Tennessee QB Nico Iamaleava and HC Josh Heupel. Photo by Rocky Top Insider/Ric Butler.
The Tennessee football team wrapped up their first scrimmage of the spring camp slate on Saturday morning in Neyland Stadium.
Coming out of the scrimmage, Heupel specifically pointed to the defense as impressive in his opening statement while talking to the media. Heupel later elaborated that he wouldn’t necessarily say the defense was ahead of the offense at this stage, just that he was just content with the way that everyone was competing out on the field.
Still, though, Heupel did break down a large portion of the offensive output on Saturday.
Starting with the quarterbacks, it sounds like both Joe Milton III and freshman newcomer Nico Iamaleava both had solid days on the field. Heupel mentioned that Iamaleava “did a lot of really nice things,” including making sharp reads and decisions, moving in the pocket, and pushing the ball downfield with accuracy and strength. Heupel also said that Iamaleava led his unit to a touchdown in his first drive on the field.
Milton, on the other hand, continued to put in work as Tennessee’s starter heading into the 2023 season.
“I thought Joe did a really good job taking care of the football,” Heupel said on Saturday afternoon. “I thought he slid in the pocket a couple of times and continued to get out of it. Now, it’s a little bit different when the quarterback is not live in some of these situations. I thought he had really good command of what’s going on. We got to some situational football at the end—four-minute situation. There’s some things we can learn as far as clock management.”
More from RTI: Everything Josh Heupel Said After First Spring Scrimmage in Neyland
One of the clear and obvious areas of the field that Tennessee is going to need players to step up at is the wide receiver position. After losing Cedric Tillman, Jalin Hyatt, and Princeton Fant to the NFL, the Vols have spots open for pass catchers to show out.
After Tillman and Hyatt both opted out of the 2022 Orange Bowl last season, plus Hendon Hooker being out with an injury, Tennessee had its first chance to see the Milton-Squirrel White connection consistently on the field for the first time. The 2022 freshman ended that game with nine receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown.
“Squirrel White did a really good job today,” Heupel said on Saturday. “I thought he did a good job of working the middle of the field, he executed from the whistle to the next snap and did that efficiently.”
Heupel also pointed out rising sophomores Chas Nimrod and Kaleb Webb for doing “a couple of really nice things” on the field. Additionally, current freshman and former four-star Nathan Leacock was also specifically mentioned by the Tennessee head coach.
A good portion of Tennessee’s offensive success during the 2022 season was due to their ability to run the ball and protect their quarterback with all-around solid play on the offensive line. With Jerome Carvin and Darnell Wright both heading to the NFL this offseason, the Vols’ line is certainly something to watch heading into the 2023 season. Tennessee does pack plenty of depth, though, and are just trying to sort through all the players they have right now.
“We’re going to play one’s-on-one’s and two-on-two,” Heupel said about the offensive front. “Iron sharpens iron. What we do defensively, being multiple, our guys have to be able to execute and adjust during the course of a scrimmage. They have to treat it like a game day. I thought there were times we ran the ball extremely efficiently and effectively, creating a couple of big plays. The young running back DeSean Bishop did some really nice things today—pressing the hole and coming out of the back side. Dylan Sampson too. There are a lot of things we can get a lot better at too. I thought our pass protection at times was good but there’s some things we have to clean up.”
Tennessee and Josh Heupel will be back on the field three times this week as the Vols continue to march toward The Orange & White Game. The Tennessee spring game will return to Neyland Stadium this year after being played behind closed doors last year due to the ongoing construction inside Neyland Stadium. The Orange & White game will take place on Saturday, Apr. 15, at 2:30 p.m. ET.