Maples playing catch-up

Tyler Maples will burn SEC cornerbacks someday, but he must learn before he can burn. He will make receptions someday, but he must catch up before he can catch passes.

After spending the first nine days of preseason drills at safety, Maryville native Tyler Maples began working with Tennessee's wide receivers earlier this week. To say he was trailing the other freshman wideouts at the time of the switch would be seriously understating the case.

"He was way behind, just on terminology alone," Vol receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. "He learned some of it during the summer but trying to recall all of that – and forget everything he just learned on defense – is tough."

Fortunately for Tennessee, Maples is a quick study. As a result, the 6-2, 190-pounder has made up some ground since making the defense-to-offense switch on Monday.

"For him to come over and pick it up as fast as he has is something I'm impressed with," Taylor said. "He can at least line up in a formation now. He still doesn't know all of the plays and the signals yet, but he's getting there."

Maples was the state's Mr. Football in Class 4A last fall after catching 56 passes for more than 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior at Maryville High School. He also returned seven kickoffs for 206 yards and a touchdown.

Because Tennessee has an abundance of young wideout prospects, Maples opened his college career on defense. Midway through preseason drills, however, the coaching staff decided to give him a look at receiver. So far, he is making the most of his opportunity.

"I like his hands and I like his work ethic," Taylor said. "Right now he's still trying to learn the plays. I have to stay behind him and tell him the plays, tell him what to do. Once he starts reacting and getting the feel of things, he's going to be OK."

Maples may have much to learn, but he already has one skill that can't be taught: He's a natural-born playmaker.

"One on one versus a defensive back is where he shows he can make some plays," Taylor said. "When a guy is pressing in his face, he's able to get off and make a play, and that's impressive to me."


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