Last season, Tennessee’s offense was not a high point for the team. Now under head coach Josh Heupel and offensive coordinator Alex Golesh, along with a fresh roster, the offense is looking to make large strides.
Joining Tennessee’s offense this season will be four, four-star recruits, along with a handful of transfers. Some notable transfers for the Vols include quarterbacks Joe Milton and Hendon Hooker.
Milton transferred from Michigan, where he threw for 1,077 yards and four touchdowns last season. Hooker is coming off a season where he threw for 1,339 yards and nine touchdowns for Virginia Tech.
The quarterback competition between Milton, Hooker and Harrison Bailey officially concluded Monday at Heupel’s weekly press conference, where Milton was named the starter for week one’s matchup against Bowling Green.
“He’s practiced with the one group for the last seven to 10 days,” Coach Heupel stated. “We came out of our second scrimmage believing he’d take some major steps forward in the shortest amount of time.”
In the wide receiver position, the Vols lost some great talent in Josh Palmer and Brandon Johnson, but transfers Walker Merrill, Julian Nixon and Andison Coby should help fill the void. The Vols also are returning seven receivers.
Senior Velus Jones Jr. is one of the returners for the Vols and should step into a much bigger role in his second season at Tennessee. Jones will most likely be a target for shorter passes, being more adept at getting yards after the catch.
Redshirt freshman Jalin Hyatt is also due for a coming out party for the Vols. In his first season, Hyatt showed potential but didn’t get the amount of looks he probably hoped for. Hyatt has speed and potential, and it will be no surprise if he is the main target downfield this season. Hyatt was named as a starter on Monday.
In the tight end position, the Vols have some experience with senior Princeton Fant and junior Jacob Warren, but for the most part that position remains a wildcard for the Vols. Tennessee also lost senior Austin Pope, who was forced to retire from football because of medical issues.
“That’s a position we’re going to have to continue to cultivate and grow as we go through the season,” Heupel said. “The depth part of it is something obviously that as we lost Austin (Pope), we placed more of an emphasis on developing those young guys.”
Perhaps the biggest loss for Tennessee’s offense came at the running back position. The Vols lost its two leading rushers in Eric Gray and Ty Chandler. The next most experienced running back for the Vols is Jabari Small, who had just 26 carries last season.
While the Vols have some unanswered questions in this area, they are at least deep, with six running backs on the roster — giving the team a chance to explore its options.
The Vols offensive line is very promising this season. Cade Mays and Darnell Wright Jr. are the clear leaders, and younger players like Cooper Mays, Javontez Spraggins and William Parker will all be looking to make an impact for the Vols.