Hoover, Ala.-- For Josh Heupel, when he got to Tennessee, he knew some things would be out of his control, at least initially. In the world of college football ruled by the transfer portal, there will inevitably be attrition year in and year out, especially when there is a coaching change.
One thing out of Josh Heupel's control early on was how Tennessee was hit hard in the transfer portal. However, the new head coach could control who filled those voids, and he did just that by adding eight transfers in the Spring, including Joe Milton, Caleb Tremblay, Da'Jon Terry, JaVonta Payton, Kamal Hadden, William Mohan, Brandon Turnage, and Juwan Mitchell.
During today's SEC Media Days availability, Heupel discussed those transfers and what he has seen and expects from them.
"Obviously, our roster changed,"said Heupel. "By the time I got there in late January, there were a large number of kids in the transfer portal. At the same time, we've been able to add really quality individuals inside our program. We love the player, but we love the person too and what they're bringing as far as the culture piece inside of our program. Some of those kids, we've had relationships with, whether it was a coach being at a previous school and knowing them every day, or through myself or other staff members who had recruited them coming out of high school."
"So I feel really good about what we've added. A majority of those guys we really feel like are going to play meaningful snaps right from the get-go when we kick off in September. A handful, or a couple of those guys, I should say, are guys that will have to earn it, like they all will, but guys that are going to develop in our program. I think for us long term, the benefits of the eight pieces that we've added here after spring ball is a majority of those guys have multiple years and will be able to help our roster as we move forward as well."
A couple of the transfers Heupel was asked about directly were quarterback Joe Milton and wide receiver JaVonta Payton.
"To me, Joe's got a unique skill set, a strong arm, accurate passer," Heupel said. "I think he's a very bright young man that's picked up on what we've done so far really well. He's talented. He can spread the football field from sideline to sideline and vertically and has a unique skill set with his size and mobility to use his feet as a weapon as well."
Payton is already a veteran of the league and another pivotal addition for the Vols that Heupel is impressed with early on.
"Just watching him, strength and condition, he's fast," Heupel said about the Mississippi State transfer. "He's explosive. He's got a natural set of hands. I really feel like he's got an opportunity to compete and earn a spot and be a difference maker for us this fall. He's experienced, and I think that's important too. Just that wide receiver room, we have a little bit of age on the top, but we're really young underneath. So his experience, having played in this league, I think is important for us and was an important piece for us to add this spring."
Elsewhere the Vols added pieces back to a defense that was decimated by the transfer portal. Another talking point for Heupel during the day's event.
"In particular, we were hit in the transfer portal on the defensive side of the football," the Tennessee head coach stated. "I feel it was important that we added depth and experience on the defensive side of the football coming out of the spring ball. We were able to add a couple bodies at each level. We kind of pinpointed that going into the process as we got probably midway through spring and felt like we had a handle on what our depth looked like. I really do feel like all those guys are going to have an opportunity to compete and play and play meaningful snaps for us this fall."
Tennessee will look for solid production from each guy, as the Vols lack depth in critical areas. They will take the field on Thursday, September 2nd against Bowling Green for a night game on the SEC Network.