🏀 Tennessee keeps making moves

All Vol sports are humming

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 Basketball’s big moves in the transfer portal

  • The next Tennessee Vols to be selected in the NFL Draft

  • The incredible offense of Tony Vitello’s Tennessee baseball team

  • A big commitment for Josh Heupel’s Tennessee offense

AS TENNESSEE’S BASKETBALL WORLD TURNS

Felix Okpara (No. 0) will help rebuild Tennessee’s front court (📷 via Volquest)

Tennessee basketball has had what looks like a successful week in the transfer portal. 

We’ll use the term “looks” right now because some i’s and t’s need to be dotted and crossed. 

To begin, the Vols landed Felix Okpara from on Wednesday. 

The Ohio State center was a defensive presence last year, blocking 2.4 shots a game averaging just under 24 minutes. 

He averaged 6.6 points and 6.4 rebounds. 

Can he increase those numbers at Tennessee this fall?

The Vols also appear to be in great shape with Igor Milicic Jr., a 6-foot-10 forward from Charlotte. 

Milicic is a true stretch power forward — he shot nearly five threes a game last season at a 37.6-percent rate. 

If Milicic joins Tennessee, he would be the Vols’ first big man with proven outside shooting under Barnes. 

So who else might join the team?

Hofstra transfer Darlinstone Dubar is already on board; he signed to help the Vols on the wing last week.

Most of the attention will turn to Chaz Lanier from North Florida. 

The 6-4 shooting guard had entered the NBA Draft, but he put his name into the portal earlier this week. 

As soon as reports came out that Lanier would enter the portal, Tennessee’s name came up immediately. 

He went to Ensworth School in Nashville and would fit in well at Tennessee.

Lanier can fill it up — he scored 19.7 points a game shooting 44 percent from three… while attempting seven threes a game!

Belmont transfer Cade Tyson remains an option while North Carolina remains the favorite to land him.

As for Tobe Awaka?

The expected addition of Milicic combined with Okpara would make it appear that ship has sailed.

Awaka visited Arizona earlier this week and has several other options.

Meanwhile, Freddie Dilione V landed at Penn State and Jonas Aidoo has a reported list of Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor and North Carolina (Kentucky has also been mentioned).

Tennessee will have a brand new look for the 2024-25 season — and serious competition for several starting positions.

Will the team be better next year?

That will be a fun conversation to have once the roster is complete and the work for next season begins.

WRIGHT’S TURN IN THE NFL

Jaylen Wright should have an NFL home by tonight

The first round of the NFL Draft came and went Thursday night without any Tennessee players being selected.

That’s no surprise — no Vol was projected to go in the first round.

That story should change tonight.

Running back Jaylen Wright is projected as a Day Two pick with the second and third rounds taking place on Friday.

Where might Wright land?

It’s difficult to say because of the competition of the position and the numbers of teams that can use help at running back.

(No running back was selected in the first round of the draft.)

Wright has plenty to offer NFL teams.

He has high-end speed (4.38 40 at the NFL Combine) with good size (210 pounds) and just ran for more than 1,000 yards as a junior at Tennessee.

His home-run ability (see the 75-yard touchdown run against Georgia) will be attractive to any NFL team looking for a running back.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Wright as the No. 4 running back in the draft and included Wright on his list of favorite prospects.

*️⃣ Other Vols to watch in the draft *️⃣

🟠 QB Joe Milton III

What's the best landing spot for Milton?

Our opinion on Josh and Swain: a team that won’t need Milton to play any time soon and has a coach with a proven track record developing quarterbacks.

Swain mentioned the LA Rams because of coach Sean McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford, a strong-armed quarterback that would be good for Milton to learn from.

Milton improved from the time he arrived at Tennessee to when he finished.

But he still has plenty of work to do to play at a high level in the NFL.

Milton is projected as a late-round pick.

But as you've probably heard before… it only takes one team to grab him earlier than expected.

CB Kamal Hadden

Hadden ranks No. 20 on Kiper’s list of cornerback prospects.

Hadden had some rough moments at Tennessee (no need to bring up the missed tackles against Florida).

But he also shined at times and showed playmaking ability, like his pick-six against South Carolina last fall.

Hadden earned Pro Football Focus’s highest grade in single coverage among all FBS cornerbacks in 2023.

He’ll get a shot in the NFL.

🟠 TE McCallan Castles

Castles missed out on an NFL Combine invitation but impressed teams during Tennessee’s Pro Day.

Castles is the No. 17 tight end in Kiper’s rankings and will have a chance to get drafted.

If he goes undrafted, he’ll have no trouble finding an opportunity as a free agent.

Here’s a slightly crazy stat: Castles is trying to become the first Tennessee tight end drafted since Mychal Rivera in 2013.

That’s likely it for Tennessee players with a shot at the draft.

But other players will have opportunities as free agents.

Players like Jabari Small at running back, Ramel Keyton at wide receiver, Jacob Warren at tight end and Gabe Jeudy-Lally at cornerback should receive calls from NFL teams.

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 Here are some pros and cons for each pick from the first round of the draft.

🏈 What’s the best landing spot for QB Joe Milton III in the NFL? NFL analyst and VFL Charles Davis offered up the ideal franchise type.

🏈 Ross Dellenger wrote a detailed story on the new College Football Playoff format and how it came to be.

🏈 The most confusing pick from the first round of the NFL Draft: the falcons taking QB Michael Penix Jr. after signing Kirk Cousins to an expensive contract.

🏀 Rick Barnes’ work in the transfer portal has impressed Gary Parrish of CBS Sports.

📈 Here’s a look at where Tennessee teams rank this spring. The Vols’ “everything school” claim has credibility.

ESPN takes a look at every MLB team after the first month of the season.

TENNESSEE’S POWER SURGE

Christian Moore keeps hitting home runs

Tennessee’s baseball team is one win away from a sixth straight series victory in SEC play.

The Vols took care of Missouri 10-1 on Thursday night.

Tennessee’s goal is to sweep — this is Tony Vitello against his alma mater we’re talking about.

But the Vols are in a great position to win the series, which would help in their goal to host in the NCAA Regional and Super Regional during the postseason.

Tennessee’s lineup is on a tear right now.

The Vols belted six more home runs on Thursday night and lead the nation with 121 homers on the season.

No surprise: the Vols also lead the nation in runs scored and slugging percentage.

Tennessee ranks No. 3 in the country thanks to their recent success, which includes a road series win at Kentucky and sweep of LSU.

“One through nine, they can all go,” Allan Bell of Driving The Line told us Thursday. “They go from three runs to 12 runs like that. If they keep the arms good to go throughout a game, they’re almost tough to beat.”

It’s been more than a month since anyone from the SEC beat Tennessee twice in three games.

Good luck to Missouri trying to break that trend.

TENNESSEE’S BIG IN-STATE CATCH

Radarious Jackson is Tennessee’s latest commit

Tennessee received good news earlier this week when wide receiver Radarious Jackson from Memphis committed to Tennessee.

The four-star prospect from Memphis is the fourth in-state player to commit to Tennessee’s 2025 class.

Jackson was a big-time target of the Vols — and he seemed to notice.

Jackson had planned to wait until the summertime to make a decision.

But he decided Tennessee was the choice and wanted to go ahead and announce it.

News that excited fellow in-state commit George MacIntyre, a five-star quarterback.

MacIntyre said he wanted to help Tennessee build a big-time class after he committed to the Vols in January.

The in-state results have been solid so far.

In addition to Jackson, Tennessee has landed four-star defensive lineman Ethan Utley from Nashville and three-star receiver Joakim Dodson from Collierville.

There’s a long way to go until this class signs in December.

Tennessee will need to add some big-time offensive linemen (they have several on the board) to make sure MacIntyre is protected.

But the Vols are in good shape — both with in-state prospects and elsewhere — as they prepare for a big spring and summer run on the recruiting trail.

FINAL PUSH FOR LLS

We’re in the final week of our fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

A reminder of some things LLS does:

• fund research to help fight blood cancers (and other forms)
• support cancer patients and their families
• advocate on behalf of — and with — blood cancer patients and their families to make change that will address the serious burdens of these diseases

If you’re still interested in helping LLS, here’s a link to the fundraising campaign.

Also, sharing the link to anyone you think would be interested in making a donation would be greatly appreciated.

The QR Code below will also take you directly to our fundraising page.

Thank you again.

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