UT feeling receivers’ many ills
Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013 7:00 pm
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee is running out of healthy receivers.
A school that could have four former receivers selected in this month’s NFL draft was down to four healthy scholarship wideouts by the end of Thursday’s practice.
Paul Harris, Vincent Dallas and Jacob Carter haven’t practiced this week because of various minor injuries. Dallas got shaken up early in Saturday’s scrimmage and Harris injured his hamstring later that day. Carter has a sprained ankle.
Jason Croom joined the list of injured receivers Thursday when he also hurt his hamstring.
“We take two steps forward and a step back,” wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni said. “The injuries haven’t helped. I haven’t been able to settle a guy into a position. This guy’s down, so I’ve got to move this guy over here or over here.”
That left junior Devrin Young, sophomores Cody Blanc and Alton “Pig” Howard plus redshirt freshman Drae Bowles as Tennessee’s only healthy scholarship receivers by the end of Thursday’s practice. Young just moved from running back to receiver this spring. Blanc, a two-way player in high school who was recruited primarily as a safety, has no career catches.
The injuries are hurting Tennessee at its greatest position of concern as the Vols attempt to adjust to the faster pace of new coach Butch Jones’ offense. Adapting to this uptempo approach and its demands on receivers may have played at least some role in the attrition.
“What’s great about it is they get it now,” Azzanni said. “They better take care of their bodies, they better get sleep, they better hydrate or you can’t play in this offense. It just goes too fast and we play too hard.”
Tennessee’s receiving corps must replace potential first-round draft picks Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter as well as likely mid-round selection Zach Rogers. A total of four former Tennessee receivers should be drafted this month if you include Da’Rick Rogers, who played last year at Tennessee Tech after spending two seasons with the Vols.
Tennessee’s new coaching staff has struggled to find playmakers in this untested receiving corps. Jones said the team dropped five passes at Saturday’s scrimmage.
“A dropped pass in our offense is equivalent to a turnover in our offense, and those five dropped passes were big-time drops,” Jones said.
The receivers also don’t have the benefit of working alongside an experienced quarterback. Tyler Bray bypassed his senior season to enter the draft, leaving Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman to compete for the starting quarterback spot.
“Our quarterbacks are playing outstanding,” Azzanni said.
“I feel bad for them a little bit because we’re not as good on the perimeter as we need to be. … We’re maybe slowing their development down a little bit.”
NOTES: Running back Marlin Lane didn’t attend Thursday’s practice because of what offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian described as disciplinary reasons. … Players and coaches will sign autographs at Neyland Stadium on April 20 before the Orange and White Game. The signing will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fans can begin lining up at 7 a.m. at Gate 7. Fans will be allowed one item for autograph per player or coach.
Published in The Messenger 4.12.13