🏈 Why Tennessee's hires make sense

The new look college football

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:

  • What Tennessee needs from its two football assistant coaches

  • The College Football Playoff will expand… and could expand again?!

  • Tennessee basketball is in prime position entering the final stretch

  • Hop in a time machine to travel back to the sporting event of your choice

JOSH HEUPEL’S SWIFT COACHING HIRES

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel moved quickly this week to fill his two assistant coaching vacancies.

📰 THE HIRES:

◼️ Running backs coach De’Rail Sims
◼️ Linebackers coach William Inge

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said this about Sims in a statement released by Tennessee:

We are excited to welcome De’Rail, his wife Lauren and his daughters Amayah and Alivia into the Tennessee football family. De’Rail is an exceptionally bright coach with a track record of developing outstanding running back rooms and building relationships with his players.

Our run game has been vital to who we are as a program, and I expect him to make a seamless transition in helping us continue that success. De’Rail also has the experience and knowledge of our recruiting footprint surrounding Tennessee. We look forward to him making an impact in our recruiting efforts.”

That last part about Sims is a key detail.

His coaching will matter, especially with a young group of running backs who need to develop.

But Tennessee needs someone who can recruiting — and is willing to put the work in with all that’s required in today’s college football.

VFL Jayson Swain noted the same thing on this week’s show:

“You need a new flavor. You need a new type of assistant coach to be able to thrive in this type of college football. I think Josh Heupel understands that. I think JH had that in mind when he went out and made these hires.”

Swain pointed to the need for a coach who understands how to connect with recruits.

Tennessee expects Sims to do that.

Sims also helped produce the No. 6 rushing offense in the nation last season at Cincinnati. Not bad.

Tennessee expects Inge to be able to recruit as well as develop a group of linebackers that includes exciting second-year players Arion Carter and Jeremiah Telander.

🗣️ Heupel on Inge:

“William is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable linebacker coaches in the country. He has a proven resume of success and understands what it takes to compete for championships on the defensive side of the ball.

William is also a great family man, and I know our players and coaches will enjoy working with him. We are excited to welcome his family to Rocky Top.”

Inge arrives at Tennessee after serving as a co-defensive coordinator at Washington last season.

He had planned to join Kaleb DeBoer’s staff at Alabama but changed his mind in favor of Tennessee — something a lot of UT fans took joy in this week.

How will these hires work out for Tennessee?

We’ll get a better idea when we see their position groups on the field this fall.

But the Vols appear to have found what they need from both hires.

We spent more time discussing the hire of Tennessee’s two new assistant coaches on Tuesday’s show. Check out the full segment below. ⬇️⬇️

THE NEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock

We have an official format for the new 12-team College Football Playoff.

The new-look playoff will use a 5+7 format.

Here are some main details to know:

• The five highest-ranked conference champs will automatically qualify for the CFP
• The four highest-ranked conference champs will receive a bye in the first round
• Teams seeded 5-8 will host first-round games on their college campuses
• The CFP will move to neutral bowl sites starting with the quarterfinal round
• The selection committee will determine the seven at-large bids
• There’s no limit on how many at-large bids one conference can receive

The move to give the top four spots to conference champs should end any debate about whether teams will care about winning their conference title.

If a team can advance to the second round with a conference championship… they’ll go all-out for it.

This format also means Notre Dame will be unable to earn a first-round bye.

The Fighting Irish could host in the first round — but a 12-0 record would leave them as a No. 5 seed at best.

So we finally have some order in the College Football Playoff.

The playoff committee met in Dallas this week and discussed the idea of expanding the playoff again in 2026.

The idea would be for the playoff to expand from 12 to 14 teams.

Nothing is official here, but ESPN reported “there was momentum” around the idea, according to sources.

So the new playoff format is set.

And it might change again within the next three years.

What do you think of the CFB format now? And what’s your preferred number of playoff teams?

We discussed that subject with college football writer David Ubben from The Athletic. Watch below ⬇️ or listen anywhere you get your podcasts.

FIVE SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 The college football early signing period could move to early December, so about two weeks earlier than it’s current setup.

🏈 Greg McElroy believes Nico Iamaleava is “the answer” for Tennessee and explained why Nico can do to improve.

🏈 Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will be on the call in the new EA Sports College Football video game. Here are other things to know about the game.

🏀 Sam Vecenie of The Athletic put Dalton Knecht at No. 10 in his latest NBA mock draft. Tennessee has only had two top-10 picks in school history.

⚾ Allan Bell of Driving The Line told us why he likes the start for Tennessee baseball and how UT coach Tony Vitello has ruffled feathers in Nashville.

✉️ Enjoying the newsletter? We’d appreciate you forwarding it to anyone you think might like it, too.

TENNESSEE’S REVENGE GAME

Tennessee will try to pay Texas A&M back this weekend

Tennessee’s basketball team will return home for a “Checker” game against Texas A&M on Saturday.

📍 Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center
📅 Saturday, Feb. 24
8:00 p.m. ET
📺 ESPN
📻 99.1 The Sports Animal/WIVK

Things could have gone better for Tennessee the last time UT saw Texas A&M.

The Aggies beat Tennessee 85-69 on Feb. 10.

It was an ugly showing from the Vols.

Texas A&M jumped out to an early lead and dominated Tennessee from there.

Andersson Garcia from Texas A&M grabbed 17 (!!) rebounds against Tennessee.

That was not the physical style of play we expect from the Vols.

Saturday should be different.

Texas A&M will come to town on a cold streak — the Aggies are 0-3 since beating Tennessee, with two of the losses to Vanderbilt and Arkansas and the other loss to Alabama by 25 points.

Tennessee remembers what happened in College Station.

Dalton Knecht had a tough game that night.

He finished with 22 points but struggled shooting the ball.

Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka — both guys coming off strong performances at Missouri — should be highly motivated after Garcia’s performance two weeks ago.

Tennessee also has a lot to play for.

The Vols are one game behind Alabama in the SEC regular season title race.

And a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is still within reach for the Vols.

You know how the weekly talk of “there’s a long way to go” until we get to March?

That long wait is almost over.

It’s time for the Vols to kick it into high gear.

➡️ One other note for Saturday:

A win over Texas A&M would give Rick Barnes his 800th career win.

Only 15 other coaches have won that many career games.

Barnes has had an incredible run in his career — and that includes his accomplishments at Tennessee.

WHICH EVENT WOULD YOU ATTEND?

“Do you believe in Miracles?”

Thursday was the 44th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice” when the United States upset the Soviet Union 4-3 in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports asked this question:

What is one sporting event you wish you could travel back to attend?

You might choose a Tennessee event here.

Or a historical event that you’d love to say you were part of (the Miracle On Ice being an example).

I’ll offer a few candidates:

◼️ The 1999 Fiesta Bowl

For everyone who was unable to attend, seeing Tennessee’s win over Florida State for the national title is sure to make the list.

◼️ 1998 NBA Finals Game 6

Saying you attended Michael Jordan’s last game as a Bull would be cool, especially with him hitting his last shot as a Bull to win his sixth title.

◼️ The Ice Bowl

It might not be the most enjoyable game to attend, but you could always say you were there for the famous 1967 NFL Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field.

◼️ 1983 NCAA Tournament Championship Game

NC State’s improbable win over Houston will be talked about forever.

And the Lorenzo Charles dunk, followed by total chaos on the court, made it a legendary sports moment.

◼️ The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”

Bobby Thomson’s 1951 home run for the New York Giants led to this famous call:

The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!

Isn’t it funny how the broadcast call so often affects how we remember a moment?

ONE MORE BEFORE WE GO

Does this make you believe… or make you a little worried?

No wrong answers.

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