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Insider Mailing: Senior Day Edition

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

“I haven’t heard much this week about the defense of MO, what weaknesses will Helton try to exploit?” – @BoKeck1

Nathanael: It’s simple: Pass the ball, and pass it often. This is a game I want to see Jarrett Guarantano throw the ball at least 30 times. All but two of Missouri’s opponents this season have attempted at least 30 passes against them, and the Tigers have given up three passing touchdowns in a game five different times. Missouri’s run defense is pretty good, but their secondary is awful, and their linebackers aren’t great in coverage either. The Vols should be able to connect on passes all over the field.

Ben: Missouri’s defense is solid, but its secondary isn’t the greatest. This is the area I expect Tyson Helton and Tennessee’s offense to expose. The Tigers’ pass defense ranks 13th in the SEC, as they’re allowing 276.5 yards per game through the air. I expect Tennessee to try and replicate what it did against Auburn through the air. The opportunity for Jarrett Guarantano and Tennessee’s receivers to have a big game will present itself.

“Other than Wright who do we need the most who we are still recruiting?” – Dewey

Nathanael: Darnell Wright is definitely the top option still on the board, but I would say five-star linebacker and current Auburn commit Owen Pappoe (who is a teammate of five-star Vol commit Wanya Morris) is No. 2 on the list. In my opinion, the next on the list is Justin Eboigbe, an extremely talented pass rusher who is committed to Alabama. I don’t know if the Vols can flip him, but it would be huge if they did. Michigan running back commit Eric Gray and Texas cornerback commit and Pappoe’s teammate Kenyatta Watson are two other high-priority targets.

 Ben: If I had to give two names, I’d say Owen Pappoe and Kenyatta Watson. Coincidentally they’re on the same team as current Tennessee commit Wanya Morris – a five-star offensive tackle from Grayson High School in Georgia. Pappoe is a day one starter at outside linebacker, and Watson is in the two-deep the moment he steps on campus. They’re exceptional athletes at positions of need for Tennessee.

“Thoughts on the possibility of landing the big trio (Wanya, Pappoe, Watson) from Grayson?” – @1998Vol

Nathanael: My thoughts are this: Tennessee is in a great spot with Pappoe and Watson, and I think they’re trending towards getting at least Pappoe if not Watson as well.

Ben: I love Tennessee’s chances. I believe that as of today, November 15th, the Vols land all three.

“Do you see guys like Niehaus or maybe Johnson/Carvin — guys who are in very obvious danger of being recruited over this cycle — transferring after the year?” – @dannyfromsmash

Nathanael: There’s no way Jerome Carvin, who is a true freshman this year, will transfer after this season. But your question is a good one. I think we’ll end up seeing a decent amount of attrition after this season is over, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you see four or five transfers or more if some players decide to declare early.

Ben: Niehaus is the most likely out of the trio you mentioned. This staff loves Jerome Carvin in the long run, so I would be shocked if he transfers. Ryan Johnson will be in the two-deep next year, and he truly loves Tennessee, so I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I don’t like speculating who will or will not transfer to be honest.

“I know it’s a long way away, but what do you guys think should be a realistic expectation for the 2019 football team?” – Murphy

Nathanael: Realistically, Vol fans should probably expect a lot of inconsistency to start the season next year. I think Tennessee will have a lot newcomers starting or making significant contributions next season, and they’ll have to have an adjustment period. But when it’s all said and done, I think next year will see UT take another step, and eight wins isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Neither is nine wins to be honest.

Ben: Eight wins is a legitimate possibility with the way Tennessee is recruiting, how many players it returns on offense, and its schedule. I don’t know that eight wins should be the expectation, but if Tennessee were to win eight or nine games next season, it wouldn’t shock me. Mainly because I believe in Jeremy Pruitt’s ability to manage a roster and develop his players. With an entire offseason, he’ll have his team ready to play.

“What are your overall thoughts about the new class of signees for Tennessee men’s basketball and how they may figure into next season’s team?” – Connie

Nathanael: Josiah James should be an instant contributor and would be a starter if not for the fact that UT will have Jordan Bone as a senior at the point guard position. James, the first five-star Rick Barnes has signed at Tennessee, will make his presence felt early at UT as long as he stays healthy. He has a few things that need to be fixed offensively, but his defense will definitely earn him immediate playing time.

Both Davonte Gaines and Drew Pember are more “project” players who likely won’t see much playing time next season, but I like the potential for both. I’m a little higher on Pember than I am Gaines. I’ve just not been all that impressed with Gaines so far, but who am I to doubt Rick Barnes’ recruiting? He’s proven he can take lower three-star players and develop them into studs, so Gaines could be a great player by his third year on campus. Pember could also use this next year as a prep year if he chooses, so we’ll see what his status ends up being.

Ben: It’s Rick Barnes’ best class yet simply because of one signee — Josiah James — the 5-star combo-guard who is rated the No. 13 overall player in the country. He’ll be an instant impact player who will receive a lot of minutes from the jump.

As for the other two signees — Davonte Gaines and Drew Pember — I like the long-term potential. They both need to add weight in what will probably be a redshirt season for them in 2019. But once they add weight, they both have the offensive tools to be really good players for Tennessee down the road.

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