"Other than Quintin Hancock, there was not a lot happening at receiver," head coach Phillip Fulmer conceded. "We're having a hard time getting off press and man-to-man coverage.... I've learned a long time ago that it's never as bad as it seems and never as good as it seems."
Receivers coach Trooper Taylor was so upset with the glut of dropped passes that he made all of the wideouts do up/downs five minutes into workout, then made them run the stadium steps afterward. Still, he said he feels confident three of them are ready to play at the Southeastern Conference level.
"Quintin, if we played tomorrow, would be a starter at Z. He's a guy that makes plays. I'm even thinking about moving him around some, seeing if he can handle the mental part of it (learning multiple positions)."
Hancock was the rage of preseason drills as a true freshman last August. The rangy receiver from St. Augustine, Fla., ran good routes and repeatedly got open against scout-squad defensive backs. When he was thrown in against the first-team defense, he looked just as good against the starting secondary.
Based on those preseason glimpses, many observers – including this one – projected a big freshman year for Hancock in 2006. Instead, he caught just two passes for 29 yards. For one thing, he was stuck behind veterans Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Bret Smith. For another, he was limited by nagging injuries. Finally, he did not block well enough to suit his position coach.
"Quintin has to understand that blocking is as important as catching the ball," Taylor said. "Right now he's one of those guys that would rather go catch it than go block."
That may be true but Hancock can "go catch it" with the best Tennessee has had in recent years, including soon-to-be first-round NFL Draft pick Meachem. The fleet-footed Floridian appears to be the closest thing the Vols have to a go-to receiver this spring.
Josh Briscoe chipped in six catches for 55 yards in Saturday's scrimmage, while Austin Rogers added six grabs for 37 yards. Lucas Taylor had two receptions for 21 yards and Slick Shelley two for 19. Tight ends Chris Brown (four catches, 22 yards) and Luke Stocker (four for 16) showed some flashes.
"We're doing a good job with our tight ends and our backs," Fulmer said. "We just don't see a whole lot of things happening consistently with our receiving corps, although Quintin Hancock showed up today."