Wideouts are on fire

Wide receiver Chris Hannon is making a big play almost every Saturday for the Tennessee Vols, including the game-clinching touchdown grab last weekend at Georgia. He'd better keep making plays, however, if he wants to keep his first-team job.

Hannon has a team-high 13 catches for 139 yards this fall but a host of talented backups are threatening to cut into his playing time.

''If you're going to play ahead of some of the other guys we've got, you'd BETTER be making plays,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said.

Sophomore Bret Smith is a prime example. He has caught just nine passes through the first five games but four of them produced points.

''The guy just scores touchdowns,'' Sanders said, shaking his head.

The same goes for redshirt freshman Robert Meachem, who has found the end zone on two of his five receptions to date.

Rugged Jayson Swain, built more like a linebacker than a wideout, is another guy who can make things happen. He's averaging 15 yards on his nine catches. Then there's C.J. Fayton, whose nine receptions have produced 126 yards and two TDs. Derrick Tinsley didn't catch a pass the first six games of 2003 but he has seven grabs the first five games of 2004. His 39-yard reception on Tennessee's first possession at Georgia helped the Vols take a quick 7-0 lead.

''Jayson Swain had a real big catch in the fourth quarter against Georgia,'' Sanders noted. ''Derrick Tinsley and C.J. Fayton made big catches for us, too.''

Don't forget senior Tony Brown, who starts on the side opposite Hannon. He has been his usual steady self, posting 12 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown thus far.

It's significant to note that Tennessee's leading receiver in 2002 was tight end Jason Witten and its second-leading receiver of 2003 was fullback Troy Fleming. The fact the top six receivers of 2004 are all wideouts indicates the Vols are getting much better production from their wide receivers than they did the previous two years.

''Those guys keep making plays,'' Sanders said. ''It's nice that it's not just one guy. You've got eight or nine guys catching passes each game. That makes it a little harder to defend us, I think.''


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