For a long time, there’s been an obvious ingredient lacking in the Tennessee Vols’ quest to return to the top of the college football world.
Specifically at wide receiver.
Jauan Jennings, who is now in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, was Tennessee’s best wide receiver since the days of Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter. But while Jennings was a great player, he wasn’t a burner. His 4.72 40 time wasn’t going to allow him to outrun many defensive backs and turn short gains into long touchdowns.
Big plays are an important part of winning games. They create momentum and kill the confidence of the opposition.
And elite speed is required to make those big plays happen.
Fortunately for the Vols, it looks like they finally have some elite speed on the roster, thanks to a few newcomers.
“First thing I would say is speed. That was something that we wanted to address in last year’s recruiting class,” said wide receivers coach Tee Martin this week when talking about UT’s new additions at wide receiver.
“We want to push the ball downfield vertically and we want to create matchup mismatches on offense, and you can’t do it without speed,” added Martin. “The addition of Velus Jones, a transfer from USC who is someone I’m familiar with, who’s a 4.3 (40-yard dash). Jalin Hyatt, having the addition of Jimmy Holiday, Jimmy Calloway – those guys can absolutely run…The one thing that I’ve been noticing about them, if you just had to sum it up in a few words, is that they can run.”
In addition to the newcomers that Martin mentioned, senior wide receiver Josh Palmer also has enough speed (reportedly in the 4.5 range) to get down the field quickly.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney favors a vertical passing game that stretches the field. He has the personnel this year to make his offense work — as long as quarterback Jarrett Guarantano (or whoever happens to be in the game) can deliver the ball accurately and on time.
Tennesse head coach Jeremy Pruitt has given the program quite the facelift after taking over for Butch Jones in late 2017. The Vols’ transformation isn’t over yet — Pruitt still has work to do. But Vol fans should love where the program is heading under Pruitt.
Featured image via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY