The Tennessee Volunteers have a lot of guys to replace from their 2022 team, but what if I told you that the 2023 Tennessee team could be even better. We got the first look at the 2023 version of the Vols on Saturday during their annual Orange and White game in which the White team beat the Orange team 17-14. The Vols did unfortunately sit a ton of their skill players including their top four wide receivers(Bru McCoy, Ramel Keaton, Squirrel White, Dont’e Thorton), however we did get to see a lot of the young talent that fans got to see for the first time.
Joe Milton seems to be the guy after the way he finished the 2022 season. Fans are ready to see what Milton has in store for the 2023 season. The first look at new and improved Joe Milton was very lackluster but to be fair Milton did not have many of his top targets. Milton ended his day 9-13 passing for 79 yards and 1 touchdown. Even though Milton did not have an exciting day, I still believe that he will be one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC for 2023.
Fans were extremely excited to see five star freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava. Tennessee fans exploded when Nico first took the field as they gave Nico a standing ovation to show their appreciation. For a guy who is supposed to still be a senior in high school, Iamaleava held his own and played a pretty solid game. Nico finished the day 8-16 passing for 116 yards. His best play came just before halftime when he was flushed out the pocket and threw a pass on the run to a receiver running up the sideline for a 30 yard gain. Nico’s day was not mind blowing but to be fair the Vols top four wide receivers did not play in the game.
One of the most surprising performances on the day had to be from UCF transfer quarterback Gaston Moore. Moore was the first quarterback to lead a touchdown drive. Moore then did it again as he lead another touchdown drive. Moore finished the day 8-11 for 94 yards and 2 touchdowns. Moore probably won’t see the field very much this season for the Vols, because of the insanely deep quarterback room, however Moore proved to me that he is a power five quarterback.
A player that immediately caught my eye was freshman wideout Cam Seldon. Seldon is a swiss army knife per say and Coach Josh Heuple was not shy putting the freshman anywhere. Seldon was used in a plethora of ways, throwing to him out of the backfield, using him as a running back, throwing to him out of the slot, and even throwing a couple buddle screens to him. Coach Heuple must be foaming at the mouth watching Seldon play and seeing his upside. The freshman was making plays all over the field and showed spurts of greatness. I have talked to people who have already compared Seldon to former Tennessee star Cordarrelle Patterson. Cam Seldon is definitely one to keep an eye on for the 2023 season.
A unit I was very impressed with had to be Tennessee’s defensive line. Coach Rodney Garner said this is his best defensive line he has had while at Tennessee. This unit was very good a year ago but I believe this defensive line will be even better. The defensive line was disruptive all day against this juggernaut Tennessee offensive. Joshua Josephs was a guy that was everywhere on Saturday. The sophomore was a handful for offensive lines a year ago and he looks ready to take the next step this upcoming season.
Piggy backing off the defensive line play for the Vols, my one concern for this Tennessee team is their offensive line. The Vols have lost a couple key offensive lineman and they are searching for guys to fill in that role. On Saturday, the Tennessee quarterbacks were being pressured on almost every snap. That is both a good thing and a bad thing if you’re Tennessee. On one hand Tennessee’s defensive line looks really good and on the other hand the offensive line needs some work.
Overall the 2023 Tennessee Volunteers will look a little different than they did a year ago, but I still think this team is capable of winning 10 games again. Even though half the first team guys did not play on defense, the Vols defense will definitely be better which could be a scary sight for other SEC schools. I am looking forward to seeing what the Tennessee Volunteers have in store for the 2023 season.