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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“What are the grounds for the firing of Chancellor Davenport?” – Melissa
Nathanael: Acually, in our podcast this weekI went into great detail about that if you want to listen to that.
Will: I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as many would like for you to think. It’s lazy to assume this was “just another Haslam power play.” I don’t buy that because issues are never that black and white. I thought it was an interesting hire at the time, and it turned out not to be a fit. That happens. Let’s move on.
“Do you guys feel like CJP is our next Coach Barnes? I mean I think CRB has turned around the bball program and has it heading in the right direction. I know the hoops program wasn’t as bad as football.” – Charlie
Nathanael: That’s a good comparison/question. I think Vol fans are hoping Pruitt can have the type of turnaround Barnes had. Barnes went from taking over a destitute UT basketball program and had them in the NCAA Tournament and sharing an SEC regular season title in just his third year. If Pruitt can get the Vols to a bowl game in his first two seasons then have them battling Georgia and Florida for the East and actually have a shot at winning the division in Year 3, I think that would be a big success.
Will: Pruitt is going to get big time recruits. Barnes often won’t. It’s also nearly impossible to compare two sports that couldn’t be more different from a recruiting perspective. I don’t really see any similarities between the two other than being old fashioned, country guys. Other than that, they are quite different.
“With the verbal from Wanya, who will be the next to commit?” – Brent
Nathanael: I’m not sure who will be next, but I think you’re going to see a slew of guys commit this summer. I would be looking at names like Khris Bogle, Jamie Pettway, Jalen Curry, Dante Walker, and maybe an in-state kid as possibilities.
Will: All good options. It’s hard to predict these things. Morris is a major get though, that’s for sure.
“Who will have a better season this year, Callaway or Jennings?” – @htcook1999
Nathanael: I think Jennings will. He’ll be the more consistent go-to guy I think. Callaway might be the guy you trust more on deep passes (though Jennings is certainly a threat there too), but I think Jennings is the more versatile and trustworthy target. It’ll be all about who Guarantano or Chryst has better chemistry with, though.
Will: I’ll play devil’s advocate and go with Callaway. It’s hard to know just how good Jennings can be without a full spring of practice and being out since the Georgia Tech game last fall. Callaway is a safe threat because he basically was the guy last year. Jennings hasn’t had that year as “the guy” yet. We’ll see how he responds coming off a major injury.
“Has Ryan Johnson cemented his spot at center? If so, and Trey and Chance can return, what do you have as the starting OL?” – @neylandmafia
Nathanael: Yes, I think Johnson will be UT’s starting center for the 2018 season. Unless something changes in fall camp, I think he solidified himself there. But as for a starting five? That’s very difficult to pinpoint. I know my ideal one would be this:
RT: Jahmir Johnson
RG: Chance Hall
C: Ryan Johnson
LG: Drew Richmond
LT: Trey Smith
Will: I’ll go with Smith-Hall-Ryan Johnson-Jahmir Johnson-Richmond from right to left. Richmond has cemented that left tackle spot all spring. And Johnson is a good fit at guard once he gets to campus.
“Ceiling for the BasketVols this season?” – Erzhan
Nathanael: I’m not going to be hyperbolic and say “limitless,” but it’s darn near that in my opinion. Their ceiling should be extremely high, like Final Four high. It will depend on how their bracket lays out for them, but they should be one of the favorites to win the SEC this year, and they should be a top 4 seed in whatever region they’re in again. I think the ceiling is what they did last year plus a little more. I truly think this team is capable of 28 or more wins this year counting the NCAA Tournament, especially with the addition of Khwan Fore as a grad transfer guard. He’s not going to be an All-SEC player, but he does something that UT’s guards don’t do, and that’s drive to the basket consistently. Not only that, but he’s a fierce perimeter defender. Adding him to an already stacked roster could be that extra push they need this year.
Will: This has to be a record for the most basketball questions in May. I have no idea. This team just finished its season and it still needs to finish up this late recruiting period. The ceiling will be the expectation — an elite eight or final four. But it’s impossible to have an educated answer to this question because there are way too many question marks.