🏈 Tennessee football is back

Fall camp opens in less than a week

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:

  • Five Tennessee players who deserve more attention as fall camp begins

  • The latest hype and confidence in QB Joe Milton III

  • Shohei Ohtani continues to wow all of us

  • The next recruit to watch for Tennessee’s 2024 class

FIVE NAMES TO REMEMBER ENTERING CAMP

This was one of several big players from Ramel Keyton

This is the final newsletter of the year that won’t include Tennessee football talk from the field.

That’s because the Vols will begin fall practice on Wednesday.

That’s right. Your long off-season wait is over.

To be fair, the talk next week will be about unseen practice reports from behind the scenes.

But this is a reminder that football is back — with Tennessee’s opener vs Virginia only five weeks from Saturday.

The top storyline from the offseason has been Joe Milton III, who led off last week’s newsletter.

Other players like Bru McCoy and Squirrel White at receiver, center Cooper Mays, and Omari Thomas have received tons of coverage over the last seven months.

Who are some players that deserve more attention entering camp? Guys who will contribute more than the offseason chatter has implied.

Here are five Tennessee players to keep an eye on as fall camp opens.

➡️ DL Bryson Eason

Here’s a popular question to current players: “Hey, who’s a guy that’s about to have a big year?”

Multiple players have responded with Eason.

Former Tennessee offensive lineman Jerome Carvin said on Josh and Swain earlier this month that Eason is poised to break out this fall.

Fellow defensive lineman Omari Thomas raved about Eason at SEC Media Days.

Eason arrived at Tennessee as a linebacker but added weight and has developed as a key contributor on the D-line.

After making his first career start against Clemson in the Orange Bowl, Eason will play a big role for Rodney Garner’s defensive line.

➡️ DB Tamarion McDonald

The arrival of a bunch of talented freshmen defensive backs has caused McDonald’s name to fade in off-season conversation.

Don’t let it. McDonald won the job at the Star position last season.

Like Eason, McDonald has grown in Tennessee’s defense.

He’s improved in coverage and can help the Vols pressure the quarterback.

There’s a lot of talk about young players and what they’ll be able to do.

But with what Tennessee’s coaches as McDonald to do, expect him to keep playing an important role in the secondary.

➡️ OL Gerald Mincey

How will Tennessee replace Darnell Wright, who was drafted No. 10 overall by the Chicago Bears?

The plan involves sliding Mincey from left to right tackle.

After starting seven games for the Vols last season, Mincey plans to use this season to showcase his ability for NFL teams.

Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy bragged on Mincey’s potential at SEC Media Days, telling us Mincey has a mid-round NFL draft grade.

He’s one of Tennessee’s most important players entering camp.

➡️ K Charles Campbell and P Jackson Ross

We can’t forget the kicking game — so we’re putting two players together as one here.

Chase McGrath’s field goal won the Alabama game as time expired.

Tennessee doesn’t plan to punt much… but when it happens, Ross needs to be effective.

Remember when Georgia forced a fumble at Tennessee’s 1-yard line last season? (I know. You’ve tried to forget.)

Well, that was made possible by a beautiful punt that went out at the one.

Remember Maxim No. 6: Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.

➡️ WR Ramel Keyton

Don’t forget about the senior wide receiver.

Keyton played well for Tennessee last season after Cedric Tillman suffered his ankle injury against Akron.

Keyton made big catches (see the Florida and Alabama games) and was reliable on the outside.

Receivers Bru McCoy, Dont’e Thornton, and Squirrel White have commanded a lot of attention this offseason.

They probably deserve all of it.

But Keyton belongs in the same discussion.

Jayson Swain has mentioned on the show the extra work Keyton has put in this offseason.

Expect it to pay off this fall.

LATEST MILTON HYPE

Last week’s discussion of Joe Milton at SEC Media Days carried over to this week.

Andy Staples of On3 joined Josh and Swain not long after he and Jesse Simonton conducted a quarterback draft for the upcoming college football season.

In the second round, Staples selected Milton.

While admitting on our show that he might have made the pick a tad early, Staples’ point was made.

He sees a big year coming for Milton.

Staples pointed back to the way Milton performed in the Orange Bowl as a reason to be confident in Milton.

“He was making throws you wanted to see him make the entire time,” Staples said on Josh and Swain. “It just hadn’t come. If he can do that in that (Tennessee) offense, it’s pretty spectacular what he can achieve.”

VFL and former Tennessee linebacker Kevin Simon backed up Staples’ opinion on this week’s show.

Simon, a former director of player personnel for Tennessee, pointed to Milton’s maturity and growth after spending the last two years in the Vols’ program.

“I think he’s going to explode this year,” Simon said.

We’re close to the point where the talk doesn’t matter.

The team will open camp next week and begin playing games a month later.

That’s when Milton will have to prove the talk is real.

But the offseason talk around Milton, both from people on campus and away from Knoxville, has been positive.

Check out our entire conversation with Andy Staples, who weighed in on Tennessee-Florida and several opponents for the Vols this fall. ⬇️⬇️

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 Colorado made plans to return to the Big 12 official this week. Brett McMurphy has a report on other candidates that could join the Big 12 in 2024.

🏈 How will Tennessee replace its top two offensive linemen from last year? Here’s a look at the Vols’ plan.

🏈 Jeremy Pruitt will return to teach physical education at Plainview High School, his alma mater, in Rainsville, Ala.

🏈 Bengals QB Joe Burrow was carted off the practice field Thursday after suffering an apparent calf injury.

🏈 You won’t believe these quotes from Broncos head coach Sean Peyton, who didn’t hold back when talking about the franchise’s issues before he arrived.

🏀 The Tennessee basketball team is preparing for a trip to Italy. Freshman Freddie Dilione will be an important player to watch during the trip and when the team returns to Knoxville.

🏀 USC freshman Bronny James is home resting after he was treated for sudden cardiac arrest this week.

⚾ The MLB trade deadline is approaching. Here’s a power ranking to see where teams stand ahead of the deadline.

SHOW-HEI DOES IT AGAIN

No one should be surprised by Shohei Ohtani’s accomplishments at this point.

That doesn’t make them any less marvelous.

The Los Angeles Angels played a doubleheader on Thursday.

In Game 1, Ohtani pitched a complete-game shutout. He allowed one hit in the game.

Then came Game 2, in which Ohtani hit two home runs, extending his Major League lead to 38 home runs on the season. (The next closest is the Braves’ Matt Olson with 32 homers.)

According to ESPN, Ohtani became the first player in MLB history to throw a shutout in one half of a doubleheader and hit a homer — much less two — in the other.

Ohtani’s performance in the two games — both wins for the Angels — came shortly after the team let it be known they won’t trade their star player before the deadline.

Will this help the Angels keep Ohtani this off-season when he becomes a free agent?

That’s still a big ask. But there’s no replacing the star power he offers the organization.

Thursday was the latest reminder.

ONE LAST BYTE OUT THE DOOR

While football on the field is about to become the top story, recruiting hasn’t slowed down for Tennessee.

The Vols landed two commitments last week — five-star receiver Mike Matthews and four-star linebacker Edwin Spillman.

After missing on four-star cornerback Cai Bates on Wednesday (he chose LSU), Tennessee hopes to pick back up the momentum.

Offensive lineman Bennett Warren will announce his decision on Monday.

The four-star prospect from Sugar Land, Texas, is considering Tennessee, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

It looks like a Tennessee-Michigan battle.

Warren (6-7, 330) would be a big get for Tennessee, both literally and figuratively.

The Vols are also set to host wide receiver Amari Jefferson this weekend.

The four-star receiver from Chattanooga will also visit Alabama before announcing his decision on Aug. 5.

Check out our latest conversation with Austin Price of Volquest to hear his thoughts on Tennessee’s two new commitments and where the Vols stand with Warren, Jefferson, and other top prospects they’re pursuing.

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