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Tennessee Football post-spring superlatives

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Evaluating spring football always requires a set of disclaimers and pauses. We know that teams aren’t at full strength and veterans receive breaks during the spring. But it’s still an important time for player development and taking steps toward the fall. That applies to Tennessee Football as the Vols prepare for a 2024 season with big expectations.

Here are a few superlatives and storylines coming out of the spring for the Vols. 

Top Newcomer: WR Chris Brazzell II

Brazzell, a transfer from Tulane, looks like he’ll make an immediate impact in UT’s passing game. His 71-yard touchdown catch was one of the top plays of the spring game. 

Brazzell arrived with plenty of hype because of his 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame. He turned that hype into action with his first performance at Neyland Stadium.

Brazzell will provide a deep threat for quarterback Nico Iamaleava and should give coach Josh Heupel more confidence when calling plays. 

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Fans were already excited about Brazzell joining Tennessee’s offense – the spring game will add to the anticipation for the fall.

Top Comeback Player of the Spring: LB Keenan Pili

Pili almost feels like a newcomer because of how much time he missed in 2023. He returned to form this spring after missing all but the season opener last year. 

Now, Pili is ready to lead Tennessee Football at linebacker. 

Pili is the oldest player on the team and one of the most important. Tennessee has several young linebackers who will need to emerge; the presence of Pili should help them do that. He’ll play a big role in how well the Vols’ defense will play this fall. 

Top question still remaining: Is Tennessee Football deep enough at running back?

This wasn’t much of a question entering the spring. But sophomore Cameron Seldon’s shoulder injury changed the conversation. 

His uncertainty for the fall leaves Tennessee Football with Dylan Sampson, Khalifa Keith, Peyton Lewis and DeSean Bishop. Lewis is a freshman with a lot of speed. But he has zero experience. 

The same goes for Bishop, who has impressed coaches during spring practice each of the last two years. Are any of these players ready to take on a big role to spare Sampson this fall?

We know Sampson can make plays in the SEC. But he can’t make all of them. Tennessee needs to find him help, whether that comes from the current group or the transfer portal.  

Top surprising player of spring: TE Miles Kitselman

Don’t expect an All-SEC season from Kitselman. But his arrival from Alabama, along with Notre Dame transfer Holden Staes, should solidify Tennessee’s tight end room. 

The Vols had to replace McCallan Castles and Jacob Warren with experienced players. Kitselman and Staes should make Tennessee’s coaches feel better after seeing them this spring. 

Kitselman arrived with little attention next to his name. He played in 13 games for Alabama last season but didn’t record any statistics. That should change this fall as he can help block in the running game and provide one more option as a receiver. 

Kitselman also has special teams experience. Tight ends matter in Heupel’s offense. And they should be able to help thanks to Kitselman, one of the top emerging guys this spring. 

Top Tennessee Football story of spring: The defensive line

Defensive coordinator Tim Banks grabbed headlines early in spring when he talked about the defensive line potentially being the best in the nation. 

Part of that could be Banks showing confidence in a veteran group — but he has reason for making such a confident statement. 

James Pearce Jr. might be the SEC’s best defensive (or overall) player.

A large group of seniors along with emerging young players like Daevin Hobbs and Tyree Weatheraby makes for Tennessee’s deepest position group. Tennessee Football might not have the nation’s best defensive line. 

But the Vols should have a D-line that allows them to compete with every team on their schedule in 2024. 

Top emerging star of springCB Jermod McCoy

Will McCoy look like a star when the season kicks off? He might not be there yet. 

But McCoy showed up looking like a guy who belongs in the SEC… and will probably be in the NFL in a few years. Tennessee needed to upgrade its talent and athleticism at cornerback. 

McCoy’s arrival helps with that. 

Tennessee Football added several players who look the part — Brazzell, offensive tackle Lance Heard, and wide receiver Mike Matthews are among them. 

McCoy belongs on the list too. 

Iamaleava is another candidate for this award. But he already feels established, even with only one start next to his name.

McCoy arrived on campus looking to prove he can help lead Tennessee’s cornerbacks. He showed he’ll have a chance to star in Tennessee’s secondary sooner rather than later. 

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