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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Heard a ton of positives for Pruitt, but what are some concerns, besides his lack of head coaching experience?” – Austin
Nathanael: I think that’s my main concern for him is how exactly he handles being a head coach for the first time. I also wonder exactly how hands off he’ll actually be on offense. He said in the spring that he plans on just letting Tyson Helton run the offense and he’ll let him have free reign (within reason) of that side of the ball. Kinda like what Fulmer used to do with Chavis on defense. But will he still feel that way as the 2018 season goes on?
Will: The in-game situational decision making will be interesting. I’m not sure what kind of experience he has in those late-game situations — like deciding when to kick a field goal or go for it on fourth and short. We won’t really know his philosophy on those type of things until this team hits the field.
“What are your thoughts on many grossly underestimating the player development and in-game coaching of the new staff?” – @GrnEyedBanditTN
Nathanael: Well, I think it’s fair. And I don’t think you can say they’re underestimated yet because they haven’t done anything in an actual game at Tennessee yet. Pruitt has never coached in-game as a head coach, and Helton has never been the true signal caller of an offense at a Power Five level before either. As far as development, we’ll see about that too. Most of these coaches have done good jobs of doing that at other schools, but I don’t think you can say they’re underestimated yet when they haven’t coached a single game for UT yet.
Will: Skepticism isn’t a bad thing. Fans often over-correct to love everything about a coach just because he does things differently than the last guy. Just because Jeremy Pruitt is a 180 from Butch Jones doesn’t mean he’s going to instantly be a success. Let’s just wait and see.
“Which players should Pruitt bring to SEC media days? – Tyler
Nathanael: We discussed this on the RTI Live show on Thursday, and I think it’s an interesting question. The Vols don’t have a lot of senior leadership on offense, so picking someone from that side of the ball is tough. Trey Smith would make sense, as would Drew Richmond. I think Kyle Phillips, Micah Abernathy, and Shy Tuttle are the main options on defense.
Will: Phillips and Todd Kelly are obvious choices. I think you go with Trey Smith as well.
“I’m not a big fan of Phillip Fulmer getting a bonus for mediocre overall sports results…you?” – @tjvol49
Nathanael: It honestly doesn’t bother me at all. At least from the perspective of people getting upset at Fulmer. He didn’t do that or put it in his contract that he’d get a bonus for finishing in the top 40 of the Directors’ Cup. John Currie was due for the same bonus had he still been the AD. That was a UT decision, not a Fulmer one. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if Fulmer gave his bonus back or did something good with it.
Will: I don’t really think it’s a big deal. I think that’s a pretty standard thing to receive a bonus for across college athletics.
“Thoughts on Diwun Black? Has recently posted several pro TN tweets, and the Vols were reported as a dark horse by RivalsWoody.” – Cody
Nathanael: His recruitment has been really weird. He’s flipped between the two SEC schools already, and I don’t think he’s fully made up his mind yet either. But as far as UT’s interest goes, I wouldn’t look too much into it just yet. I think there’s interest on both sides, but I think his tweets are more because he knows that Vol Twitter loves to give attention and love and he just wanted to stoke those fires. I’d be surprised if he ended up at Tennessee.
Will: Not going to lie, with all the governor ads I’ve been seeing recently, I thought this was a poorly misspelled attempt to ask about republican candidate Diane Black.
Nevertheless, Black has been rising a lot recently and could get his fifth star soon. We’ll see. It’s probably a long shot.
“Best case scenario for O-line starting 5?” – Brandon
Nathanael: A healthy and fully prepared Trey Smith at left tackle, Drew Richmond at guard, Brandon Kennedy at center, a healthy Chance Hall at guard, and a healthy Jahmir Johnson at right tackle. At least that’s what I would like this fall and the starting five I think would give you the best combo.
Will: Smith-Richmond-Kennedy-Jahmir Johnson-Chance Hall from left to right for me. That will hinge on Smith and Hall’s health, but I think that may be the best possible rotation.