Tennessee football has its first commitment out of the transfer portal — Notre Dame tight end Holden Staes. He chose the Vols over Georgia and Washington.
The pickup fills a position of need, and Staes was one of the Vols top targets in the portal. Sates announced his commitment on Instagram.
Regardless of who, tight end is a clear priority for the Vols in the portal. In the transfer portal, Staes ranks as the No. 1 tight end and the No. 12 overall prospect by 247Sports. Out of Westminster School in Atlanta, Staes was the No. 288 overall prospect in the 2022 class. He was also the No. 11 tight end.
Staes mainly plays a blocking tight end, which helps with what Tennessee needs. During his career at Notre Dame, Staes had 16 catches for 187 yards and four touchdowns. Almost all of his production came this season while working as a blocking tight end.
Staes will likely enroll with the Vols for the spring. The 6-foot-4 and 242-pound tight end entered the transfer portal on Dec. 1.
Alec Abeln’s group had one of the most productive seasons from the tight end position in recent Tennessee memory. It was orchestrated by veterans Jacob Warren and McCallan Castles. Both of those players, however, are out of eligibility.
That leaves Tennessee’s tight end room with upcoming sophomores Ethan Davis and Emmanuel Okoye. Okoye is still learning how to play football, hailing from overseas. He also was walking around with a cast on his wrist following the Vols’ season finale.
Davis is a pass-catching tight end who shined in the Orange and White game. His connection with Nico Iamaleava was evident in the game, where Davis also suffered a broken collarbone.
Both tight ends could use some help with a veteran addition to the room.
Staes became the main target in the portal for Tennessee after the Vols stopped pursuing Justin Joly. Joly has since committed to NC State.
In two seasons at UConn, Joly caught 76 passes for 828 yards and four touchdowns. This year was his best year by production, hauling in 56 passes for 578 yards and two touchdowns. When he played against Tennessee in November, Joly had eight receptions for 89 yards. He was considered a wide receiver out of high school.
Tight end likely mains a priority for Tennessee.