SEC Country is breaking down each Tennessee position group as the Vols hit the field for spring football practice.
Monday’s breakdown features Tennessee’s 2016 receivers/tight ends.
Notable departures: Von Pearson, Marquez North and Jonathan Johnson
Major players: WR’s Josh Malone, Josh Smith, Jauan Jennings, Preston Williams and TE Ethan Wolf
Analysis: In just a few short months, a team strength had turned into a position of need. The Vols were thought to be relatively deep at receiver the past couple of seasons. However, it quickly became apparent that Tennessee coach Butch Jones views depth very differently than other coaches. He has said he wants ten receivers he can rely on. Jones wants more receivers since he plays multiple receiver sets and constantly rotates his wideouts.
That means the Vols are thin at receiver, at least by Jones’ opinion. Malone has shown flashes he can be a playmaker. He caught 31 passes for 405 yards as a sophomore but needs to take another step and be more consistent. Smith has battled injuries but has been consistent when in the lineup. Jennings was a pleasant surprise when he was moved from quarterback to receiver as a freshman last season and caught 14 passes for 149 yards. Williams may be the most talented receiver on the team, but battled injuries as a freshman last season. Vincent Perry is also an unknown since he was hurt and redshirted last season during his freshman year.
Wolf is a solid tight end who could be on the verge of stardom. Former receiver Jason Croom will move to tight end to provide more depth there.
The Vols felt then needed immediate help at receiver and may have found it with junior college receiver Jeff George, who enrolled in January. George has the ability to be a deep-ball threat, but the Vols would love him to be more than just a jump-ball specialist.
Key Question: How do the Vols handle less depth than they’d prefer?
Bottom line: Tennessee either needs to develop depth or learn to live without it. Jones has been openly questioned about his receiver rotation. Not only does it put pressure on less-talented receivers, it also makes it hard for any receiver to get in a rhythm with quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
Sunday: Defensive Line
Saturday: Offensive Line