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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“I think the way to beat WV is keep the offense off the field and control the clock. I heard their defense struggled last year. How does our offensive line match against their defensive line? How was their run defense?” – Larry
Nathanael: I would agree with the first part of your assessment, Larry. I think if Tennessee has any hope of beating the Mountaineers, they need to keep the ball away from that potent offense as long as they can. They need to do what Georgia Tech tried to do to Tennessee last season and just run, run, run. And don’t be afraid to take risks when necessary. And I’m not sure about how UT’s offensive line matches up with their defensive line just yet because I don’t know who will be starting for the Vols’ offensive line right now. But last year their run defense ranked 104th in all of college football in rushing yards allowed, but they’ve also added some grad transfers and other pieces to their defense for this season. They still won’t be all that great, but I don’t know if they’ll be that bad again.
Charley: I agree that it will be important to keep that potent Mountaineer offense off the field as much as possible. If Tennessee wants to win this one, they’re going to have to control the ball and wear out the West Virginia defense. West Virginia had a pretty bad defense last year, so it would be hard for them be worse. The match-up in the trenches will be very telling as to what the Vols have at offensive line. They have a worse defensive front than just about every team Tennessee will play in the SEC, so UT needs to be able to win that match-up. I anticipate the Vols will have a lot more success offensively in this game than people are expecting.
“If you had to pick right now, who takes the first snap against WV and why?” – @htcook1999
Nathanael: Asking the tough question, aren’t you? If I had to bet money right now…I would go with Jarrett Guarantano. Which is not what I thought when they first brought in Keller Chryst, and if you had asked me even as late as last week, I might’ve still said Chryst. But I’m a little higher on JG right now. That could change once fall camp gets underway, but we’ll see.
Charley: If I had to guess, I would probably lean slightly towards Jarrett Guarantano. He laid down a nice foundation with a solid spring, so it may be harder now for Chryst to take the job away from him. If I got to pick who I wanted to start, I would go with Chryst as the starting quarterback and its not even all that close. I just think right now, he is the more polished and mature quarterback. I trust his decision making, and he has a more commanding presence in the pocket. He just fits the offense better.
“Vols record the next 5 years: 7-5, 8-4, 9-3, 9-3, 9-3. Will you take that now or not?” – @oleg_zeltser
Nathanael: That’s not easy to say by just looking at the record in a vacuum. Each 9-3 season could be very different than the other. Does Tennessee go 9-3 and win the East in two of those three seasons? Or do they fail to win the East in any of them? I think it would be acceptable if at least one of those 9-3 seasons (preferably the second one you have listed) results in a division crown, but just looking at the records without taking into consideration how UGA, Florida, and South Carolina finish is hard to do.
Charley: Not a chance in the world I take that deal right now. I mean obviously those are successful seasons, and I think if those are the records then Pruitt is probably doing a good job, but let’s strive for more. I just don’t want to settle for 9-3 in 5 years as our ceiling. I wouldn’t be upset at that record by any means, but I would chance it thinking they could do better.
“Do you think our defense has the potential to finish top 25? If not where do you see the defense finishing?” – Nathan
Nathanael: Not this year, no. Maybe in 2019 or 2020, but I don’t think they go from 82nd last season in terms of yards allowed to a top 25 team this year. I think they improve and have a turnaround, but I don’t think it’s that big of a turnaround. I think top 50 would be one heck of an improvement.
Charley: In order for the defense to finish in the top 25, players will have to play to their full potential, and Tennessee would have to have virtually zero injuries. Right now they just really lack depth and overall experience. They have players that I think can be very good, but it may take some time with the new coaching staff to get to that point where the defense is playing at a high level. You also have to take into account the schedule Tennessee has. West Virginia, Missouri and Alabama are all top 25 offenses in the country. I just don’t see it happening.
“Do you think we have a good shot of getting Crouch and Bogle?” – @v_fball
Nathanael: I do, especially Bogle. I think the Vols are in a great spot with Crouch, but I think they’re definitely the leaders with Bogle right now. And he would be a huge addition to this class, as would Crouch, obviously. Bogle is one of the best pass rushers in the 2019 class, and he has the potential to only get better and better if he gets the right coaching.
Charley: I feel great about the Vols landing Bogle, and I think he could probably see significant playing time as a freshman. He is one of the best players in the country. As for Crouch, I think Tennessee is the leader as it currently stands, but there is still a lot to happen in his recruitment. Getting both of those guys would be a major win for Pruitt and his staff.