Defensive line, all three quarterbacks, find success in 2024 Orange and Whitespring game

Photo Credit: Kate Luffman/ Tennessee Athletics

By Griffin Hadley

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – After a rainy week in Knoxville the sun was shining for Tennessee football’s Orange and White spring game. Neyland Stadium, which is under-construction, hosted 10,000 fans as the White team came out victorious, beating the Orange team 21-14.

Although there is a final score to the exhibition game, the bigger takeaway is that the
Tennessee offense was able to score five total touchdowns in the contest.

It took a couple possessions for the offense to get going as the Tennessee defensive
front was impressive early on. Despite a slew of defensive penalties, Tennessee’s first
team defense shut down the first team offense on their first two possessions.

“I think we’ve got one of the best interior defensive lines in the country,” quarterback
Nico Iamaleava said post-game.

Iamaleava was responsible for one of the scores on the day, tossing a 27-yard fade to
Chas Nimrod.

Iamaleava had a slow start but was able to break down the defense and convert four
straight passes on his third possession, leading to the Nimrod score. The new QB1’s
final line included going 6-9 with 96 yards

QB2 Gaston Moore and QB3 Jake Merklinger were responsible for two scores a piece.
Moore tossed two through the air while Merklinger scrambled for his first and threw for
his second.

The second team offense was the first to move the rock, as Moore had a terrific day,
passing for 184 total yards along with his two touchdowns.

One of the stand-out connections of the game was Moore and redshirt freshman wide
receiver Dayton Sneed. Sneed totaled five catches for 73 yards, continuously finding
gaps in the middle of the field.

“This is the deepest wide receiver pool that we’ve had,” head coach Josh Heupel said

Moore was able to find freshman Mike Mattews at the end of the first half for a 63-yard
score. Matthews, the number 23 ranked prospect according to ESPN, showed promise,
making a five-star adjustment on the deep ball and finding himself in the checkboards
for six.

Another wide receiver who showed promise was Tulane transfer Chris Brazzell II who
collected four catches for 89 yards including a 71-yard score from Merklinger.

“We’ve got a lot of dogs on this team,” Brazzell said when asked about the depth of the
wide receiver group.

Along with the wide receivers, the offensive line was another one of the major units of

The Vols added LSU transfer Lance Heard and were able to hold onto several veterans
including Cooper Mays and John Campbell Jr. All of which had their work cut out when
lined up against the force that is the Tennessee defensive line.

“They’ve gotten better every single day and I’m really proud of them,” Moore said when
asked about the offensive line post-game.

On the defensive side of the ball questions remain in the secondary, as there will be
plenty of new faces on the defensive side of the ball in 2024.

Even with the help of the front seven, Tennessee’s defensive backs gave up two deep
touchdowns, proving that there is still work to be done heading into the summer.

The Orange and White game marks the end of spring training camp, and now sights will
be set on the summer and beyond following the scrimmage.

Four months separate today from the opener against Chattanooga as the Vols will look
to continue building momentum before the 2024 season commences in August.