Insider Mailing: Switching Positions Edition

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    Photo credit: Will Boling/RTI

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

    “What position looks really strong for the 2018 football season and what position looks like a weakness?” – Matt

    Nathanael: I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen from the defensive line so far. I think this group is getting a total face lift with Tracy Rocker coaching them, and I like the tenacity and fire they’re playing with during the spring. I think the offensive line will be the biggest weakness of the team again this year. I really like Will Friend as a coach, but he’s just been dealt a rough hand in his first year with UT. If Trey Smith and Chance Hall can both come back healthy in the fall, that would be huge. But the depth is very thin there.

    Will: I think the linebackers can be really strong. Quart’e Sapp has put on a lot of weight and moved inside. He’ll probably start alongside Daniel Bituli or Darrin Kirkland. JJ Peterson, Darrell Taylor, and Jonathan Kongbo make that group quite deep as well. Cornerback is the major weakness. There’s not a ton of depth there and lots of question marks.

    “Do you think Taylor’s move to defense will stick? Or will he play on both sides of the ball?” – Janie

    Nathanael: If there’s a newcomer on Tennessee’s roster who could play on both sides of the ball, it would be Alontae Taylor. I don’t think he stays on defense full time, though. I think his highest ceiling is easily at receiver, and I think that’s where he’ll end up. We’ll see if he plays some corner too, though.

    Will: I don’t think it’ll stick. But it’s worth a shot. The corners need all the help they can get.

    “Who is the most under the radar player on the vols right now?” – Bennett

    Nathanael: Brandon Johnson might be the most underrated player on the Vols’ offense. He led the team in catches and yards last year, and I think he’s been solid this spring too. It will be interesting to see what kind of role he has in this year’s offense, but I do think he gets overlooked a lot in the receiving corps from fans and media alike.

    Will: I’ll go with Chance Hall. No one is talking about him because he’s been hurt for so long. But he could very easily start at tackle this year.

    “Thoughts on the contract extension for Holly Warlick? I’m a bit surprised by it TBH. Felt like the Lady Vols have consistently underachieved under her.” – @The_Klassens

    Nathanael: I agree with the sentiment that they’ve underachieved under Holly Warlick. I don’t like the move to extend her, but if you’re not going to fire her, then you almost have to do it. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense. But if you think about it, it kinda does. You can’t let her hang around with just the one year left on her contract or you’re going to kill recruiting for this upcoming class. She can’t be viewed as a lame duck coach, in other words. Giving her a two-year extension makes sense on that front, and it’s not like her buyout will be huge regardless. I think this upcoming season should be her last with the Lady Vols if she can’t get them to at least the Elite Eight. But I think Final Four should be the bench mark.

    Will: I don’t mind it. If you’re not going to fire her, you can’t have her coaching in a contract year because then she can’t recruit. And she’s earned at least one more year based on her last two incoming classes. I think a two year extension is probably the most logical move at the end of the day.

    “What is going on with the basketball recruits? Is Barnes gonna be able to sign anybody?” – @justindb29

    Nathanael: I think missing out on Akinjo means they won’t be adding a 2018 recruit to this roster. Unless they try to start going after the former MTSU power forward commit, Carlos Curry, I’m not sure they add a freshman to the roster this offseason. I do think they get a grad transfer, though, and I would bet it would be Richmond guard Khwan Fore.

    Will: We’ll see. I’d just trust his ability to develop the guys he already has.