaches can develop players correctly. Some, like Gillespie and Hoke, absolutely can. Others, however, I have my doubts about.
Will: There’s a major development issue on this staff. That’s the problem here. With the exception of John Kelly, very few players have exceeded expectations based on their recruiting ranking. In fact, few players have even met expectations. Tennessee took their departed players from last year’s team for granted. Outside of Dobbs, Barnett. Kamara and even Malone, UT’s talent hasn’t lived up to the hype.
“If Butch wins remains games minus Bama, is he given a contract extension or looking for a new gig?” – @Esb8675
“My prediction: Must beat SC & Vandy then finish with an 8-4 record & Butch keeps job. Anything less & he’s history.” – @vol80
Nathanael: I think if Jones wins every game except for the Alabama game, the team and fan base will be in a very, very perplexing situation. On one hand, a 9-3 regular season would be the best regular season Tennessee has had since 2007. Even another 8-4 season with the way this one started would be somewhat impressive. With how this season has gone so far, however, I’m not entirely certain the Vols don’t lose to both Alabama and LSU and also find a way to lose again to a South Carolina or Vanderbilt.
And if Tennessee somehow loses to Kentucky…well, we know what happened to the last coach who lost to Kentucky.
Will: I think he’d certainly be coming back to coach another season. But I don’t think he’d be given a contract extension. That being said, there’s no point in even discussing this because it isn’t going to happen. I have a very hard time seeing UT finishing any better than 7-5, unless Guarantano puts this offense on his back like Joshua Dobbs did a season ago.
“Is the South Carolina game the biggest game of Butch Jones’ career?” – Brad
Nathanael: Yes. It absolutely is. I said all last week if Tennessee loses to Georgia (and Jones isn’t fired) that the South Carolina game is the biggest of Butch Jones’ career not only at Tennessee, but in his entire coaching career.
Will: No doubt about it. A loss this week and he’s done. A win and you can try to take away some positives to build on against the rest of the SEC East.
“How bout them Ice Vols?” – Karissa
Nathanael: They got a nice comeback victory over UAB the other night with a 5-4 win in overtime, so that was good to see. They beat them in overtime the night before that too. Nice to see some late game dramatics go Tennessee’s way. They’re also 4-1 on the season, so that’s solid.
Will: I’m just so glad hockey is back. It’s the only sport where Tennesseans can root for a championship team (looking at you, Titans. Get the job done).