Tennessee's injury status, recruiting speculation and more

You know the drill. Ask 'em, have 'em answered and go on about your day.

After a week hiatus to pay the bills, the Monday Mailbag is back and better (the same) as ever. We want to answer your questions about anything Tennessee related and any other inquiries you may have about life. Who are the Vols' biggest recruiting targets? What's the latest on the football injury front? Who's poised for a breakout season in basketball? Is a hot dog a sandwich? We have your answers.

Can you give us a rundown of the numerous injured players that we can expect to see back for the Alabama game? — EastTNTSO

You'll be happy to know Butch Jones announced Monday at his weekly press conference that he expects every injured player (minus the potential season-ending injury players like Curt Maggitt) to be back for Saturday's tilt with the Tide. Jones said he'd know more on the health of right tackle Brett Kendrick and right guard Jashon Robertson after evaluating them in practice later this week, but everyone else with minor injuries appears to be ready to play, including wide receiver Marquez North. 

"The bye week occurred at the appropriate time. We fully anticipate everyone back," Jones said. "I'll know a little bit more today when we practice. (Wide receiver) Jason Croom is still out, so he will not be available for the Alabama game, but everyone else, we fully anticipate being ready to go, but I'll know a little bit more health-wise Wednesday."

Any news on the progress of the injured guys who are out for the season? — novol

We haven't received any official news on the progress of guard Marcus Jackson or nickelback Rashaan Gaulden from Jones in recent weeks, but the third-year head Vols head coach did give an update on hybrid linebacker/defensive lineman/assistant coach/ticket salesman/accountant/motivational speaker/artisinal wine taster Curt Maggitt last week. 

"He's coming along. He had an MRI. He's still not where he can participate or anything like that, so he's still out an extended period of time," Jones said. "Time frame, still do not know. Possibly the last game of the year. He may not play. It's all based, again, on the recovery of his body. He's progressing, but he's not anywhere [near] a point where he can play football right now. He's getting to that point, but he's not anywhere close to that, but we do see progress."

Your best bet might be holding out for Maggitt to return for a potential bowl game and pray to the Football Gods for a quick recovery with no setbacks. A sacrifice or two might do. I'd start with Danny. The Football Gods like 'em well-dressed. 

Which offensive linemen will we sign this year? — novol

As a Monday Mailbag connoisseur, novol gets two questions answered in this one. That's just what happens when you have a reputation as a respected veteran in this league. This is an extremely tricky question, as we all know how fickle the recruiting game can be, and Tennessee is working with less spots than it has since Butch Jones took over in 2013. But let's play. 

There's one lock in Scout four-star and Brentwood Academy standout Ryan Johnson aka young Ivan Drago. Johnson has already surpassed the point of being recruited and is in the stage where he's the one doing the recruiting, telling anyone who will listen to come to Tennessee. With his current status of mortal lock, he should be a Vol even if he has to fight Rocky to get here. 

photo of Ryan Johnson

Brentwood Academy OT Ryan Johnson

Another name I see the Vols currently signing is Florida's Marcus Tatum, the No. 1-rated tackle in the Sunshine State. Tennessee is a finalist to land his services and he really enjoyed his Orange Carpet Day experience this summer. After that, it's really a crapshoot. North Carolina guard and Scout four-star Landon Dickerson has Tennessee in his final six, while Texas tackle Kellen Deisch recently visited and told InsideTennessee he liked what he saw. We'll keep you updated on the latest on IT (shameless plug), so stay tuned as the situation continues to fluctuate. 

Which new guy is going to have a breakout season on the basketball team? Leaning Shembari Phillips myself. — Gary S.

That's a good bet, and if he continues to hitch his wagon to Kevin Punter, Phillips will be extremely good this year. My pick, however, goes to big man Kyle Alexander (and not because I just did a feature on him you can read here.) Okay, that's 100 percent why, but hear me out. Alexander is the only one of the newbies who has the potential to start right away and it's obvious when listening to the coaches talk about him how fun he's going to be to watch grow up as a basketball player. The Canadian big man is ferocious around the boards, can run like me to a buffet and will only get stronger and more physical. He's the guy at the five spot right now as a freshman on an SEC team and has only played basketball for three years. Let that sink in for a minute. He's going to be really, really good, really, really fast. And he's Canadian. That's awesome. 

That's it for this week's edition of the Monday Mailbag. We want as many questions as possible, so shoot them to us via Twitter @CoryGunkel, post on the InsideTennessee message boards or yell really loudly. 


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