The Future of Tennessee Football: Can the Volunteers Continue Their Momentum?

The Tennessee Volunteers find themselves in a period of transition as they prepare for the 2023 season. With the departure of key players like Hendon Hooker, Cedric Tillman, and Jalin Hyatt, there are questions about whether the team will be able to rebuild or reload. Despite these concerns, the roster is far from bare, and there are new faces ready to take on significant roles for the Volunteers.

The recent Orange Bowl offered a glimpse of what to expect from Tennessee in the upcoming season. They soundly defeated Clemson, 31-14, and alleviated many concerns about their ability to compete at a high level. Quarterback Joe Milton, although not perfect, showcased his ability to make big throws downfield and secure 30 points against a strong defense. The Volunteers’ defense, led by linebacker Aaron Beasley, was the real star of the show, creating a sense of optimism for Tennessee fans.

The potential of Joe Milton is a wildcard for Tennessee as they head into the 2023 season. He has yet to fully realize his potential, but if he can bring all his skills together, the Volunteers could be a force to be reckoned with. Milton’s arm strength has always been impressive, and now, in his third year under coach Josh Heupel, he has a solid understanding of the offensive system. Tennessee doesn’t require Milton to be perfect, but they will need him to be consistently accurate downfield. If he falters, five-star freshman Nico Iamaleava is ready to step in and compete for the starting role this spring.

Tennessee’s performance in the Orange Bowl has garnered attention, as evidenced by their No. 5 ranking in Fox Sports’ pre-spring ball poll. They are the second-highest ranked SEC team, only behind Georgia, and are ahead of Alabama and LSU. While some may argue that the No. 5 ranking is slightly generous for the Volunteers, their Orange Bowl victory undoubtedly plays a significant role in their placement. The full top 25 rankings from Fox Sports’ Spring Top 25 are as follows:

  1. Georgia
  2. Michigan
  3. Ohio State
  4. USC
  5. Tennessee
  6. Alabama
  7. Penn State
  8. Florida State
  9. Utah
  10. Clemson
  11. Washington
  12. Notre Dame
  13. Kansas State
  14. TCU
  15. Oregon
  16. Wisconsin
  17. UCLA
  18. LSU
  19. Oregon State
  20. Colorado
  21. Oklahoma
  22. Iowa
  23. Kansas
  24. Texas
  25. Texas Tech

Tennessee fans have reason for optimism as they head into the 2023 season. With new faces stepping up to fill the shoes of key players, the Volunteers have the potential to build on their recent success. The spring season will be crucial for the development of the team, and fans will be watching closely to see if the Volunteers can maintain their momentum and live up to their No. 5 ranking.