There are a few constants in Knoxville, TN on game day. 100,000 plus Tennessee Vols fans will be dressed in orange and tailgating along the banks of the Tennessee River. The fans will cheer, and some will have tears in their eyes when The Pride of the Southland Band opens the T for the players to run onto the field. Rocky Top will be played a lot, and the Vols will usually have the best receivers on the field.
Tennessee has been Wide Receiver U for the past several decades. Wideouts such as Larry Seivers, Stanley Morgan, and Willie Gault began the tradition. Other greats such as Tim McGee, Anthony Hancock, Alvin Harper, Joey Kent, Kelly Washington, Peerless Price, Carl Pickens and Cedrick Wilson terrorized SEC defensive backs and made their way to the NFL.
Two years ago Tennessee had arguably the best tandem in the country with now Titan Justin Hunter and NFL All Pro Cordarrelle Patterson of the Minnesota Vikings. The scary thing for opposing teams now is that this 2014 group may be the best ever assembled on the hill.
The Vols will be led by Sophomore Marquez North. North is simply a beast. At 6’4″ 221 pounds he is fearless in his route running, and can beat you deep with deceiving speed. North’s work ethic is tireless to become a better receiver daily. He will benefit from having the 5 star, true freshman Josh Malone on the other side.
The 6’3″ Malone will require a lot of attention from the defense, so it will take away the double coverage on North. Malone showed he is the real-deal with his smooth performance in the Orange and White Game in the Spring.
The most exciting and athletic receiver on the team may be the JUCO transfer Von Pearson. Pearson is drawing comparison to Cordarrelle Patterson by the staff, and already has highlight reels on youtube of catches made in practice.
He will be the possession receiver the Vols need to move the chains on third down, and his explosiveness will allow him to turn a 5 yard out into a romp to the checkerboards. If this isn’t enough talent, add 6’5″ Jason Croom. I think he is one of the most underutilized weapons they have. With his height and strength he is a real threat in the red zone. Just get the ball up to him and no one will out jump him.
Oddly enough the biggest threat to being able to stop this group may not come from opposing teams defenses. It could be the Vols own quarterback situation. Both Senior Justin Worley and Sophomore Josh Dobbs will be better from the experience they received in 2013. Both have shown they can play at a SEC level at times.
However, the inconsistency is simply there for both. Both of these guys tend to miss too many open receivers as well as make too many ill advised decisions during the game. Right now they are not the quarterback that can go out and win you a game, but could possibly lose you a game with their questionable decision making and execution.
I believe both will be much improved, and may surprise Vol fans in 2014 by becoming that game manager Head Coach Butch Jones needs. They have the weapons around them with this talented group of receivers. They just have to pull the trigger so that we may see this group at Wide Receiver U perform at perhaps the highest level achieved yet at Tennessee. That is truly saying something.