Blake Morgan / SEC Country
Tennessee needs sophomore receiver Tyler Byrd to live up to his potential and break out of his sophomore slump.

Tennessee football mailbag: Vols need slumping sophomore Tyler Byrd to step up

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s injury issues have been so well-documented that they sometimes overshadow one another.

The offensive line, for example, got all of the attention entering into last Saturday’s 24-10 homecoming win over Southern Miss because it only had six scholarship players available for five positions.

There’s still talk about the offensive line because the offensive tackle position was down five players. Further, incumbents Brett Kendrick and Drew Richardson remain questionable for Saturday’s game at Missouri and Marcus Tatum has already been ruled out.

The ankle injury to redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is also getting it’s share of attention, because if Guarantano can’t run, then he’s useless in the RPO scheme. That would mean more action for true freshman Will McBride.

All this talk has led many to forget just how desperate the receiver situation has become since go-to receiver Jauan Jennings suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the opener.

Senior Josh Smith has since suffered a serious ankle injury that will continue to sideline him, and talented sophomore Marquez Callaway left Saturday night’s game with an ankle injury.

That leads us to today’s issue.

Tennessee Football Question of the Day

I have seen a lot of good things from Tyler Byrd, is he going to be getting more involved?

Scott Queen

Byrd was expected to be a major contributor this season after making 15 catches for 209 yards as a freshman, along with getting 8 carries for 63 yards on jet sweeps, and returning 10 kicks for 263 yards.

Byrd, however, has experience a sophomore slump that coaches have attributed to an inconsistent work effort during the offseason and into early fall drills.

Byrd has just three catches for 27 yards this season — two against UMass (Sept. 23), and another last Saturday against Southern Miss. Byrd also has 2 carries for 19 yards this season, but he has yet to return a kick.

It has not been a productive season for Byrd at all.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Larry Scott have both said Byrd turned a corner midway through this season, and that has led to more snaps.

RELATED: Byrd Call: Tennessee coach looks for sophomore to step up second half of season

If Callaway can’t go, Byrd and fellow sophomore Brandon Johnson become the lead options, with true freshman Josh Palmer and senior Jeff George also in the mix.