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Tennessee Football: Transfer McCallan Castles feels ready to fill void at TE

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If McCallan Castles hasn’t figured out how important his role on Tennessee’s football team is by now, he had better take a moment, look around and let a few things sink in.

First, the Vols have been very premeditated in their approach to the tight end position under two seasons with Josh Heupel. Tennessee’s tight ends rotated drives equally, such as last season when Jacob Warren and Princeton Fant alternated. Warren ended up getting more snaps, about 75-percent, by happenstance, but the overall notion was to keep the Vols fresh at tight end, which can be a more taxing position than others in Tennessee’s offense.

That makes Castles way more important than just another tight end transfer. He needs to be able to manage the tight end position when he’s in the game at a high level. If he does not, then the Vols might have to change up their entire approach, such as playing four receivers and perhaps no tight end at times. That’s not what Tennessee wants to do. So far, Castles believes he’s up to the task of manning an important position alongside Warren.

Honestly, the offense itself, once you get it down, is not super hard to do,” Castles said. “It’s that pace that you have to be able to look at the sideline to know what you have to do right then and there. Once it clicks, it’s definitely a lot easier. You see Jacob; he’s been doing it for years. He’s locked in, ready to go. You see the young guys that are kind of still thinking about it. 

Castles said freshman Ethan Davis is showing growth. However, Davis is an athlete that is being turned into a tight end, which could be also said about Nigerian Emmanuel Okoye. Neither are expected to be 100-percent prepared to play this fall despite their immense potential. Whether it’s Tillman, Hyatt, Fant or some other departed player, the Vols don’t seem caught up by what they’ve lost. Instead, these Vols are focused on what they gain, which would be confidence from last season and some young talent that is finding its way early in preseason camp.

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”I think it’s just everybody is ready to reload,” said Castles, who transferred from UC-Davis following the 2022 season. “We’ve got guys at every position coming in that can play. You can just see it on the practice field, every day we’re getting better and more explosive against our own defense. Once we get against Virginia or somebody, it’s going to come to fruition. I think we’re just going to keep going one week at a time and just steamrolling through.”

The Vols will play Virginia in the season-opener in Nashville on Sept. 2. That gives Castles and his teammates some time to prepare – as they take note that the Vols may have a player transforming into a special playmaker right before their very eyes.
“I have to shout out Arion Carter,” Castles said of the incoming UT freshman linebacker. “That dude fills holes fast and he is going to lace you in the hole. I’ve never seen a dude come in so ready to play from a young guy standpoint. The other guys, Aaron Beasley and Keenan Pili, that’s as veteran as you can get at linebacker. They don’t do anything wrong. They’re always there to make plays, super solid. (Defensive back) Jaylen McCollough, he is so solid. Special teams and everything he does, super sound technique. He’s always high energy, ready to coach everybody up.”

Now, if Tennessee’s coaches can just get Castles as ready as some of the more experienced Vols he mentioned, then Tennessee’s coaches won’t have to make any sort of huge adaptation to what was so successful last year. Castles can help fortify the Vols’ consistency.

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