🏈 Tennessee Football's return to the top

Can the Vols take the next step?

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:

  • Hear from a leader of Tennessee Football’s resurgence

  • An unexpected move within Tennessee’s basketball roster

  • Tennessee baseball stat that you might not believe

  • The next recruit to watch on the Tennessee Football board

PERSPECTIVE FROM TENNESSEE’S RISE

Do you remember what kind of shape Tennessee football was in just 24 months ago?

Jerome Carvin does.

“We were the laughing stock of college football,” he said this week on Josh and Swain.

Now?

Tennessee is one of the hottest teams in college football.

The Vols have 20 total wins in the last two seasons.

Carvin, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, was a big part of the turnaround.

He started 49 games during his time at Tennessee and served an important leadership role in the program.

All of that was to help Tennessee football return to a prominent position.

“When I was a freshman to now, my ultimate goal was to leave Tennessee better than I found it. I’m glad to say I ended up accomplshing that. It wasn’t easy. It was very hard. We’re playing in the toughest conference in the country. We’ve got the toughest schedule every year. And it should be like that every year. … Now, we’re a force to be reckoned with in the SEC. It should be like that. It’s been like that before. Now, we’ve got it back on the track.

It means a lot. It means a lot to everybody in the state of Tennessee. They’ve got something to root for. Ballgames are fun. You go out there and have fun at Neyland and ball out and go against the best in the country. And represent our state — defend our state.”

Players like Carvin, a native of Cordova Tenn., helped Tennessee return to the position fans have been waiting on for more than a decade.

The next step will be to maintain position and build on it toward competing for championships.

SEC Media Days will start on Monday in Nashville. Tennessee will arrive on the fourth and final day with plenty of buzz.

The Vols will send head coach Josh Heupel and three senior players: QB Joe Milton III, DL Omari Thomas, and TE Jacob Warren.

A lot of the talk with Tennessee will involve Milton’s return to the starting position and the Vols’ attempt to catch Georgia in the SEC East.

Can Tennessee repeat last year’s success?

Carvin believes so. And he expects them to do so.

“Now it’s those guys’ time to step up and keep things rolling,” he said.

Check out our conversation below with Carvin, who explained why the offensive line should be fine without him and Darnell Wright.

Carvin also told us about a defensive lineman that he expects to have a breakout season for the Vols. ⬇️⬇️

LEDLUM RE-TRANSFERS FROM TENNESSEE

Surprising news broke on Thursday morning: forward Chris Ledlum has decided to transfer from Tennessee.

This news came after Ledlum transferred to Tennessee earlier this offseason.

Ledlum arrived from Harvard after averaging 18.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game last season.

He was expected to help Tennessee’s frontcourt, potentially starting at power forward.

Head coach Rick Barnes spoke positively about Ledlum just earlier this week.

But a few factors likely led to his departure:

➡️ Josiah-Jordan James made a surprise return to the team this offseason and will see time at the 4 position.
➡️ Tobe Awaka had a big showing for USA’s U19 team and could affect Ledlum’s minutes.
➡️ Ledlum has dealt with an injury recently and wasn’t going to join Tennessee on its upcoming trip to Italy.

So Ledlum decided to return home to New York to decide on his next destination.

There’s talk of a transfer to St. John’s.

What’s the impact of Ledlum’s departure on Tennessee?

It could be minimal… if the Vols stay healthy.

It’s hard to believe Ledlum would have chosen the Vols had he known James was going to return to the program.

Ledlum leaving can help solve a minutes problem Barnes would have run into late in games this upcoming season.

We will see a heavy rotation of James, Awaka, and Jonas Aidoo at the 4 and 5 positions.

Freshman big man JP Estrella could also see more playing time.

Here’s one concern: an injury could create challenges for Tennessee’s depth in the post.

James has dealt with injuries at Tennessee; he missed a good chunk of games last season.

His health late in the season could prove critical.

Tennessee still has a full roster with a bunch of talent.

There’s a lot of positive talk about point guard Zakai Ziegler’s rehab from his torn ACL. (No one should be surprised to hear Zeigler has worked tirelessly to return.)

So nothing changes regarding Tennessee’s high expectations for the upcoming year.

Ledlum re-transferring just offers a reminder to never hit the snooze button during a college offseason break.

We covered more of the Ledlum transfer news and Tennessee’s basketball roster with Grant Ramey of Volquest on Josh and Swain.

Check out the interview below (or anywhere you listen to podcasts). ⬇️⬇️

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 Which conferences have the best shot at landing two CFB Playoff spots this fall? ESPN has its list here (see if Tennessee made the mentions).

🏈 CBS Sports has its annual hot seat rankings for college football. Tennessee’s Josh Heupel is quite safe.

🏈 Who are the best SEC quarterbacks entering the 2023 season? Brad Crawford offered his list for 247Sports.

🏀 VFL Julian Phillips got a BIG DEAL with the Chicago Bulls. The 35th overall pick has played well so far in the NBA Summer League.

🎧 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s radio interview came to an abrupt ending earlier this week.

❣️ What a moment at the ESPYS: Damar Hamlin presents the Pat Tillman Award to the Bills training staff.

STAT TO MAKE YOU SAY ‘WOW’

Tennessee had eight players selected in this week’s Major League Baseball draft.

The run started with pitcher Chase Dollander going ninth overall to the Colorado Rockies.

How big of a deal is that?

Check out this stat from Tennessee Baseball.

Another reminder of Tennessee’s turnaround under coach Tony Vitello.

The Vols project as a top-5 team for next season (maybe No. 1). And that will lead to a bunch of guys getting drafted next summer.

ONE LAST BYTE OUT THE DOOR

Tennessee will hope to receive good news when running back Braylen Russell announces his commitment on Friday night (7:45 ET, CBS Sports HQ).

It’s Tennessee vs Arkansas for Russell, a four-star running back from Benton, Ark.

Can Tennessee pull Russell away from his home state?

The Vols hope so as his size (6-1, 230) would add the kind of power Tennessee has been searching for in the backfield.

More prospects will announce their decisions in the upcoming weeks.

Linebacker Edwin Spillman from Nashville will choose between Tennessee and Ohio State on Friday, July 21.

The Vols appear to have the upper hand with Spillman. His brother Nate Spillman is a freshman receiver at Tennessee.

Want the latest details on Tennessee football recruiting?

Check out this week’s conversation with Austin Price. ⬇️⬇️

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