Maybe now some of the conversation will focus on C.J. Fayton. The 6-foot-2 senior from Virginia Beach enjoyed his best game as a Vol in the final outing of last season, catching three balls for a career-high 94 yards in the Cotton Bowl defeat of Texas A&M. Then he topped that in the first game of this season, grabbing five balls for 97 yards in Saturday's 17-10 defeat of Alabama-Birmingham.
Though he lacks blinding speed, Fayton is establishing himself as a big-play threat. He had a 57-yard reception vs. A&M and a 53-yarder vs. UAB.
Before he distinguished himself in Saturday's opener, however, Fayton embarrassed himself. Wide open, he dropped a pass from Rick Clausen that would've provided a first down at the UAB 30-yard line late in the first half. He atoned two plays later, however, making a spectacular diving catch of a 12-yard touchdown pass from Clausen to give the Vols a 17-3 halftime lead.
"That (drop) was the main reason I stayed in the game," Fayton said. "I wanted to come back and make a big play for my team. I felt like I let my team down. That was a chance to really focus in, and I wanted to make a play."
Fayton made his 53-yard catch/run with about two minutes remaining in the game. Clinging desperately to its seven-point lead, Tennessee faced a third-and-six at its 16-yard line. Splitting out wide right against single coverage, Fayton made eye contact with Clausen.
"Me and Rick sort of looked at each other, and had a check," Fayton said. "We saw a coverage we liked, and Rick put it up there. It was a great ball for me to run and get, make the big play and keep the drive rolling."
Clausen said he audibled to the pass play for a very simple reason.
"I checked to C.J. because he'd been making plays," Clausen said. "He was one-on-one, and I was basically saying, ‘C.J.'s better than their guy.' That's the kind of faith you've got to have in your receivers."
That faith was tested on Saturday, however, as Vol wideouts dropped several catchable balls. The heralded receivers were understandably disappointed.
"We definitely take that personal," Fayton said. "But we have a bye week to get over that and get better."
Given the glut of talent in UT's receiving corps, it's a safe bet that guys who don't hold onto the ball won't play.
"We have to take advantage of the opportunities we have," Fayton said. "We're so deep that the opportunities may be very few in a game."