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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Any word on how Jalen Johnson has been practicing of late? What’s been holding him back? (Understanding of defensive scheme, effort of defense, or simply better players ahead of him).” – RJ
Nathanael: Johnson doesn’t get more playing time because of his defense, plain and simple. That and Admiral plays at his position, so he’s kinda just stuck on the bench unless Barnes wants to put him in at the two. But there you usually have Yves Pons and Jordan Bowden playing. Pons has much better defense than Johnson, and Bowden does too. Bowden also has better offense. I suspect we’ll see Johnson get more time next year, assuming he sticks around.
Ben: If I remember correctly, Rick Barnes said recently that he’s been practicing well. Jalen Johnson is just in the unfortunate situation where he plays the same position as Admiral Schofield. The reason Johnson doesn’t get more playing time is because he still has a ways to go on the defensive end. Offensively, he can be a contributor, but Schofield eats up all his minutes.
“What is the deal with Zack Kent? Not working hard? Injured?” – Stephen
Ben: He’s been battling back from a knee injury all season. Barnes recently said he hasn’t been able to go full-go in practice but is getting closer to doing so.
“Does Holly make it to the end of the year, or is she going to be asked to resign in the next few days/weeks?” – Ryan
Nathanael: Honestly, I would be surprised if she makes it to the end of the season. If they continue to lose like this, the best thing would be for her to step down and save Fulmer the pain of having to pull her mid-season. There’s still time for things to turn around right now, but it doesn’t look likely at all. Firing her would be a tough move for Fulmer, but ultimately I think that’s what it’s going to come down to.
Ben: I don’t believe she does, although I wouldn’t be surprised if she does. There’s no doubt a change needs to be made at some point, but I’m in the camp that if a change is made, the season can be salvaged in the sense of making the tournament. The Lady Vols have never missed the tournament and that should be something Phillip Fulmer takes into consideration when deciding when is the correct time to move on. I believe a breath of fresh air could turn around the season to a certain extent.
“If (especially OUR) athletic history has taught us anything, it’s that you shouldn’t fire an underperforming (excluding unethical) coach unless/until you actually have a potential upgrade available. That being said, who do you think would be viable candidates if Holly gets fired?” – Kenny
Nathanael: That’s a good point, Kenny. UT history has shown that it’s imperative to make sure you have your ducks in a row before you pull the plug on a coach. But once the move is made (because I do think a move is made one way or the other), the list of candidates will be large and varied. But I’m not sure how many elite coaches would jump at the chance to leave their positions to come to UT. Yes, the Lady Vols’ roster is loaded with young talent, and a new coach should be able to come in and win immediately. UT also has fantastic facilities and can recruit exceptionally well. But most of the top targets on fans’ boards are coaches who are already being paid very well at schools that have had a lot of success over the last few years. I’m just worried fans will get their hopes up about UT making a “home run” hire for the Lady Vols only to be let down.
Ben: Anybody in women’s basketball except for Geno Auriemma would take a phone call from Phillip Fulmer and the Lady Vols. There are some very good veteran coaches that likely wouldn’t consider leaving their current stops solely because of their age, but it would be foolish for any other coach not to consider the Lady Vols. Here at Tennessee, the women’s basketball coach has all the tools to recruit at an elite level, the fan base and the facilities to win a national championship. Personally, I would call South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey.
“Will Tee be the help we need? Or is his hiring being blown up.” – @imsotennessee
Nathanael: I think the hire is being blown up just a little bit because of his obvious ties to UT football, but I also think Tee is a great position coach and recruiter. He still needs to learn some more before he should give play-calling another chance, but he’s one of the best recruiters in the country and has done very well developing receivers at Kentucky and USC.
Ben: If Tee Martin wasn’t tied to Tennessee, it would still be a great hire for Jeremy Pruitt. He recruits at an elite level, he is a great wide receiver coach, has a great offensive mind, and is a great role model for players such as Jauan Jennings.
“Maurer good enough to start? Or is that just wishful thinking and we are going to get JG taking 5 mins to throw the ball again?” – Clint
Nathanael: No, Maurer isn’t going to start as a true freshman this season unless Guarantano and Shrout get hurt. Simple as that.
Ben: Wishful thinking. And JG didn’t take five minutes to throw the ball. How can he take five minutes to throw the ball when the offensive linemen can’t even put their hands on the person in front of them? Jarrett Guarantano is more than capable of being a productive starter in this conference, which he was this past season. The numbers back it up and so do college football analysts that know a lot more about football than you or I.
“When will my decision to go for Tennessee after arriving here from England ten years ago come to fruition?” – Adrian
Nathanael: I looked at your Twitter, Adrian, and I think it was a bold move to not only come to the states from England, but also to choose the Vols as your team when you live in north Alabama. With that being said, it should start paying off soon. It’s already paying off for you in basketball, and I think football should be competing again in 2020. As far as actually beating Bama goes, though…I have no idea. I know you want that to happen considering where you live, but it might be a bit before that happens.
Ben: If you’re a fan of the University of Tennessee, it’s already come to fruition with the basketball team being ranked No. 1 in the country and having as good of a chance to win a National Championship as anybody.
If you’re only a fan of Tennessee football, your guess is as good as mine my friend.