Mailbag: Position changes, Senzel's future, more

Taking a look at potential position switches for Tennessee football signees set to arrive on Rocky Top, the state of the baseball program, the top overall pro prospect on campus and more in IT's mailbag questions and answers.

Many thanks to the fine InsideTennessee members posting in VolChat for this weeks' questions for our mailbag. Here's a look at what they asked and our responses:

Which position change that was mentioned in last week's Gate 21 are you most intrigued to see? — NorthBamaVol

Of the four players we mentioned in Gate 21, the one I find most interesting is Nigel Warrior potential move within the secondary from safety to either cornerback of nickelback. By no means is it a done deal that the Scout five-star prospect is moving or if he did that he’d stay out on the island.

One of the traits of the 2016 signing class that coach Butch Jones and his staff love is how multi-dimensional most of the signees are. Warrior is another of those. He has the skills and size to play anywhere in the secondary right now. He also has ball skills and have personally seen him get horizontal to break up passes.

Warrior’s father, Dale Carter, played safety at Tennessee before becoming an Pro Bowl cornerback in the National Football League. Carter told InsideTennessee that he prefer his son play corner and be more involved in the game. If he loses a step later in his career, roll back to safety the way Charles Woodson or some others have.

It’s a great problem to have.

If you had to pick 3 from the 2016 incoming class that will have the biggest impact on the 2016 season, who would you pick? — TuckerVol

That’s a tough call because we’ve called it a “developmental class” that’s much more about upside and help down the road rather than having numerous immediate impacts. Can see several freshmen and D.J. Henderson competing on special teams units.

I’ve been wrong before in trying to predict the timelines of an impact a receiver makes. There’s a transition period for that position that involves an bond with the quarterback that’s hard to fully explain but must take place for that player to truly contribute. But there’s certainly opportunity there for the incoming freshmen. Jeff George enrolled in January and showed flashes in the Orange & White game after a tough spring. He’s one to keep an eye on this September.

The name that sticks out for instant impact is Jonathan Kongbo. The five-star JUCO signee looks like he’s going to show up both in shape and with the strength levels to contribute Day 1. However, the Southeastern Conference is almost like a Double-A affiliate to the NFL. It takes skill to shed blocks and get to the ball carrier, otherwise those doo-rag wearing, youth extra small shirt having, tribal tattoo having, duffle bag carrying, back-ne having meat heads would all be linemen in The League.

Kongbo does have a redshirt year of experience at Wyoming and a year of JUCO ball with which to draw more knowledge. So, Steve Stripling doesn’t just have a blank canvas.

It remains to be seen if Alexis Johnson will ever play a snap at Tennessee. If he’s exonerated of all wrongdoing and Team 120 wants him in the foxhole with them, he could make an impact in the fall.

Have you heard anything about where Nick is expected to be drafted? — cherokee04

What’s not to like about where Nick Senzel’s game? He's a career .332 hitter in the best conference in then nation with 126 RBIs. He runs an impressive 60-yard time and has 24 stolen bases this spring. He uses the entire field and does so with power. He's athletic enough to stay on the infield on the next level with SEC experience at three different positions.

If you are either a Tennessee baseball or New York Yankees fan, you recognize the name Chase Headley. Well, Senzel’s 25 doubles this season are the most by any Volunteer since Headley’s 25 in 2005.

I’ll add in, where would the Big Orange be this year without Senzel? He originally signed with Georgia before his senior season at Farragut (Tenn.) High School but didn’t wind up in Athens because of a head coaching change from Dave Perno to Steve Stricklin.

Senzel answered concerns of some scouts last summer, showcasing his ability with the wood in his hands. The local product showed he was the best hitter in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .364/.418/.558 with 56 hits and 34 runs, both of which led the league.

To answer your question, “With the sixth selection in the first round of the 2016 first-year player draft, the Oakland Athletics select Nick Senzel. Nick is an infielder from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee.”

Look for Senzel to be holding down the hot corner for the Midland RockHounds in about 13 months.

Get your RockHounds gear by clicking here.

Is there any chance Dave Serrano continues on? — AFVolunteer

29-27, 9-21

24-26, 11-18

31-23, 12-18

22-30, 8-20

24-31, 8-22

Those are Serrano’s records in Knoxville he carries into the postseason. This marks the third straight year reaching the Southeastern Conference tournament. That’s a quality accomplishment. However, none of the berths have included a seed high enough to avoid the Tuesday slate of single-elimination games. Although the games were quite competitive, the Vols went home each of the last two seasons after Day 1. It won’t be a simple task this week in Hoover, Alabama, either as they face No. 5 seed LSU, which is the No. 7-ranked team in the nation.

It’s also been almost a decade since Tennessee reached the NCAA tournament.

When we’ve been asked that of late, our response is: “What are your expectations for Tennessee baseball?” Those that expect a super regional every other year may be expecting a bit much. Is the administration giving the program everything it needs to compete in what’s undoubtedly the best conference in the nation?

We’ve not heard of APR issues. The 2015 MLB Draft was loaded both with former Vols and Tennessee signees. That tells me talent is both being identified and developed. Zach Linginfelter just won TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Baseball and could be a weekend arm in Knoxville if he doesn’t sign with a pro club this summer, but he probably will.

The lineup produced far more runs this spring than I expected but the lack of pitching is not what you expect from a Dave Serrano team. Their losing Kyle Serrano after just one start definitely hurt. But that’s the area where Tennessee must make its greatest strides. The bullpen needs to become a weapon. Weekend arms in this league are almost always guys that are going to play pro ball. Those few 70-80-percent scholarship guys a roster has need to be can’t miss guys and pitchers that can shove it in league play and in the postseason.

Serrano & Co. could remove a lot of doubters if they can eliminate LSU on Tuesday night and advance. The Tigers enter with an RPI of 9 while the Vols’ is 78.


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