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Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“The likelihood of going after Tosh Lupoi?” – Bill
Nathanael: I would say pretty low at this point in time. There seems to be the thought that Lupoi isn’t going to be welcomed back into the SEC just yet after only one year away, so I’m not sure if any SEC team with an opening will be going after him. I think he would make sense on UT’s staff if an opening happens, but I don’t know if the SEC will allow it.
Ben: Zero chance because Tosh Lupoi is going to have to stay in the NFL for at least another season. At least out of the SEC. If Tennessee could go after Tosh Lupoi, it absolutely would.
“Is Coach YAC gone? And what other coaches are we looking to replace?” – Joey
Nathanael: He’s not gone yet, and I think Tennessee will fight tooth and nail to keep him. Johnson was huge in recruiting the Memphis area this cycle, and he’ll be big there and in other aspects — such as Louisiana — in future cycles. I can understand the appeal for him to go to Florida State to be with Mike Norvell, though.
As for other coaching changes: I don’t want to speculate on people’s jobs, but I do anticipate there being at least a couple changes to Jeremy Pruitt’s staff this offseason.
Ben: According to a reporter who covers Florida State, David Johnson is gone following Tennessee’s bowl game against Indiana. This isn’t completely shocking since Johnson was with new Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell at Memphis where he helped develop Anthony Miller into an NFL draft pick. If Tennessee wants to keep Johnson, however, it should be able to do so.
“Do you anticipate Jim Chaney putting in some new wrinkles to the offense that we will see against Indiana?” – Logan
Nathanael: I do, and I think that might even be more out of necessity than anything else. Chaney has never had to game plan for Jauan Jennings not being on the field for an extended time, so I think just by the extension of him not playing in the first half, you’ll see some different looks from UT in the opening half of play. I don’t expect anything too crazy really, but Chaney is really good at preparing and scripting things for the first half, and he’s had a whole month to prepare for this game. You can bet he’s dissected Indiana’s defense.
Ben: Absolutely. Tennessee has to do so with Jauan Jennings missing the first half due to suspension. So, naturally there will be some new — particularly in the slot. We’ve already seen Ramel Keyton slide over to the slot and work there during practice. In addition to utilizing Keyton, I think we’ll see Dominick Wood-Anderson really used over the middle of the field.
“Savion Williams came in with high expectations. That hasn’t seemed to pan out. Our JUCOs seem to be more miss than hit. Why?” – Josh
Nathanael: I would be interested to see the hit/miss rate on JUCOs at other schools and not just Tennessee. I imagine they’re pretty similar across the board. Williams was a disappointment this season to be sure, but look at fellow JUCO defensive lineman Darel Middleton. He wasn’t a disappointment, and JUCO offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson was pivotal to the Vols’ OL last year and would’ve played more of a role this season if not for injury. JUCO corner Kenneth George Jr. has also played a role in UT’s secondary.
Ben: Tennessee has had its fair share of JUCO busts, but let’s not forget Alvin Kamara and Cordarrelle Patterson were massive hits for Tennessee as well. All JUCO players are hit or miss. You just never know how they’ll respond when they arrive on the campus of a big time program. Jahmir Johnson, Kenneth George Jr, Dominick Wood-Anderson, and Darel Middleton all appear to be solid takes for Tennessee considering when it signed them. The jury is still out on Savion Williams, however.
“Do you think UT has a shot with the 5 star offensive lineman that decommited from Georgia?” – Mark
Nathanael: First of all, Broderick Jones hasn’t decommitted from Georgia. But Tennessee does have a shot, but I think if he flips anywhere, it will be Auburn. He said that UGA and Auburn are basically 50/50 for him right now, and he’s choosing to visit Tennessee in January before visiting Auburn. I think that tells me that the Vols are batting third right now, and they would have to absolutely blast a home run to change that.
Ben: I’d be stunned if he flipped, but hey, all you can ask for is that they visit campus. That gives you at least a chance to make some moves.
“As we are a month away from signing day.. in your opinion who do we finish with?” – Stevie
Nathanael: I do think the Vols end up flipping Jay Hardy from Auburn. That’s just my gut feeling on that. I’m not as confident in Dee Beckwith as I was a few weeks ago, but I do think the Vols are right in the thick of things there. I would look for Tennessee to either add another wide receiver or defensive back between now and February as well, but I don’t know who I’d pinpoint as the likely addition there. At receiver, Ger-Cari Caldwell is a name to watch, and Ole Miss commit Daran Branch at corner is someone to keep an eye on. If the Vols elect to add another offensive lineman, either Jalen St. John or Marcus Henderson could be added.
Ben: There isn’t a single recruit that I feel 100 percent confident in Tennessee signing come February like I did for the early signing period with guys such as Tyler Baron. But I do like Tennessee’s chances with Jay Hardy, Dee Beckwith, and Ger-Cari Cardwell. Those three are at the top of Tennessee’s board at the moment.
“Greatest Vols sports moment of 2019?” – Brian
Nathanael: That’s tough, but I think I’ll go with Tennessee’s men’s basketball team being crowned No. 1 in the country. That happened on January 21st, and the Vols kept that No. 1 ranking for four weeks. If you’re asking for a specific moment, I’d probably pick either the Vols’ win over Kentucky in Thompson-Boling Arena or their dramatic, comeback victory over Kentucky in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.
Ben: Personally, my favorite moment was when Tennessee beat Kentucky in the SEC Tournament to advance to the SEC Championship Game. Lamonte Turner and Grant Williams both hit big shots to spark the comeback win as the Vols were down by nine at one point. Plus, beating Kentucky is always sweet.