Tennessee was one of the biggest topics at SEC Media Days this week.
Not just on Thursday, which was Tennessee’s day. The Vols came up in conversation all week long.
Tennessee is hot right now.
The Vols won 11 games last season while producing the nation’s best scoring offense.
They landed a five-star commitment from wide receiver Mike Matthews on Wednesday.
And the end of Tennessee’s NCAA case has (mostly) everyone focusing on the football side of things for the Vols.
What stood out about the Tennessee conversation this week?
Here are five takeaways.
Everyone wants to know what Joe Milton III will do
When Tennessee came up in conversation, it was often because Milton’s name came up.
Milton is the most intriguing player in the country.
He has incredible talent — perhaps as much as anyone playing his position.
Milton also has a lot to prove considering his disappointing results at Michigan and as Tennessee’s starter in 2021.
But a lot of people see reasons to be optimistic about how Milton will play this fall.
His talent combined with experience in Josh Heupel’s system has created optimism.
And his off-season throws of 80-plus yards at different camps has amplified the hype.
So everyone wants to see what Milton will do this fall. And I do mean everyone.
The defense is the biggest non-Joe question
When the conversation shifted away from Milton, it quickly moved to the defense.
The Vols had several big-time performances on defense last season.
The defensive showing against Pittsburgh, LSU, Kentucky and Clemson played a big role in Tennessee reaching 11 wins.
But the defensive performance against South Carolina kept Tennessee from having a shot at the College Football Playoff.
Will Tennessee’s defense improve this fall?
Specifically, will the secondary and pass defense improve?
Everyone at SEC Media Days wanted to know the answer.
Bryson Eason is a player to watch
If you’re looking for a sleeper on Tennessee’s roster, look to the interior of the defensive line.
Eason played a lot last season, finishing the year with a start in the Orange Bowl.
And the talk is that Eason is ready to have a big year in 2023.
Former Tennessee offensive lineman Jerome Carvin said last week on 99.1 The Sports Animal that Eason is a player to watch.
Fellow defensive lineman Omari Thomas said the same thing on Thursday.
That’s big news for Tennessee.
The Vols already have Thomas as an established inside presence on defense.
If Eason plays at a high level and one or two other players step up (watch for transfer Omarr Norman-Lott), the Vols’ defensive line could be one of the best in the SEC.
Tennessee’s receivers shouldn’t skip a beat
Tennessee has to replace Biletnikoff Award winner Jalin Hyatt and former No. 1 receiver Cedric Tillman.
And it’s barely a talking point entering the season.
That’s because of the return of seniors Ramel Keyton and Bru McCoy and slot receiver Squirrel White.
Milton talked up the returning receivers — as well as transfer Dont’e Thornton — to the point you’d hardly know the Vols have to replace Hyatt and Tillman.
The buzz around Thornton continues to grow.
Is he a starter? How many snaps will he see?
That will largely be determined during fall camp.
But everyone around Tennessee seems to think he’ll make a big impact. And quickly.
With Tennessee’s offense and the talent the Vols have at receiver, no one seems concerned about the talent they have to replace.
Tennessee’s goal is clear
The Vols plan to win the SEC East.
They want to do more than that — like win the SEC title and go to the playoff.
But the Vols know it starts with winning their division. That means going through Georgia.
Tennessee has high hopes for the Nov. 18 matchup against the Bulldogs in Knoxville.
And Tennessee players know they have to take care of business against other teams before facing Georgia.
Last year allowed Tennessee to show its one of the best teams in the nation.
A win against Alabama and other high-profile victories brought credibility back to Tennessee’s program.
This year the Vols want to show they are THE best team in the nation.
It’s been a long time since we talked about that at SEC Media Days.