Saturday is D-Day

Many of Tennessee's youthful wide receivers have never faced the intense pressure of big-time college football … but they're about to.

Four wideouts will get most of the playing time in the Vols' Sept. 1 opener at California, and receivers coach Trooper Taylor says those four will be identified following this Saturday night's scrimmage.

How's that for pressure?

"There's no doubt that, as a kid gets more experience and proves he's ready to handle the SEC, he'll get more playing time," Taylor noted following Thursday's evening workout. "But I'm going into the Cal game with the guys that I know – based on this scrimmage – will be game-ready."

That means 11 receiver candidates will spend Saturday night auditioning for four spots in the Game 1 rotation. A poor performance could keep a guy from earning playing time … maybe even keep him from earning a seat on the flight to Berkeley.

"I don't do a lot of rotations, and those guys know that," Taylor said. "I want four guys playing – five at the most – because it's hard for the quarterback to get on the same page, timing-wise, with five different guys."

Based on a post-practice chat with head coach Phillip Fulmer, the five most likely candidates are juniors Lucas Taylor and Josh Briscoe, sophomores Austin Rogers and Quintin Hancock, plus junior college transfer Kenny O'Neal.

The head man didn't single out that quintet as the top five but those were the guys he mentioned specifically when asked how senior quarterback Erik Ainge is adjusting to so many new pass catchers.

"I think Erik has a comfort level with the older guys that have been around because he knows they're going to be in the right place," Fulmer said. "He's got a thing going with Lucas that's pretty good right now. I think Briscoe's earning everybody's trust and respect. Austin Rogers has had a heck of a camp … and Quintin Hancock."

The coach paused briefly, then offered a fifth name.

"Kenny O'Neal brings speed that the other guys don't quite have," Fulmer said. "Those young guys bring some dynamics. That's the question: Can we get comfortable with those guys?"

Or maybe the question is: Can he and Taylor get comfortable with those guys by the end of Saturday night's scrimmage?

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