The Monday Mailbag

Welcome to another edition of the Monday Mailbag. You ask the questions, we answer them, you smile and nod your head.

What are you looking forward to most about SEC Media Days? — Will L.

We’re still a few weeks out from real, honest-to-God football practice to start, but this time of year really marks the beginning of the season. SEC Media Days is the week when fans from around the country flock to Birmingham, spending hundreds of hard-earned dollars just to get a glimpse of their favorite coach or player. It’s also a time for sports writers to eat free Chick fil A and pretend they’re cooler than they actually are. InsideTennessee will be there to cover the Vols Tuesday, and I must say I’m looking forward to a couple of intriguing subplots and only one of them involves something that has anything to do with Tennessee football. In no particular order, I’m keeping an eye out on:

- How Tennessee will handle the hype? The Vols have become this year’s sexy pick to win the SEC East, with some national analysts predicting a breakout season of double digit wins. How will Josh Dobbs, Cameron Sutton and Curt Maggitt handle those questions (answer: very measured and articulate, if I had to guess.) Tennessee hasn’t been picked to finish third or higher in the East since 2008. How will this new crop of Vols handle the expectations that will be thrown at them Tuesday?

- What coach will win the week? Steve Spurrier and Les Miles are always the betting favorites, like last year when Miles said he hated the city of Austin yet liked it. But there have been some pretty good quotes from other sources in SEC Media Days past. Johnny Manziel comparing himself to Justin Beiber and Mizzou wide receiver T.J. Moe saying the SEC has prettier girls and thicker toilet paper than the Big 12 are just a few that come to mind. Don’t sleep on Dan Mullen here.

- Will Nick Saban smile? A soft smile counts as half, so we would need two to make it a full smile. Odds are currenly at 134/1.

Who impressed you the most in the Peach Jam? — Ian Stewart

If we’re talking all players, Scout five-star wing and Duke commit Jayson Tatum earned that honorable title. There’s just really nothing he can’t do. His step-back jumper is so pure and he’s unafraid to take a couple of power dribbles and beat you down inside. But I’m sure you meant out of the Tennessee prospects, seeing as Tennessee is in our name and all, so I’m going with Tony Bradley. The Scout four-star center told IT he plans to take an unofficial visit to Knoxville this year and that’s great news for Vol fans, who are in a battle with North Carolina, Indiana and others for his talent. Bradley takes high percentage shots and is a solid defender who will post up with his back to you and score at will. The Bartow, Fla., native would be the most impressive haul for Rick Barnes since he’s been at Tennessee if he were to snag Bradley, who showed out in the Peach Jam against some of the best high school players in the country.

Will Tennessee beat Florida this year? — Jimmy E.

Yes. I’m probably the only person in Knoxville who doesn't have a hint of hesitance in saying that, either, seeing as how I’m new and haven’t seen the heartbreaks of Big Orange fans in years past firsthand. If this year’s Vols team doesn’t do it, I just don’t know if it will happen again unless the Gators hire Nick Jonas to coach the team. Florida ended spring practice with five healthy scholarship linemen, and while that number is expected to rise to 13 in the fall, 12 of them have exactly as many starts as you and I. Florida is still searching for a quarterback and breaking in a new head coach who will need at least a small learning curve as he steps into the SEC and the Vols are the first real game on the schedule. Tennessee’s defensive line is going to feast in Gainesville. The Swamp is always a tough place to play and this rivalry is known for some head scratchers. Florida's defense will be a dominant force that also boasts one of the best secondaries in the SEC, but I don’t see how the Vols don’t win this one by double digits. Just promise not to flog me on the Sunsphere if this doesn't happen.

Thanks for all your questions this week. To send a question for future editions, email cory.a.gunkel@gmail.com, tweet @CoryGunkel, post on the InsideTennessee message boards or yell really loudly.


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