Wideouts stressed?

It's no secret that Tennessee's wide receivers played terribly in 2005. They ran poor routes. They struggled to get separation. When they did manage to get open, they dropped too many passes.

Based on how sloppily the wideouts played, you got the idea they were indifferent. But one of them says nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of not trying hard enough, he says the wideouts were trying too hard.

"I think the problem last year was that the receivers were taking the pressure the wrong way," said rising senior Jayson Swain. "We were pressing to make big plays all the time, instead of just going out there and playing. If you do the fundamental things right, then it's all going to come naturally."

Swain did enough things right to catch 27 passes for 380 yards last fall, an average of 14.1 yards per catch. Only Robert Meachem caught more balls (29) for more yards (383).

The departure of 2005 seniors C.J. Fayton and Chris Hannon, who caught 24 balls each last season, means Swain and Meachem will be asked to contribute more in 2006. So will Bret Smith (21 catches, 223 yards) and Josh Briscoe (4 catches, 80 yards). Vol coaches also are hoping for some plays from sophomores Austin Rogers and Lucas Taylor, along with redshirt freshman Slick Shelley. Rogers had one reception for 18 yards last fall. Taylor did not register a catch.

If there really was too much pressure on the wide receivers last fall, that problem should be alleviated now that happy-go-lucky Trooper Taylor has replaced Pat Washington as UT's receivers coach. Based on early reports, the wideouts are relaxing more and stressing less this spring under their new overseer.

"They're having fun," Taylor said. "They're not thinking as much. They're just relaxing and playing. If they couldn't play we shouldn't have recruited ‘em. That's what I want them to understand."

Whether Taylor's light-hearted approach makes the wideouts play any better remains to be seen. On the plus side: It probably can't make them play any worse.

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