Tennessee’s regular season ended with a resounding 48-24 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Quarterback Joe Milton III dazzled, completing 22 of 33 for 383 yards and threw for four touchdowns. At least for this game, Milton quieted the fans that have been calling for freshman QB Nico Iamaleava to get more meaningful game repetitions.
We know Vandy isn’t the best opponent Tennessee has faced, but even so, what did the Vols’ and Milton excel at during this game that we didn’t see against teams like Missouri and Georgia? Former Vol safety Fred White on this week’s That Sunday Show with Fred discussed what he noticed this season and what he would have gone back and changed – especially at the quarterback position.
White noted one thing in the Vanderbilt game that he hadn’t seen enough of this season was aggressiveness.
“I would’ve liked to see us be more aggressive like we were in this game,” White said on Sunday. “I didn’t feel like we were aggressive in some games… that Georgia game, in particular. I felt like we took more shots downfield in this game than we have all season. What we saw in last night’s game was what we expected all season.”
Was it the ease of the opponent that allowed Milton to shine, or was this just great play calling by coach Josh Heupel?
“I saw some tight end passes yesterday that I hadn’t seen in a while,” White said. “I watched (tight ends) Jacob Warren and (McCallan) Castles catch those balls right in the middle of the football field… and it kind of opened up things.”
“It was different play calling, different game plan. The type of game plan I was normally used to seeing with Josh (Heupel) is the one we just saw this past weekend. I felt like yesterday everything was clicking. It was hitting on all cylinders when it comes to offense.”
Milton had some streaks over the season where his accuracy was lacking. Could those spells of inaccuracies have affected Tennessee’s play calling? That question gave White some pause.
“Watching yesterday’s game left a lot on the table for me,” White said. “That’s the play calling we were looking for. I think if we call a game like that against Missouri, it’s a different football game. This was a Josh Heupel-called game. This is what we fell in love with. Being aggressive, opening up, taking the top of the defense, those type of things.”
Now that the 2023 regular season has ended, what could Tennessee do next year to improve on its 8-4 record?
“Going forward. I’d like to see what shakes out,” said White. “What do we bring when it comes to recruiting? Some guys may leave, some guys may stay… you may see some new guys on campus. I don’t know about the coaching staff, but you never know what happens if those things change too.
“Every school is looking for what they need and I feel like we should be doing the same.”