That trend did an about face last season when Donte Stallworth and Kelley Washington combined their considerable repertoire to usher in the era of Wide Receiver U 2 at Tennessee.
Unfortunately that revival could become short lived. Stallworth made an early exit to the NFL this spring where he was taken in the first round by New Orleans, and Washington is expected to join him as a first round pick in 2003. Stallworth's loss has left Tennessee looking for a No. 2 receiver while Washington's departure will leave the Vols looking for a No. 1. That means the hunt is on to replenish the Vol receiving corps and reinforce Tennessee's national reputation.
Coach Phillip Fulmer and staff have established wide receiver as a clear need position for this recruiting season and the Vols are in on some big-time talent. Huntsville Virgil Grissom High School's Jayson Swain is rated No. 15 nationally by The Insiders and is high on Tennessee's list of most wanted wideouts.
Swain's list of attributes makes him a target for a lot of high-profile programs including in-state powers Auburn and Alabama along with most SEC schools as well as many ACC programs like Florida State and Georgia Tech. Swain, 6-2, 205, has all the tools to be a high-caliber pass catcher. In addition to excellent size, he has outstanding 4.41 speed (4.37 on a good day) and proven production. During three seasons as a starter, Swain has 141 receptions for 2,710 yards. As a sophomore, he caught 69 passes for 1160 yards. Last year as a junior, Swain played with a pair of inexperienced signal callers and finished with 40 receptions for 800 yards, but he augmented that offensive output by rushing for 500 yards as a part-time tailback and returning four kicks for touchdowns.
"I came in three years ago," said Grissom head coach Ronnie Massey. "It was good timing. I had heard about him in middle schools and stuff like that. When he walked in the door you just knew that by the way he carried himself that this is a different kind of guy. He's the only one I ever had that as an eighth grader went through spring training with us and, as far as just getting the mental aspect of everything, when he steps on the field he's a better athlete than anyone we've got."
Starting for the state's fifth largest school as a freshman, Swain hauled in 32 passes for 750 yards and collected all-state honors, Swain was named a Prep Magazine All-American after his sensational sophomore season.
"He's the best one I've ever been around.," said Massey. "He started for us as a freshman so he's already started for three years. He's the only freshman I've ever had who started for me."
Swain stood 6-0,185, as a freshman but already become well known as an athletic phenom by the time he reached middle school.
"He developed pretty quickly," said Massey a bit amused at his understatement. "He was a phenomenal athlete in middle school. In a middle school basketball game, he jumped up and busted his head on the backboard one time. He can absolutely sky. They tell me he rebounded a ball in a game this season and threw to an open man on the other end of the court. He missed the lay-up and Jayson came right behind him and put it in. Some things he does, no one else can do. It makes you a good coach."
It also helps that Swain is driven to improve as he has demonstrated in the weight room. He has gained strength over the summer and currently bench presses 300 pounds and squats 475. While Swain is acutely aware of his strength training goals, he couldn't tell you any statistics from his career.
"I don't keep up with any of that," Swain said. "I'm expecting our team to have a good season this year. As long as our team has a good season that's all that matters to me. If I play hard and do everything I?m supposed to, I'll be happy."
Last season Swain exhibited his selfless approach to football when he played against Grissom's archrival a day after being involved in a serious automobile accident while riding to school as a passenger.
"Physically and mentally that can kind of knock you off track when you've got a game the next day," he said. "I was able to keep my mind off that and help my team win against our rival. So I would say that's the best game outside of the stats and touchdowns that I've had. I went to the hospital and they thought I had a concussion, but I told the doctors I was all right and he let me play."
Coach Massey praises Swain for his leadership and his judgment.
"He's got a great attitude," said Massey. "He's one of the leaders on our football team and he plays basketball, too. He struggled early in his career whether he was going to be torn between basketball and football or just concentrate on football. I've been trying to convince him that great athletes can play whatever they want."
Swain has decided to focus on football alone this season and he has the skills needed to raise the level of his game.
"He's had big games every year," Massey said. "Last year against Butler, that had two guys who signed with Alabama and both of those guys were covering Jayson, we threw a quick screen out to him and both of those guys came up and he ran over the first one, and stiff-armed the second one about 20 yards down the field and went in for the score. He can do it all. He played quarterback for us, he played tailback, he played safety and corner. He can do it all.
"Right now, I feel like he's really on fire for knowing what's going on and what he can do at the next level."
Although that elusive next level looms like a lighthouse on the horizon, Swain is taking things a step at time. He still needs to pass his ACT exam and he wants to maintain, if not improve, his 2.8 grade point average.
"I am just taking it a day at a time, not letting it get to my head or interfere with the things I'm trying to do here as far as school wise and team wise, and trying to be a better person," he said when asked about the college selection process. "I have a decent number of schools, but I haven't sat down and narrowed them down right now. I'm just waiting to get in school and get into the flow of my senior year before I try to do that."
Swain attended football camp at Alabama this summer, but missed a planned camp at Tennessee. He did go to UT for summer camp as a freshman and has developed a solid relationship with Tennessee receiver coach Pat Washington.
"As far as Tennessee goes I talk to Coach (Pat) Washington about once a week," Swain said. "I've had a relationship with him since my freshman year when I went to the campus there. I started talking to him then and I've been talking to him ever since. We've got a good relationship. Tennessee is definitely one of the schools I'll be looking at."
Swain said his interests outside of school and sports are pretty garden variety for a young man his age.
"I like to stay home and play video games," he said. "I do pretty much normal things. I don't go out sky diving or anything like that. I just hang out, go to the mall with my friends and stuff like that."
Swain also stated that he doesn't feel any pressure to stay in state to play for one of the Alabama schools.
"I don't really care if I stay in the state," he said. "I'm not die-hard Alabama. I'm not die-hard Auburn. I don't really care about all of that. I've got some goals