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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“What about Sarkisian? Is he in play and has he been interviewed? I think he would be a good fit due to system and recruiting and familiarity with Coach Pruitt.” – Jeff
Nathanael: I’ll preface this by saying nobody really knows what’s going on with this search in my opinion. But if I had to give my best educated guess, I would say “yes,” Sark is a real candidate for the Vols’ OC position. And I’ve been on record saying that at first I wasn’t a big fan of Tennessee potentially hiring Sarkisian, but the more I’ve looked into him and what he’s actually done as a play-caller and QBs coach in college, the more I think he would be a good hire as long as he has his off-field stuff taken care of. He isn’t my first choice, and I wouldn’t do backflips over UT hiring him. But I do think he would fit in fine.
Ben: Like Nathanael said, nobody really knows what is currently going on except for Pruitt. Sure it would be a “good” fit because of his system and whatnot, but it won’t be an effective fit. I, for one, don’t think Steve Sarkisian would be a step up from Tyson Helton. Sarkisian’s offenses in college have been average, and even at the NFL level, his offenses have been very inconsistent with some big statistical games coming against bad teams. I don’t necessarily believe Sarkisian would be a bad hire, I just don’t think he’s an upgrade over Helton.
“Is Freddie Kitchens a realistic candidate for the Offensive Coordinator vacancy?” – Luke
Nathanael: In my opinion, no. I would be stunned if he isn’t retained by the Cleveland Browns, and if he isn’t, I think he stays in the NFL regardless. I don’t think Kitchens will return to college after the success he’s had this year calling plays. Plus, he’s been in the NFL for over a decade now. I just don’t see him leaving.
Ben: I don’t believe so, because Kitchens is staying in the NFL. Right now, his stock is sky-high thanks to what he and Baker Mayfield have been able to do over the last couple of games with the Browns. He’s too good for college football in my opinion. But if he is available and would come to Tennessee, Pruitt should snatch him up ASAP.
“Do you think the coaching staff brings in another QB transfer or stay with what they have? A running QB could be interesting. I am sure they would want to keep Maurer’s red shirt if possible.” – @hesenij
Nathanael: I’ll be interested to see how active the Vols get in the transfer market this offseason. They’ve already added Michigan defensive tackle transfer Aubrey Solomon, and it seems like there are going to be plenty of transfer QBs out there, both of the grad transfer and regular transfer variety. I do think UT is kicking the tires on Justin Fields as a transfer, but I would be surprised if he ended up at Tennessee. I also don’t think Jalen Hurts ends up transferring like a lot of people assumed at the beginning of this season. We’ll see, but the Vols might just roll the dice with Guarantano as the likely starter and J.T. Shrout as his backup.
Ben: Only if it’s a good fit. I don’t believe the staff will bring in a transfer quarterback just to bring one in. They’ll save that scholarship for a high school player, somebody they can develop through and through. Honestly – I know many Tennessee fans don’t agree – the Vols don’t need a quarterback. I firmly believe Jarrett Guarantano is good enough – if the offensive line takes a step forward – to win every game on Tennessee’s schedule next year except for the Alabama and Georgia game. And even on that note, Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts aren’t transferring to Tennessee, so what transfer quarterback can? I don’t believe there is one.
“Guard play seems to be the determining factor so often in March and Tennessee is strongest at the forward position…will that hurt the men’s hoops team in the tournament?” – Matt
Nathanael: Not with the way Jordan Bone is currently playing, no. You do need good guard play come March, but Tennessee has that right now. Lamonte Turner’s health is a bit concerning, but Bone has been performing like one of the best point guards in the country lately. Jordan Bowden has been a little streaky off the bench, but for the most part he’s looked better there than when he was starting. And if Jalen Johnson continues to progress like he has been, he’ll be another solid guard that UT can depend on.
Ben: With the way that Jordan Bone is playing, Tennessee has as good of a chance as anyone to win a National Championship in April. He is playing tremendous basketball and has established himself as one of the best point guards in the entire country. Where it gets a little nerve-wracking is when you look at the bench. Tennessee doesn’t have a true point guard option behind Bone, especially with Lamonte Turner sidelined due to injury. But the good news for Tennessee is that even though it doesn’t have a true backup point guard, Jordan Bowden, Admiral Schofield, Grant Williams, and Turner are all capable of getting the offense going in a half court set.
“Do you think Grant leaves for the NBA after this season?” – @GSix1987
Nathanael: I’m not so sure about that. If he ends up averaging close to a double-double like he is now and he helps the Vols get to, say, the Final Four, then I think he’s very likely to do so. At that point, what else does he have left to prove at the college level? The one thing giving me pause on him declaring early is that it seemed like a big selling point for five-star guard Josiah James was Grant staying around for next year. Grant himself was a big recruiter and influence for James, so that intrigues me.
Ben: No. I know there has been talk about Grant Williams being projected in the first round of the draft, but I’m not buying it. To be honest, I’m not going to Bleacher Report for NBA draft analysis. That’s nothing against Williams, I just know how these NBA front offices and scouts work. Every single year, they want the guy with the most potential and the most athleticism. They don’t like multi-year college players, and that’s what Williams is. Plus, Williams strikes me as a guy that loves Tennessee and would want to play one more year in college. Regardless, I think he definitely gets drafted at some point and can develop into a productive role player in the NBA.
“Just tell me now, magic 8 ball. When’s the next time Tennessee beats Bama?” – @ima_volunteer
Nathanael: Probably not until Nick Saban leaves Alabama, whenever that will be.
Ben: I would say when Pruitt gets three of his recruiting classes in here is when he’ll have the best chance of knocking off Alabama. That would be the 2020 season when the two teams play again in Knoxville. Heck, Butch Jones should have beaten Alabama down in Tuscaloosa in 2015. It can happen.