🏈 Final questions for Tennessee Football

Who are you excited to see in the opener?

Hello. This is the Josh and Swain Newsletter, a quick roundup of the week’s top stories and topics involving Tennessee and the sports world.

Here’s what we have for you today:

  • Answers we’re looking for as Tennessee begins the season

  • Florida’s season opener… Woof

  • What about expectations for this year’s Tennessee football team?

  • Newcomers to watch in the Vols’ season opener

WHO’S READY TO SEE THE VOLS PLAY?

Welcome to September.

Translation: Welcome to the college football season.

Tennessee will kick off its season on Saturday against Virginia.

📍 Nashville, TN (Nissan Stadium)
⏰ 12:00 PM ET
📺 ABC
📻 99.1 The Sports Animal/WIVK

We’ve pretty much covered every possible angle for Tennessee’s season in this newsletter and on the radio over the last eight months.

Everyone — players, coaches, fans, and the media — is ready to see game action to start formulating opinions from what we see on the field.

So what questions remain as we wait for Tennessee’s season to begin?

Here are a few.

Will the offensive line hold up?

Replacing Jerome Carvin and Darnell Wright was a big enough task.

Now there’s the health concern with Cooper Mays, who isn’t expected to play against Virginia.

Transfer John Campbell Jr. has received praise for his performance at left tackle during fall practice.

A big senior season from right guard Javontez Spraggins would make a difference.

The return of Mays will remain the No. 1 topic.

Is the secondary more reliable?

Depth and competition.

Those were the words we kept hearing about the Vols’ defensive backfield.

Will that equate to better coverage and more takeaways?

Let’s see how fifth-year senior Jaylen McCollough plays at safety.

Doneiko Slaughter could become a No. 1 corner.

And freshman Rickey Gibson turned heads in August.

There’s a lot to watch in Tennessee’s secondary.

What can the skill players do?

There has been a lot of hype about Tennessee’s receivers.

Jaylen Wright and the running backs will have a big opportunity this fall, too.

Josh Heupel’s offensive system raises the potential for its players.

This group is no different.

Fans sent us some wild predictions for Tennessee’s offense this week.

Multiple 1,000-yard receivers. Outscoring last year’s team, which led the nation in scoring.

Everyone is ready to see what this offense can do.

What will Joe do?

This is the biggest question for almost everyone.

We all know about Joe Milton’s physical talent.

He looked better last season, particularly against Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

If he plays that well consistently, Tennessee will have another big season.

Tennessee fans aren’t the only people eager to see what Milton will do this fall.

The entire nation can’t wait to find out.

Thankfully, our wait is coming to an end.

We previewed the start of Tennessee’s season (with a quick recruiting update) with Austin Price of Volquest. Watch below. ⬇️⬇️

GATORS CHOMPED

Florida opened its season last night and… it did not go well.

Utah beat Florida 24-11 in Salt Lake City.

It wasn’t just the loss for the Gators.

It was all the mistakes.

Florida’s biggest gaffe came in the first half.

Utah was punting on 4th and 3 with a 7-3 lead — until Florida was caught with two players wearing No. 3 on the field.

Utah got the ball back, marched down the field, and scored to go up 14-3.

The game felt like it was over at that point.

Florida had multiple special teams mistakes, costly procedural penalties, and timing issues on offense.

Utah sacked Florida quarterback Graham Mertz five times.

Florida will return home and try to regroup against McNeese on Sept. 9.

The Gators will have home-field advantage when Tennessee travels to Florida the following week.

Florida will use the next two weeks to try to clean up last night’s mistakes.

It’s also worth mentioning: Week 1 results can tell a misleading story.

LSU was all out of sorts in last year’s opener against Florida State.

LSU ended up beating Alabama and winning the SEC West.

So Tennessee can’t assume it will beat Florida by simply showing up in two weeks.

But the initial impression from Florida is what a lot of prognosticators warned: the Gators have A LOT of work to do to avoid a rough season.

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 Joe Rexrode of The Athletic wrote about Tennessee’s expectations and why fans might need to pump the breaks slightly.

🏈 Who will be the 10 most impactful Tennessee players this fall? Check out this list and tell me who was snubbed.

🏈 A Thursday night statement from the University of North Carolina has ACC expansion very much in doubt.

🏈 Here’s the full schedule for Week 1 of the college football season.

🏀 Tennessee will play an exhibition game at Michigan State on Oct. 29 to help raise funds for the Hawai’i Community Foundation Maui Strong Fund.

⚾ Ronald Acuña Jr. became the first MLB player to hit 30 home runs and steal 60 bases in a season. Acuña had quite a day on Thursday, getting married before hitting his grand slam against the Dodgers.

🎧 We talked Tennessee basketball with men’s coach Rick Barnes and Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper. (Both coaches were excited to talk football, too.)

A BIG NEW RECORD

How cool was the scene in Lincoln, Neb., on Wednesday?

The school set a record with 92,003 people in attendance for a women’s sporting event.

Nebraska’s volleyball team played Omaha at Memorial Stadium and the fans showed up.

The team’s walk through the tunnel is the best.

Kudos to everyone in Lincoln for the feat.

This record was also set one day before Nebraska’s football team lost another one-score game. (Hug a Nebraska fan if you see one today.)

Should Tennessee ever try to top the record with Lady Vols basketball at Neyland Stadium?

Right now, probably not. But in the future… never say never.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

A new season always offers new players to watch.

Here are a few guys to keep an eye on to see their initial impact for Tennessee.

WR Dont’e Thornton

He was one of the most hyped-up players in the offseason.

Thornton is big (6-5, 214) and can run.

The Oregon transfer will have the chance to make a lot of players in Tennessee’s offense.

LB Keenan Pili

Pili transferred from BYU to bring leadership and playmaking to the Vols’ defense.

Tennessee hopes Pili and returning starter Aaron Beasley will create a strong duo this season.

LB Arion Carter

Tennessee also believes Carter can make an impact as a true freshman.

He wowed coaches during spring practice and reportedly carried that over to fall practice.

Look for No. 7 on Saturday. You’ll see more of him as the season progresses.

RB Cameron Seldon

Tennessee is a big favorite (by 28 points) and should be able to empty the bench.

That should create an opportunity for Seldon at running back.

He’ll also be part of the kick return unit.

Seldon has the kind of size (6-2, 222) and speed that every coach in the country covets.

QB Nico Iamaleava

We’ll see Iamaleava on Saturday, right?

If Tennessee handles business, the answer will be yes.

We’ve been asked on Josh and Swain about Iamaleava’s redshirt.

That can’t be on Heupel’s mind; he needs to prepare Iamaleava in case he’s needed this season.

Tennessee has two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

Iamaleava’s status for 2027 isn’t a concern.

In fact, if Iamaleava is still in college in 2027, something else went wrong along the way.

Look for the Vols’ five-star freshman QB at some point on Saturday.

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