Meachem makes his move

Redshirt freshman receiver Robert Meachem was famous before he caught his first college pass. Glowing media reports of his practice performances made him the most famous Vol wideout NEVER to catch a pass.

Now fans understand why the media went so ga-ga over the talented Tulsa product. Meachem has just eight receptions in Tennessee's first six games but they have produced 163 yards, two touchdowns and a sparkling 20.4 yards-per-catch average.

His numbers should be even better, though. An SEC official admits he mistakenly ruled Meachem out of bounds at the Ole Miss 30-yard line last Saturday, nullifying what would've been a 70-yard touchdown play. If you could restore those 30 lost yards, Meachem's numbers become 193 receiving yards, three touchdowns and a sizzling 24.2 yards-per-catch average.

The hype was justified. Meachem is well on his way to being a star.

''He's coming along,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said recently. ''We've been trying to get him more involved. He's been playing as many or more snaps as any other receiver, and he finally came through for us.''

Meachem could be a key man again this Saturday, since Alabama crowds the line of scrimmage and literally dares opponents to throw.

''We need him to step up and have a big game this week because Alabama's certainly not afraid to come up and challenge you man-to-man,'' Sanders said. ''As we all know, he's probably the most physically talented receiver we have. This is a game we need him to step up and play well in.''

If Meachem doesn't step up this weekend, odds are another Vol wideout will. Bret Smith is averaging 20.5 yards per catch and has turned five of his 10 catches this season into touchdowns. Tony Brown has 15 catches and a 14.5 ypc average. Jayson Swain has 11 catches for a 13.7 average. C.J. Fayton averages 13.2 yards per catch on his 11 grabs, Derrick Tinsley 12.3 on his nine catches.

Ironically, the guy projected to be Tennessee's gamebreaker -- 4.28 speedster Chris Hannon -- ranks SEVENTH among the wideouts in yards per catch. His 14 receptions have produced 188 yards and a mere 11.3 ypc average.

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