Dan Fleser: Vols Suddenly Have Quarterbacks Galore

Thursday, April 22, 2021 - by Dan Fleser

Nothing livens a spring day in SEC Country quite like a new quarterback.

Well, that football thought applies to pretty much any day in these parts. News of Joe Milton’s impending transfer from Michigan to Tennessee was significant this week for its surprise factor.

The Vols already have four QBs and had taken in a transfer since last season when Hendon Hooker arrived from Virginia Tech.

If Milton’s joining the group, then which Vols QB might leave? Does this mean that nobody has taken charge of the position during spring practice?

Fans may ponder these questions and discuss among themselves when they gather for the Orange & White game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Their collective attention will be drawn first to what’s taking place behind center.

Josh Heupel will be watching right along with them. UT’s first-year head coach has a track record for developing quarterbacks. But Heupel’s eyes will be drawn elsewhere, too. He’s also familiar enough with the SEC from his days at Missouri to appreciate the importance of building and maintaining a sturdy line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.

Heupel made several thoughtful observations during his introductory press conference in January. None were more prescient than the following: “The line of scrimmage in this league is different than it is in other leagues, so you have to do a great job of developing those guys.

“That size and strength matters up front, so you have to do a great job. You’re going to face elite pass rushers in this league, so you have to do a great job of protecting your quarterback as well, just from an offensive standpoint. But I think the line of scrimmage is the biggest difference.”

Therefore, the Mays brothers deserve some attention on the offensive line. Fans will have to be sharp to spot older brother Cade. He could line up anywhere on Saturday or even this fall for that matter.

“He’s such a talented guy, and he has played so many different positions, and he knows how to use his body, how to move it,” offensive line coach Glen Elarbee said. “Really at the end of the day, he’s probably going to slide in there where it makes us best.”

Younger brother Cooper, meanwhile, has emerged from a group of young linemen regarding development. Elarbee described Cooper’s progress during spring practice as being “a big-time leap.”

“The guy has juice; he has energy,” Elarbee said. “I think he is trying to fix (technique) and be a better player every day.”

Cooper, in turn, offered a compliment regarding one of UT’s defensive linemen. Cooper has noticed a change in Elijah Simmons, a 330-pound redshirt sophomore.

“He’s a big load and he’s coming a little bit different this year,” Cooper said.  

Meanwhile, Byron Young has made a favorable impression on virtually everyone. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound edge rusher from Georgia Military College, who signed during the early period, has been a conversation piece within the team.

Linebackers coach Mike Ekeler said Young has made “a ton of improvement.” Defensive line coach Rodney Garner said Young “is a guy that is trending upwards.”

He bears watching on Saturday. He could liven up a spring day as well.

* * *
    
Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com.


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