Who has been getting the majority of the 3rd linebacker spot reps when the team is in the base 4-3? — volheart
The manchild known as Austin Smith got extensive reps when Tennessee went into the 4-3 against Missouri last week, notching a big-time goal line stuff on third down when the Tigers were threatening to score from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. Mizzou was able to punch the ball in on fourth down, but the message was clear: do not come at Austin Smith or he will eat you.
The freshman is big. Big as in 6-foot-3, 236 pounds despite not being able to drink a Long Island Ice Tea or rent a car. I have a feeling you'll be seeing much more of him alongside Darrin Kirkland in the near future.
Has Chance Hall passed Brett Kendrick in the offensive tackle rotation or is Kendrick still not healthy? — NorthBamaVol
Brett Kendrick looks healthy to me, or at least in the media availability practice periods we're allotted every Tuesday afternoon. He lost the brace on his elbow and looks like he's back to being the Kendrick of old after his injury, so I think the freshman Chance Hall is just outplaying him in the eyes of the coaching staff. Hall is listed as the starter on the depth chart for the Vanderbilt finale this week, with Kendrick listed as his backup. That should tell you all you need to know about the direction Butch Jones and his staff are trying to go with the young guys on the offensive line.
Given the fact that Drew Richmond and Venzel Boulware have redshirted, which of the two would you predict to have the biggest impact next season with the offensive line? — TuckerVol
This is by far the toughest question of the bunch because I haven't seen either play a down of college football and our practice viewing is limited to just one day a week. If I were going on pure ceiling, I would probably have to choose Drew Richmond due to his enormous physical stature and the fact that he was so highly touted by scouts and analysts coming out of high school. When you're making a blind bet, always pick the choice you know more about. A pirate once told me that ( a pirate didn't tell me that).
I noticed Neiko Creamer was used at tailback on scout team in prep to play Alabama and Derrick Henry. He is not really big enough for tight end but adds depth. I wonder if he could take some short yardage snaps as a big back or outside as a large wide receiver? — clrlyric
It's an interesting thought, I'll give you that. The fact that Creamer was used to mimick Derrick Henry during the Alabama week practices is enough to tell you just how imposing his 6-foot-3, 233-pound frame really is. But I don't see a scenario currently where the redshirt freshman will be used in anything other than a tight end role for the foreseeable future, and the coaching staff hasn't hinted at that either. With senior Alex Ellis leaving, you could see Creamer's role as a tight end increase in a crowded position group, but right now I wouldn't expect him to provide anything other than depth with Ethan Wolf coming back in 2016.
Where is Dillon Bates? What happened? — ACGvol
Butch Jones said at the beginning of the season that Dillon Bates' role will be on special teams this season, and it looks like that hasn't changed. Bates also contributes on the scout team and defensive coordinator John Jancek told the media in October that he'll compete for a starting spot in the spring. So that's what happened to Dillon Bates. He didn't transfer to divinity school to become a monk or drop out to join a Tom Petty cover bad.
Do you have any indication which bowl game the players or coaches are preferring? — IllinoisVol
I'll work on the assumption that Tennessee wants the most prestigious bowl it can realistically attain, which right now appears to be the Outback Bowl vs. a Big 10 opponent. This last rivalry weekend is critical to the bowl picture and will clear up a picture that is extremely muddy at the moment, but the Outback would be the Vols' best bet currently. That game could feature Tennessee going up against Michigan or Ohio State, which would be one of the highest attended bowls of the season and would probably push attendance figures of some New Years Day games. For right now, however, my money is on Butch Jones' squad traveling to Charlotte to take on an ACC opponent like N.C. State in the Belk Bowl. Be sure to wear your Sunday slacks for that one.
Thanks to everyone who sent in a question. To send a question to the Monday Mailbag, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @CoryGunkel, post it on the InsideTennessee message boards or yell really loudly.