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.
“Thoughts on the black jerseys and everything around them that Pruitt said? What kind of design do you want to see for the uniform btw.” – Bobby
Nathanael: Personally, I’m a huge fan not only of bringing back the black jerseys, but why the team is bringing them back, too. I like that Jeremy Pruitt and his coaches are listening to the players and taking action to try and create change in the world.
As for the uniforms themselves, I’m torn. Part of me wants to see a completely all-black look with black shirt and pants then orange numbers and orange stripes down the side, but I also think a black jersey with orange pants with black stripes would look pretty cool. Either way, I think the design will be pretty awesome.
Ben: I’m not a huge fan of Tennessee wearing black jerseys, or any alternate jersey for that matter, because I believe the orange jerseys worn at home are the best in college football. But the cause the Vols are wearing the black jerseys for is most important, and I absolutely love the cause.
I don’t have a particular preference with the jerseys. Clean and simple would be my approach. Would love to see a black helmet to go with it. Matte black with the orange power ‘T’ would be awesome.
“So what happened with Wilcoxson? Think he sticks at Florida this time? Who else are the Vols going after at DB?” – Jon
Nathanael: It shouldn’t be all that surprising, but at the same time it kinda is? I don’t know, just a couple weeks ago he still seemed pretty solid to Tennessee. For whatever reason, things changed and he decided to go back to Florida. He has, however, since deleted his commitment tweet to the Gators and just posted on Saturday that he’s staying off social media for a bit, which I think is a good move for him. He got a ton of backlash over what he did both from fans and players. I think staying offline is the right move for him.
Tennessee is still targeting a number of corners and safeties in the 2021 class, so losing Wilcoxson isn’t as big of a blow as it might seem at first. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Kamar is a good player and will likely make an impact wherever he ends up. But I trust this staff to evaluate and coach defensive backs more than anything else. A few names to keep in mind in the secondary are Isaiah Johnson, Terrion Arnold, Damarius McGhee, and Dink Jackson.
Ben: As simple as it sounds. I think it’s truly a case of a recruit just not knowing what he wants to do, loving the recruiting process, and having little guidance from adults to help stop the unnecessary drama. Kamar Wilcoxson just doesn’t know what Kamar Wilcoxson wants.
Terrion Arnold is likely No. 1 on Tennessee’s board of corners who it has a legit chance to land. JUCO corner De’Jahn Warren will take an official visit to Knoxville the weekend of Dec. 4. Tennessee has really started to like Damarius McGhee out of Pensacola, Florida. Dylan Merrell, Javon Bullard, and Christian Charles, three Georgia natives, are interesting names to watch as Tennessee continues to evaluate them.
“What does JG have to do this season to leave Tennessee on a good note with fans?” – Evan
Nathanael: Simply play well and do it consistently. Guarantano is capable of being a good quarterback, as he showed in a number of games last season and in 2018. But his consistency, or lack thereof, has been the problem. He had some really good games last season but also had some pretty bad ones. If he can play within himself, work on being more efficient on first and second down, and be more comfortable in the offense, he’s capable of putting together a solid finish to his UT career. Leading Tennessee to at least eight wins would be good, but helping the Vols pull off at least one upset to get to nine wins in the regular season would be a strong send-off for him.
Ben: Win a National Championship, the Heisman, and be drafted No. 1 overall. I kid, I kid. Just don’t be the reason that Tennessee loses any games such as the Georgia State, BYU, Florida, and Alabama games of last season. As long as he’s effective and doesn’t turn the football over, I believe Tennessee fans will appreciate his final season as a Vol.
“Are we going to see Jeremy Banks back on the team? If so, when?” – Stevie
Nathanael: I believe so, and I think it’ll be either at the start of fall camp or pretty early on during it. I don’t know that we’ll see it happen this summer.
Ben: Yes. In August once camp begins.
“How’s the new strength coach compared to the one who just left?” – @tjvol49
Nathanael: In terms of experience, AJ Artis has a lot of ground to make up on Craig Fitzgerald. This will be the first time Artis has been the head strength coach in his career, and he’s just 26 years old. But Artis comes highly recommended from David Cutcliffe at Duke (where he served as an assistant strength coach) and spent the last two seasons as an assistant under Fitzgerald. If anything, Artis will at least provide some stability for UT’s players, and the strength and conditioning program shouldn’t have too much fluctuation.
Ben: Unproven. That’s the biggest difference. A.J. Artis has the potential to be a great strength and conditioning coach, he’s just so young and inexperienced. Those he has worked with and worked for have always spoken highly of him, so I expect him to do well with his opportunity.
“Any incoming freshman who will contribute this year? And/or who will make the most impact?” – Dan
Nathanael: I think you’ll see a number of freshmen make contributions this season for Tennessee, but not because UT needs them to; this time, it will be because they’re good enough to leapfrog veteran players for playing time. I think guys like Keshawn Lawrence, Jalin Hyatt, Morven Joseph, and Tyler Baron have the best chances of making the biggest impacts in 2020. Don’t count out someone like Doneiko Slaughter making contributions, either.
Ben: There are several who have the ability to contribute this year. I look at wide receiver and outside linebacker as the two positions on the team that will most definitely see a freshman contribute. There was just so much production lost at each position from a season ago. Each of the incoming wide receivers — Dee Beckwith, Jalin Hyatt, Jimmy Calloway, Jimmy Holiday, and Malachi Wideman — have a great opportunity to play early. Holiday and Calloway are already impressing the coaches with their athleticism. And yes, Holiday has already moved from quarterback to wide receiver. At outside backer, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Tyler Baron push for a starting position almost immediately.