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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“What do you make of all the changes in & around the football program? Is it just Pruitt getting every little detail to his liking? Was a COMPLETE & TOTAL culture change necessary to remove the stench of Butch Jones? Something else entirely? Overall, is this good or bad?” – Kenny
Nathanael: I understand all the moves Pruitt has made with his staff, recruiting, and the team so far. I know the Gillespie situation was surprising at first and seemed out of the blue, but in college football it’s all about fits and how everything works together as a cohesive whole. If Gillespie wasn’t meshing well with the new staff and wasn’t going to be a good fit because of it, then it was time to move on. You can be a great coach and not work out because you’re not a good fit. Look at Dave Serrano with Tennessee’s baseball team. Or Rick Barnes in his last few seasons at Texas.
Will: Pruitt seems to run things with a completely different philosophy. Butch was all flash and no substance, and Pruitt couldn’t be more different. I think that will probably end up being a good thing, but it really just depends on who you ask. If Pruitt can still recruit kids with an old fashioned way of doing things, and I have no reason to believe he can’t, then a complete culture change isn’t a bad thing at all.
“Other than CJP, which coach on staff has the most impact on the players?” – Aaron
Nathanael: I think it’s going to be the Vols’ OC, Tyson Helton. I think Pruitt will have his fingerprints all over the defense, and you have co-defensive coordinators on that side of the ball. I think Helton will come in and be in charge of transforming the Vols’ offense. And Tennessee’s offense needs that transformation. You may not see it as greatly in 2018, but I fully expect to see a completely different Tennessee offense in 2019.
Will: I’m very impressed by Kevin Sherrer. Like Helton, he’s a younger guy getting his first opportunity to lead his own side of the ball. His past stops have been quite impressive. I’m very interested to see the kind of impact he can have right away this season.
“The combined margin of victory in the Tennessee-Alabama/Georgia games last year was +79 points. If you were Vegas and trying to set a competitive line on the margin of victory over Tennessee for those two games in for the 2018 season what would it be?” – @Falconbelew
Nathanael: Honestly, it wouldn’t be a whole lot lower than that. I don’t think you see the historic losses to Georgia and Bama this year that you did last year, but I also don’t think Tennessee gets within two scores of either team this season. I think a fair combined margin of victory for Bama and the Bulldogs over the Vols is 50.
Will: Great question. It will be a little better, but not too much. If I had to guess, I’d say 30-40.
“Any word on grad transfers to fill open spots on our football team?” – Brent
Nathanael: Right now, the main name I would watch is Keller Chryst from Stanford. But I wouldn’t expect Tennessee to add a grad transfer QB until either later this month or well into the spring. That’s just kinda how the timeline for grad transfers work. For reference, Shaq Wiggins, a grad transfer corner, didn’t join the Vols until May of last year.
“Does McBride have a decent shot to win the starting job or is it basically Guarantano’s to lose?” – Jonah
Nathanael: I think he has a decent shot, yes. I don’t think Guarantano has a stranglehold on the position by any means. But I do think Guarantano is the leader in the clubhouse to win the job. This will also depend mightily on if the Vols add a grad transfer QB.
Will: I tend to disagree here. I think this is Guarantano’s team. Based on what I saw last season, with more protection, Guarantano is a better quarterback. McBride probably did more with less, but I don’t think his ceiling is as high. Guarantano just needs more help.
“Why is Butch Jones still on Jumbotron?” – Bradley
Nathanael: I wish I knew, Bradley. Let’s see if he’ll be down by the time spring practice starts in a month.
Will: Why do you park on the driveway and drive on the parkway? Some questions just don’t have good answers.
“How will Vol baseball do this year?” – Brayden
Nathanael: I personally don’t have very high expectations for the team this year. I think the highest ceiling they have this season is at least making the SEC Tournament. Winning a game in that tournament would be nice too, but given how bad the Vols have been in baseball lately, I don’t think Tony Vitello will have wild success in his first season. I do think he’s a good coach, though, and I think the future is bright with him.
Will: They have an absolutely loaded schedule. So things aren’t going to be easy for this team. Vitello’s group has three seniors, two of whom (Brodie Leftridge and Benito Santiago) will be major contributors. But other than that, this team is run by freshmen and sophomores. They’ve got a good, young pitching staff which Vitello says is the strength of the team. But defensively, I think this group will show its youth. A top ten finish in the SEC would probably be a successful finish for this team.