July 23, 2024

The transfer portal officially opens on Monday after a number of names across the country announced their intentions to enter the portal this week.

Josh Heupel and his staff have spent the week having conversations with players, figuring out which players plan on returning to Knoxville for another season or leave the program via the transfer portal or professional football.

That gives the Vols an idea of what positions they need to aggressively attack next week when the portal opens.

So what about the quarterback spot?

Joe Milton III is out of eligibility and Nico Iamaleava is poised to step into the starting job in his redshirt freshman season. Tennessee adds four-star quarterback Jake Merklinger to the roster via the high school ranks and current third-string quarterback Gaston Moore has eligibility remaining though he went through Senior Day festivities last week.

The question becomes should Tennessee pursue a quarterback in the transfer portal?

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Why Tennessee Should Pursue A Quarterback
This is pretty simple. Tennessee has zero proven quarterbacks returning and while Iamaleava is almost certainly going to be the starter next season there’s not another quarterback that you’d feel good about stepping in for him if need be.

Merklinger being ready to play feels unlikely and while Moore is a good third-string quarterback for modern college football I seriously doubt Tennessee wants the walk on to be the backup.

There’s two scenarios where Tennessee could need another quarterback on the roster. The first is obvious— if Iamaleava suffers an injury.

But what if Iamaleava just struggles? Tennessee didn’t bring in a transfer quarterback to compete with Joe Milton III last offseason and that was pretty obviously a mistake. A transfer beating out Milton for the starting job seems unlikely even in hindsight but it would have given them another option besides freshman Iamaleava, who Tennessee’s coaches didn’t seemed to poised to play.

It boils down to this simple point: Tennessee’s offense has to be much improved next season. Putting all eggs into the Iamaleava basket is a risk.

Why It’s Not That Simple
It would be good for Tennessee to add another quarterback but it’s probably not as simple as I made it sound in the last section.

That’s because Iamaleava is going to be Tennessee’s starting quarterback next season. That’s just the reality of the situation. The Vols have spent plenty of NIL capital on Iamaleava. The professionalization of college sports forces teams to tip their hand on personnel decisions like that.

Tennessee didn’t invest this much on Iamaleava not to start him his second year on campus. If this lowly sports writer is smart enough to figure that out so will transfer quarterbacks.

That seriously dilutes the talent level of the type of quarterback Tennessee could attract. And with the NIL investment into Iamaleava, there won’t be a lot for the Vols’ to spend at the quarterback position to counter act the playing time situation.

So if the Vols do pursue a portal quarterback, they’ll be searching for a very specific player— a veteran that ideally has some starting experience that is happy to be the backups. There aren’t too many of those guys, if any, available. Maybe Tennessee can find a veteran looking to get into coaching and wants to learn Heupel’s system.

But there’s a point of no return there. If Tennessee can’t find a player that wants to come be the backup that’s not, at least slightly, better than Merklinger then there’s no point to wasting a scholarship on him.

That’s what makes the situation daunting. Tennessee should try to add a quarterback but they’re not a particularly attractive landing spot for any touted quarterback.

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