- Josh and Swain Newsletter
- 🏈 Tennessee football and a crazy December
🏈 Tennessee football and a crazy December
Tennessee's next step toward 2024
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 college football’s crazy month will affect Tennessee
Where the Vols stand with their most important recruiting target
What happened to Tennessee basketball the last two weeks?
A reminder on Joe Milton III and his NFL future
BACK TO A CRAZY DECEMBER IN CFB
Get ready for a wild month in college football.
The end of the college football regular season means it’s time for coaching changes, transfer portal entry, and finishing touches on a recruiting class.
All in 3-4 weeks.
It shouldn’t be too crazy for Tennessee.
That’s because UT’s program is in solid shape with reliable leadership.
(Time travel back to 2020 and read that sentence to yourself.)
So how important are the above-mentioned topics expected to be for Tennessee?
1️⃣ It remains to be seen if any changes occur within Josh Heupel’s coaching staff.
2️⃣ Tennessee has a few recruiting names on the board. The biggest — literally and figuratively — is five-star offensive tackle Jordan Seaton.
3️⃣ The transfer portal might be the biggest area to watch.
Tennessee’s staff is in monitor-and-see mode with the portal.
Coaches will see which players make themselves available, evaluate those players, and then see if there’s a connection with players they’d like to pursue.
There’s also the question of need.
Several seniors from the 2023 team have a remaining year of eligibility from the 2020 COVID season.
How many players will use that year?
And how many players that want to use that year will be wanted by Tennessee?
The Vols will only have so many roster spots available next year.
Here’s a list of some (not all) players who have eligibility and are worth watching to see if they return:
◼️ C Cooper Mays
◼️ OL Javontez Spraggins
◼️ OL John Campbell Jr.
◼️ WR Bru McCoy
◼️ LB Keenan Pili
◼️ DL Omari Thomas
◼️ DL Omarr Norman-Lott
Every player will have a different list of reasons to decide whether to return to college or move on.
As Austin Price of Volquest said on this week’s show, Tennessee’s coaches need to decide how many players they’d welcome back.
Josh Heupel and his staff will work on figuring out roster plans for 2024 over the next few weeks.
No player is on the same timeline for a decision.
But the Vols are in a better position than a lot of schools that are trying to navigate toward next year.
NC State coach Dave Doeren, whose team just finished a 9-3 regular season, called this week “maybe the worst week in college football.”
Tennessee also knows who its starting quarterback will be in 2024.
While the Vols are prepping Nico Iamaleava to take over, many schools are searching the portal for their next QB.
And the price to acquire is high: Nebraska coach Matt Rhule said Wednesday that a good college quarterback costs $1-2 million (in NIL money, he meant to say…).
We’re a ways off from knowing exactly what Tennessee’s 2024 roster will look like.
So enjoy the ride of finding out.
Just expect a few bumps along the way.
THE LATEST WITH SEATON
Back to Jordan Seaton.
Do the Vols have a real shot at one of the nation’s top two offensive tackles, according to every major recruiting service?
Austin Price believes so.
“I think Tennessee’s in a really good spot here,” he said. “They’ve done as well as they possibly can do. That doesn’t mean you land the kid.”
The Vols face major competition to land Seaton.
There’s also the unknown of his next steps before making a decision.
Will he take another visit to Oregon?
Ohio State is making a strong push.
“I would be shocked if something doesn’t pop up,” Price said regarding Seaton’s travel schedule.
Seaton has kept seven schools on his list.
All of them don’t have an equal chance, of course.
But it’s difficult to overstate the importance of landing Seaton.
Tennessee has a big question mark at its tackle positions for next season and beyond.
Seaton would have a chance to start right away.
He’s also the kind of player that championship programs covet.
The Alabama-Georgia game will feature several Seaton-like players on Saturday.
Not a big follower of recruiting?
But Seaton’s recruitment will be worth following before the Dec. 20 signing day.
🏈 Ryan McGee writes why we should expect the most awkward CFB championship weekend ever.
🏈 Tennessee’s most popular bowl projection is to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on Dec. 29.
🏈 Here’s a list of the top 10 quarterbacks in the transfer portal.
🏈 Dak Prescott continues to dominate as the Cowboys won again on Thursday, 41-35 over Seattle.
🏈 Our attaboy from Thursday: Utah State QB Levi Williams will skip his last year of eligibility to apply for Navy SEAL training.
💰 Tennessee hired former Auburn AD Allen Greene as Senior Deputy Athletics Director for Tennessee Athletics.
🏀 Memphis guard Mikey Williams hopes to return to the court after pleading guilty to a felony charge of making criminal threats.
💔 The great Charlie Munger passed away this week at age 99. Here are 44 memorable quotes about his life and the markets.
LATEST STUMBLE FOR TENNESSEE HOOPS
Dalton Knecht was on fire at UNC
Tennessee’s basketball game at North Carolina on Wednesday could have gone better.
Not only did the Vols give up 100 points (61 in the first half!).
The Vols also saw their top scorer suffer an injury late in the game, which adds to Tennessee’s questions moving forward.
Dalton Knecht rolled his ankle as he was one point away from setting an opponent scoring record in the Smith Center.
It’s unknown what kind of recovery Knecht is looking at right now.
What we do know is he’s a difference-maker on the offensive end of the floor.
If he has to miss time, other players have to step up.
The good news there: Tennessee has options.
Two-time All-SEC guard Santiago Vescovi went scoreless while attempting only one shot at UNC.
The Vols still scored 92 points despite Vescovi’s struggles.
Jordan Gainey shot 1-of-9 from three.
He’s better than that and will be moving forward.
Tennessee is also working on chemistry and point guard Zakai Zeigler is working his way back, physically and mentally, from his offseason knee rehab.
But there’s no denying the last three games have caused concern.
Tennessee’s post presence is a big question.
The Vols missed Tobe Awaka on Wednesday.
Freshman JP Estrella and Cade Phillips have big potential.
But they are freshmen and could be tough to rely on.
The way Tennessee came out in the first half was alarming.
That was the response after losing consecutive games in the Maui Invitational?
There’s a qualifier that would have been stated whether Tennessee had won or lost the last three games:
It’s early and there’s a long way to go.
All the reasons that national writers picked Tennessee to reach the Final Four still exist.
And here’s a positive spin: the last three games should ensure Tennessee’s players don’t get the big head from all the national love.
Tennessee will return home to play George Mason on Tuesday.
Here’s a good chance to get some things right.
The road to March continues.
JOE MILTON’S NEXT BIG OPPORTUNITY
Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III received a big honor on Thursday.
He’s headed to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Big congrats to Joe Milton for earning a @seniorbowl invite!
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football)
Nov 30, 2023
Milton didn’t have the senior season he or anyone else hoped he would back in August.
He flashed his talent at times and finished the regular season with a strong performance, albeit against Vanderbilt.
There’s no denying Milton’s physical skills.
That's why he’s headed to the Senior Bowl, which will create a huge opportunity for Milton in front of a countless number of NFL executives and coaches in February.
They’ll be eager to see Milton throw knowing all about his arm strength.
Physically, he’s so impressive that he’s sure to wow NFL folks.
Remember Cole Cubelic’s story from Milton planning to throw at last year’s Pro Day at Tennessee?
NFL teams couldn’t wait to see Milton last year.
That intrigue still exists.
Milton might not be done at Tennessee.
The Vols will find out their bowl destination on Sunday, and right now it sounds like Milton plans to play in it.
He mentioned “one more” at his press conference following the Vandy game.
We’ll see where Milton’s draft stock ends up.
But make no mistake: Milton is very much on the NFL radar.
The Senior Bowl reminded everyone of that this week.
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