KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tennessee football concluded its spring practice sessions at Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon – in front of the sixth-largest Orange & White Game crowd in program history.
58,473 fans packed into the seats to catch a glimpse of the 2023 Vols, and in particular, the quarterbacks.
Both presumed starter, Joe Milton III, and freshman sensation, Nico Iamaleava, started off slowly. Instead, it was redshirt junior Gaston Moore that stole the spotlight in the first half. The UCF transfer completed 8-of-11 passes for 94 yards and a pair of touchdown strikes.
Milton III found his footing in the second quarter, as he found Kaleb Webb for a four-yard score. The redshirt senior finished 9-of-13 for 79 yards and the touchdown pass.
“I was pretty much more focused on what I have to do in the playbook,” Milton III said after the game. “What do my coaches want for the plays – it’s more different from when I first got here until now. I don’t have to go re-learn this play twice.”
“I can understand what’s going on from – if my coach called a play, I know what’s going on,” he continued. “And I’m able to – if either Nico have a question or Gaston and Avery have a question – I can explain it just how my coach would to me.”
Iamaleava flashed a few moments of his potential throughout the afternoon, hitting 8-of-16 passes for a team-best 112 yards.
“I thought there was a lot of game management that was really good,” head coach Josh Heupel said. “All in all – their eyes, decision making – pretty sound. There’s some things accuracy-wise that we’ve got to continue to get better. There’s some things in situational football that you can’t do that they’ll learn from.”
“That group has been really good with the way they compete and help each other in the meeting room, out on the grass,” he added. “There’s a lot of development that’s left inside of that room.”
Many of the expected starting skill players did not suit up on Saturday, but a handful of underclassmen stepped up in their absence. Freshman running back DeSean Bishop toted the ball 24 times for a game-high 88 yards.
Kicker JT Carver also provided the only points of the second half – a game-winning 40-yard field goal – that lifted Team White to a 17-14 victory.
The Vols now look to preseason camp, as they prepare for the season opener on September 2 against UVA in Nashville.