KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Larry Scott talks about making his players being “comfortable being uncomfortable,” but Tennessee’s offensive coordinator is ultimately looking to make opponents uncomfortable being uncomfortable.
Trotting a 6-foot-3, 258-pounder into the slot who can run like a deer and make one-handed catches just might do the trick.
Question is, how quickly can Tennessee true freshman LaTrell Bumphus learn the playbook and prove he can handle his assignments?
“It’s all happening very fast,” coach Butch Jones said, asked about Bumphus’ progress. “What we see is a very talented young man, very explosive, great center of gravity, tough and has very good ball skills.
“We need to progress day by day, but he is an individual we anticipate will play.”
That’s the head coach saying Bumphus is in the game plan.
Scott coaches tight ends in addition to being the offensive coordinator, but that doesn’t mean Bumphus will be limited to lining up adjacent to offensive linemen.
“I like using a lot of guys in the slot, I like using tight ends in the slot, receivers, quick guys, it’s all who we’re playing,” Scott said. “That’s one of the ways you drum up competition. You’re not just competing against the slots, slot receivers, you’re competing against the second back coming in the game, or the tight end lining up in the slot.
“I want to rev up the competition across the board.”
Bumphus is the type of talent that does that, and Scott identified him as a special talent long ago.
“LaTrell was a project of mine, every time I got my hands on in him in a camp situation, it was enough to make me believe he could develop and grow into that position and be a true Y (tight end),” said Scott, who recruited Bumphus out of Hardin County High School in Savannah, Tenn.
“You’re talking about a 6-foot-4, 260-pound freshman that can run and bend like a 220-pound guy,” Scott said. “This guy was tracking fly balls in center field for his baseball team, that’s pretty athletic for a big man.”
Offensive line coach Walt Wells said Bumphus has looked good in limited blocking situations, so far.
“We hadn’t seen a ton of it yet,” Wells said, “but we’ve seen some of it, and he’s doing a great job, and he’ll continue to get better.”
Bumphus’ offer sheet didn’t match his 3-star rating. Tennessee was one of seven SEC schools to offer him a scholarship — Alabama, Florida and Texas A&M were a few others.
Schools from coast to coast took note of Bumphus’ talents at defensive end and as an offensive weapon, as he took hand offs and caught passes from most every position imaginable.
Oregon, Penn State, USC and Louisville all offered Bumphus scholarships, so it’s not like Tennessee’s No. 23 is a hidden gem.
The tight end position is typically one of the most difficult on a football team to learn and play, because of the myriad of duties.
But if the Vols’ receivers continue to struggle with dropped passes, Scott knows where he can find a big, athletic target who can catch the football.