Tigers can throw

Memphis gave Tennessee fits last year in Knoxville, even though the Tigers had virtually no passing game. Converted receiver Maurice Avery, pressed into service at quarterback, completed just 13 of 29 attempts for 125 yards.

If Memphis could play the Vols to a 20-16 loss last November with a mediocre passing attack, one can only imagine how tough the Tigers could be this Saturday now that they have a big-time passing attack. Martin Hankins, a transfer from Hal Mumme's passing factory at Southeastern Louisiana, is throwing for an average of 256.7 yards per game and completing an imposing 62.7 percent of his passes. That has the attention of UT's coaches.

"He's poised. He'll stay in the pocket," Vol secondary coach Larry Slade notes. "He's a tough kid. He's got a strong arm and has great confidence in it. He can throw it anywhere."

Tennessee's defensive coordinator also is impressed with what he has seen of Hankins on film.

"He's a really talented guy," John Chavis says. "He's very accurate, runs the offense real well. He does a tremendous job of getting the ball to the receivers, spreading it around. The thing that's most impressive is the way he runs their system. He knows what to do, and they've done a great job preparing him."

Phillip Fulmer also sees a lot of talent in Hankins, who seems to be hitting his stride after sitting out the 2005 season as a transfer.

"For a guy who's a new starter, he is doing really well," Fulmer notes. "He's a guy who can definitely throw the football, and he runs their offense extremely well."

Like any quarterback, Hankins is only as good as his supporting cast. The Tigers have a fine corps of pass catchers and a tailback (Joseph Doss) who burned Tennessee for 77 yards on 17 carries last fall.

"They have a bunch of wide receivers who are playmakers," Fulmer says. "And Doss is a really fine running back … had about 80 yards on us last year."

Chavis remembers Doss well. First-round NFL Draft pick DeAngelo Williams was too injured to play against Tennessee last November but Doss filled the void quite nicely.

"He's a good player," Chavis notes. "I really think they believe he's as good as what they had last year. He was certainly effective against us. The offensive line's playing well for them, so they can run the football when they want to run it."

Of course, with their passing game averaging 283 yards per game, the Tigers haven't needed an awful lot from their ground game to date.

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

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