I took the day off yesterday to spend some time with family, so you get Monday Musings a day late. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. We’re less than a week away from the Citrus Bowl and college basketball is getting amped up, so there’s plenty to talk about.
As such, let’s see what’s orange and white nuggets are rattling around inside my brain today...
1) It sounds like, per rumblings, that Nico Iamaleava might get early work in the bowl game. I mean, that’s what I’ve been calling for since the Georgia game went final. I’m surprised he didn’t get reps earlier in the game against Vanderbilt. I get Joe starting and playing some significant time in his final home game, but an eye towards 2024 is definitely warranted at this point. And that’s a good Iowa defense the Vols are facing, so I’m certainly happy with the opportunity Nico could be getting to show what he can do in a higher-pressure environment instead of mop up time against a poor opponent. Let the evaluation (hopefully) begin.
2) I don’t know much about new transfer WR Chris Brazzell, but it sounds like Tennessee is getting a stud. VolReport had a pretty interesting conversation with their Tulane counterpart, and he’s raving about the player the Vols are getting. Brazzell has the size at 6’5” and he’s certainly made his catches count, as he racked up 711 yards on 44 catches for a yards per catch average of 16.2 with 5 touchdowns this year. The Vols will be getting him with three years of eligibility left, so that’s pretty good.
3) Now the Vols will have a pair of huge wideouts in Brazzell and Dont’e Thornton in 2024. Thornton came on later in the year and seemed primed for a big finish to the year before suffering an injury against Missouri. If he can continue that arc he was on and if Thornton is the real deal, the Vols’ wide receivers could be significantly more productive than they were in 2023, especially at the outside positions. And if Bru McCoy somehow comes back for a final year.......shoot. Now I’m getting all kinds of amped.
4) I’m always curious to see where Tennessee basketball is projected as far as the NCAA tournament just before conference play starts. Well, as of today Joe Lunardi has the Vols as a 2 seed in the South region with San Diego State and Miami as the 7-10, respectively. Jerry Palm, who hasn’t updated his bracket since December 15, has the Vols as a 2 seed in the East region with Miami and Nevada as the 7-10, respectively. I’m a little bit surprised to see the Vols at a 2 after where they were spotted after their 0-fer against Purdue, Kansas, and UNC. I believe Lunardi had them around a 4, although I can’t swear to it.
Still, it seems the Vols have earned some respect despite a mixed bag of results in their non-conference play. They have one more non-conference game on January 2 against Norfolk State before kicking off SEC play at home on January 6 against #24 Ole Miss. Hopefully the Vols will start off the SEC slate with a resume-boosting win at home.