WRs to step up?

When Tennessee signed prep All-America wideouts Robert Meachem, Bret Smith and Jayson Swain in February of 2003, the Vols appeared almost certain to enjoy superior receiver play in the seasons to come.

It didn't happen in 2003, 2004 or 2005, however, which is one reason wide receiver coach Pat Washington was cut loose last November.

Meachem tore up a knee and redshirted in '03, then caught 25 balls in 2004 and 29 in 2005.

Smith caught five balls as a rookie in 2003, 18 in 2004 and 21 in 2005.

Swain has been consistent, catching 21, 29 and 27 balls the past three years.

All told, the Big Three has combined for just 175 receptions in three years. That's why it was a little surprising to read a note by John Harris for collegefootballnews.com predicting the Vol trio will catch almost that many passes (150) in 2006 alone.

Certainly, Meachem, Smith and Swain have the talent to be much more productive than they have been to date. But expecting them to combine for 150 catches in 2006 might be asking a bit much. They'd have to average 50 catches each and, thus far, none of the three has managed to catch 30 passes in a season ... let alone 50.

Regardless, here's what Harris had to say about them in a recent preview piece on Tennessee:

"Robert Meachem, Bret Smith and Jayson Swain haven't stood out individually for the Volunteers, but as a group, they're a solid trio who must continue to blossom this year for Ainge. Meachem led the Vols with 29 receptions last season, but has yet to really explode on the scene as was expected when he arrived from Tulsa, OK. Smith is probably the team's best red zone receiver, while Swain is a big, physical threat who creates mismatches with his size. All three must be more consistent catching the football, but in Cutcliffe's offense, the three of them should be on the field together a good deal. This threesome should combine for 150 catches+ in 2006."

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