The story of a spring game isn’t typically defense — much less a safety — but that’s exactly what we got on Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium. Freshman, early enrollee safety Jaylen McCollough stole the show during the Orange and White Game, logging two interceptions. Each pick came against fellow freshman Brian Maurer.
Jeremy Pruitt was mildly surprised at the production from McCollough, based on what he had seen in spring practice to that point.
“Really today, as far as spring ball goes, I only remember him intercepting one other ball in 14 practices,” Pruitt said after the game. “But he found two today. One of them I thought was a really good break. The other one was kind of like an alley-oop. So he’s got ball skills.”
Below is a look at his second interception of Maurer. The freshman quarterback was late on this throw and probably put too much air under the ball as well. This was a fairly easy one for McCollough, who was monitoring the deep half.
McCollough’s first pick nearly went for six as the freshman safety made a really good read on a bootleg throw over the middle of the field.
McCollough joined the Vols known for his ability against the run. If fact, he led the white team with seven total tackle on the day. The four-star prospect was a top 200 recruit in the 2019 class and clearly has a shot to contribute right off the bat in Knoxville.
“He’s a smart guy,” Pruitt said. “He’s learning the system. I think he showed really good toughness this spring. He’s a guy that just has to continue to grow and work.”
Outside of Nigel Warrior, Tennessee doesn’t have too much set at safety. Theo Jackson and Trevon Flowers are two options, while freshman Tyus Field has also seen work at the position. It will be interesting to see how McCollough fits into that equation in the fall as we start to get some sort of picture of a starting four or five in the secondary.