We start this Memorial Day Monday Mailbag with a sincere thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in service. We commemorate your courage and patriotism. Thank you.
To the questions:
What area does Tennessee need to improve on that we’re not really talking about right now? — VFL13456
Is there seriously an aspect of Tennessee football you all haven’t yet discussed? I would say the ability to stay healthy and run the football is a concern Vols fans haven’t really talked about that much, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s not as big a concern as others right now or you all don’t want the football gods to hear it and smite you. Because they’ll do that. With the combination of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara now in the backfield, Tennessee is undoubtedly poised to improve its dismal 2014 numbers that saw it rank 13th in the SEC in rushing yards a game. Hurd is an unbelievable talent who brings a dynamic aspect to the offense that is unmatchable. Kamara is a powerful back who uses both speed and the truck stick button to get to the second level. But if one of them gets hurt, especially with an O-line that is still improving and no proven players behind them, that could spell major trouble. John Kelly coming in certainly helps with depth, but he and I have the same amount of SEC carries at the moment. So there, go worry about that.
What is a Big Orange Caravan like? Never been before but I hear they’re fun. — John H.
As someone who has been to exactly one Big Orange Caravan in my entire life, I consider myself Knoxville’s expert on the subject. Basically, it’s an enormous adult pep rally… with food! The one I attended in Chattanooga started with a dinner and autograph session with Butch Jones and Rick Barnes before athletic director Dave Hart, Jones and Barnes took turns regaling the crowd with funny stories and anecdotes on their upcoming seasons. The coaches are much more laid back and loose than when they’re at the podium, so it’s definitely a time to see their personality shine through all the coachspeak and stoic detachment of press conferences. You’ll see at least five grown men wearing football jerseys, which is awesome, and Butch Jones with a microphone is always worth the price of admission. You should definitely go some day.
Who starts with Jalen Reeves-Maybin on the first game? — Tony Schifferman
This question puts way too much confidence in me. If I knew this I’d be chumming it up with Butch Jones on a yacht in the Tennessee River right now while slurping down oysters and throwing back champagne made from unicorn tears. But alas, Butch doesn’t know my name. If the season started tomorrow, I think Kenny Bynum is your other linebacker in the 4-2-5. Bynum knows all the calls, took most of the first team reps in spring practice and is an extremely intelligent football player. Fall camp is a whole different stage, however, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Dillon Bates trotted out as the starter in Nashville September 5. This group of linebackers is unbelievably talented, so Vols fans need not worry. Besides, you probably still haven’t gotten over the whole running back scenario yet anyways.