Can Vol WRs take next step?

Like the American Medical Association, Tennessee's wide receivers operate on the premise "First, do no harm."

The Vols' much-maligned wideouts didn't do a whole lot to win Game 1 but they did nothing to lose it. Considering their inexperience, that's a fair trade-off. More will be expected of them, however, when Tennessee hosts Southern Miss at 7 this evening in Game 2.

Juniors Lucas Taylor and Josh Briscoe caught six passes each in the opener at California. So did sophomore Austin Rogers. Sophomore Quintin Hancock and freshman Denarius Moore added a catch apiece.

"Obviously, they did some really nice things," offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said. "They made some of the plays we needed to make, and that was encouraging to see."

Taylor got loose for a 43-yard reception. Otherwise, the gains tended to be small – moving the chains but not moving the fans. The receivers recorded no touchdowns but, to their credit, they were guilty of no drops and no fumbles.

All in all, it was an adequate first step.

"I thought they did a good job," senior quarterback Erik Ainge said. "There's definitely room for improvement, like there is everywhere, but I was proud of ‘em for a first game.

"I thought they blocked well. Austin got him a pancake on No. 1. He went in there and got his helmet knocked off but kept playing football. Plays like that – and Lucas going across the field two or three times, catching the ball and getting popped – proved they're not afraid."

Now that they've proved they're not afraid, Tennessee's receivers face a new challenge tonight against Southern Miss. They must prove they're capable of making the plays that help win games ... not merely that they're capable of avoiding the plays that help lose games.

"We have enough talent. We have enough speed," Ainge said. "We're veteran enough that we're going to be able to win football games."

For the most part, Tennessee's offense performed at a high level in Game 1. The one glaring exception came when the Vols, down 38-21, failed to score after achieving a first-and-goal at the California 3-yard line.

"What we can't do is lose football games because of third-and-short and goal line (situations)," Ainge said. "When you're on the 2-yard line you score touchdowns. You don't go four downs and not score. That doesn't happen to us.

"We addressed that in practice, and I think we'll keep addressing it because it doesn't get any more important than executing."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories