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Insider Mailing: Eyes on Recruiting Edition

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

“How much of a chance do you think TN has in landing Olaijah Griffin and Isaiah Taylor-Stuart?” – Dylan

Nathanael: Even though a lot of recruiting analysts are high on USC’s chances of landing both these guys, I think the Vols have a legitimate shot at both. But I think Tennessee has a better chance of landing Griffin than Taylor-Stuart right now. But the Vols do have the added bonus of getting Taylor-Stuart on campus on February 2nd, the final visiting weekend before National Signing Day.

Will: I think there’s definitely a stronger chance that Tennessee lands Griffin. Despite the predictions for USC in the past few weeks, UT was coming on really strong there at the beginning of January. That battle isn’t over yet. Taylor-Stuart is going to be harder. I’d give Tennessee a 10% chance with him, but his visit this weekend could change things.

“Who will we add to the quarterback position?” – Ricky

Nathanael: The Vols are looking at several grad transfer options, and they’ll either add Stanford transfer Keller Chryst or Wagner transfer Alex Thomson. I think Tennessee has a better shot at getting Thomson because I think Chryst wants to go somewhere where he’s guaranteed a starting spot since he only has one year left and is transferring because he lost his job to a sophomore in 2017. He doesn’t want to repeat that in his fifth and final year. Thomson, on the other hand, had two years. I think it’s more likely the Vols get him.

Will: Stanford grad transfer Keller Chryst is an intriguing choice. So is Wagner transfer Alex Thomson. Chryst lost the starting job at Stanford halfway through the season. And Thomson has an “NFL arm” according to a view experts. Personally, I still think this is Jarrett Guarantano’s team. But as we saw in the national championship game, a good backup quarterback is never a bad thing. My guess is Tennessee will add one of those two guys.

“How do the Vols sit in the running back and wide receiver positions?” – @napaque94

Nathanael: In terms of who is on the roster right now, I think both positions are fairly alright. In fact, if Jauan Jennings does come back to the roster and can stay clean all season long, then wide receiver might be the deepest and best position on the team. You’d have Jennings, Callaway, Johnson, Latrell Williams (if he can stay healthy) and newcomers such as Alontae Taylor and Jordan Young (and maybe another receiver if they can add one). Running back is solid too with Ty Chandler and Carlin Fils-Aime there, and Tim Jordan and Trey Coleman are good backup options. I also like what they have in Jeremy Banks in the early signing class. Holding on to Anthony Grant in the 2018 class would be a big plus as well.

Will: Tennessee needs to hold on to Anthony Grant. If it does, then the Vols will have six scholarship running backs on the roster. Wide receiver continues to be a position of need for Pruitt and his staff. This staff really wants Jacob Copeland, who’s likely headed to Alabama. He’s another big target that will be on campus this weekend.

“Hypothetical, do you think if Bruce Pearl had not been a bonehead and stayed the course at Tennessee that we would have made a Final Four appearance by now?” – @HeavyPontheHill

Nathanael: That’s tough to say. You can argue that Pearl was better when he was the underdog rather than when he had the more talented teams, but I also don’t know if the Vols’ 2011-12 season ends as dismally as it does (with that 30-point drubbing by Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament) if it wasn’t for the giant black cloud that was hanging over Pearl the whole season. That year was just a bizarre one because of Pearl’s 8-game suspension that he got to coach in the middle of because Tennessee played UConn in the middle of the SEC schedule. If he doesn’t screw up before that season and lie to the NCAA, there are far fewer distractions. And the Vols had more talented players coming in as well. I’m not sure about a Final Four, but I think there’s at least another Elite Eight run by now.

Will: I doubt it. It’s easy for people to forget that UT got bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by 30 in Pearl’s final game. His most talented teams were often his worst. He succeeded with undervalued talent that bought into his system.

“Can the basket vols finish in the top four of the SEC?” – Brayden

Nathanael: They absolutely can. Will they? I have my doubts. They’re far too inconsistent at this point for me to say they will. I like this team a lot, but their guard play is still too sloppy and streaky for me to believe they’ll finish in the top four of the conference. They’ll finish in the top half for sure, and they have the potential to even win the whole SEC. But I don’t think they’re going to live up to that potential. They’ll finish closer to that 5th to 7th range.

Will: I think that’s the most likely scenario. If this team handles business over the next two weeks against Ole Miss and LSU, they’ll be in really good shape to secure that two-round BYE in the SEC Tournament.

“How many wins will CJP deliver in his 1st season?” – TJ

Nathanael: Boy, this is early for that question. But right now I’m going to play it fairly conservative and go with 6 or 7 wins. This team will be better than people expect from a talent standpoint, but I still worry about injuries. And the schedule is very unforgiving this season.

Will: My early estimate is 7-8 wins. Ask me again in June.

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