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Playin’ Nice: Rocky Top Talk

Priming ourselves for a trip to Tennessee with Terry A. Lambert from Rocky Top Talk.

1. Well, the big sub-plot this week will be Butch Jones' ouster. Do you think that, realistically, it has any major impact for the Volunteers this weekend?

I'm not sure it changes things much. I didn't really get the impression that the players had quit, until last Saturday against Missouri. With just two games left, nothing is going to change much scheme-wise. The biggest thing for Tennessee is just getting healthy at this point. They've been rolling with just six scholarship offensive lineman during the past two weeks. Getting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano back along with a couple of bodies up front would be a big boost.

2. In short, what do you think went wrong for Jones in Knoxville?

Man... that's a loaded question right there. I'll keep it short.

Butch wasn't able to replace Josh Dobbs and Derek Barnett, among others. Those two specifically really carried this team last year. Without them, he was screwed. He stayed in house with his offensive coordinator hire this offseason and it backfired on him. He just wasn't ready to reload and win in year five of his program. Butch never got over the hump, despite having the most talent in the east for two straight years. That fact alone was enough for me to write him off, but Tennessee had to let him fall on his face before they could move on.

3. John Kelly has been impressive for the Vols, but I know he's been in and out of the lineup with discipline issues — can we expect to see him on Saturday?

Yes, you'll see plenty. He only missed the Kentucky game, but that allowed Tennessee to get an extended look at Ty Chandler. The freshman back has earned more carries and he got them against Missouri. You'll probably see a 60-40 split in favor of Kelly on Saturday night.

4. Any other players that LSU fans should be aware of? Who do you expect to get the start at quarterback?

I'd guess Jarrett Guarantano is back under center for Tennessee, but you never know. They are really weird about reporting injuries up here. Freshman Will McBride is the other option.

Rashaan Gaulden is probably the best player on Tennessee's defense. He plays that hybrid-nickel role, but is active everywhere on the field. He's also the guy that flipped off the Bama crowd after the pick six, for what that's worth.

5. Any expectation as to how this game will play out?

I don't have high hopes. It seems like LSU has woken up and we've got no idea how the team will respond in this spot. As I noted above, there are just too many injuries in play for Tennessee. I could see them hanging around for a quarter or two, but I expect LSU to pull away big eventually.