In case you missed it, Tennessee has officially announced the date of the annual Orange and White game.
Spring Ball is almost here.
Get your first look at @CoachJoshHeupel's exciting brand of Tennessee Football at the Chevrolet Orange & White Game, set for April 24.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) March 3, 2021
This game serves as the first official chance for Tennessee fans everywhere to get a look at a Josh Heupel-coached Tennessee team.
But, like every spring season, there’s plenty of questions that Vol fans need to be answered going into the summer. This go-around is no different.
What Will Attendance Look Like?
The most obvious question will likely have a multi-faceted answer.
The O&W Game last year didn’t happen because of the pandemic. We all know that.
This year, however, it looks like the game will not only happen, but there could very well be fans in the stands. It will likely only be a percentage of Neyland Stadium’s full capacity, but that’s better than no fans at all.
Tennessee has not announced their COVID-19 safety protocols for the game yet.
Will the hope for Heupel to be the man override the brooding expectation of disappointment that surrounds his new program? Or will Tennessee fans be called out for their efforts again, à la Jeremy Pruitt, in 2018?
Who Is QB1?
One of the big selling points for Heupel is his history of coaching great offenses and quarterbacks.
But he did take over a team that didn’t have a recognized and respected QB1 for the majority of last season or the one before that. Going into another summer with the quarterback competition still up in the air would be disastrous.
The sooner he can name a starting quarterback, the better. Temporary indecision around the most important position on the field is bad. Prolonged indecision is a great way to alienate current players, recruits, and fans entirely.
Fortunately, he should have some pretty good options to choose from. Between Brian Maurer, Harrison Bailey, Kaidon Salter, and Hendon Hooker, surely someone will step up and take the reins of this new, high-powered offense of Heupel’s we’ve all been hearing about for weeks now.
Are We In Store For More Gimmicks?
Before Pruitt arrived on campus, it seemed like every single Orange and White game for a decade was defined by its gimmicks.
There were flag football games for former players there for a while under Derek Dooley. There was Butch Jones’ ridiculous, confusing, boring modified scoring system and his stupid Circle of Life drill. And for some reason, he would always try to recreate plays from the past? Including Peyton Manning’s rollout pass to Marcus Nash and the Dobbnail Boot?
Anyway, hopefully, Heupel understands this fan base doesn’t want or need more gimmicks to be interested. Play good football and win, and the fan base will follow. Don’t waste everybody’s time and energy on gimmicks.
Just let the first-team offense and second-team defense play the second-team offense and first-team defense. Please…
What Will The Recruiting Situation Look Like, Day-Of?
One of the big question marks surrounding Heupel’s hire was his suspect recruiting abilities, which haven’t exactly been vindicated recently.
The Orange and White Game normally serves as a big day for recruits to get on campus, meet the staff, and experience a game in Neyland.
Obviously, this is more contingent upon the NCAA and whether they even allow recruits on campus (they probably won’t), but still, we can dream that things are getting back to normal.
Who Are The Starting Linebackers?
It’s really all conjecture that the new defensive coordinator Tim Banks’ defense will look like this. Some are saying it will be a base 4-2-5, others a base 3-3-5.
Whatever scheme winds up happening, he and LB coach Brian Jean-Mary are going to have their work cut out for them building up this group of linebackers.
At the time of writing, Henry To’o To’o, Quavaris Crouch, and DeAndre Johnson are all gone or likely gone. Two of your three leading tacklers and your sack leader from last year.
Jeremy Banks, Tyler Baron, Roman Harrison, and Aaron Beasley are all names to watch for, but who really knows at this point?
Whoever it is, there will be some big (slightly above average?) shoes to fill.
Most folks are worried more about the offense, and that’s understandable.
But a high-powered offense paired with a Sal Sunseri-esque defense is something folks around here probably aren’t prepared to deal with again.