🏈 Tennessee's Week 1 ➔ Week 2 Jump

The Vols have one more warmup

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:

  • How the Vols build off their impressive defensive debut

  • More time for Nico and the Vols’ freshmen

  • Emmy time for the Manning brothers?

  • The next recruiting target for Tennessee fans to watch

THE VOLS ARE BACK HOME

It’s tune-up time in Tennessee.

The Tennessee football team will host Austin Peay on Saturday.

📍 Neyland Stadium
5:00 PM ET
📺 ESPN+ (more info in sports nuggets)
📻 99.1 The Sports Animal/WIVK

There’s no question which team will win the game; that will be the Vols.

Instead, Tennessee will use this game to prepare for the rest of the season.

Virginia offered Tennessee the chance to ease into 2023.

Austin Peay will help the Vols clean up first-game issues and provide playing time to young players who need game reps.

Tennessee has a lot to build on defensively from the opener.

The Vols looked fast against Virginia.

Yes, it was Virginia.

But the arrival of transfer Omarr Norman-Lott and the emergence of second-year edge rusher James Pearce Jr. can elevate the Vols’ defense.

“Who’s Pearce?” VFL Jonathan Wade jokingly asked us on Josh and Swain this week.

Wade saw a Tennessee defense that he believes looks different than the last two seasons.

“(Defensive coordinator) Tim Banks is doing an amazing job,” Wade said. “They were flying around. Defense travels and that defense looks like it will be able to travel.”

Tennessee’s defense will have to prove its consistency against better competition in the SEC.

Everyone knows that — especially someone like Wade, an All-SEC cornerback for Tennessee in 2006.

Tennessee also has a new question: Is the linebacker depth for real?

We’ll find out soon because linebacker Keenan Pili will miss several games due to injury.

“He’s gonna be out for quite a while,” Austin Price or Volquest said on Wednesday.

That means sophomore Elijah Herring needs to be ready. He’s the expected starter alongside senior Aaron Beasley.

Then there’s Arion Carter, a freshman linebacker who received all kinds of hype during the offseason.

Tennessee’s staff will prioritize snaps for Herring and Carter, along with sophomore Kalib Perry and freshmen Jeremiah Telander and Jalen Smith.

Those guys will have no trouble against Austin Peay.

But the Vols travel to Gainesville, Fla., next week.

That creates a whole different conversation.

Check out our full conversation with Jonathan Wade, who will join us for a “Cover Tuesday” segment each week during the season. ⬇️⬇️

MORE TIME FOR NICO

We heard the chants in the Virginia game.

Fans were excited to see Nico Iamaleava make his debut.

And you should see plenty of him on Saturday.

Joe Milton III will start and play most (if not all) of the first half on Saturday.

But the Austin Peay game represents a chance for Iamaleava to run the Vols’ offense for an extended amount of time.

Josh Heupel confirmed this week that Tennessee has no plans of redshirting Iamaleava.

That should come as no surprise — but it offers a reminder that Tennessee needs to prepare its star freshman quarterback in case he’s needed.

Saturday’s matchup with Austin Peay can’t fully prepare a freshman for a big game in the SEC.

But the more live reps Iamaleava can get, the better it will serve him and Tennessee’s offense.

Speaking of Milton, he had a good first game and would have produced better stats if not for the Ramel Keyton first-quarter drop.

But there had to be some mistakes in the Virginia game that Milton and the coaches saw on film.

The Vols will use the first half to work on some of those issues and allow Milton and his receivers to develop a rhythm.

Then it will be sideline time.

Iamaleava and a bunch of young offensive players can handle the rest… so the starters can get their rest.

Freshman running backs Cameron Seldon and Khalifa Keith should see more time on Saturday, too.

If the Vols have a “big four” at wide receiver, it looks like they have a Big 3 at running back.

Jaylen Wright, Jabari Small, and Dylan Sampson looked quite good against Virginia.

Again, recognize the competition.

But also know Tennessee’s running game will play a big role in the Vols’ success this season.

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 Tennessee-Austin Peay will be a stream-only game for viewers. Here’s how you can watch it in case there’s any confusion.

 🏈 Here’s the weekend schedule of college football games — with Alabama vs Texas headlining the Week 2 slate.

🏈 The NCAA ruled North Carolina receiver Tez Walker ineligible and UNC coach Mack Brown let loose with his anger toward the NCAA.

🏈 The NFL will kick off this weekend (the Lions beat the Chiefs 21-20 on Thursday). The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia offered these 10 predictions for the season.

🏈 Weirdest CFB story of the week: Brian Kelly denied saying LSU would “beat the heck out of Florida State” despite the fact there’s audio of him saying it on… the Brian Kelly Show.

Here are ESPN’s updated MLB power rankings with a few weeks remaining in the regular season.

🎾 Coco Gauff is headed to her first US Open final. She’ll face Aryna Sabalenka for the title.

THE MANNINGS DELIVER AGAIN

The return of the NFL season means the popular ManningCast is back for a third year.

Peyton and Eli Manning have combined analysis and personality to entertain fans during Monday Night Football over the last two seasons.

The ManningCast isn’t for everyone — some people just want the traditional broadcast, which is perfectly fine.

But for ManningCast fans, the brothers are back for another season.

To celebrate, they released “audition” footage from their search for a third co-host.

ONE LAST BYTE OUT THE DOOR

On-field football is the focus, but recruiting remains a priority for Tennessee’s staff.

That will be the case this weekend when four-star linebacker Chris Cole from Salem, Va., visits Tennessee.

The Vols are underdogs entering Cole’s official visit.

Georgia has been the team to beat with Southern Cal making a push.

Can the Vols make up the necessary ground before Cole announces his commitment on Sunday?

The odds are against Tennessee — but getting him on campus is an important step.

The Vols are working to add as much defensive talent as they can find.

Defensive line help is a key focus for UT’s staff.

The August commitment of edge rusher Jordan Ross was a big help. But the Vols need more players like him.

More than three months remain before December’s early signing period.

A lot will change between now and then.

As of this writing, Tennessee has the nation’s No. 7 class, according to the On3 industry rankings.

No. 7 in the nation is… fifth best in the SEC.

There’s room to move up — but also room to move back.

That’s why recruiting never stops.

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