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Josh Heupel breaks down big Orange and White Game from Ethan Davis

A really good first look at the freshman.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 15 Tennessee Orange & White Game Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tennessee held out several key veterans during Saturday’s Orange and White Game, giving us a chance to see some of the younger Volunteers in action. Of course, five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava stole all the headlines and attention, however, it was another true freshman who turned heads throughout the day.

Iamaleava rolled right just before halftime and hit freshman tight end Ethan Davis on a gorgeous throw on the move. The throw was ridiculous, but the catch was pretty darn good too. Davis, the 142nd ranked player in the class of 2023, had his 6-5, 228 pound frame on display during that play.

Unfortunately, Davis’ day ended on a sour note as he went down hard on a play in the redzone with just a couple of minutes left in the game. Davis was seen holding his shoulder/collarbone as he walked off to the locker room.

“It’s not related to the high school injury,” Heupel said after the game. “We’ll know more on the back end of today.”

Davis missed time last year with a shoulder injury. Finally healthy, Davis was just a couple of minutes away from capping off a really nice Neyland Stadium debut. Now, he’s dealing with another injury. We’ve yet to hear an update, officially.

Davis finished his day with three catches for 53 yards.

“Similar from what we’ve seen from him,” Heupel said of his performance. “You guys haven’t had an opportunity to see him other than in some of our individual work at the beginning of practice. He’s been really good. He understands space, he understands how to get himself open. He plays long and physical to the catch. He’s done a really nice job throughout spring ball.”

The tight end spot is a difficult one to learn as a freshman. Responsibilities in both the run and passing game create a big learning curve, but the raw ability of Davis may help him find the field early on purely as a pass catcher.

“Athletically, (Davis) is really unique. He’s got a chance to be a really special player,” tight ends coach Alex Abeln said. “Coming off the shoulder and not having spent a lot of time in the box in high school, I’m really impressed with where he’s at right now. I do think he’s got a long way to go.”

Tennessee returns Jacob Warren for one more season, while also adding McCallan Castles from UC Davis. Hunter Salmon is back again to provide more depth. After the big spring scrimmage from Davis, it’s going to be interesting to see if he can find some snaps later this fall.