RTI Mailbag: What does Tennessee do at quarterback?

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    Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

    Managing editor Ben McKee answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.

    “Any chance they go with another QB after Bama? Also how long does Chris Weinke have on his contract?” – VolStorm

    Ben: There’s absolutely a chance. Harrison Bailey truly isn’t ready to captain the offense right now, but Tennessee should be doing its best to get him ready for the Arkansas game in two weeks. That gives Bailey three weeks of preparation leading into the game with the Hogs following a couple of weeks of preparation prior to Kentucky. That’s plenty of time to get a quarterback ready, unless that quarterback just isn’t what you thought he was when you signed him.

    Chris Weinke’s contract expires Jan. 31, 2022. He signed a two-year contract earlier this year.

    “Have you and Swain gone back to see how much the d-line tried to bat down passes? If so, how frequently did they try?” – Mocha Jones

    Ben: We have not. The only time it’s been noticeable, however, was against Georgia when Darel Middleton batted down two passes. Jeremy Pruitt has consistently voiced his displeasure with the lack of balls batted down over the last couple of weeks, which tells me that they weren’t doing it well enough under Jimmy Brumbaugh. I imagine we’ll see an effort to do so against Alabama.

    “We missed on Mims.. and our recent play isn’t helping things.. do you see a possible “big fish” we land?” – Stevie Duckett

    Ben: I don’t believe Tennessee is going to land another ‘big fish’ like Amarius Mims. The only other recruit of his status the Vols are in on is five-star Smael Mondon and I don’t feel good about their chances there. But that doesn’t mean that Tennessee won’t add good players to finish out the class. The Vols are still in it for guys like Nyland Green and Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, both of which would be huge pickups.

    “Over/under .5 coaches on this staff get fired during the bye week?” – Samsmith

    Ben: I say under. Chris Weinke is the most likely candidate, but I don’t think we would see him let go until after the season. Weinke and Pruitt don’t clash the way Pruitt and Brumbaugh did, which is ultimately why Brumbaugh is no longer here. And I’m not on the fire Will Friend train. Tennessee’s offensive line has played well in three of the four games this season, though they could still absolutely improve. The Georgia game was embarrassing for the o-line, but that had more to do with Georgia’s ability than Tennessee.

    “Who will we see at running back first…. Tee Hodge or Dee Beckwith?” — VolJuice

    Ben: Dee Beckwith. Tee Hodge has been banged up, but hasn’t been talked about as much. Beckwith has been despite being banged up as well. He’s made some nice plays in the Sunday scrimmages and looked good in fall camp before the ankle injury. The Vols could use an added dimension to offense. Beckwith is capable of being just that.

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    “Why does the secondary seem so overmatched every game? Why do we keep getting beat by slants every week? And if our wideouts are that good, why can’t they get open? Tee is my boy, but does this reflect on his coaching staff as well?” – Dino Vols

    Ben: Because there have been far too many miscommunications and they’re not lined up correctly far too often. On top of it, some of the older members of the secondary like to try and do their own thing on plays. Pruitt has been very frustrated with players not fulfilling there responsibilities. That’s why the secondary has seemed overmatched and why they keep getting beat by slants each week.

    It’s definitely a fair question when looking at the wide receiver room. I personally think the problem is that Tee Martin’s receivers that he brought here aren’t ready yet from a playbook standpoint. They can get open, but they’re still young. The upperclassmen, holdovers from the previous staff, don’t possess the athleticism to create separation. Tee and Jim Chaney have to find a way to bring the younger guys along quicker.

    “Do you think TN goes and gets a transfer QB for 2021?” – CosmoKramer

    Ben: It will be an absolute failure if Tennessee doesn’t bring in a transfer quarterback. It’s clear that you cannot rely on Jarrett Guarantano, Brian Maurer and JT Shrout to guide the ship. They must be replaced. While Harrison Bailey and Kaidon Salter may prove to be great players for Tennessee, you can’t rely on them to be ready in 2021. A graduate transfer, or a transfer in general, must be added to the quarterback room.

    “Considering that we’ve had multiple different QBs here other than JG, Keller Chryst, Kasim Hill, JT Shrout, Brian Maurer and Harrison Bailey, and none have developed enough to beat out JG. What does that say about our QB coach Chris Weinke?” – VolJuice

    Ben: Partly. I say that because Brian Maurer and Harrison Bailey are the only ones that have come in under his guidance. Jarrett Guarantano is a holdover from the previous staff, while Keller Chryst and JT Shrout are only in Knoxville because of former offensive coordinator Tyson Helton. Kasim Hill was never going to seriously play here, which is why he decided to transfer. At the end of the day, Weinke absolutely deserves blame because he’s had time to develop some of those guys, but I would personally like to see him with a fresh quarterback for a year or two before I put the final stamp on him.

    “Any chance of the staff moving Jimmy Holiday back to the QB position if things continue to go south and trying to run some type of option offense? Similar to what Kentucky did last year with Terry Wilson.” — Clay

    Ben: I would be stunned. I could see it for a play or two, but not full-time.

    “When we gonna see some of these new recruits start playing? Seems like Butch Jones recruits are still doing the heavy lifting outside of Eric Gray.” — Andrew Chimenti 

    Ben: It needs to happen for sure and I think you’ll start to see that happen here soon. On offense, outside of the quarterback position, the younger receivers need to start playing. I’d say the same goes for the secondary on defense with Key Lawrence and DoNeiko Slaughter. Omari Thomas also needs to be playing more along the defensive line.

    “Do you think JG will skip the NFL draft this season to come back to Tennessee for a sixth year and do you think if he does, will many mattresses burn? Will their be riots? Serious question! Also, do you think TN current QB situation may cost Pruitt his job? I hope not!!”

    Ben: I don’t believe Jarrett Guarantano will be at Tennessee next season, but I also didn’t think he would be at Tennessee this season after he went rogue at the goal line against Alabama last season. It’s time for both sides to move on. And yes, the quarterback situation will cost Pruitt his job if he doesn’t get it corrected because the position is what is holding the program back right now.

    Ben McKee
    Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also the host of the RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.