The Monday Mailbag

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

Hi Cory, have you heard much from the coaches about Dillon Bates? I know he redshirted and had some injury recovery to deal with. He is still a very young player, but it just seems like I'm hearing more about some other guys than I am any buzz about him. — cherokee04

Dillon Bates entered spring practice this year coming off a torn labrum and gained extensive reps at the middle linebacker spot, where he will vie for playing time along with Kenny Bynum and a host of other players. As offenses continue to ratchet up pace and spread out even more, coaching staffs search for more athletic linebackers who can play sideline to sideline. You hear linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen talk about 'backers in his scheme being athletic with a swarm mentality who can keep up with SEC running backs in isolation. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Bates fits that model and has become a prime target to compete with Bynum for the other starting linebacker spot alongside Jalen Reeves-Maybin when Tennessee is in the nickel. Thigpen has raved about Bates' ability to play in space and cerebration, which both will play a critical role in his development at the position since the Mike linebacker makes all the defensive calls in Tennessee's scheme.

In your opinion, who will be the other top three cornerbacks (Cameron Sutton being the fourth)? — novol

Right now my top three corners sans Sutton are Emmanuel Moseley, RaShaan Gaulden and Malik Foreman. Moseley overcame a horrific car accident a week before spring practice began and being diagnosed with mononucleosis once practice started and still turned in a productive spring while keeping the more than 30 pounds he added to his frame since coming into the program. Foreman stepped up and filled in admirably for Moseley during his missed time and will undoubtedly continue to fight for that spot, which Butch Jones hinted at being an extremely competitive position battle heading into fall camp. Jones also told ESPN's Chris Low Monday that with wide receiver Von Pearson's uncertain status with the team, Foreman could see time at wide receiver this fall as well, so keep an eye out on that.

Rashaan Gaulden's hand injury that shut down his spring was a bummer for the coaching staff, but Gaulden all but locked up the nickel spot and proved his man coverage skills, ability to set the edge and physicality before the injury. Junior college transfer Justin Martin is expected to come in and contend for a corner spot as well, but those three are who I would pick at this exact moment.

Cory, we are really doing well in Tennessee recruiting the past couple of years. What are the assigned areas for the coaches? I realize Butch Jones uses a team concept, but surely there is a primary recruiter for different areas. — Mulley

This staff has already established a nationwide footprint that has been felt from California to New Jersey, so it's safe to say every coach has the ability to recruit nationally. But certain coaches do, in fact, have specific areas to recruit. From what we understand, defensive coordinator John Jancek (obviously) focuses on defensive players and helps recruit the Knoxville area. Defensive line coach Steve Stripling assists in Michigan, while defensive backs coach Willie Martinez recruits Atlanta and parts of Florida. Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni also helps with Florida, specifically South Florida, along with Atlanta and the Virginia Beach area. Running backs coach and Hattiesburg, Miss., native Robert Gillespie takes on Mississippi and Louisiana. Special teams coordinator Mark Elder hits the South Carolina area, as well as parts of North Carolina, but linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen usually handles North Carolina and the Nashville area. Offensive line coach Don Mahoney takes care of Washington D.C. and Maryland. Butch Jones, as my colleague Danny Parker so aptly put it, recruits Earth.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a question. If we didn't get to yours, it will be featured in next week's addition. To send in a question, email cory.a.gunkel@gmail.com, tweet @CoryGunkel, post on the IT message boards or yell really loudly.


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