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Joe Milton says he thinks Squirrel White is faster than last year

Scary thought.

NCAA Football: Tennessee-Martin at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Exit Jalin Hyatt, enter Squirrel White — it might just be that easy for Josh Heupel and Tennessee this season. The Vols’ vertical passing attack lost its top weapon from 2022, but they sure didn’t skip a beat without Hyatt in the Orange Bowl win against Clemson.

It’s entirely possible that they get faster at receiver, too. Squirrel White, a three-star prospect who had offers from Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia, was electric from the very first day he stepped onto campus in Knoxville. You knew early on from the buzz he was generating that the Vols had something special.

Late in the year, White got a chance to show it. First in mop-up duty against South Carolina and Missouri, and then for real against Clemson.

“Young player that we knew was going to play at a really high level when given the opportunity,” Josh Heupel said at SEC Media Days. “It’s been great to see him grow from a quiet young kid that came on the campus to somebody that’s got a ton of personality and energy and affects his teammates in positive ways. Great work habits, is tough as they come. From day 1, he’s willing to stick his face into anything and be extremely physical and complete really hard.”

White, playing the exact role of Jalin Hyatt, caught nine passes for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Orange Bowl. He was every bit as advertised, winning deep and making a couple of physical grabs through contact.

“He’s got elite speed, great ball skills, has the ability to be a great route runner,” Heupel said. “Anticipate him having a great year; you guys saw him perform really well in the Orange Bowl.”

And then there’s this from his quarterback Joe Milton, who will be airing it out to White all year long. Milton says Squirrel has gotten faster over the offseason.

White figures to be a key cog in a monsterous looking receiver rotation. You’ve got a power guy in Bru McCoy, a possession guy in Ramel Keyton, then two very different burner types in Squirrel White and Dont’e Thornton.

We’ve seen the full-year production from both Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt — is White next in line?