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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Who is going to have the most immediate impact?” – @demetrik74
Nathanael: Of just the 2019 recruits, I truly think it will be Savion Williams. He’s almost going to have to come in and start just out necessity, but I also really like his work ethic and his football ability. You can definitely argue one of the two five-star offensive tackles, but I think Williams comes in and starts on the defensive line in his first year at UT and probably starts every game.
Ben: Wanya Morris or Darnell Wright. Both, really. Not only are they already the two most talented offensive tackles on the roster – assuming Trey Smith won’t play – but the duo will also be forced to play early. If the two come in and play well, Tennessee could find itself winning seven or eight games in 2019.
“What’s the latest on Anthony Harris?” – @JtDirtyBirdy
Nathanael: He’s expected to still be a part of UT’s class as long as he qualifies academically. But we won’t know that for another few weeks or months probably. I don’t anticipate his situation to take as long as J.J. Peterson’s did, though.
“What position/positions are we still in need of to start the 2019 season?” – Diana
Nathanael: Uhh…a lot of them. But to be serious, Tennessee still needs to address both lines of scrimmage in their 2020 recruiting class. They got a couple of good immediate contributors on the defensive line in this class with Savion Williams and Darel Middleton, and Aubrey Solomon will be an interesting story to keep track of. But if they don’t want to be starting more true freshmen along the line in 2021, then they need to add several more D-linemen in the 2020 class. You can never have enough offensive linemen, either. I also think adding a couple wide receivers, running backs, and linebackers are a big need in this next cycle.
Ben: Every position still needs to be addressed in order to get the depth back to where it needs to be. I agree with Nathanael that the defensive line needs to continue to be a focal point. Tennessee didn’t bring in any elite recruits along the defensive line, but they have the ability to do so in the upcoming 2020 class. The offensive line also needs to continue to be addressed even after bringing in five terrific prospects in the 2019 class. In order to get the offensive line depth to championship-caliber, it’s going to take three consecutive really nice O-line classes.
“Does JJ Peterson exist? If so where is he?” – Pam
Nathanael: Ah, we’re back to getting J.J. Peterson questions again. He’s fine. He’s working out with the team just like everyone else is on the roster currently. I’ll be interested to see what he looks like on the field in the spring, though.
Ben: He’s still on the roster. Now, I will say, Peterson has had a more difficult time transitioning to college than Tennessee expected – specifically in the weight room.
“If I was starting a new team, could I crack the top 25 with an All-Transfer Portal team (assuming Saban as coach)?” – Greg
Nathanael: This is a very interesting question. I don’t think you could, though. You’d have tons of quarterbacks to choose from, but I don’t know that there have been enough quality linemen to enter into the portal for you to field a top 25 type of team. Maybe a bowl eligible team, but I think top 25 is a bit of a stretch.
Ben: I say no because football is won in the trenches and there haven’t been enough quality linemen on both sides of the ball enter the transfer portal. The same can be said for skill players as well. Now, Jalen Hurts sure could win you a lot of football games. He would definitely be my first pick.
“If Tennessee and Kentucky win these next few, we go into Rupp with a 20 game winning streak and they will have a 12 game. Can Tennessee top the Wildcats in Rupp in a top 5 matchup on the big stage?” – @GSix1987
Nathanael: They absolutely can, yes. Will they? That remains to be seen. This team can beat pretty much anyone and do it anywhere. I don’t think they’d let the environment get to them, and I also think you’ll see a little more orange in Rupp Arena this year than you have in year’s past. But honestly, that game is going to be so fun to watch. I’m not sure if the Vols will be able to win it, but I know they’re definitely capable of doing so.
Ben: Of course Tennessee can. The Vols are the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. On paper, I maintain that Tennessee is better than Kentucky. Now, it’s going to be an extremely tough game. It’ll be the toughest game the Vols have played to this point because at least against Gonzaga, it was on a neutral court. The biggest thing in Tennessee’s favor is that the Vols won’t be scared of the moment. They’ve already done it once, and I think they’ll do it again next Saturday.
“Is the #1 Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball team still the most excellent team in all the land?” – @MaxTE34
Nathanael: Does Jeremy Pruitt like cornbread? Does Deacon Barnes preach on Sundays?
Ben: You know the answer to that question, my friend.