Frosh Wade to start for Vols

Freshman receiver Jonathan Wade will get his first career start for the Vol football team Saturday at Mississippi State.

Wade, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound speedster from Shreveport, La., will start in place of senior Leonard Scott, whose problems catching the football are well documented.

''Jonathan has played pretty well for us,'' head man Phillip Fulmer said. ''He gives us big-play capability there.''

Wade has three catches for 45 yards this season, a 15.0 yards-per-catch average. He also has carried five times on reverses for 63 yards, an average of 12.6 yards per rush. His best game came against Alabama, when he caught a 32-yard pass and rambled 21 yards on a reverse. Last weekend vs. Miami he had two rushes for 25 yards.

''He's coming on; he's doing a good job,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ''Jonathan is one of the guys out there that can make a play. He's shown that when he gets the ball in his hands on reverses. Jonathan's challenge is that he's been out on there on a lot of passes and not getting a lot thrown to him. He's got to do a better job route-running. The thing we're really searching for is a guy who can make a play when he's got the ball in his hands.''

Scott started UT's first nine games but caught just seven balls for 72 yards, a 10.3 yards-per-catch average. Like Wade, he has world-class speed. The problem is, his route-running is erratic and his hands are not very good.

Wade's insertion into the lineup is part of Sanders' ongoing attempt to shake Tennessee from its season-long offensive doldrums. The coordinator has simplified schemes and scaled back on the offensive repertoire. He has come out throwing to set up the run and has come out running to set up the throw. He has relied on finesse at times and he has tried to ''pound the rock'' at other times. Nothing has provided a longterm remedy, so all that's left to change is the personnel.

''We've tried (changing) personnel, to be honest,'' Sanders said. ''We've done a lot of things and tried to play a lot of people.''

Although Tennessee hit season lows in passing yards (77) and total yards (218) last Saturday against Miami, the coordinator saw some positive signs.

''I thought we were making progress, and I STILL think we're making progress,'' he said. ''We ran up against an awfully good defense last week. It certainly wasn't the best game we can play but we had no turnovers, didn't have very many penalties and didn't have very many mistakes.

''We just ran up against a team that was good enough to stop us in the run game, cover us downfield and get pressure with a four-man rush.''


Inside Tennessee Top Stories