Who's the go-to guy?

Tennessee's receiving corps may have to earn its stripes without stars.

The much-heralded Vol wideout group boasts five quality players – Robert Meachem, Bret Smith, Chris Hannon, Jayson Swain and C.J. Fayton – but none of them really qualifies as a go-to guy. Each posted a career high for catches in 2004, yet Swain topped the group with a mere 29 grabs. Meachem had 25, Fayton 24, Hannon 21 and Smith 18.

You could argue that UT's receiving corps is balanced but that doesn't alter the fact that the Vols have no one who strikes mind-numbing fear in the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators.

"We feel good about the five guys," Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said this week. "But at this point there's not a Carl Pickens or a Donte' Stallworth or a Kelley Washington – the guys you know are going to step up and play every week."

Sanders isn't complaining, though. He believes the Vol pass-catching corps deserves its accolades.

"As a group of five, they're probably as good as we've had in a long, long time," the coordinator said. "But we've certainly had individuals who've had more productive years or were more consistent on a weekly basis."

Hannon is an enigma. He has the size, speed and leaping ability of a Randy Moss but has been horribly inconsistent. Fellow senior Fayton is another mystery man, routinely starring in bowl games but doing very little in regular-season games. Meachem may have the most upside. Only a sophomore, he could be on the verge of a breakout year.

Certainly, Sanders would like to see one of the wideouts step into the go-to role this fall.

"I think there's a possibility for a couple of those guys to emerge," the coordinator said. "Out of those five, two of them are seniors, two are juniors and one's a sophomore. It's time for one of them to really step up."

Based on historical precendent, juniors Swain and Smith might be the best bets to do so.

"If you look at Carl Pickens, he was good for us as a freshman and sophomore but his junior year was when he really took off," Sanders noted. "It was the same thing with Alvin Harper and Donte' Stallworth. The junior year was when they really took off for us."

Whether it's a senior, a junior or a sophomore, Sanders is hoping SOMEONE can give the 2005 Vols the kind of production Pickens, Harper and Stallworth did in their primes.

Said the coordinator: "It's time for one or two or three of those guys to really take off."


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