NCAA Football is quickly approaching, however, the Tennessee Volunteers football program paused all activities at the end of last week due to COVID protocols after a few positive tests within the building. Spring football for Tennessee was scheduled to start March 23rd but now will begin on March 25th.
The Orange and White game is set for April 24th so this gives Josh Heupel and the team five weeks to install and practice the new system before displaying it in Neyland Stadium for the first time. Let’s take a look at some of the interesting matchups during spring practice.
NCAA Football: The Volunteers Spring Game Delayed
Josh Heupel is known for his electric offenses everywhere he has gone as a coach and this stems from quarterback play. Tennessee currently has four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Harrison Bailey and Brian Maurer both return from last year and with Hendon Hooker and Kaidon Salter being the new faces. Bailey, Maurer, and Hooker all have experience at the college level while Salter will be going through his first year at the college ranks.
Hooker, Maurer, and Salter are more athletic and mobile quarterbacks who flourish in option schemes that make the defense account for the quarterback run. Hooker flashed his athleticism at Virginia Tech often but was inconsistent when asked to push the ball downfield and make deep throws. Maurer has showed flashes of excellence but usually has opposed that with risky throws and turnovers. Bailey is a more traditional pocket passer who has the ability to maneuver in the pocket if need be. He excels in the medium range passing game and can throw receivers open.
Salter flashed in high school showcasing a cannon of an arm as well as speed in the open field. It will be interesting to see how and when it translates to the college game and has plenty of time to turn into a superstar. This highly anticipated battle will be heated in spring football for Tennessee but Big Orange Nation will simply have to wait to have their biggest question answered.
Captain of the defense?
When former head coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired, Tennessee’s two out of three starting linebackers entered the transfer portal. Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch both announced that they may be leaving Tennessee but with a few months passed, neither has announced a destination. Along with that, multiple rumors are saying both have returned to Knoxville and will go through spring football for Tennessee. This would be huge for new defensive coordinator Tim Banks and the performance of his unit in the coming fall.
If both were to end up leaving then Jeremy Banks would be the only returning inside linebacker that has taken significant snaps. Names like Bryson Eason, Martavius French, Aaron Beasley, and more will battle for, at the very least depth, but perhaps even starting roles. Inside linebacker play will play a large factor in Tennessee’s success on the defensive side of the ball and will be interesting to see how the depth chart moves over spring.
Big shoes to fill?
Two other big names that entered the transfer portal after Pruitt’s firing were Ty Chandler and Eric Gray. The only difference is that both players have already joined new teams with Chandler going to North Carolina and Gray going to Oklahoma. Josh Heupel is tasked with replacing a majority of the production at running back from last year with the exits of Gray and Chandler. Despite the image of an explosive passing game, Heupel’s offense requires a solid running game to function as well.
Jabari Small showed flashes of power running as well as finesse and will most likely be the primary ball carrier. Dee Beckwith ,Tee Hodge and newcomers such as Tiyon Evans and Jaylen Wright will battle it out in spring football for Tennessee and open the gate for an explosive offense.
Spring will be an exciting yet hectic time in Knoxville with multiple position battles going down and a completely new system and culture being installed. Athletics, as a whole, is transitioning more and more back to normalcy with multitudes of fans being in the stands across America. It will be interesting to see how many people Tennessee allows to attend the Orange and White game and see the beginning of the Heupel era on Rocky Top.
Thank you for reading my article on what to look forward to in spring practice for the Tennessee Volunteers.
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