KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee sophomore receiver Preston Williams is looking to catch on at another school, news breaking Wednesday night that he’s leaving the Vols program.
Williams, a former 5-star recruit from Lovejoy, Ga., was unable to measure up to coach Butch Jones’ standards of late and struggled to find his way on the field.
Jones didn’t mention Williams departure on Wednesday night’s VolCalls radio show on the Vol Network, but he did make a telling reference to the receiving group with freshmen wideouts Brandon Johnson and Marquez Callaway on as guests.
“Not one time have they been down about not playing,” Jones said of the freshmen receivers. “We’ve had to change the culture in the receiver room, and these two players along with (freshman) Tyler Byrd helped change the culture.
“Sometimes receivers are allergic to blocking … really your blocking sets up the throw game.”
The 6-foot-4, 209-pound Williams was expected to make an impact this season, and it was only six weeks ago that he was sitting beside Jones on The VolCalls show.
“I’d get a text from Preston this summer, and it would be a video of him working on his curl route,” Jones said on an August night at Calhoun’s with Williams seated beside him.
“Preston has natural abilities that people don’t have with that size and speed. The thing where he has taken his game to the next level is he’s able to high point the ball now.”
Williams got off to a quick start, catching five passes for 45 yards in the first half of the Vols’ 20-13 overtime win against Appalachian State.
Since that opening half, however, Williams has only had four catches for 44 yards over the past five games.
Williams did not record a catch in the 45-38 double overtime loss to Texas A&M, but Byrd had three catches and Johnson made the first catch of his career.
Williams is the second player to leave the program this week, as starting defensive tackle Danny O’Brien was dismissed on Monday for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Jones made it clear he’s confident with the young receivers he has remaining on the team moving forward.
“It is a process, and I think they figured it out, and these two young men have competitive character and they are better people,” Jones said. “They’ve kept working and working to a point where they are game ready.”
Tennessee plays host to Alabama at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.