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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
We received several questions about who the Vols are targeting as the wide receivers coach and strength and conditioning coach.
Nathanael: I’m very intrigued by Chris Beatty as an option for the Vols’ wide receivers coach. He’s currently at Maryland but has a pretty strong track record. He’s coached Percy Harvin in high school, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Jordan Matthews among others. Tony Ball is also an option because he coached with Pruitt at Georgia. He’s currently a running backs coach at Louisiana Tech, however. Another option is Lawrence Dawsey. He was at Florida State with Pruitt in 2013 and recently wasn’t retained by new head coach Willie Taggart at FSU.
“With the Basket Vols needing some inspiration, wouldn’t this be a great time to retire Chris Lofton’s jersey?” – Brian
Nathanael: I’m all for that. Lofton is one of the 10 best players to ever play for the basketball Vols, and I think his number is deserving of being retired at some point. Tennessee needs to play their best game of the season when they take on Kentucky this Saturday, but I don’t think we’ll see Lofton’s number getting retired any time soon.
Will: There’s never a bad time. At this point, it’s long overdue. And since Lofton grew up in Kentucky, Saturday would’ve been a pretty cool time to do it.
“Can y’all breakdown the differences in the player profile of the players Pruitt is recruiting compared to what we saw with Butch Jones?” – Ben
Nathanael: To me, on offense it seems like Pruitt and his staff value bigger, beefier running backs as opposed to some of the backs Jones and his staff liked. That’s not to knock on John Kelly or Ty Chandler or anything; I fully expect Chandler to have success in the Vols’ offense next season. But look at who Pruitt and his staff have been offering in the 2018 and 2019 class at running back. They’re all almost 6 feet or taller and 200-something pounds. I also think they value pro-style QBs more and are looking for more tight ends.
On defense, Pruitt is targeting more versatile defensive ends and linebackers to fit his 3-4 scheme. When it comes to defensive tackles, he’s looking at two different types: one that can play nose tackle and is a big, huge body, and another type who can be a big body off the edge who isn’t your typical defensive end. I don’t think there’s a ton of difference in the approach to the defensive backs.
Will: I see the biggest difference on the defensive side of the ball. And that’s just because Pruitt will run a 3-4 defense instead of the multiple set the Vols ran under Butch Jones and Bob Shoop. Other than that, the players are just better. It’s really that simple.
“Can we get a list of coach Pruitt’s hires?” – Wes
Nathanael: Sure, none are “official” yet, but here’s who all has been tied to Tennessee and are unofficially the Vols’ new coaches:
- Tyson Helton, offensive coordinator
- Robert Gillespie, running backs coach
- Will Friend, offensive line
- Kevin Sherrer, defensive coordinator
- Chris Rumph, linebackers
- Tracy Rocker, defensive line
- Terry Fair, secondary
- Charles Kelly, special teams
“Why do you think Kelly and Gaulden both entered the draft? Considering the dearth of running backs and defensive backs in this draft? Is it an issue of not gelling with new coaching staff or is it increased expectations from the new staff?” – Lex
Nathanael: I don’t think it’s either of those actually. I think both felt it was time for various reasons. Gaulden already suffered a bad injury in college and missed a year. He’s good enough to go ahead and try his luck in the draft, and I think he’ll get selected higher than a lot of fans think. His stats are great, but his film is even better. He’s an exceptional athlete and defensive back. A year in Pruitt’s system would’ve helped, sure. But I don’t think it would’ve helped enough for him to miss out on another year of making a few million dollars. As for John Kelly, I think his decision makes less sense but still does. I do wonder about him and the staff, but not because I don’t think he didn’t get along with them; I just wonder if he wasn’t viewed as a great fit.
Will: Running backs don’t have as much life in the league as they used to. So I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all for Kelly. Gaulden showed a lot of versatility and skill last season in a bad defense. And I think that he’ll definitely get drafted. So it makes sense to go ahead and get out before another transition takes place that could hurt his draft stock. Plus, it’s easy to throw away from good defensive backs, especially when Tennessee may start a lot of freshmen and sophomores next year in the secondary.
“How many of the 2018 class will make an immediate impact next season?” – Ed
Nathanael: We’ll have to see who all the Vols add over the next month, but I think the surefire player who will make an impact immediately of the 14 signees they have right now is JUCO offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson. I really like his athleticism and skill set. I also think JUCO tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson does quite a bit in 2018.
Will: Wood-Anderson and Johnson will both have a big opportunity to help right away. If Tennessee can land J.J. Peterson, then he could step in right away as well. 4-star corner Olaijah Griffin would have a good chance to start as well, especially toward the end of the season once he gets some good experience.