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Insider Mailing: Spring Has Sprung Edition

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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.

“How big of a loss is it with Rob Lanier leaving for Georgia State?” – @The_Klassens

Nathanael: I’ll be very interested to see how Lanier leaving will affect the Vols both on the court and in recruiting. He was a key cog in the Vols’ recruiting efforts, so that’s where I really think you’ll see it felt the most. I do trust Barnes to make a good hire to replace him, though. There’s a good chance he promotes within, too, and there’s also a very good chance that another assistant, Desmond Oliver, will take a head coaching position too.

Ben: It’s a huge loss. Rob Lanier is one of the best assistant coaches in the country, which is why you saw him draw interest from schools following last season and this season. There were several schools interested in Lanier this coaching cycle. Tennessee’s players absolutely loved him, and he was a big reason for why UT basketball is where it is today.

The good news for the Vols is that Rick Barnes has created a culture that is attractive to most assistant coaches throughout the country. Barnes shouldn’t have a problem finding an outstanding replacement.

“Odds on Bone or Williams returning?” – Dewey

Nathanael: I honestly think there’s a higher chance that Williams returns than Bone, though it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m wrong there. Bone, to me, seems like he’s very intent on making it to the NBA this offseason. Williams’ game doesn’t translate as well to the NBA, in my opinion, even though he’s consistently getting higher draft grades for whatever reason.

Ben: I would say the odds of Jordan Bone and Grant Williams leaving are greater than the odds of them staying. For Bone, the draft class isn’t that strong when it comes to guards. All it takes is one team falling in love with him during the interview process. If he receives one ounce of positive feedback, I think he’s gone.

As for Williams, I don’t believe it makes much sense for him to return. He’s projected in mock drafts to be taken in the early-to-mid-first round, and if he were to return, I don’t know how much his stock would improve. Plus, Williams also benefits from a weak draft class. But hey, he’s the type of kid who would return for his senior season because he loves being part of the basketball program at Tennessee and loves school.

“What are prospects for next season if Williams and Bone both are gone? Any word on kids we are in on in transfer portal?” – Scott

Nathanael: Right now, the Vols haven’t contacted too many players in the transfer portal, but I expect that to ramp up here in the coming weeks. The main name I’d keep an eye on in that regard is Alabama point guard transfer Kira Lewis. The Vols were heavily involved with him coming out of high school, and I expect them to be major contenders for him in the transfer market. He was a freshman last year, and unless he can get a waiver for immediate eligibility somehow, he’ll have to sit out the 2019-20 season.

Ben: The simple answer for replacing Jordan Bone is five-star Josiah James, who enrolls in May. I do believe Tennessee will seek out a graduate-transfer point guard to off-set the lack of experience. Plus, I think the Vols wanted to add a veteran point guard to the mix regardless if Bone had declared or not.

If Williams leaves, I also expect for Tennessee to seek out a big man who is a grad transfer. DJ Burns will be similar to a big addition, as he redshirted this past season and should play quite a bit.

“Does CJP need to take a page from CRB’s basketball playbook and allow a little more access to the players/program if he wants to fill Neyland Stadium for the Spring Game?” – Brian

Nathanael: Yes. I would at least like to see more access just from a selfish media member perspective, but honestly I think it benefits the players and fans a ton, too. Fans felt so connected to this year’s men’s basketball team in part because the basketball program did a good job of letting fans get a glimpse into the program and feel like they connected with the players and coaches. If the football team even did a tenth of what the basketball team did this season, it would be a step in the right direction.

Ben: Not with the media, no. With the fans, yes. I think it is a poor decision to not have fan day on the day of the spring game. It doesn’t provide an extra incentive for fans to come to the game, and in today’s world of where it is much easier to watch on TV, it hampers attendance.

As for the media, Jeremy Pruitt provides just about the same amount of access as Butch Jones did. The only difference being that Pruitt doesn’t allow assistant coaches speak to the media, though Jim Chaney did last Friday.

“Safety Anthony Harris outta Havelock NC…last I read was academics delayed him. Is he still in play or we moved on?” – @Booch18_GBO

Nathanael: He’s for sure still in play. We won’t really know about his situation until May, I believe. They’ll be waiting on test scores for him, and that’s probably when those will come in.

Ben: Looks like he is heading towards a blueshirt if he can get his academics straight.

“Do you think 8-4 is a reasonable expectation this upcoming season?” – @streets_weeper

Nathanael: That’s not unreasonable considering the schedule, but I’d say 7-5 is more reasonable. Honestly, though, 8-4 isn’t crazy or outside the realm of possibility. I’d just feel more comfortable saying 7-5 right now.

Ben: Absolutely. The schedule doesn’t appear to be as tough as it has been in years past, and Tennessee has gotten better from a year ago. It all depends on the development of the offensive line and defensive line. If those two units are better this season, I believe the Vols have a chance to win an eighth game in a bowl game.

“Please tell me Kellie Harper won’t be the next Lady Vols coach.” – @DecepticonDarth

Nathanael: Well…I wish I could tell you “no,” but there’s a good chance she is. Ben and I had a really good conversation about that on the RTI Live Show on Thursday, and he convinced me that Kara Lawson might be what the Lady Vols program needs. We’ll see if she and Phillip Fulmer both agree.

Ben: Looks like she’s in the mix as much as anybody. Kellie Harper may get the job done at Tennessee, but based off her resume, she would be an underwhelming hire. What Tennessee has to ask itself is if Harper wasn’t a former Lady Vol, would she be a candidate? I believe the answer is “no.”

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