Watch: Mike Matthews catches 63-yard TD pass in Tennessee's Orange & White Game

IMG_3593by:Grant Ramey04/13/24


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Mike Matthews has his first highlight play at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee football’s five-star freshman wide receiver caught a 63-yard touchdown pass to close the first half of the Orange & White Game Saturday afternoon in Knoxville. 

The touchdown pass from redshirt senior backup quarterback Gaston Moore to Matthews tied the annual split-squad scrimmage at 14-14 at halftime. 

Tennessee sophomore starter Nico Iamaleava went 6-for-6 passing in the first half for 91 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Chas Nimrod in the second quarter. 

Dayton Sneed opened the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Moore and freshman quarterback Jake Merklinger ran 26 yards for a touchdown.

Matthews headlined Tennessee’s 2024 recruiting class as a five-star wide receiver out of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga. 

He was ranked No. 26 overall in the 2024 class, was the No. 6 wide receiver nationally and the No. 4 overall prospect in Georgia.

“Mike is highly competitive,” Tennessee wide receivers coach Kelsey Pope said on April 3. “Super competitive. He hates to lose, he always wants to dominate.” 

Pope said when Matthews first arrived, the Vols had to “control some of that” on the practice field.

“Typically,” Pope said, “you won’t win every rep because you’re a true freshman coming into the SEC. We had to control some of that. He was getting frustrated when he did lose, and that would lead to the next play. He’s done an awesome job, for one, of competing.”

Matthews joined a Tennessee wide receiver group that returns Bru McCoy, Squirrel White, Dont’e Thornton, Kaleb Webb and Chas Nimrod, among others, while adding other highly rated newcomers in transfer Chris Brazzell and freshman in Braylon Staley.

Brazzell at Tulsa last season caught 44 passes for 711 yards and five touchdowns and was one of the biggest names in Tennessee’s transfer class.

Staley, out of Aiken, S.C., was a four-star prospect ranked No. 83 overall in the 2024 class and No. 17 nationally among wide receivers.

“(Matthews) and Braylon Staley are in the building on their own every single day,” Pope said, “getting extra meetings, doing walkthroughs on their own. They’ve kind of seen the way we operate here, and they jumped right in, which is why they’ve seen success so far. 

“Those freshmen have done a huge, tremendous job of coming in here and just getting to work. It’s been paying off on the practice field for them.”

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