The annual tight end pledge

There are two things The Volunteer Nation can count on happening each summer: (1) Tennessee's football players will assemble for preseason drills and (2) Tennessee's offensive coaches will pledge to get the tight end more involved in the passing game.

You'll believe it when you see it, right?

There was a time when Tennessee's fullback was mostly a blocker and the tight end was mostly a pass catcher. But the reverse has been the case for the Vols in recent years. Tennessee's fullbacks have been catching a lot more passes than the tight ends.

In 2003, for instance, fullbacks Troy Fleming (36) and Will Revill (3) combined for 39 receptions. By comparison, tight end Victor McClure caught one ball.

In 2004, fullbacks Cory Anderson (17) and David Holbert (3) combined for 20 catches. Tight ends Chris Brown (6), Brad Cottam (2) and Justin Reed (1) combined for just 9 catches.

Last fall's breakdown was a little closer to even. Anderson (14) and Holbert (2) combined for just 16 receptions. Still, that topped the tight end total of 14 catches – all by Brown.

Will the Vols throw more passes to the tight end in 2006? Sure. Take it from Phillip Fulmer.

"Chris Brown being back is a real key for us," the Vols' head man said this week. "We need to get him more involved. We need to get him the football more, whether it's at the tight end or H-back position.

"And we're going to find ways to get Brad Cottam and his younger brother Jeff in the ballgame. Those guys are physical and can run. In spring practice they made significant progress under the auspices of Coach (Matt) Luke. I'm real encouraged about the progress they've made."

The annual pledge has been made. Maybe this will be the year Tennessee delivers on it.

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