Wide Receiver State

When last the University of Tennessee was widely known among the college football landscape as Wide Receiver U, leg warmers were the fashion, big hair was the passion and Madonna was like a virgin, or so she sang.

Fondly Big Orange fans recalled those heady times and faithfully they await their return. In 2001, there was something of a rise in receiving excellence at UT with Donte Stallworth, Kelly Washington and tight end Jason Witten stretching secondaries to the breaking point.

Unfortunately, like throwback jerseys, they were gone just as quickly as they came. All three left UT early to enlist in the NFL Draft. That splash of success did help spawn a recruiting coup in 2003, as the Vols landed an outstanding trio of receiver prospects in Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Bret Smith. All three players have had their moments over the last three years on The Hill but none has put together a complete season.

That could change this year with dynamic assistant Trooper Taylor taking over as wide receivers coach. Undoubtedly, Cedrick Houston and Gerald Riggs enjoyed their best individual campaigns in 2004 when Taylor assumed the role of running backs coach. Furthermore, Meachem looked to be ready for a breakout season during a spectacular spring game performance.

As for the longer range future, the recruitment and development of wide receivers is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge — the job never stops or even slows down. That metaphor is particularly applicable to a team like Tennessee that uses three and four wide receiver sets in order to spread the field and create space for the running game.

Finding wide receivers can present a problem, especially if you're not located in California, Texas or Florida, three states that produce half of the premiere Division I pass-catching prospects.

The good news is that the Class of 2007 is an exception to the rule, as the Volunteer State is more like the Wide Receiver State. No there doesn't appear to be a receiver prospect with the potential of Patrick Turner in 2005, but the depth is such that UT has already committed three in-state wide receivers — Todd Campbell of Franklin, Anthony Anderson of Knoxville Austin East and Tyler Maples of Maryville. Additionally, the Volunteers have extended an offer to Memphis Wooddale wideout Roderick Davis, and has a strong interest in Alcoa receiver Kyrus Lanxter, who has been offered by West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Minnesota and Louisville among others.

Obviously, if the Vols signed as many as five in-state receiver prospects, a couple would likely end up in the secondary, but there's also a couple of other in-state products — Golden Tate of Pope John and Harrison Smith of Knoxville Catholic — being recruited for other positions by UT that could play wide receiver.

Of course, the Vols are pursuing five-star talent Greg Little, a running back that many see as a wide receiver, and they've made three offers to WR prospects from Florida — Dion Lecorn, Travris Cadet and Darian Williams. They also have several other offers sprinkled around the south to Darris Young of Shannon, Miss., Jay Smith of Virginia Beach, Va., Christian Smith of Birmingham, Ala. and Willie White of Kingsland, Ga.

Regardless of how you slice it up, it looks like UT's wide receiver corp of the future will be made up of a lot of home bodies.

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