The 2017 season was a complete disaster at the wide receiver position, and it was mostly caused by injury and the lackluster qb play. With only 1 WR eclipsing 450 yards and only 2 getting over 300yds, Tennessee must improve in a hurry this season. A new staff including new wide receiver coach, David Johnson, who came over from Memphis looks to bring UT back.
It’s easy to see that the vols have some serious playmakers at the WR position but can they breakout? Here we will break down each wr on the roster and how they will impact this years offense.
At 6’2 200lbs, Marquez will be looked at as the number 1 target. After a breakout season opener against Georgia Tech, callaway led the team with 4 catches for 115 yds and 2 tds. Unfortunately that was about as far as he got. In the remaining 11 games Marquez never eclipsed more than 72 yards in an individual game mostly Hampered by a nagging injury, it didn’t seem that Marquez was ever 100% healthy. This season, the junior wr is now healthy and looks to be a big time target over the top. Look for an elite-esque season from callaway.
When u mention Jennings, 2 things come to mind. The hailmary catch at uga and the Florida game where he toasted the future NFL defensive back Jalen tabor. Unfortunately that was 2 seasons ago. Last season Jennings played 1 half of football until it was cut short with a wrist injury. The big question is how much of a “dawg” can Jennings be this season? Known to be that go getter, Jennings has to be a playmaker for the vols this year if they want to have any success whatsoever.
The next 2 (Brandon Johnson, Josh Palmer)
Taking a look at what I would call the next 2 WRs in the chart, Brandon Johnson and josh Palmer are poised to have significant better seasons than last season. Some might even say that Brandon may even be the most reliable guy in the rotation. Leading the team with 482 receiving yards, Johnson proved to break out toward the end of the season. I expect him to do wonders in this Helton offense. Palmer showed tons of flashes by beating players on the deep ball, but he struggled a ton with actually catching the football. Drops were his main casualty last season. We’ll be interesting to see if he can progress into a deep threat in 2018.
The unknowns ( Byrd, Murphy, jones, Williams, Tillman)
In my opinion, Tennessee has 5 guys that are completely unknown. The first guy I’ll mention is Tyler Byrd. Back in 2016, Byrd seemed to have a breakout game against Florida where he racked up several tough catches. It seemed evident that Tyler’s talent would find away to continue to help the team but that just wasn’t the case. In 2017, he was completely absent. A lot of fans really wanted to see him blossom at defensive back but when the new staff came in and tried that, he wasn’t where he needed to be so he remained at WR. We’ll see if the new offense can help get Byrd the ball in his hands because it’s no secret that he is electric.
The next guy is Jordan Murphy. Former #2 wr in the state of Mississippi, we’ve heard a ton about this kid from summer camp and fall camp. You may have seen glimpses of him in a few videos that have surfaced on twitter, Jordan seems to be a “go get the ball” type receiver. Last season we didn’t see to much of Murphy but I fully expect us to see him a lot this season.
3rd guy on this list is Jacquez Jones. Some of you may ask yourself “who?” Jones missed the entire season in 2017 with a knee injury. Questions remain where the Former 3 star WR from Clearwater FL will fit in this team, but I expect us to at least get to see what the kid can do this year.
The “fastest guy on the team” according to the previous coaching staff would have been Latrell Williams. Another 3 star wide receiver from Florida, Latrell was slated as the fast kid on the team by former players and coaches. Running a laser times 4.27 40yd at a high school camp, you can understand why a lot of people were excited about this kid. But why haven’t we seen this kid alot? It remains to be seen if sophomore receiver can crack the rotation this season. Can you imagine getting this kid the ball on a jet sweep?
The last kid on this list is cedrick Tillman. A late addition to the class of 2018, Jeremy Pruitt went out and grabbed cedrick straight from Las Vegas. 6’3 205lbs, Tillman is a big body wr that can be versatile at his position. Tons of noise has been coming from summer and fall camp raving about Tillman saying he’s one of the biggest surprises of camp. The only true wide receiver that Pruitt brought in this past class I would expect the freshman to get some playing time especially with the new redshirt rule.
To close, I think the top two guys in this position are, in no question, jauan Jennings and Marquez callaway. If they can be the two alpha dogs and help the younger kids on this roster, I expect the wide receiver position to back to what we use to be. Can Palmer and Johnson take the next step to put themselves at the same level as Marquez and jauan? And can the next 5 guys (Byrd, Tillman, Williams, jones and Murphy) make themselves known and make an impact on the season? A lot of questions are being asked not only about the wr position but the entire team, but if the receivers can go get the ball out of the air and help move the chains, it will be a much improved offense from last season.
Laray Jenkins -AVCIS