Kelley's confidence is soaring

If Vol football player Kelley Washington falls short of All-America status this fall, it won't be because he lacks confidence. The sophomore receiver says he's ready to ''shock the world this year with my talent.''

Washington has never been the modest type. He spoke openly of being an impact player when he first stepped on the practice field in the spring of 2001. And he was openly critical of the coaching staff when he was used sparingly in the opening game that fall.

After catching 11 balls for a school-record 256 yards in Game 3 against LSU, he showed that he had the skills to back up his big talk. Though slowed by a hamstring injury much of the season, he wound up catching 64 passes for 1,010 yards, both team highs.

And, the more he has exhibited his skills, the more he has enjoyed talking about them.

Asked recently about the season ahead, Washington replied:

''I'm going to be ready. I can't wait because I know what I bring to the table now that I'm a fulltime receiver. I've refined my routes, my knowledge of the game and my knowledge of the defense. I've got so much confidence in myself. I'm ready to shock the nation this year with my talent, carry this team to the SEC Championship Game and whatever's after that.''

At about this time, Vol defensive back Julian Battle, another player who isn't lacking in the ego department, strolled by. Nodding toward Washington, he quipped, ''Undersized tight end.''

At 6-4 and 225 pounds, Washington is an exceptionally large receiver. And he's an exceptionally large target for junior quarterback Casey Clausen. The two have worked together a lot this summer in an effort to refine their timing for the coming season.

''We know what each other have now to the point where we trust each other,'' Washington said. ''We're a 1-2 punch right now. We're just trying to find a connection with another receiver right now. With me and Casey, you can just call us money (in the bank).''

One candidate to be the ''other'' receiver is Derrick Tinsley. Although he's listed as a tailback, Tinsley will be split him out wide on occasion as the coaching staff attempts to fully utilize his great speed and soft hands.

Asked for his take on Tinsley, Washington replied: ''He's not a receiver. He's a running back, but we can do some things with him to utilize his speed and his hands. We're not taking him too far down the field but we're giving him some underneath routes. He's sort of like a Josh Reed (LSU) — getting a lot of YAC (yards after catch) yardage from being a running back. We definitely need for him to step up this year.''

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