Standout wideout

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Perhaps the biggest statistic of concern heading into the 2013 football season for the Tennessee Volunteers — 3,016.

That is the number of receiving yards that departed players Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, Mychal Rivera, Zach Rogers and Ben Bartholomew accumulated in 2012. That number is what an inexperienced group of wide receivers has to replace.

"Our receiving corps has to step up," head coach Butch Jones said Tuesday. "We are not anywhere where we need to be and we need some individuals there."

Not a single start amongst them, the Tennessee receivers have a monumental task ahead of them, but one player who has been up to the challenge is redshirt freshman big man Jason Croom.

"The one individual who has really started to impress me right now is Jason Croom," Jones said. "I thought he came back from spring break, I could tell he got into his play book, he ran over break and I really liked the way he approached practice today.

Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni says his group has a long way to go.
(Danny Parker/

"He is a big 6-foot-4, 225-pound individual and he needs to play like that. I really saw some glimpses today and I am very encouraged by what I saw with him."

After losing his freshman season to a shoulder injury, Croom had to deal with a potential position change to tight end, but when Jones and company arrived on campus he was right back to the edge and says using his size has become the priority in his game.

"That is what coach has been talking to me about, using my size more and having my confidence when I am out there," Croom said. "That is what I have been working on. Like today I wrote on my wristband no missed physical opportunities. Every chance I have, try to be physical."

A former four-star prospect by FOX Sports NEXT out of Norcross (Ga.) High School, Croom finished his senior season with 34 catches, 688 yards and 10 touchdowns.

However, from the moment he stepped on The Hill, the Peach State native struggled with injury before being able to step out onto Haslam Field back on March 9.

"It is different because last year I was messed up," Croom said. "I tore my hamstring and then once my hamstring got better I messed up my shoulder. I was just down from the get go and now I am healthy and learning a lot more from coach (Azzanni)."

Even still, Croom can't be the only one that steps up to the plate. That number lingers — 3,016. The redshirt freshman's work ethic must be infectious or the Vols will have a tough time moving the ball down the field in 3016. Correction, 2013.

Watch Croom's video interview following Tuesday's practice, the Vols' first since their return from spring break:

Practice footage of Vol WRs

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