Rookie receivers catching on

Tennessee assistant coach Trooper Taylor calls his freshman receivers "talented guys that will help us win a lot of games around here these next four years."

He's hoping one of those games is the one scheduled Sept. 1.

Whether Taylor's kiddie corps can be ready in time to help win the upcoming opener at California remains to be seen. Regardless, their coach is proud of what his rookies have accomplished thus far.

"For them to learn as much as they're learning is great," he said this week. "Those guys are really sharp."

Still, freshmen Brent Vinson, Gerald Jones, Ahmad Paige, Denarius Moore and Tyler Maples have much to learn before Vol quarterback Erik Ainge can trust them to be where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there on every single play.

Even junior college transfer Kenny O'Neal is struggling to grasp all the nuances of Tennessee's passing scheme. He is by far the most experienced and mature of the new receivers, yet he lined up incorrectly numerous times in last Saturday's scrimmage.

"He was OK on his routes," Taylor noted. "The thing he did (wrong) was cover up the tight end. You can't cover the tight end. We have one formation that we allow him to cover a tight end. He thought it was that formation all day obviously because he kept screwing that up. That was his big deal. He had more problems with alignments than he did assignments."

O'Neal, who spent a year each at Florida State and City College of San Francisco before signing with UT, caught two passes for 64 yards in the scrimmage, including a 60-yard touchdown bomb. He has blazing speed and a workable knowledge of his routes but he isn't quite where he needs to be yet.

"As far as running routes, he knows those," Taylor said. "The thing he doesn't have quite down yet is when to convert something and when to stay with something. That's just going to come with doing it."


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