Meachem's debt

There is no doubt that Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem had his long-awaited breakout season in 2006. The big plays, the gaudy statistics and the All-America accolades all speak for themselves.


Between 2005 and 2006 he more than doubled his reception total, going from 29 to 67.

Between 2005 and 2006 he more than tripled his receiving yards, going from 383 to 1,265, a new school record.

Between 2005 and 2006 he increased his touchdown total from 2 to 11.

Between 2005 and 2006 he raised his yards-per-catch average from a pedestrian 13.2 to an eye-popping 18.9.

Tennessee fans owe Robert Meachem a debt of gratitide for all of the big plays he provided in 2006. But Meachem owes a debt, too. He couldn't have compiled his glittering credentials in '06 without considerable help from fellow receivers Jayson Swain and Bret Smith. You see, they stepped it up a notch from 2005 to 2006, as well.

Swain went from 27 catches to 42, from 380 receiving yards to 604, from zero touchdowns to 6.

Smith made similar statistical jumps. He went from 21 catches to 39, from 223 yards to 453, from a 10.6 yards-per-catch average to 11.6 and from 3 touchdowns to 5.

It doesn't take a Masters degree in math to recognize that you can't double-team three capable receivers with four defensive backs. Because Swain and Smith played so well, Meachem had more room to operate and more opportunities to make big plays. Clearly, he owed some of his success to playmates Swain and Smith.

"They helped me a lot, along with our offensive line and Erik (Ainge)," Meachem said. "I can't give Jayson Swain and Bret enough credit because if it wasn't for those guys I wouldn't have caught all the balls I got.

"You couldn't double-cover them and you couldn't single-cover them. It helps to have those guys on the field because you know they're threats and nobody could cover those guys one on one."

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