Tennessee football: UC Davis transfer could immediately replace Princeton Fant at TE

Receiving tight end is a huge area of concern for Tennessee football heading into next year. The Vols lose Princeton Fant after this year, who has held that role the past three years, and Fant’s heir apparent, Miles Campbell, announced last week he was entering the transfer portal.

As we wrote at the time, this left UT with only one scholarship receiving tight end for next year: 2023 commitment Ethan Davis. Jacob Warren may be gone, Charlie Browder is more of a blocking tight end to replace him, and Hunter Salmon is a walk-on.

Well, thanks to Josh Heupel’s use of the transfer portal, the Vols may yet have some competition and experience there next year. UC Davis Aggies transfer McCallan Castles announced his commitment to Tennessee football from California Wednesday evening.

This was a huge pickup for Rocky Top. Although Davis is a four-star across the board and one of the Vols’ most highly rated recruits, you need competition and depth at that spot. Experience helps, but it also helps in case you miss on your evaluation.

Fant proved this past year that this specific tight end role is almost more of a hybrid between that and a fullback, as he was the power back in addition to the tight end. In addition to 20 catches for 222 yards and three touchdowns, he had five rushing touchdowns on six carries. Oh, and he also threw a 66-yard touchdown pass.

Part of that was that the Vols’ only power back, Len’neth Whitehead, suffered a season-ending injury at the beginning of the year. Well, Whitehead is entering the transfer portal, and Khalifa Keith, a 2023 commitment, is on track to be Tennessee football’s only power back next year.

Simply put, this position is crucial. Initially a commitment to the Cal Golden Bears in 2018, Castles hails from South Tahoe High School in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., which is in El Dorado County, part of the Sacramento region. It’s on the eastern border of the state.

In 2018, Castles  caught one pass for 15 yards. He then transferred after recording no stats in 2019 and spent the past three seasons, which includes the spring 2021 COVID season, with UC Davis. During those three years, he has earned All-Big Sky three times.

This past year, Castles caught 30 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns. He has caught 69 passes for 928 yards and nine touchdowns during his tenure there. Standing at 6’5″ 234 pounds, he’s got the frame and the stats to show he could immediately fill the void that Fant is going to leave, and that’s a huge deal.

Complementing Davis and Castles will come down to Warren and Browder. Both could do so, but there’s a chance Warren leaves, since this was technically his senior season. Should that happen, Salmon could be the other guy to complement them, or Heupel may target the portal again.

There’s another wrench in all this, and it’s the fact that offensive coordinator Alex Golesh has left to take over the head coaching job of the South Florida Bulls. He was also the Vols’ tight ends coach, so there are a lot of questions surrounding Tennessee football at that position. Castles helps with it, though.