🏈 It's been a good week on Rocky Top

Tennessee fans have had a lot to celebrate

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:

  • Tennessee’s latest recruiting win is a BIG one for UT’s future

  • The different ways Tennessee basketball is winning at a high level

  • College Football Playoff debates have already begun for 2024

  • Danny White’s shuts down the hopes of one Tennessee fans

G-MAC’S IMPACT ON TENNESSEE

Josh Heupel has landed another big-time QB for the Vols

It’s been a good week for Tennessee athletics. 

There are several items we could lead with as we look back at the past seven days. 

No. 1 on the list: the commitment of 2025 QB George MacIntyre from Brentwood Academy. 

MacIntyre will rank as a five-star prospect by multiple recruiting services once they assign their final star ratings for next year’s class. 

Landing MacIntyre continues an incredible run of quarterback recruiting by Tennessee. 

The Vols have Nico Iamaleava, a five-star prospect in the 2023 class, already handling the starting quarterback role. 

Jake Merklinger, a four-star prospect and top-10 QB in the 2024 class, has enrolled to prepare for his freshman season. 

Now we can add MacIntyre to the conversation for 2025.

MacIntyre is a big addition for several reasons. 

1️⃣ He’s a talented player with huge upside. 

MacIntyre is tall and athletic — everyone raves about his basketball skills — and has shown a great understanding of the game. 

He’s already worked with Tennessee’s coaches on ways to improve before he arrives at UT.

2️⃣ MacIntyre makes Tennessee more attractive to other recruits.

MacIntyre has embraced his role as a recruiter for the Vols. 

He said on Josh and Swain that he’s on multiple group chats with recruiting coordinators and coach Josh Heupel where they discuss recruiting plans and how MacIntyre can help. 

“I’ve been recruited for a while so hopefully I learned some little tactics,” MacIntyre said. “We’re going to try to bring in some big-time talent and make this class one of the best in the country.”

3️⃣ MacIntyre gives Tennessee more reason to believe.

If a coach wants to win at the highest level, he better get the quarterback position right. 

Heupel appears to be doing that with his recruiting.

Here’s what On3 Director of Scouting and Rankings Charles Power told us about Heupel’s quarterback recruiting:

“When you look at what Tennessee is doing at quarterback with Nico, Merklinger, and now George MacIntyre in that class, that’s a really strong triumvirate of quarterbacks to bring into your room. … I think if you’re a Tennessee fan you have to be ecstatic today.”

Fans are even happier knowing Heupel is the main one in charge of developing those quarterbacks. 

No one knows how everything will play out at quarterback. 

Iamaleava still has to prove what he can do in SEC play. 

MacIntyre still has to sign, develop and compete for a starting spot in the future. 

Merklinger plans to compete with MacIntyre (and anyone else) whenever it’s time to replace Iamaleava — their anticipation being in 2026 after Nico turns pro.

But to have a shot at their goal of winning championships, the Vols need to land these kinds of quarterbacks. 

And build around them. 

Tennessee is doing a solid job of that so far. 

The Vols landed offensive tackle transfer Lance Heard, a five-star recruit in the 2023 class, and will work to add more players like him around MacIntyre. 

There is a lot of work remaining for Heupel and his staff. 

But they’re doing a good job so far.

George MacIntyre joined us on the show on Thursday. Watch the full conversation below. ⬇️⬇️

TENNESSEE BASKETBALL’S RISE

Jahmai Mashack (15) makes winning plays for Tennessee

Here’s another reason for Tennessee fans to be excited. 

The UT basketball team is clicking right now. 

The talk of the team has been Dalton Knecht. 

And for good reason: he has been on a tear recently. 

When a 25-point performance against Alabama feels like a “down game,” you know he’s on a hot streak.

Knecht has been so good that DraftKings lists him second in odds to win the John R. Wooden Award, given to the nation’s best player.

(Purdue’s Zach Edey is a heavy favorite and The Athletic’s CJ Moore told us last week Edey is a shoo-in to win it, barring injury.)

The reasons to be excited about Tennessee go beyond Knecht, though. 

Another big reason — literally and figuratively — is Jonas Aidoo. 

The Tennessee junior has taken his game to another level this season. 

He’s recorded a double-double in three of the Vols’ five SEC games.

The combination of Aidoo and Knecht (or another ball handler) is often too much for opposing defenses to handle. 

And Aidoo has continued to be a force on the defensive end. 

Tennessee is one of just six teams that rank in the top 20 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency

The Vols have been legit on both ends of the floor. 

Another reason for that: Jahmai Mashack. 

He comes off the bench for Tennessee but has made an impact like he’s another starter. 

VFL and SEC Network analyst Ron Slay on Tuesday’s show:

“You ask everybody to a man when you come out there to that huddle and say, ‘Man, who’s that guy we’re going to count on to give us a spark or stabilize us?’ They’re going to point at Mashack. And you don’t have to mention it to him. Just put him in the game. He’s going to figure it out.”

Every team needs someone like Mashack. 

A player capable of scoring — and he provides some of that — but recognizes that he has another role to serve. 

Mashack’s effort on defense is relentless. 

He constantly disrupts the other team. 

And the buy-in from Mashack inspires his teammates to keep working. 

They see the difference his effort is making. 

And Rick Barnes said this week that opposing coaches often tell him how impressed they are by Mashack.

➡️ One more note on Knecht: CJ Moore mentioned to us the positive effect Knecht’s offensive play has had on Tennessee’s defense. 

Moore wrote this story about Knecht last week to provide more insight on his journey to Tennessee.. 

Knecht’s ability to take pressure off Zakai Zeigler to initiate all of Tennessee’s offensive playmaking helps UT on the other end of the floor.

From our interview with Moore: 

“One thing that one of the coaches mentioned to me is that ‘Not only can we go to that offense. But it lets everybody else rest. And then we can kick ass on the defensive end because those guys aren’t so tired.’”

Weekly disclaimer: there’s a long way to go until March and a lot can happen between now and then. 

But as Tennessee gets ready for Vanderbilt on Saturday, the Vols are in a terrific position both in the SEC race and their development for the postseason. 

(Don’t overlook the Commodores, but they are BAD. Vandy is 5-13 on the season and Tennessee will likely be favored by double digits in Nashville.)

📍 Nashville
📅 Saturday, Jan. 27
6:00 p.m. ET
📺 SEC Network
📻 99.1 The Sports Animal/WIVK

Here’s our full conversation with CJ Moore, who told us why he believes Tennessee is a legit national title contender. ⬇️⬇️

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 Two Tennessee players made ESPN’s way-too-early All-American team for the 2024 season. One might be obvious… can you guess the other?

🏈 Three Tennessee players made Mel Kiper Jr.’s positional Big Board for the NFL Draft. (ESPN+ required)

🏈 Tennessee landed two five-stars in the 2024 class. Look at how many different teams landed at least one five-star player in the class.

🏈 Here is a weekend guide to get ready for the NFL’s conference championship games.

🏀 See where Tennessee ranks in David Cobb’s updated CBB power rankings.

🏀 Great story on former Lady Vols basketball player Nicky Anosike is helping teach basketball to girls in Nigeria.

🏌️‍♂️ Not from The Onion: It looks like Anthony Kim might return to professional golf after being away for about 12 years.

TENNESSEE’S WAY-TOO-EARLY PLAYOFF HOPES

We’re talking… Playoffs?!?!

We are a LONG WAY from official predictions for the upcoming 2024 college football season.

Coaching staffs and rosters aren’t even set.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t begin the conversation.

ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy discussed College Football Playoff hopes for SEC teams on his Always College Football podcast this week.

He didn’t discuss every SEC team — just the teams he believes will have an opportunity to make it.

Tennessee was on the list.

He discussed some of Tennessee’s personnel, the schedule for next season, and the Vols’ probable record (he said 8-4, maybe 9-3) and their playoff chances.

McElroy’s estimation landed on a 15-percent chance for Tennessee to make the 12-team playoff.

And the reaction online from Tennessee fans was not positive.

Some of the responses called McElroy crazy; others accused him of “trashing” Tennessee.

Our response on the show wasn’t quite the same.

The fact that McElroy included Tennessee on the playoff contenders list seemed like a compliment.

McElroy didn’t say Tennessee CAN’T make the playoff; he just considers it unlikely.

Oddsmakers will likely do the same.

We had Braden Gall of 440 Sports on the show (full segment below) and he has Tennessee in a position to make the playoff — at least as of now.

Chris Low of ESPN discussed the expectation Tennessee should have of reaching the playoff earlier this month.

Tennessee should have a goal of reaching the College Football Playoff this season.

It should be the expectation of everyone walking around in UT’s facility.

But calling it unlikely, while also recognizing it CAN happen, is not trashing Tennessee.

What do you think? We’ll continue the discussion on Josh and Swain… for the next 7+ months.

Here’s our chat with Braden Gall about Tennessee’s playoff hopes for 2024. ⬇️⬇️

DANNY WHITE RESPONDS TO ‘NONSENSE’

As mentioned, this has been a positive week for Tennessee.

But that doesn’t mean it was all sunshine.

Although, this story probably brought a smile to a lot of Tennessee fans’ faces.

UT athletic director Danny White responded to a fan’s tweet this week after the person tried several times to get White to address the idea of moving the Vols’ student section at the Food City Center.

After the fifth day of the fan’s attempt, White responded to what he called “nonsense."

Why is BigOrangePunch crying?

In all seriousness, there are other fans who share BOP’s opinion.

But the idea of moving the big-money people out of their expensive seats to just give them away to students is unrealistic.

And it would NOT be a smart move by White.

Also, White is correct: the atmosphere at Tennessee’s arena is tremendous

Opposing teams have a very difficult time winning in Knoxville.

A big reason for that is how good Tennessee teams have been.

Another reason is the challenging environment fans create everywhere in the arena.

Want to hear more on the subject? We spent a full segment on it during this week’s show. Watch below. ⬇️⬇️

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