KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – J.T. Carver’s 40-yard field goal gave the White Team a 17-14 win over the Orange Team in the 2023 Orange and White game on a warm Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium. The game marked Tennessee’s first full-capacity spring game since 2019.
“It was a beautiful day, we had over 58,000 people show up on Rocky Top. It was an unbelievable turnout from our fanbase, they’re the absolute best in the country,” said Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel. “We want to thank them for the energy that they created with everything that was going on outside of the stadium.”
It took a couple of possessions for the offense to get going, but Gaston Moore was the quarterback that manufactured the first two scoring drives of the game.
The redshirt junior’s first big play of the game was a 42-yard completion down the sideline to Michael Bittner. Moore capped off the first drive by connecting with freshman receiver Dayton Sneed on a six-yard fade route in the back of the end zone. Moore finished his second drive by completing a 9-yard touchdown pass over the middle to redshirt senior tight end Hunter Salmon.
“For a guy that’s been in our system for three years, this is the most work he’s been able to get,” Heupel said about Moore. “We saw him grow over the course of spring ball. There’s some things I really liked that he did today. I love and appreciate what he brings.”
Although they started a little quieter than Moore, Joe Milton and Nico Iamaleava both led the offense to one scoring drive each.
Joe Milton’s touchdown drive was highlighted by a pair of connections with redshirt freshman receiver Kaleb Webb. The first was a 39-yard fifty-fifty ball that Webb was able to secure in double coverage, and the second was a four-yard completion in the right side of the end zone.
“Kaleb’s been working hard before and during spring. For him to go out there and put points on the board for Tennessee, it’s another great day,” Milton said about Webb. “That kid works hard.”
Nico Iamaleava did not throw a touchdown pass on his scoring drive, however, he did complete a pretty 30-yard pass to freshman tight end Ethan Davis as Davis tight roped his way down the sideline.
“I think our whole quarterback room can make plays on the run,” said Iamaleava. “Coach Joey (Halzle) does a good job of preparing us in practice, and also when I go back home to California I work on off-balance throws and on-the-run throws.”
The touchdown that was scored on Nico Iamaleava’s drive was a 24-yard breakaway by freshman running back Cam Seldon, a player that has been touted both for his ability to make plays out of the backfield and his ability as a receiver.
“He’s a really unique player with his skillset and his background,” Josh Heupel said about Cam Seldon. “You can play him at running back, you can play him in the slot, and you can move him outside. He’s played a lot of different positions but he’s never had a true home, and we felt like it was important to give him a home early and to help him grow and expand from that.”
In aggregate, Seldon finished the day with 88 yards (45 rushing, 43 receiving) and one touchdown. The other running back that shined was freshman DeSean Bishop, finishing with 90 yards in 24 carries.
“He’s been really good,” Heupel said about Bishop. “He’s got great vision, he’s got great pace, and he’s handled spring ball as a newcomer really well.”
While the offense showed promise, the defense also made its fair share of big plays over the course of the game. It forced two turnovers via a strip fumble by freshman linebacker Jalen Smith and an interception off a tipped ball by redshirt freshman defensive back Cameron Miller.
“It was a really good feeling to know that we have guys that can step up and make plays for us,” said sophomore linebacker Elijah Herring. “It was a good day overall.”
As spring football concludes, one major question surrounding the 2023 squad is what the secondary will look like. It was an area of inconsistency throughout the 2022 season, and frequent injuries played a major role in the secondary’s inconsistency.
“In order to be a successful secondary you have to bond with your brothers,” said redshirt senior defensive back Wesley Walker. “Hanging out, watching film together, and actually talking to each other about schemes helps you know who you are playing with and where you are struggling. Communication is the biggest part, you’ve got to be able to get the call and execute it to the highest level.”