Managing editor Ben McKee answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“Odds we lose at least one more player to “opt out?” – Neyland Mafia
Ben: I would say 50/50. There are still guys deciding whether or not they want to play. Not a lot, but one or two for sure. It’s been a week since I’ve heard about those one or two deciding whether they wanted to play or not, so I would chalk that up as a positive development. Those same players were also featured in the photos that Tennessee sent out this week from practice. I would chalk that up as good news as well.
“Best freshman on the practice field?” – VFLPilgrim
Ben: So far it’s been Jalin Hyatt. Especially on the offensive side of the ball. We all know he’s a speedster, but he’s much more polished of a wide receiver than Tennessee expected him to be. I expect Hyatt to play early and often.
On the defensive side of the ball, I would pick Morven Joseph. The freshman edge rusher has impressed early on in fall camp and already has the physical traits to contribute early on.
“Who steps up this year on the D-line?” – Stevie
Ben: LaTrell Bumphus. The defensive lineman is a senior, but he doesn’t turn 21 until late September. He’s young for his grade and the lightbulb has finally turned on for him. Bumphus has had a really strong fall camp and is generating a good bit of buzz behind the scenes. Jeremy Pruitt also praised Bumphus publicly recently. Bumphus was always going to factor into the rotation, but it’s sounding like he’s going to be a consistent contributor this season.
“What is the latest in the recruitment of Rod Orr? He’s a great talent, has personal baggage, and hear he is cousins with Roc Taylor. Landing Orr would be a great pick up for the OL and would also help us keep Taylor in the end. What have you heard?” – Get Bent Vol
“Has Aliou Bah from Whitehaven HS in Memphis received an offer from TN?” – Ann Guerin
“Is Diego Pounds still being recruited by Tennessee?” — Ann Guerin
Ben: Rod Orr is currently taking a break from his recruitment following a recent accidental shooting incident in which a UAB football player died. Tennessee still wants Orr, even after picking up commitments from J’Marion Gooch and William Griffin-Parker this week.
Yes, 2022 offensive tackle Aliou Bah out of Memphis has received an offer from Tennessee. Bah has also received offers from programs such as Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and USC.
Tennessee has continued to kick the ties with Diego Pounds, but it doesn’t seem like there’s been much traction gained there.
“Which has a better chance of happening Jalin Hyatt has over 800 receiving yards or Tennessee Basketball shoots over 55% from 3pt range as a team this year” — Hayden
Ben: Am I allowed to say neither? BYU led the entire country in three-point shooting last season, and only shot 42.2 percent. There won’t be a single team in college basketball, ever, shoot 55 percent from three. It’s impossible, so I’ll go with Jalin Hyatt tallying 800 receiving yards, though I don’t feel great about that happening either. Hyatt will play a ton as a true freshman, however, and has the chance to do it, though those chances are slim.
“How does the SEC East look now with Jamie Newman opting out? How much does that help Tennessee?” — Samuel Smith
Ben: The SEC East still looks the same to me — a Florida/Georgia battle for the top spot in the division. Georgia just has too much talent around whoever the quarterback is going to be, and I don’t believe there is a significant drop-off from Jamie Newman to J.T. Daniels.
Now, if I’m Tennessee, I’m happy to see Newman move on and Georgia have to focus on Daniels as its starting quarterback. Newman still had much to prove, but his strength was as a runner, and now Tennessee doesn’t have to worry about that threat with Daniels. The USC transfer is coming off of a torn ACL, was a little sporadic with the football as a freshman in 2018 and now is having to learn a new offensive system without a traditional offseason. If I were the Vols, I would rather face Daniels, especially at the beginning of the season.
“Seems like this Ryan Mutombo news came out of nowhere” – CosmoKramer
Ben: It definitely came out of nowhere, but it seems like it came out of nowhere because everybody just assumed he would follow in his father’s — Dikembe Mutombo — footsteps to Georgetown. Tennessee is pushing for the younger Mutombo, and the Vols could really use his services. With Yves Pons, John Fulkerson and E.J. Anosike moving on following the season, the Vols need to land a post player who can contribute early. It looks like Mutombo has the potential to do so.
“Do you think the South Carolina game will define the season?” – DavidLynch1980
Ben: No. At Tennessee, the Florida, Georgia and Alabama games define the season. It’s also the first game of the season, and if a full season is completed, the South Carolina game won’t be on the mind of Vol fans by the end of the season.
Take 2018 for example, when Tennessee had the chance to make it to a bowl game but was embarrassed by Missouri and Vanderbilt to finish 5-7. Vol fans were more upset following the season with how it finished rather than being more excited about the win over Auburn from earlier that year.
Even last year, the 2019 season is more remembered for the the six-game win streak to end the year by fans than the miserable start that included a loss to Georgia State.
I think the Florida game the last week of the season will define the season.