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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“There’s been a lot of hear-say about Tee Martin possibly joining the staff. Do you think the plan is to let him shadow Jim Chaney these next few years until he retires and then take over play calling duties? That’s the only way I can see him coming on honestly.” – Nathan
Nathanael: I think the only way Tennessee gets him to “come home” is offering him something like that, yes. But I don’t know if that would work, because I don’t think Chaney is retiring any time soon. I also don’t think Tee would want to sit and wait for three, four, or five years to be an OC again. He’s going to get OC offers at other schools right now, and it would be better for him and his family if he took those rather than coming to Tennessee. I hate to say that, but it’s true. If he doesn’t end up at UT, it won’t be because Tennessee didn’t offer him enough or didn’t try, so I wouldn’t be made at Pruitt or Fulmer if he doesn’t end up returning to the Vols.
Ben: I don’t believe that’s the plan that has been discussed with Martin because Jim Chaney is only 56 and has plenty of years left coaching if he chooses. But learning from Chaney is a nice selling point. On the other hand, it could keep Martin from coming. At the end of the day, Martin wants to be an offensive coordinator, and if Chaney is at Tennessee for awhile, there’s no room to move up.
“7-5 or better in 2019 needs to be the real goal, right? Missing a bowl is OBVIOUSLY a fail, and I frankly think the schedule is too favorable to be satisfied with 6-6.” – Weston
Nathanael: Tennessee’s 2019 schedule isn’t easy (it never is as an SEC school), but it’s more lenient than the 2018 schedule was, that’s for sure. There’s no West Virginia to start the season, and there’s not as big a murder’s row in October this year. The non-conference schedule has the Vols hosting BYU, UAB, Georgia State, and UTC. Tennessee should win all those games, though BYU will be a tough out. Mississippi State should take a step back based off this past season, but that won’t be easy at all, even if the game is in Neyland. Getting South Carolina in Knoxville helps, but traveling to Missouri will be tough. I do think 7-5 is very realistic for this team, though. But I wouldn’t call a 6-6 record bad or very disappointing at first glance. Just get to a bowl game, honestly.
Ben: I believe it’s too early to set a win total to meet because you don’t know who may transfer in, who may transfer out, who may get hurt, and how the depth chart will sort itself out. I will say, though, that the goal is absolutely to make a bowl game. Then we can judge the season based off the way Tennessee reached the bowl game. Seven or eight wins is within reach as the schedule doesn’t appear to be as tough as it has been in years past.
“If Darnell Wright is projected by so many to sign w/Vols, why hasn’t he committed yet? Is he not sure or does he just want to take all the time at his disposal.” – Jimmy
Nathanael: I wouldn’t be all that worried about this one. I know it’s stressing Vol fans out that he’s waiting so long to announce anything, and I understand that. But I really think that, in the end, Wright is a Vol.
Ben: No need to stress.
“What’s our final class look like? It’s all about recruiting, and I think we all want to know if we will actually get a top 10 class, bc if we want to compete…..we have to get top 10 classes. Period. So will we?” – Clint
Nathanael: I think it will be close. If the Vols land Darnell Wright, that will help. If they can also get Henry To’oto’o, then they should definitely be in the top 10. I think the 2019 class will definitely stay within the top 15, and I think they’ll be right around the top 10 if not just barely inside it. Keep an eye on the 2020 class, though. That one is where I expect the talent to really take an uptick.
Ben: Tennessee will finish in the top-15, but I doubt it’ll reach the top-10. There’s about four or five spots left in the class depending on the talent that wants to come in. With the way the roster is, every position needs more bodies, but Pruitt would like to really add another pass rusher and linebacker. I don’t like Tennessee’s chances with To’oto’o, but I do with Christopher Russell. You’ve also seen the Vols’ really start to pursue four-star defensive end Charles Moore, who recently decommitted from Mississippi State.
“Who is confirmed in our 2019 basketball recruiting class. Also, who are we recruiting for the 2020 class?” – Charlie
Nathanael: The Vols have officially signed five-star guard Josiah James, three-star forward and Bearden standout Drew Pember, and three-star forward Davonte Gaines. As far as the 2020 names to keep an eye on, that would be four-star, in-state guard Keon Johnson and five-star guard Jaden Springer as your two top names. Four-star forward P.J. Hall and four-star center Dain Dainja are also high priorities for the 2020 cycle.
“I know it’s early in the SEC schedule, but does it seem to you that Tennessee is far beyond better than the rest of the conference?” – @GSix1987
Nathanael: It’s still early, so I would hold off on that assessment for a little bit. But right now, goodness, they really do, don’t they? I also think Georgia and Missouri just aren’t all that great, and that was also part of why the Vols crushed both of them like they have. I still think Tennessee will be pressed to beat Kentucky on the road and Auburn on the road, and Mississippi State is a good team. But right now, the Vols are clearly the top team in the conference. I would hesitate to say “far better,” but they’ve definitely established themselves as the team to beat.
Ben: Absolutely. Auburn losing to Ole Miss on Wednesday confirmed that. As of today, Tennessee should be favored over every opponent remaining on the schedule. The Vols will lose a game or two they’re not supposed to because that’s just the nature of college basketball, but they’re by far the best team in the SEC in my eyes. They’re also the best TEAM in the entire country at the moment.