Insider Mailing: Looking for Hope Edition

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    Photo By Alison P. McNabbTennessee Athletics

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

    “Reading the tea leaves… Renovations + $14M in buyouts= Year 6. I nailed it, didn’t I?” – Scott

    Nathanael: You may be on to something there, Scott.

    No, I don’t see any scenario at all where Jones is back next season for a sixth year. If that happens, I would be floored.

    Will: I’d say there’s about a 90% chance Butch Jones isn’t Tennessee’s coach that season. The firing should, but may not happen next week. That being said, I don’t see any way he survives this disaster of a season.

    “When is Gruden arriving to coach UT? Follow up: When is Gruden leaving MNF to coach the Vols? Lastly, Gruden?” – @NeylndMafia

    Nathanael: Boy, these Grumors are making everything fun again. They’re much more fun to talk about than the current state of Tennessee football at least.

    Will: Jon Gruden will not only be hired, but will also broadcast his team’s games on ESPN while still coaching from the sideline. It’s the next wave of media.

    “Is Tyler Byrd in Butch’s dog house?” – @river_tennessee

    Nathanael: I honestly have no idea. I want to say “yes” just because I can’t think of any other reason why he’s not being used. At all. On either side of the ball. He’s an extremely talented kid, and it blows my mind that he’s being underutilized so badly like this.

    Will: I think so. He was visibly frustrated after not being targeted at one point against Georgia. Byrd is the best athlete on the wide receiving corps, and the fact that he isn’t getting opportunities is troubling. He needs to be moved to defense.

    “Which will Tennessee have more of on Saturday: 3 and outs or points scored?” – Jason

    Nathanael: Yikes…this isn’t fun to answer. Well, since I only think Tennessee will score between 0-6 points, I’m going to say they’ll have more three-and-outs than points. That will easily be done if they get shut out again, obviously.

    Will: Three-and-outs. Because I think the Vols will have double digit three-and-outs, and there’s no way they score twice unless one or both scores are against backups.

    “Do you think Lane Kiffin is on the vols radar?” – Nicholas

    Nathanael: I don’t think so, no. Is he on Vol fans’ radars? Absolutely. But would Tennessee ever hire him back? I would be truly stunned if so.

    Will: No. Next question.

    “I love Gruden and Jim Bob Cooter rumors. Play along and dream. What appeals to you about that combo?” – Pete

    Nathanael: Okay, I’ll play along (because there’s no way that actually happens). In this scenario, your offense should be explosive. You’d still need to go find a suitable defensive coordinator, but if you’re willing to dump all that money for Gruden and JBC, then finding an elite DC is just a matter of “who” not “how much” at that point.

    Will: It would be incredible. Tennessee would certainly get back to the pro offense, but how would this roster quickly adapt to a brand new scheme that’s the total opposite of what was being run under Butch? The power run game those two would bring is appealing, but so is the quarterback development. Most importantly, it wouldn’t be one dimensional anymore.

    “How do you feel about the idea of 20 wins in basketball this season?” – Shea

    Nathanael: I think it’s very doable. The Vols just got picked to finish 13th in the SEC for this season at SEC Media Day, but I think that’s absurd. Tennessee has a decent amount of unknowns on the roster and have a fairly young team once again, but young teams can contend in basketball much easier than they can in football. Tennessee looked like they could get to 18 or 19 wins last season before injuries caught up with them and they sputtered down the stretch. As long as they avoid a catastrophic injury this season or avoid a litany of injuries, I think 20 wins is definitely within the realm of possibility.

    Will: I think they can certainly get to 20 wins. This team is going to be good. I’ve been on the Rick Barnes hype train for the past couple of seasons, and I said at this time last year that 2017-18 would be the season to finally get back to the tournament. With the additions this team has made to get bigger and deeper, they can live with a few injuries. Unlike past season, the bench is filled with experience. I think they find a way into the NCAA tournament.