Managing editor Ben McKee answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“If this is a free year for players shouldn’t Cade already be free?” – Jungle Boy
Ben: Absolutely. The NCAA confirmed on Friday that all fall athletes will receive a free year of eligibility, so why should any transfer in college football not be allowed to play this season? They shouldn’t. I imagine this argument will be made on behalf of Cade Mays as Tennessee, and his lawyer Gregory P. Isaacs, fight to get him eligible for the upcoming season.
“What’s a bigger advantage for Tennessee; playing Florida the last game of the year or being the second game out of Auburn and Alabama for UGA?” – Samuel Smith
Ben: Playing Florida the last game of the season. I thought that was a win for Tennessee when the 2020 schedule was released earlier this week on Monday. Sure, Florida tends to struggle at the beginning of the season, but with as much experience as they have returning, particularly on offense, I don’t think it would have been good to play the Gators early. Now, you play them at the end of the season in weather most of their players aren’t used to, and who knows what the roster will look like after playing nine straight SEC games.
“Are we gonna have JG as a 6th year Senior?” – Vol Storm
Ben: On Aug. 21, 2020, I say so. If you’re Jarrett Guarantano, why wouldn’t you come back? Especially if a season can’t be completed. He may just want to move on from college at this point, which is totally understandable, but if a season isn’t played, he’s not going to be drafted. In terms of pursuing the NFL, I do believe it would be in his best interest to return for another season.
“Who is the favorite player on the Football team this year?” – TripleOGMixx
Ben: Definitely Trey Smith. There’s no question. With all he’s been through and the way he represents the University of Tennessee, Vol fans would follow Smith into the abyss. As for the second-favorite player on the roster for fans, I think it’s Henry To’o To’o and will continue to be the California native. He carries himself well, he’s already a leader on the defense as a sophomore and he’s the best player on the defensive side of the ball. Tennessee fans want to go to war with To’o To’o any time, anywhere.
“How much progress has Elijah Simmons made this offseason. I feel like he can be a beast?” – Ben Hodge
Ben: Haven’t heard much on Elijah Simmons. According to the online roster, he’s down 20 lbs. from 340, to 320. That’s a good sign as his biggest obstacle was getting in playing shape. Simmons was already one of the strongest players on the team, but he needed to improve his conditioning. It appears he’s on the right track, but it’s hard to get true read on the situation since the media is not allowed at practice.
“Will we finish the season? Or even start? How can we play and crown a National Champ with only a handful of conferences committed to playing?” — Michael Soloway
Ben: If the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are able to make it through a season in the midst of these circumstances, then, I do believe a national champion should be rightfully crowned. It’ll be from a much smaller pooler, but at that point, the Big 10 and Pac-12 will look foolish for not playing. We shouldn’t punish those who did play by not naming a champion just because other conferences decided to not play.
As for whether we’ll finish the season, or even start, that’s a great question. My confidence continues to grow day-by-day. Especially with the new saliva tests that have been made public. The key to continuing to play will be to limit outbreaks within a program and it looks like those tests will be able to help do so.
“What’s the chances that Paolo Banchero decommits from Duke? Still battling it out for him, right?” — Tennessee Vols fan
“Chances Chandler looks at Duke again and decommits? — Scott Standridge
Ben: I would say the chances of Banchero decommitting from Duke are slim. We just don’t see decomittments in college basketball like we do football. The decision was a surprise, and I’m sure Tennessee will keep swinging, but I doubt we’ll see Banchero flip. It is Duke after all.
And no, I don’t believe we’ll see Kennedy Chandler flip.
“Who do you think will take Jauan Jennings leadership role?” – JohnBoy
Ben: On offense, I believe Trey Smith slides into that role, a role he has been playing the last couple of seasons. Smith is a great leader and I think he’ll be an even greater leader now that Jennings is off to the NFL. An under-the-radar leader is Brandon Kennedy. He’s not as loud as others, but everybody on that offense respects the sixth-year center.
“Will we see any glimpses of Jimmy Holiday at quarterback this year? Considering his elite speed and how great his rushing production was in high school?” — VolJuice
“Now that practices have started who do you think has more of an immediate impact Jimmy Calloway or Jimmy Holiday? Also I think we are underestimating our WR class as a whole with their talent. Best WR class ever to come to UT?” — Cole
“What would surprise you more a breakout year for Hyatt or Hodge?” – Hayden Cook
Ben: Yes, I do believe we’ll see Jimmy Holiday line up at quarterback. Especially in a wildcat package. I don’t believe he’ll take snaps as a legitimate quarterback, however. Now that doesn’t mean he won’t throw the football at least once. I think you’ll see him used as a passer in a similar role to when we saw Jauan Jennings throw a touchdown to Josh Dobbs in the 2015 Tennessee-Florida game.
I completely agree on your assessment on the five freshmen receivers, Cole. They’re going to be very good and each one of them have the ability to contribute early. Each one has also drawn positive reviews since stepping foot on campus over the summer. Honestly, I think we’ll see Calloway and Holiday on the field the same amount. Both have the speed to make plays immediately.
But I think Jalin Hyatt is going to be the breakout wide receiver out of the bunch. He’s had three really good practices to begin fall camp as Jeremy Pruitt noted on Friday evening, and he’s already very polished as a receiver. So, Tee Hodge breaking out would be more surprising to me, Hayden. That’s not a knock on Hodge. He’s also impressed with his work ethic since stepping foot on campus, but he’s got Ty Chandler and Eric Gray in front of him. Hyatt has an easier path to the field.
“This seasons success will hinge on the QB play. Any thoughts on what you’ve seen so far on the field?” – Jimmy Thomas
Ben: Unfortunately I do not have any thoughts because the media is not allowed to attend practice due to COVID-19.
“With Gunner off the board …is this good for Ty and TN? Also why go to South Carolina . That coach is on the hot seat makes no sense !” — BAVOL
Ben: Your guess is as good as mine as to why he decided to go to South Carolina. I don’t think Gunner Stockton committing to the Gamecocks impacts Tennessee or Ty Simpson in any way. The Vols weren’t in the picture with Stockton, and Simpson isn’t considering South Carolina. Looking like it’s a Tennessee and Clemson battle at the moment for Simpson.