Tinsley could solve wideout woes

Converted safety Mark Jones has made headlines with his play at receiver this spring but another transplant also has a chance to be an impact wideout for the Vols next fall.

Derrick Tinsley tied for the team lead in touchdown catches last fall with five, even though he was a reserve tailback who occasionally lined up as a wideout. Now that he's a full-time receiver, he should be an even more productive member of the passing game. So, how does he feel about his new outpost now that he's had a few weeks to work at it?

''I feel good about it,'' he said. ''Going into the season as a wide receiver could give me more opportunities to get on the field. I feel like last year was tough on me playing receiver and running back, This next season I will be able to put all my efforts into that and being the best I can be.''

Several factors led UT coaches to switch Tinsley from RB to WR. First, the Vols are in desperate need of playmakers at the wideout position. Secondly, the Vols have a pretty good 1-2-3 punch at tailback in Cedric Houston, Jabari Davis and Gerald Riggs Jr. Thirdly, Tinsley appears too injury-prone to be an every-down running back. Had he stayed at tailback, he would've had to improve his size, strength and durability.

''Physically, I was going to have to get bigger,'' he conceded. ''I was going to have to get stronger in the weight room. Not that wide receiver isnt difficult, but Coach (Pat) Washington and all the other receivers are really helping me to pick up on the basics -- running correct routes, reading defenses and that sort of thing. Running back would have been hard for me -- staying durable and staying healthy, that sort of thing. With wide receiver I have chance to do some good things.''

That's because Tinsley has exceptional speed. In fact, he's one of UT's fastest players over 40 yards.

''I actually did a mid to low 4.3 range,'' he said. ''I really surprised myself. I am just hoping to keep it at that.''

Although Tinsley admits that he would prefer to play running back, he's adjusting well to his new position.

''Last year I showed to the coaches and myself that I can be a great receiver,'' he said. ''I think that is where we need help, and I am willing to do whatever will be best for my team.''

Tinsley knows he has a long way to go to become a polished receiver. Unlike the afore-mentioned Jones, he never played wideout in high school. Thus, he is still learning the basics ... such as how to beat press coverage.

''I think that is my worst thing right now -- getting off the man press,'' he said. ''That is my hardest thing ... that, and improving my hands.''

The key question: Will he be ready to contribute by the opener?

''I think so,'' Tinsley said. ''I'm working real hard to be ready. I'm learning every day. I think when the season gets here, I will be ready to line up and play.''

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