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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“How is the OLine shaping up? Who’s at center?” – @BigOrangePruitt
Nathanael: We haven’t seen a great deal of the offensive line in terms of anything that will reflect what they’ll look like in a game. I’ve been impressed with some individual players, such as Jerome Carvin, but overall it’s hard to get a feel for the group. I like the transformation that Devante Brooks has undergone as well. He looks like an offensive lineman now. Ryan Johnson has primarily been playing at center, and I expect he’ll be the starter there come fall unless someone else steps over him.
Will: That unit is a complete mess. Ryan Johnson is getting most of the reps at center that I’ve seen, but that could change once more guys get healthy and things move around a bit. There’s just not a ton we can definitively say at this point. With the access we’ve had and what we’ve seen, there’s not a ton to report on.
“If we beat West Virginia and Florida at home do you think that would be enough to not only satisfy the fan base but turn a couple of 5 star guys towards committing to Tennessee in 2019?” – Ed
Nathanael: I’m not sure recruiting would hinge on just those two games, but I do think that would be huge for fans, yes. It would depend on how you fare against teams like Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Vandy, though. But I would assume if you can beat WVU and the Gators that you should be able to win two or three of those other contests. That would put the Vols at around 7-5 or maybe even 8-4 this year. I’d say that would be a huge step forward.
Will: I think so. If you can win one of those two games, things will certainly be trending in the right direction. And if you’re able to beat Florida, you’ve got fantastic momentum heading into a pivotal season next year.
“Should we worry about going to a 3-4 since it didn’t work with Sunsersi?” – Benny
Nathanael: I wouldn’t worry because they’re not switching to it with a guy who’s never been a DC before. Not only that, but they’re not switching schemes heading into a desperation year for a head coach like they were with Dooley heading into 2012. Pruitt has run a 3-4 for years, and his defensive coaches have experience with it as well. Plus, this is Pruitt’s first year. Even if 2018 doesn’t look great on defense, they have time to adjust and get the right players in still.
Will: I don’t think so. Chalk that up to Sunseri’s inability to coach. I don’t think there are too many worries on this Vols defense. You’ve got excellent depth at linebacker and some veteran defensive linemen. The problem is going to be on offense.
“How is Pruitt’s practice different from Jones’ practice? Who of the early enrollees looks like they may help?” – @volsfootball
Nathanael: In terms of attitude and overall feel, Pruitt’s practice style is a complete 180 from Jones’ style. No music, no mics, no frills, and no Circle of Life. It’s just drills, coaching, and working on weeding out the competitors from those who are just there to look good. As far as your second question, right now Jerome Carvin looks like he could crack the two-deep on offensive line this fall. I’ve not seen a ton from Jordan Allen on defense yet, but he’s a guy worth watching. Alontae Taylor has looked athletic so far, but he may get leaped over on the depth chart.
Will: Couldn’t be more different. No more blaring music or anyone on a microphone. It’s just a bunch of coaches yelling. As far as early enrollees go, I think Jerome Carvin definitely looks the part. He’s a guy I’m monitoring all spring.
“Has Juan Jennings used a red shirt and if not is he eligible?” – Donnie
Nathanael: He has not used one as of yet, but I think he would be in line for a medical hardship redshirt for last year. To my knowledge, though, he hasn’t applied for one and will be just a normal senior this year rather than a redshirt junior.
“Chances of Rick Barnes getting the former UConn signee to come to the Vols?” – Bob
Nathanael: I’ve been very cautious about the Vols’ chances of getting James Akinjo since they offered him just over a week and a half ago, but with them actually getting an in-home visit with him this week, I think those chances have gone up. I still don’t feel particularly great about their shot of getting him or in-state point guard Tyler Harris, but UT is in it more than I first thought with Akinjo. He’s a very talented four-star PG who can create his own shot as well set up his teammates.
Will: I think fairly high. With Tyler Harris likely heading to Memphis, James Akinjo needs to be the top priority.
“Pruitt is the first UT coach since Fulmer to go with the baseball cap over the visor. How many wins per year should this add?” – @LoneNutVolFan
Nathanael: Not sure how many it will add this year, but let’s monitor for future seasons.
Will: Hard to put a number on it, but it’ll help like heck.