KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — There’s no ‘Football Time in Tennessee’ this weekend.
The Volunteers are idle before traveling to South Carolina next Saturday.
But folks so their Tennessee coverage, so this is the bye week installment of the Tennessee football and recruiting mailbag.
Normally, I do this every Thursday, so submit any questions for future mailbags on Twitter (@JesseReSimonton), email (email@example.com), in the comments section below or on our Tennessee Insiders Facebook page.
Let’s get to it …
Josh asks: I have a couple of questions in regards to the Tennessee offense. With two dynamic back’s like (Jalen) Hurd and (Alvin) Kamara, would it be beneficial to go to the I and Power I formation with both backs in the backfield at the same time and put Dobb’s under center in effort to improve the running game while also balancing the passing attack? This would provide a different look and in my opinion provide a 9 yards with a cloud of dust style offense while still using the Spread offensive attack. The offensive play calling has become so predictable and I think it’s time to mix it up and put the defenders on their heels. Not to mention, John Kelly will also fit well into this type of equation. Your opinion?
The premise of Tennessee utilizing some I-formation stuff is something that my esteemed partner Mike Griffith has been railing about all season. Hurd, who is averaging a paltry 3.82 yards per carry — good for No. 38 among all runners in the SEC, clearly looks like a tailback designed for a more traditional, pro-style offense.
He breaks tackles and runs violently, but in Tennessee’s spread offense, he tries to bust too many runs outside instead of going north and south.
Hurd has legit talent, and the Volunteers need to put their players in the best position to succeed. The irony? Tennessee did just that toward the end of the 2015 season. The Vols ran lots of single-back stuff, and Hurd produced three of the best games of his career to end last season (151 yards vs. Missouri, 120 yards vs. Vanderbilt and 130 yards vs. Northwestern).
The real reason Tennessee hasn’t used any true I-formation looks his year is because the Volunteers don’t have a traditional fullback on the roster. Meanwhile, Kamara, as well as quarterback Josh Dobbs, is better-suited for the spread style.
Jason asks: Is Jalen Reeves-Maybin going to return to Tennessee next season?
Don’t hold your breath.
When the senior linebacker met with the media on Tuesday, he spoke extensively like a guy who has one foot out the door already. He his comments were reflective, talking about he hopes to be remembered as a part of the group that turned around Tennessee.
Reeves-Maybin has already graduated, too.
Yes, in a direct question from a reporter, the senior didn’t completely close the door on potentially applying for a medical redshirt for 2016. But it’s very, very, very unlikely that happens.
Reeves-Maybin has now had shoulder surgery three times before he’s earned a dime as a professional. He can’t risk another injury in 2017.
Sam asks: Are any of our commits looking to flip to other schools?
Not right now. Talented Louisiana cornerbacks Cheyenne Labruzza and Terrell Bailey still hear from several SEC West schools, while other programs continue to target C.J. Cotman, Jordan Murphy, Maleik Gray and Jaquan Henderson, among others.
But that’s normal.
Tennessee will have some turnover in its class, but commits flipping isn’t a primary concern right now.
Tony asks: Injury report. Player status. Who will be back for USC?
On Wednesday, Butch Jones said that he “anticipates” most injured starters returning against South Carolina on Oct. 29.
“We anticipate having just about everyone back for that game,” Jones said.
But Butch made similar comments last week before the Alabama game … and everyone knows how that transpired.
I expect offensive linemen Jashon Robertson (leg), Dylan Wiesman (head/neck), Brett Kendrick (leg) and Jack Jones (hand) to all play at USC. I’m skeptical about Chance Hall’s return, mainly because he tweaked the same knee that he had surgery on earlier this season.
Linebackers Darrin Kirkland (ankle) and Cortez McDowell (head/neck) should be back, too. Defensive backs Malik Forman (shoulder), Micah Abernathy (hamstring) and Baylen Buchanan (shoulder) are all expected to play as well.
The key naming missing is Alvin Kamara. We still haven’t received clarity about his knee injury, but it would be a big surprise if the junior suited up next week.
Will asks: Biggest remaining needs in recruiting class?
Tennessee already has 24 commits in its 2017 class, but the Volunteers still need to address several positions — offensive line, receiver and linebacker — to close on a strong group. With Jordan Tucker’s recent de-commitment, Tennessee has just one offensive line pledge (3-star Riley Locklear). The Volunteers would like to add at least two more big uglies, starting with 5-star in-state tackle Trey Smith and 4-star offensive guard T.J. Moore.
At receiver, their options are dwindling a bit, but keep an eye on in-state wideout JaVonta Payton, as well as 4-star FSU commit D.J. Matthews, who recently took an official visit to Tennessee.
After that, the Volunteers would like to add at least one more linebacker (aiming high for 4-star Alabama ‘backer Will Ignont), one additional cornerback (starting with 5-star Lamont Wade — with 3-star Yusuf Corker also a possibility) and a defensive end or two (3-star Matthew Butler remains their best bet).
Mike asks: Does Tennessee have a chance at the playoffs this year?
Eh, what’s that Kramer?
The Volunteers already have two losses and, barring some real 2007-like craziness down the stretch, even an SEC Championship win over No. 1 Alabama won’t be enough to sneak into the Final Four.
That’s it for this week. As always, thanks for the questions.