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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Do you expect JJ Peterson to get any meaningful snaps this season? Or ever for that matter.” – @vo_ldemort
Nathanael: Honestly, no, I don’t expect him to get very many (if any) meaningful snaps this season. Not unless he take a lot of steps forward this summer and in fall camp. As for if he’ll EVER get meaningful snaps: I’m definitely not counting him out yet. He’s not even been on campus a full year yet. The early returns aren’t great, but that doesn’t mean he should be written off as a bust or non-factor after nine months on campus.
Ben: Yes I do. Mainly because Tennessee doesn’t have a lot of other options and because of how naturally gifted he is. They’ll throw him into the fire during at least the first three weeks of the season. If he’s not ready, he’s not going to get you beat against Georgia State, BYU, or Tennessee-Chattanooga. But against Florida, he will. So, I think he’ll be in the two-deep for those games, which to me, is meaningful snaps.
“What % do you expect Trey Smith to play this year? And does he start this season?” – Joey
Nathanael: If you’d asked me this a month ago, I would’ve said less than five percent chance he plays this season. Now? I think the chances have gone up, but I’m still not going to get my hopes too high that he does. I’ll go between 15-20 percent that he plays. If he does play, I don’t see how he doesn’t start, though. As long as he’s still in good shape and has kept up with other players in his conditioning, he’ll start.
Ben: I still feel uncomfortable answering this question simply because we don’t know specific details regarding his situation. It seems as if Trey Smith is doing everything he can to play this season, so based off that, I’ll say he’ll play this year at some point. How much? That’s to be determined. I could see a situation where maybe they sit Smith in the cupcake games and trot him out there against the big dogs.
“Who do you see getting drafted from the football team in 2020?” – @streets_weeper
Nathanael: It honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see seven or more Vols taken in the 2020 NFL Draft. I think we’ll see Darrell Taylor, Marquez Callaway, and Jauan Jennings for sure get drafted. Dominick Wood-Anderson will get drafted on potential alone, but a productive senior season will definitely help him out there. I believe Nigel Warrior and Emmit Gooden will get selected too, and I also think Daniel Bituli gets drafted. If Ty Chandler or Josh Palmer have an exceptional year, they could declare early and get drafted as well. There’s even a chance that Brandon Kennedy gets drafted. All of this is assuming these players stay healthy, of course.
Ben: If I had to place money on who gets drafted this season, I’d place money on Darrell Taylor, Trey Smith (assuming he plays), Marquez Callaway, Dominick Wood-Anderson, and Jauan Jennings.
The two wildcards for me are Ty Chandler and Josh Palmer. If those two have big years, they could be drafted as well.
“What top recruits do you think we will land in the 2020 class?” – @hesenij
Nathanael: I could list off a bunch of highly-rated prospects that Tennessee is in a good spot with, but you asked which ones we think UT will land. So I’ll go out on a limb and say these are some top recruits I think end up committing to the Vols: Jay Hardy, Cooper Mays, Tyler Baron, Keshawn Lawrence, Chris Morris, Jacolbe Cowan, BJ Ojulari, and Kris Abrams-Draine.
Ben: Tennessee is in good position to land Tyler Baron, Cooper Mays, Jay Hardy, BJ Ojulari, Keshawn Lawrence, Chris Morris and Jacolbe Cowan. Those are the names I feel confident the Vols will land on May 22.
“Which was more disappointing: UT’s 2016 football season or the series finale of GOT?” – Kennedy
Nathanael: Well, I’m super behind on my viewing of Game of Thrones, so I can’t speak to that as specifically as I’d like, but this was too good of a question to pass up. I’ll say this about GOT, though: Being a huge fan of Star Wars (and other sci-fi and fantasy shows/movies/books), I know that fans can sometimes be severely overly critical of something if it doesn’t go the exact way they wanted it to or thought it would. I don’t necessarily think that’s what’s happened with GOT from what I’ve seen, but I know that movies and shows are a lot more subjective than sports.
But I know from having lived through it and covered it, the 2016 Vols season was a massive disappointment. It was one of the biggest sports letdowns in my lifetime that I can remember. So my answer is the 2016 Vols.
Ben: Tennessee’s 2016 football season because I care more about Tennessee football than Game of Thrones.
“Are we going to have any more attrition from football and basketball (men and women)?” – Andrew
Nathanael: Last I checked, the football team still needs a few more spots to open up to get to the 85 scholarship limit before the fall, so I do expect some there. As for the basketball teams, I think we’re done seeing any roster movement on the men’s side aside from Jordan Bone likely keeping his name in the NBA Draft pool. I don’t think anyone else will actually transfer off the roster, though. With the Lady Vols, Ben might have a better feel on that than me, but I don’t really think anyone else will transfer like Evina Westbrook and Mimi Collins have.
Ben: We’ll see more attrition with the football team, and it’ll be guys that are buried in the depth chart at positions such as tight end and offensive line. But I don’t believe we’ll see a big name announce that he is leaving.
With the basketball team, I’d be surprised if we saw any more attrition. If someone were to transfer, it would most likely be Jalen Johnson. But now that Admiral Schofield has graduated, Johnson has a chance at starting if he can beat out Yves Pons.
As for the Lady Vols, it’s always possible someone decides to transfer after spending a summer with Kellie Harper. They may simply view the Lady Vols as a spot that isn’t necessarily the best place for them, which happens often when a new head coach comes in. But I don’t believe we’ll see anyone else transfer following the departures of Evina Westbrook and Mimi Collins.
“With Grant Williams officially leaving Tennessee and Jordan Bone likely to leave as well, what are realistic expectations for the basketball team next season? Also what’s more likely next year: the Vols miss the NCAA tournament or the Vols make it to at least the Sweet 16?” – Jeffrey
Nathanael: That’s a very good question. If (and likely when) Bone announces he’s keeping his name in the draft pool, the Vols will have one more open spot they can use on a transfer for this upcoming season if they wish. So my answer may vary slightly depending on what happens there. UT also isn’t 100 percent sure if new Arizona State transfer Uros Plavsic will be immediately eligible this upcoming season. If he is, that makes me feel better about Tennessee’s prospects for the 2019-20 season. If he’s not, then that obviously hurts. I’ll say that with Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, John Fulkerson, and Yves Pons as your main core of returning players and with Josiah James coming in as an immediate contributor, I still expect UT to make it to the NCAA Tournament. But I’d say it’s more likely they miss the Big Dance than make a Sweet Sixteen run.
Ben: I would say that it’s more likely that they miss the NCAA Tournament. It’s hard to make the Sweet Sixteen, and considering the amount of production Tennessee is losing, it’s going to be hard for the Vols to get back there this season. Now, it wouldn’t shock me if UT ends up being better than people anticipate. I believe Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden are more than capable of carrying the load on offense. In addition, Jalen Johnson, Yves Pons, and John Fulkerson are all veterans who, if they take a step forward, the Vols could have a very reliable core. You throw in production from younger players such as Josiah James, DJ Burns, Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua, or Zach Kent and Tennessee has a nice rotation. Especially if Arizona State transfer Uros Plavsic can play immediately.
“It’s May and news is slow, so we spent work yesterday discussing the top player at each position over the last 10 years. (The post Fulmer era). Some were easy and others were hard to pick but it’s a fun conversation. I’d like to read your list in the mail bag.” – Robert
Nathanael: I almost didn’t include this because we already had a lot of questions in the mailbag this week, but this one was just too intriguing and good to not include. Here’s my take on the best post-Fulmer era (2009-present) players at each position:
QB: Josh Dobbs
RB: Alvin Kamara
WR: Justin Hunter
TE: Mychal Rivera
OL: Ja’wuan James
DL: Derek Barnett
LB: Jerod Mayo
DB: Eric Berry
QB: Josh Dobbs
RB: Alvin Kamara
WR: Cordarrelle Patterson
TE: Mychal Rivera
OL: (healthy) Trey Smith
DL: Derek Barnett
LB: AJ Johnson/Rico McCoy
DB: Eric Berry