Vols finish Spring Practice
By Mark Nagi
Spring practice is officially complete for Tennessee’s football team.
Now… the long 4+ month wait is underway.
The Vols ended things in front of over 58,000 fans at the annual Orange and White Game, a contest won by the White team 17-14. Congrats to all of you that took the Orange +4.
“It was a great opportunity to see a lot of our young guys show up in front of a crowd like this for the first time and get a chance to see what it’s like inside of Neyland Stadium and the landscape of college football,” said Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel, now in his third season at the helm. “There are a ton of things we’re going to learn from, but I’m really proud of the effort and energy they showed today and throughout the course of spring ball. These guys have been very intentional in the way that they’ve worked since January. They have great comradery, energy, and connection. They care about one another. They compete extremely hard with each other, and that’s showing during 14 days of spring ball that we’ve had up to this point.”
As is par for the course in a scrimmage like this one, Tennessee did not have its full allotment of players. The Vols’ top two running backs (Jaylen Wright, Jabari Small) and top three wide receivers (Ramel Keyton, Bru McCoy, Squirrel White) were among more than 20 players that did not dress.
But that gave players like DeSean Bishop a chance to see a lot of action. Bishop graduated from Karns HS and was a late flip from Coastal Carolina to Tennessee for the Class of 2023. Bishop has had an impressive spring and picked up 88 yards on 24 carries in the Orange and White Game.
Heupel had all sorts of nice things to say about the true freshman. “DeSean Bishop, for a freshman that’s coming on campus, should be going to his prom here next week or the following week. He’s been really good, man. He has great vision, great pace, and he’s handled spring ball as a newcomer extremely well.”
While Gaston Moore had the best numbers of any quarterback in that scrimmage, if he is taking significant snaps in the Fall something has gone drastically wrong. Veteran signal caller Joe Milton will be the starter come September with five-star freshman Nice Iamaleava working as the backup.
Despite being the presumed starter, Milton says that nothing much has changed in terms of his approach. “I kind of go every day as I was last year, just preparing and getting ready because you never know when your time is called,” said Milton. “Just like last year, I didn’t know my time was called, just kept repping it, kept getting better and pushing Hendon (Hooker).”
The friendship between Hooker and Milton turned into one of the feel-good stories of the Tennessee football program in the last couple of seasons. It’s early, but there seems to be a bond with the top two guys on the depth chart this year as well.
“I’ve always looked up to Joe (Milton III) on my recruiting visits,” said Iamaleava. “When I met him, I always knew he was going to be there for me when I got in here. It’s been tremendous, he’s been a real big brother helping me out with the offense and everything, the playbook and stuff. Off the field too, we’re like brothers. It’s been a cool ride with us.”
Next time we see the Vols play it’ll be for real, when they play Virginia on September 2 in Nashville.