🏈 Tennessee's next (expected) addition

The Vols are close to adding much-needed help

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:

  • The long-awaited decision from Tennessee’s top target should be near

  • The Nick Saban-less effect on Alabama… and how Tennessee can benefit

  • Dalton Knecht has been on 🔥🔥 for Tennessee basketball

  • A huge opportunity for a former Tennessee football player

BIG NEWS COMING SOON FOR TENNESSEE

Help for Tennessee’s O-line should be on the way

If you follow Tennessee football on a daily basis, you’ve probably read about the Vols’ top target in the transfer portal.

And if you listen to any shows discussing Tennessee, you’ve probably heard enough puns to roll your eyes on over to another show.

We’re talking about Lance Heard, the offensive tackle who has decided to transfer from LSU.

He visited Tennessee earlier this month with the top competition reportedly being Oklahoma.

After Heard’s visit to Tennessee, he said, well, nothing about the trip.

In fact, he hasn’t said anything at all publicly since entering the transfer portal.

So what’s the deal?

There doesn’t seem to be much to it.

All indications are Heard is working out matters behind the scenes.

Meaning his NIL agreement.

But the full expectation is Heard will transfer to Tennessee to play offensive tackle next season.

“I would be shocked if Lance Heard is not in a Tennessee uniform in the fall,” Volquest’s Austin Price said on Josh and Swain on Wednesday.

That would be great news for Tennessee.

The Vols have a big need at offensive tackle, as we discussed in last week’s newsletter, and Heard should help right away.

How much help could Heard provide?

Matt Moscona of ESPN Baton Rouge joined the show on Thursday to provide more perspective on Heard, who was a five-star prospect in the 2023 class and served as a backup tackle for LSU in the fall.

“You can project him as an NFL offensive lineman,” Moscona said. “He is a really good player.”

Moscona said he’d be surprised if Heard doesn’t start right away for Tennessee.

And Moscona is right — the Vols would absolutely bring in Heard to start in 2024.

“He is a giant, physical dude,” Moscona said of Heard.

Fights would break out in practice due to Heard playing through the whistle, according to Moscona.

That’s the type of mindset Tennessee needs, especially on the offensive line.

“Yeah, if Tennessee gets Heard, they’re getting an immediate starting offensive lineman,” Moscona said.

Heard still has to prove himself as an SEC starter.

Expect Tennessee to give him that chance this fall.

Check out more of our conversation with Matt Moscona, who explained why Heard left LSU after one season in Baton Rouge. ⬇️⬇️

ALABAMA’S DECLINE

Kalen DeBoer has a big opportunity with a lot of pressure

The college football world outside of Tuscaloosa, Ala., had a lot of fun at Alabama’s expense this week.

We knew players would leave after Nick Saban announced his retirement.

But we didn’t know who exactly would depart.

On Wednesday, two of Alabama’s most talented freshmen from the 2023 team decided to enter the transfer portal.

➡️ Safety Caleb Downs
➡️ Left Tackle Kadyn Proctor

Downs could be a top-10 pick when he’s eligible for the 2026 NFL Draft.

And Proctor started all season at left tackle for the Crimson Tide.

Those kinds of players are difficult for any program to replace, even Alabama.

And that’s why opposing fans have been happy to celebrate the hit to Bama’s roster.

The Crimson Tide have dominated the player acquisition game for close to 17 years with Saban as the head coach.

Now Alabama is tasting some of the pain every other fanbase has had to experience at some point since Saban returned to the SEC.

But I will offer some caution.

While Alabama is going through a tough time and expectations in Tuscaloosa will drop without Saban, this doesn’t mean Alabama will disappear as a contender.

New coach Kalen DeBoer is still one of the most respected head coaches in the country, and he’s assembling a coaching staff that looks impressive.

Alabama will also have a chance to acquire more players — and the guys who have decided to stick around during the transition aren’t so bad, either.

But the playing field appears more even than it has for a long time.

And it has been a long time since the rest of the SEC felt like it was on an even playing field against Alabama.

That’s why it’s important to take advantage of the opportunity.

You know Georgia will (the Bulldogs are the favorites to land Downs…).

Will Tennessee?

One Josh and Swain listener asked on Thursday if Tennessee should expect to beat Alabama in recruiting in 2025.

Our response: Sure, that should be Tennessee’s expectation.

But also not to freak out if Alabama ends up a few spots higher in a recruiting ranking.

The Vols are close to landing 2025 quarterback George MacIntrye (ahead of Alabama, in fact) and have momentum with next year’s recruiting class.

What happens on the field in the fall will affect recruiting.

That goes for both Tennessee and the Vols’ SEC competition.

But Saban is gone and the opportunity to win is greater for Tennessee moving forward.

It’s time to take advantage.

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 More fun ahead as the U.S. Department of Justice joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging the NCAA’s transfer restrictions.

🏈 Here’s a big preview to get ready for the second round of the NFL playoffs.

🏈 “Buy into us.” That was the message from Mike McCarthy as he discussed the Dallas Cowboys’ disappointing end to the season.

🏈 Not a typo: Miami Hurricanes TE Cam McCormick will return to school for a ninth season.

💰 It was a VERY GOOD year for Tennessee athletics in the revenue department.

🏀 Dalton Knecht is on a historic scoring run. This link has a few stats that will blow your mind.

🏀 It’s never too early for some Bracketology. Here’s a look at where the men’s field stands as of today.

📺 Amazon and Diamond Sports Group entered a partnership that could send local MLB, NBA and NHL broadcasts to Prime Video. Here’s more info on what the deal means.

DALTON KNECHTS WITH UT FANS

It feels like Dalton Knecht can’t miss right now.

Tennessee’s leading scorer is on a tear… and that’s putting it mildly.

Knecht broke out of a mini slump last week by scoring 28 points in Tennessee’s loss at Mississippi State.

He followed that up with 36 points in Tennessee’s comeback win at Georgia on Saturday.

Then came Tuesday, when Knecht dropped 39 points at home in the Vols’ blowout win over Florida.

A player putting up those performances over a three- or four-year career would be incredible.

Knecht did all of that in the span of seven days!

Knecht has given Tennessee the kind of offensive weapon it has lacked in recent years.

Heck, few teams ever come across a player with Knecht’s scoring ability.

So what will it mean for the season?

ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes said during the Tennessee-Florida broadcast on Tuesday that it should change the way we discuss the Vols’ postseason potential.

“Dalton Knecht should make everybody feel different about Tennessee come March. … He changes, at least in my eyes, how I view Tennessee in that NCAA Tournament this year.”

Is it too early to make that kind of statement?

Perhaps, but that’s just because of how college basketball works.

We don’t know what will happen for Tennessee or any other team between now and March.

But the absence of a go-to bucket getter the last couple of years has been corrected by the arrival of Knecht.

Let’s see how the rest of the team responds along the way.

Jonas Aidoo has played at a high level.

He and Knecht created a challenging one-two attack against the Gators on Tuesday.

Zakai Zeigler is back to form and came make plays as both a distributor and scorer.

And while the offensive numbers from super seniors Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi have taken a major hit in the last two weeks, Rick Barnes praised their unselfishness after the Florida game.

“They’re going to go out as some of the winning players here at Tennessee,” Barnes said of James and Vescovi.

That’s what matters most to Tennessee — and Tennessee fans.

Winning.

This Saturday will offer Tennessee a big test.

Alabama comes to town for a key SEC matchup.

📍 Food City Center
📅 Saturday, Jan. 20
2:00 p.m. ET
📺 ESPN2
📻 99.1 The Sports Animal/WIVK

And Tennessee is making it a big deal.

The Vols have called for an Orange Out against Nate Oats’ team, which has a 4-0 record in SEC play.

This will be Alabama’s toughest SEC game to date, although the Crimson Tide do have a road win at Mississippi State — the same place Tennessee suffered its lone SEC loss.

VFL Ron Slay predicted a 2-0 week for Tennessee when he joined us on Tuesday.

Our friend KenPom projects the same: he has the Vols by four over Alabama.

We’ll find out ourselves this weekend.

And all eyes will be on Knecht to see what he can do next.

MAYO’S BIG OPPORTUNITY

Jerod Mayo: Tennessee’s first former football player to become an NFL head coach

Jerod Mayo officially took over as the head coach of the New England Patriots this week.

Mayo has a big challenge on his hand: he has to replace one of the best coaches in the history of football.

No coach outranks Bill Belichick when it comes to his accomplishments in New England.

Mayo also knows that.

He played and coached for Belichick and knows what New England expects.

And Mayo, a former standout linebacker at Tennessee, will expect a lot out of others.

“This is no surprise for anyone who knows Mayo,” Jayson Swain, Mayo’s former teammate, said on our show. “Dude was about his business from Day One — from the moment I met him when he was a senior in high school on his official visit. I’m not surprised at all. But I’m happy for him.”

Tennessee fans should be, too.

This is a huge deal for a VFL, especially at such a young age (he’ll turn 38 in February).

Mayo has his work cut out for him.

The Patriots don’t have the best roster in the league… far from it.

But they do have the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft.

A year ago, DeMeco Ryans had his work cut out for him when he took over the Houston Texans’ head coaching job.

But they drafted quarterback C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick and just won their wild card playoff game against Cleveland.

I am NOT saying Mayo will experience the same quick success as Ryans.

Landing an impact quarterback like Stroud — and the necessary pieces to go around the QB — is easier said than done.

It’s possible, though.

And you can bet that Mayo, who’s been groomed for this position, has a plan in place.

That should give Tennessee fans something to pull for, too.

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