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Tennessee Football: Five things to watch for in the Orange and White game

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Tennessee will wrap up its spring practice on Saturday with the Orange & White Game.

Every spring game comes with a disclaimer: coaches will hold back a ton. And they’ll hold out as many key players as they can to avoid injury and move on to the rest of the offseason.

With that said, Saturday’s spring game will give Tennessee fans their first glimpse at (most of) the Vols’ 2024 football team.

So what would be great to see from Tennessee this weekend?

Here are five things I’d like to see in the Vols’ spring game.

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A big play from Nico

We won’t see much of quarterback Nico Iamaleava on Saturday.

He’s still inexperienced with only one career start, but Tennessee needs to protect him. The Vols’ season will largely depend on how well Iamaleava plays. So Tennessee will take precaution with him. But before Iamaleava calls it a day, let’s see what kind of progress he’s made.

He looked really good in the Citrus Bowl, showing off his release and arm strength — along with his running ability in the red zone.

Can Iamaleava hit a big play deep on Saturday?

Fans would love that.

And let’s see how the offense moves while he’s on the field. There’s been some “2022-like offensive production” buzz this spring. A big play and fast-moving offense with Iamaleava on the field would give fans another reason to believe.

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Dominance from Lance Heard

Lance Heard became Tennessee’s starting left tackle the day he stepped on campus. Will the LSU transfer show he deserves the spot?

Heard is an inexperienced sophomore, but he’s very talented and looks like a future NFL lineman. If he can play at a high level immediately, that would raise the ceiling of what Tennessee’s offense can do. Quarterback play is one reason prognosticators believe the Vols’ offense can look like it did two years ago.

Offensive line play has to be another. The Vols’ veteran offensive linemen will get a break on Saturday.

Let’s see if Heard shows that he’s ready to help those seniors.

Boo Carter

We should see Carter in a number of spots. He’s battling for a starting position at STAR in Tennessee’s secondary. He’ll also have a chance to return kickoffs and punts for the Vols.

Carter was one of the nation’s top athletes in the 2024 class. The Bradley Central grad upgrades Tennessee’s athleticism and should help the Vols make more plays on defense and special teams. Let’s see what kind of difference Carter might make for the Vols this fall.

He should leave fans wanting to see more when the season begins.

Wide receiver vs secondary battles

A lot of players will be held out or play sparingly on Saturday. But the wide receiver and secondary positions should feature a lot of players competing for playing time this fall.

Let’s see what guys like Chris Brazzell II, Mike Matthews and Dont’e Thornton can do at receiver against cornerbacks Rickey Gibson III, Jermod McCoy and and Jordan Matthews.

Both position groups have a lot of talent. Both position groups have a lot to prove. That should make for some fun battles on the field.

Reminder: any one of the players mentioned could be held out or limited in the spring game.

But there’s enough depth from each group to offer entertainment for the fans.

An unexpected star

Will a player we haven’t talked about a lot shine during the spring game?

This isn’t referring to the annual walk-on that gets extra reps and puts up stats, knowing that will be his only opportunity to do so wearing a Tennessee uniform. Let’s see if someone with a chance to help this fall makes a case for himself during the spring game.

It could be a player we talk about from time to time, like defensive lineman Daevin Hobbs, or linebacker Jeremiah Telander. Hobbs was a highly-touted member of the 2023 class who broke into the rotation as a freshman. Telander wasn’t as highly ranked as Hobbs but did show flashes of big potential last fall, too.

Could either player be a breakout candidate this fall?

DeSean Bishop is a walk-on running back but he has a chance to factor into the rotation depending on the health of Cameron Seldon and Tennessee’s ability to lure another running back in the transfer portal.

No one is going to win or lose a job in the spring game.

But everyone on the field will have a chance to make a name for himself on Saturday.

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