Tennessee football will kick off its 2023 campaign on September 1st, in the Music City against the Virginia Cavaliers. There have been many changes made around the program since the conclusion of last seasons Orange Bowl victory over Clemson.
This will be year 3 for Josh Heupel. As it currently stands he has produced an overall record of 18-8, and has lead the vols to seven victories over Top 25 teams. Tennessee's offense has been explosive under Heupel. Last season the vols averaged 46.08 points per game. And finished the year ranked number one in total offense. It is safe to say the expectations will be soaring in year 3, for Josh Heupel.
Tennessee will return multiple starters on both offense and defense. This includes all 3 of the vols top rushers, and veteran QB Joe Milton.
Quarterback Joe Milton
Joe Milton is expected to be the starting Quarterback for the vols in 2023. He is coming off a stellar performance in the Orange Bowl against Clemson. In a game where he threw for 251 yards, had 19 completions off 28 attempts, and had 3 passing touchdowns. He was also named Orange Bowl MVP. Joe Milton has a chip on his shoulder entering 2023. He was benched after just 2 games in 2021 for Hendon Hooker. It is safe to say that he will be looking to have a breakout year.
Wide Receiver Bru McCoy
The former USC transfer will be returning for the 2023 season. He will be seeking to be Tennessee's top wide out. Bru is coming off a 2022 season which he produced 667 receiving yards, and had a total of 3 receiving touchdowns. His best performance last season came in the vols 66-24 rout of the Missouri Tigers. Where he had 111 receiving yards in 9 receptions. He will be seeking to elevate, and lead this young receiving core for the 2023 season.
Running Back Jabari Small
Jabari Small was one of Tennessee's top running backs in 2022. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry, and had a total of 734 rushing yards. He split carries with Jaylen Wright, who is also another solid back for the vols. Small had many great performances in 2022. His greatest performance was in the vols big 40-13 road win over the LSU Tigers, in a game where he rushed for 127 yards on 22 attempts. Small will look to continue to be Tennessee's top running back in 2023.
A big problem that every college football program faces is roster turnover, Tennessee is no different. The vols are losing their top Wide Receiver Jalin Hyatt, Quarterback Hendon Hooker, and many other important pieces from 2022.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker
Before he became Tennessee's starting quarterback. The former Virginia Tech transfer had a medical scare. In September, 2020 he was diagnosed with a heart condition which required him to have surgery. Hooker later transferred to Tennessee, and was beat out by Joe Milton. He then later gained the starting job after being the backup for 2 games.
Ever since gaining the starting job back in 2021 he has put up some monstrous stats. In his 2 years at Tennessee he has thrown for 6,080 yards off 632 attempts, and has produced 58 passing touchdowns. However during the 2022 season in the 2nd to last game of the season he tore his ACL in a 63-38 road loss against the South Carolina Gamecocks, which many believe the injury has effected his draft stock. Currently as it stands he is projected to be a late first rounder, to early second rounder. It is certainly incredible of what he was able to accomplish in his 2 years at Tennessee.
Wide Receiver Jalin Hyatt
Jalin Hyatt was Tennessee's top wide out in 2022, he had a breakout year, and was able to produce a total of 1,267 receiving yards, and had 15 receiving touchdowns. His best single game performance was in the vols 52-49 upset win over rival Alabama, which in total he had 5 receiving touchdowns and a put up 207 receiving yards. On December 14th Jalin Hyatt announced he would opt out of the orange bowl and would declare for the NFL draft. Currently he is projected to go in the middle of the first round.
In conclusion there are tons of exciting things happening on rocky top. Tennessee's spring game is right around the corner and is slated to kick off on April 15th at 2:30 p.m. ET. This is a great opportunity to get a earlier look into what vol football will look like in 2023.