Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee tight ends coach Alec Abeln admitted that he started “sleeping a lot better” this winter when veteran tight end Jacob Warren announced he was returning for his super senior season.
While the decision was paramount for Tennessee, the Vols still have plenty of questions at the position due to the lack of returning depth behind him.
Tennessee brought in UC-Davis transfer McCallan Castles and highly touted prep prospect Ethan Davis in the winter needing at least one to be a major contributor this season. After the Vols’ first fall scrimmage, head coach Josh Heupel is confident both will play meaningful snaps for Tennessee this season.
“Both those guys will play a ton of football,” Heupel said. “At this point really believe that both of them will play at a really high level when they’re out there on the field. McCallan, really both of them, are really so much further ahead than they were when they finish spring ball. Both of them are seasoned in what we’re doing offensively.”
Where both Castles and Davis are expected to excel is in the pass game. Like most highly touted prep tight ends, Davis practically played receiver in high school. Both of the newcomers are experienced playing in space and making plays.
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According to Heupel, it was on display during Tennessee’s first fall scrimmage.
“McCallan’s been really good out on the perimeter. Ethan Davis, too,” Heupel said. “It’s really natural for those guys to be playmakers out in space. That’s true today. It’s been true through the first seven practices before we got out here too. (They) have the ability to be dynamic in the pass game, both of them have gotten really comfortable and continue to grow inside the core too.”
The question for both Castles and Davis is how well they run block and perform while playing with their hand on the ground and not split out wide. Heupel complimented Castles performance in that role Thursday. It’s natural for Castles to be ahead of Davis in that regard since he’s already played five seasons of college football on the west coast.
The jury is still out on what level Castles and Davis can perform this season, but through eight fall practices Heupel is confident both will be factors during their first season in Tennessee’s programs. That’s a real positive as Tennessee tries to build depth at a thin roster position.