Tall order

Tennessee safety Jonathan Hefney stands 5 feet 9 inches tall. So do reserve cornerbacks Antonio Gaines and Marsalous Johnson. Imagine how much fun they'll have this Saturday trying to cover a receiver who's a foot taller than they are.

That's the challenge posed by Memphis' Carlos Singleton, a 6-8, 215-pound redshirt freshman. He's still raw but he's averaging 17.0 yards per catch on three receptions to date, including an eight-yard touchdown grab in the Tigers' opener against Ole Miss.

Vol secondary coach Larry Slade concedes that Singleton's height is a concern but says Tennessee defensive backs won't do anything differently to try and neutralize his incredible size.

"Nah," Slade said with a soft grin. "We got what we got. We've just got to go get the football."

Naturally, it's difficult to "go get the football" when you're giving away 11 inches of height. It would be sort of like a 6-3 guard trying to outjump 7-2 Shaquille O'Neal for rebounds. That kind of mismatch is not easy to overcome.

"It's tough," Slade conceded. "That's always hard - playing against guys like that - but we'll be all right."

Positioning is always crucial for a defensive back. It becomes even more so when facing a guy as lanky as Singleton.

"If he gets in position he can go up and take it from you," Slade noted. "You want to get in the dominant position to go get the football. Sometimes it means jamming him at the line of scrimmage and not letting him have an opportunity to go catch the jump ball on you."

It's a safe bet that Memphis will insert Singleton whenever the Tigers move into scoring range this Saturday. His height/reach advantage is a huge plus when the ball is thrown up for grabs in the end zone.

"Yeah," Slade said with a chuckle. "That would be interesting to see."

Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis hopes his corners won't find themselves in jump-ball situations against the towering Tiger this weekend. He has a plan in mind that could prevent this from happening.

"If we can get the pass rush and they can't get it off … that's the biggest key," he said. "You don't want to get in that situation but it happens. If you look at NFL teams, you see the average height of their corners is 5-9, so everybody's dealing with that same issue."

Although Singleton literally stands out from the crowd, he isn't Chavis' main concern among Memphis' receivers. Duke Calhoun (6-4, 185) is averaging 22 yards per catch on eight receptions. Ryan Scott (6-4, 215) is averaging 16.6 yards on nine grabs. Maurice Jones (6-4, 225) and Mario Pratcher (6-4, 228) are imposing targets, as well.

"They're all big and fast, catch the ball really well," Chavis said. "There's a lot of guys over 200 pounds and a lot of guys over 6-3."

Given all of this receiving talent, it isn't too surprising that Memphis is averaging 283 passing yards and just 114 rushing yards per game.

"Obviously, they're taking advantage of the great talent they have at wide receiver," Chavis said. "They probably have as much talent at receiver as anybody in the country."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories