Tennessee's receivers didn't make many plays last fall. That's why receivers coach Pat Washington was fired and Taylor was moved over from running backs coach to oversee the wideouts. Taylor has worked hard to improve the route-running, blocking and pass-catching abilities of his troops. In addition, he has upgraded their work ethic.
"I tell them: Perfect alignment, perfect assignment and then unbelievable effort," he says. "When I can get those things, then they're making plays on top of that, it'll be hard to keep ‘em off the field."
Tennessee coaches insist they'll utilize fewer receivers this year than last. Most likely, four wideouts will get most of the playing time. Senior Jayson Swain and junior Robert Meachem appear likely to fill two of the four slots. Swain caught four passes for 54 yards – both team highs – in last Saturday's full-scale scrimmage. Meachem, who led UT in receptions in 2004 and 2005, checked in with three grabs for 28 yards.
Battling for the other two spots are senior Bret Smith, plus sophomores Josh Briscoe, Lucas Taylor and Austin Rogers. Briscoe caught three balls for 48 yards, including a 20-yard TD pass, in Saturday's scrimmage. Taylor caught three for 37 yards, including a 27-yard TD grab. Rogers caught two passes for 25 yards.
Trooper Taylor believes the three sophomores are progressing nicely.
"They're coming on real good," he says. "Lucas has made some plays. I'd just like to see them be consistent. We can't have peaks and valleys. We need a whole lot more peaks and a whole lot less valleys. If they'll become more consistent I think they'll be OK."
Taylor says the receivers who do what he asks will play. Those who don't won't.
"They have to make me feel like Tennessee's better with them on the field," he says. "I don't owe it to them. It's not my responsibility to make ‘em be out there. They have to make me put them out there."