Baggett's departure

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In the wake of back-to-back losing seasons, a change in Tennessee's football staff is no surprise. The coach involved in that change is.

The departure of 35-year coaching veteran Charlie Baggett was not expected. He appeared to be a fixture of the staff, given what he accomplished in his two years on The Hill.

As a first-year Vol aide in 2010, Baggett seemed to make profound impact on Denarius Moore, Gerald Jones and Justin Hunter.

Moore evolved from a guy known for fast feet and bad hands into one of the SEC's premier home-run threats. He caught 47 passes (with very few drops) and averaged an imposing 20.9 yards per reception as a Vol senior in 2010. He is now starring for the NFL's Oakland Raiders.

Under Baggett's tutelage Jones improved his reception total from 46 in 2009 to 55 in 2010, despite missing three games due to injury. Jones was especially good in the clutch, making a high percentage of his catches in third-down situations.

Baggett also turned a rail-thin Hunter into one of the SEC's most feared deep threats in 2010. The 6-foot-4, 183-pounder averaged a mind-boggling 25.9 yards per catch, with seven of his 16 receptions producing touchdowns.

Even with Moore and Jones out of eligibility, Baggett's receiver corps projected to be the strength of Tennessee's team in 2011. Hunter would be back, along with fellow sophomore Da' Rick Rogers, a former 5-star recruit who had caught 11 pases for 167 yards and two TDs in 2010. Additionally, joining the mix was heralded freshman DeAnthony Arnett, a 4-star recruit from Saginaw, Mich., who tabbed Baggett as a major reason for picking the Vols.

Unfortunately for the Vols, Hunter tore an ACL in the first quarter of Game 3 at Florida after getting off to a spectacular start in Games 1 and 2.

Without Hunter to keep defenses honest, Da'Rick Rogers suddenly found himself bracketed and double-covered on a regular basis. After posting seven catches for a career-high 180 yards in Game 4 versus Buffalo, he caught just five balls against Georgia, three versus LSU, two against Alabama and four versus South Carolina. Still, Rogers enjoyed a strong November and finished with 67 catches for 1,040 yards. The reception total ranks sixth in UT history and the yardage total fifth.

And, while he didn't create the buzz as a freshman that Hunter did a year earlier, Arnett caught 24 passes in 2011. That was seven more than Hunter caught in 2010.

Then there is Rajion Neal. After failing to make a mark as a tailback, Neal essentially became a full-time receiver in 2011. Slowed by injuries, he caught just one pass in the first five games. He came on strong in November, however, finishing with 13 receptions and a 20.7 yards-per-catch average. In the season finale at Kentucky he had grabs of 44 and 53 yards, the latter producing the Vols' lone TD.

Given all of the above, Baggett's decision to step down seems a little perplexing. Perhaps it shouldn't be.

There have been multiple media reports that Rogers was less than respectful of Baggett in practice and sideline settings, so perhaps a personality conflict impacted the aide's decision to depart.

Or maybe Baggett's age — he turns 59 in January — was becoming a liability on the recruiting trail. He reportedly is not responsible for any of Tennessee's 20 commitments for the 2012 signing class.

Or perhaps Baggett was frustrated by the modest production he got from senior cornerback-turned-receiver Anthony Anderson (1 catch for 5 yards), junior Zach Rogers (14 catches for 189 yards), sophomore Matt Milton (1 for 12) and freshman Vincent Dallas (3 for 37).

Incredibly, Hunter finished third among all Tennessee wideouts in catches (17) and second in yards (314), despite playing just nine quarters of football all season.

Whatever the reason for Charlie Baggett's resignation, Big Orange fans owe him a debt of gratitude. He accomplished a lot during his brief stint on The Hill.


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