Throw to the tight end?

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders says there's a good reason Tennessee's tight ends haven't been thrown to a lot this season: they haven't PLAYED a lot this season.

Because the Vols are loaded with quality wide receivers, they have used more three- and four-wideout sets than in the recent past. That, coupled with nagging injuries to several tight ends, has limited UT's opportunities to throw to them.

As a result, freshman Chris Brown and redshirt freshman Brad Cottam have caught two passes each. Justin Reed has caught one, a touchdown grab against Florida. Victor McClure has yet to record a catch.

Although Tennessee's tight ends have few catches, they've made 'em count. Brown's two catches averaged 18.5 yards each. Cottam's two averaged 17 yards each. Reed's TD grab covered 16 yards.

Sanders seems to be tiring of questions about the lack of catches by Vol tight ends.

''I thought we'd probably throw to them a little more than we have,'' he said. ''Of course, we've spent so much of this year spread out without them in the game.

''I keep hearing people say, 'We don't throw to the tight end.' Well, hell, they're on the sideline a lot of times when we're throwing it. ''

The coordinator also took exception to the idea that Tennessee needs to spread the field more in order to open up the ground game and the passing attack.

''I heard somebody say we don't spread the field,'' he said. ''Obviously, somebody doesn't watch what we do because the biggest part of our season has been played in three-wides and four-wides. Probably 60 percent of our total snaps this year have been played without a tight end in the game.

''I like our tight ends. I think they're going to be really, really good players. But if you go back and look, they haven't been free of the injury bug, either. Cottam had a bad shoulder and wasn't able to hit anybody in practice for almost eight weeks. Victor McClure missed five or six weeks at the first of the season (under a disciplinary suspension). About the time Victor came back, Justin Reed got hurt and missed about four weeks.''

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