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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Is Kendal Briles really a front runner for OC? That seems like a PR disaster waiting to happen.” – Justin
Nathanael: It would appear he is, yes. And Ben and I actually had a very in-depth discussion about Briles and his off-field baggage on the latest RTI Podcast. I’m open to having my mind changed on him and the situation, but as it stands right now, I wouldn’t be a big fan of him being the OC at Tennessee.
Ben: Yes, yes, yes he is. And yes, it would be a PR disaster. I’m not a fan of bringing on Briles because of his baggage off the field, but he is a tremendous on-field coach if Tennessee chooses to bring him in. It is important that the Vols vet him properly.
“I think the longer the search goes is better for Tennessee. It takes more time for CJP to think, and if they hire after the early signing period some players probably if they don’t like the hire can’t go somewhere else. What do you think, is longer better or worse?” – @TheRealMrCS
Nathanael: I think it’s better for Pruitt to take his time and make sure he makes the right hire, but there’s such a thing as taking too long too. I don’t think the Vols are quite in that range yet, but they’re approaching it in my opinion. Ideally, I think a hire should be made by this time next week. If it goes into that following week, then I think it’s gone too long. But I’m definitely fine with Pruitt making sure he’s getting the right guy and taking his time.
Ben: To me, I don’t care when Pruitt hires an offensive coordinator. Just hire the right guy. Tennessee was able to land Harrison Bailey over Michigan without an OC and already has the recruiting class fairly locked up, so I don’t believe any recruits would want to flip once they announce the hire. Plus, Pruitt has done a good job of communicating with the recruits what his plans are for hiring an OC when asked.
“Do you think Juan Jennings will come back for next year?” – Brent
Nathanael: I do, yes. I think he’ll return for his last season because I don’t think he showed enough this year to get as good of a draft grade as he would like. He was never 100% healthy this year, and it showed. He flashed some really good potential and showed incredible toughness, but I think one more year would benefit him.
Ben: Yes, I do. I believe Jennings could declare for the draft this year and would be on a roster next season, but it’s advantageous for him to return to Tennessee. He’s a good college receiver, but he has a ways to go before becoming a solid NFL receiver. Two years with David Johnson would serve him well.
“Is there any interest in adding grad transfers, if so what position?” – @colon_crusher
Nathanael: I don’t think you’ll see UT take as many grad transfers as last offseason, but I do think you’ll see the Vols try and grab a defensive or offensive lineman grad transfer if possible. I think the defensive line especially could use a grad transfer player.
Ben: That’s to be determined. I don’t think you’ll see any grad transfer added to the quarterback room, but I could definitely see Pruitt trying to bring in grad transfers along the offensive line and defensive line. Tennessee simply needs more bodies there, as it does in the secondary.
“Will the uniforms getting any tweaks for next year?” – Dustin
Nathanael: I saw some talk about the dual stripes returning down the side of the pants for next season, but otherwise I’m not sure. I’d be in favor of that, though. I doubt you ever see any grey on the uniforms ever again as long as Pruitt and Fulmer are here, though.
Ben: Pruitt couldn’t care less about uniforms, and with Fulmer at the helm, Tennessee isn’t going to go away from tradition.
“Biggest key and player to watch against Gonzaga?” – @GSix1987
Nathanael: The Zags have so many good players on their roster that I want to just point them all out. But I’m going to go with Josh Perkins. He’s an extremely efficient guard who is averaging 8.3 assists per game and only 2.1 turnovers a game. If the Vols want to limit what Gonzaga can do on offense, they need to get in Perkins’ head and make him make mistakes.
Ben: Honestly, everybody in Gonzaga’s rotation is the player to watch. From Rui Hachimura, Josh Perkins, Brandon Clarke, and Zach Norvell Jr., this is the Bulldogs’ best basketball team that Mark Few has fielded. All four are double-digit scorers and lead a prolific offense that is the best in the country statistically. Josh Perkins is the engine that makes the train run, but Rui Hachimura is the best player on the team.
“What do you think is the challenge for the Lady Vols BB? They seem to be uninspired to this point.” – Sam
Nathanael: I think the challenge for them is that they’re young and just not very well coached. I think they’ll struggle when they get into SEC play this season. I honestly won’t be surprised if Holly isn’t retained after this season.
Ben: Overcoming its youth. I don’t think they’re uninspired. I’ve covered every home game but one this season and I fully believe those players care for each other and play hard. They just lack fundamentals due to their youth. Warlick is relying upon two sophomores to be her best players and four freshmen to play key roles in the rotation. The Lady Vols have a ton of talent, but their youth shows far too much. Regardless, Wednesday’s performance against Stetson was completely unacceptable.