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.
“Will you guys even have anything to talk about for the next month? This sucks.” – Justin
Nathanael: Well…not a ton I suppose. Looks like we’ll have to start some of our offseason talk that we normally do in May and June right now. I’m sure we’ll also have some other stuff to discuss, but man, this is surreal.
Ben: Because everything is in a holding pattern at the moment, we’re not going to be hearing much of anything. So, no, we don’t really have anything to talk about until April 15th, which is the final day of the SEC’s suspension of athletics. Honestly, you don’t want to hear from us because it likely means that something bad happened — such as an athlete being arrested or something of that nature. We could theoretically receive recruiting tidbits here and there, but I doubt it since on-and-off campus recruiting isn’t allowed at the moment.
“I actually called Tennessee fund today to see if I get refund back on season tickets if football gets canceled.. do u guys think that’s a possibility that football gets canceled?” – Stevie
Nathanael: I would be shocked if that happened. Football season is still several months away at this point, and I would be surprised if the coronavirus is still as big of an issue in, say, August as it is right now. If we as a nation are taking it seriously and doing what we can to diminish it, it certainly shouldn’t be as big of a problem by then.
Ben: Yes, there is a possibility. I’d say it’s a small one, though. If the social distancing works, then everything should be cleared up by August. But I’m also no health expert or scientist, so take my word with a grain of salt.
“So what’s the impact of no recruiting for a full month?” – Evan
Nathanael: Well, as far as I know, coaches can still contact recruits via phone calls, texts, and stuff like that. Right now, recruits can’t visit campuses, and coaches can’t visit recruits at all. I think this hurts the recruits more than the schools right now, and Ben and I actually discussed that in a recent podcast. It puts the prospects at a disadvantage because they can’t check out schools they want to see, and we’ve already seen a few recruits push back their announcement dates because of all this.
Ben: A little bit here and there. It definitely has an impact on both the school and the recruit, because neither can see each other in person whether that be on or off campus. In terms of a positive impact, Zach Evans can’t visit Florida at the moment, although I’m sure he’ll be allowed to visit at some point.
“Who has the biggest impact as a freshman and why for the offense and defense?” – Cole
Nathanael: On offense, I’ll say it’s either Jalin Hyatt or Malachi Wideman. Both of those receivers have a chance to come in and carve out a role immediately. If not for all the canceled spring practices, I might’ve said Harrison Bailey, but I think all the postponements are really going to push back his development and ability to win the starting QB job immediately.
Defensively, I’ll say either Keshawn Lawrence or Morven Joseph. Either or both of those two can come in and grab a starting role or at least be productive players in the rotation at their respective positions.
Ben: I’ll go with Dee Beckwith on offense. He’s simply a good football player who Tennessee plans on using all over the place, whether that be lined up as a wide receiver, lined up on the line of scrimmage, or in the backfield. With Tennessee lacking at the tight end position and needing to replace quite a bit of production lost at receiver, Beckwith will have plenty of opportunities.
Defensively, Tyler Baron will have the biggest impact. The coaching staff already views him as a potential day one starter. With Darrell Taylor graduating and no current Vol having locked down the opposite edge rusher spot, Baron will have plenty of opportunity on top of his natural ability. Close behind Baron will be Keshawn Lawrence.
“What’s the likelihood Harrison Bailey starts game 1?” – Sawyer
Nathanael: With spring practices postponed and likely canceled altogether, I’d say it’s a lot lower of a chance now. Bailey got to go through two practices with UT last week before everything got put on the shelf, and now there’s no clear indication what the future will hold in terms of practicing in the spring or summer. Unless the NCAA or SEC allows teams to hold practices in April or May, I think all this cancellation has basically assured Jarrett Guarantano the starting job unless Bailey really puts in the work over the summer and makes a huge splash in fall camp.
Ben: The only way Harrison Bailey starts game No. 1 against Charlotte in September is if Jarrett Guarantano gets hurt. Theoretically, yes, Bailey could beat out Guarantano for the job this offseason, but I find that hard to believe since practice will be the determining factor, and practice has never been No. 2’s problem. I’m of the belief that Guarantano will be the starter for at least the Oklahoma and Florida game, and if he performs well, he’ll be the starter all year long. If not, it’ll be somebody else’s job.
“Who is the best athlete to ever play any sport for the Vols?” – @tjvol49
Nathanael: Goodness, this is a really tough question. I’ll admit that my knowledge of other sports, like track and field and whatnot, is very lacking, so I don’t know that my answer will be a truly comprehensive one. In football, Eric Berry or Reggie White springs to mind in terms of pure athleticism and what they could do on the field. In basketball, Bernard King is a legend and did things that NBA players nowadays are doing. He was ahead of his time. But you also have players like Willie Gault who excelled in football and track. I’d throw Candace Parker and Chamique Holdsclaw in the conversation, too.
Ben: Christian Coleman. He’s literally the fastest man in the world on top of being an Olympian. There isn’t a single Vol in history, in any sport, who has a better resume for the best athlete to ever step foot on the University of Tennessee’s campus.