He wasn't blessed with imposing size or blazing speed.
He wasn't a guy with the "it" factor that wows fans and makes highlight reels.
He wasn't outspoken or flashy.
He wasn't a guy who made NFL scouts drool.
So what WAS Joey Kent? He was productive ... incredibly productive. He holds virtually every receiving record at the University of Tennessee. Certainly, he benefited greatly from the fact his career overlapped that of Peyton Manning, the most prolific passer in UT history. Still, Kent's accomplishments speak for themselves.
That's why I rate him atop my list of the best wideouts of the Fulmer era. That list is as follows:
1. Joey Kent (1994-96): The only Vol to record two 1,000-yard seasons (1,055 in '95, 1,080 in '96), he also is UT's career leader in catches (183), receiving yards (2,814) and receiving touchdowns (25). He also holds school records for catches in a game (13 vs. Arkansas in '95) and 100-yard games (15). He averaged a commendable 15.4 yards per catch.
2. Peerless Price (1997-98): The speedy guy with the catchy name ranks third on UT's all-time list in receiving yards (2,298) and fourth in receptions (147). He averaged 15.6 per catch and scored 19 career TDs. He will always be remembered, though, for the 199-yard receiving performance vs. FSU in the Fiesta Bowl that earned him MVP honors and earned Tennessee the 1998 national title.
3. Robert Meachem (2006): A knee injury cost him his first season at UT and a premature jump to the NFL cost him his last. In between, though, "Meach" made incredible impact. He ranks sixth all-time in catches (125) and fourth in receiving yards (2,140). He averaged an impressive 17.1 yards per catch and scored 17 career TDs. He set a single-season school record with 1,298 receiving yards in '06 shortly before bolting for the pros.
4. Cedrick Wilson (1998-2000): Like Joey Kent, Wilson was productive without being flashy. He ranks No. 2 on UT's all-time list for touchdown receptions (24), No. 3 for career catches (159) and No. 5 for receiving yards (2,137). He averaged a solid 13.4 yards per catch.
5. Donte' Stallworth (2001): Plagued by an assortment of injuries, he still posted the best yards-per-catch average (17.6) among Vols with at least 90 career receptions. He also stands No. 10 in career receiving yards (1,747). He made the most of his one healthy season, registering three-TD games vs. Memphis and Kentucky in '01. Like Meachem, Stallworth elected to bypass his senior season.
6. Marcus Nash (1995-97): He ranks No. 2 on Tennessee's all-time list in both receptions (177) and receiving yards (2,447). He scored 20 career TDs and averaged 13.8 per catch. Nash's defining moment came when he turned a short pass from Peyton Manning into a game-winning 73-yard touchdown play as the Vols edged Auburn 30-29 in the 1997 SEC Championship Game.
7. Jeremaine Copeland: Despite backing up Peerless Price and Cedrick Wilson, this versatile Vol caught 58 passes for 732 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior in 1997. Blessed with size, strength, toughness, athleticism and soft hands, he had everything but speed. He finished his career with 103 catches for 1,361 yards – numbers that would've been higher if he hadn't served as quarterback insurance behind Peyton Manning early in his career.
8. Kelley Washington (2001): The ultimate "One-Hit Wonder." As a 22-year-old freshman in '01 he recorded the fifth-best single-season reception total (64) and the fifth-best receiving yardage total (1,010) in program history. He also registered a school-record 256-yard game vs. LSU that fall. Washington dubbed himself "The Future," and his cocky nature rubbed some teammates the wrong way. He suffered a serious neck injury that virtually wiped out his sophomore season of 2002, then turned pro.
9. Jayson Swain (2006): An excellent blocker, he also ranks No. 5 on Tennessee's list for career catches (126). He averaged 13.7 yards per reception, scored 10 career touchdowns and was a tremendous team leader.
10. Craig Faulkner (1991-93): Routinely misidentified as a "possession receiver" because of his white skin, he was a bona-fide deep threat who ranks 10th in career receptions (117) and 11th in receiving yards (1,705).
Other noteworthy receivers of the Fulmer era include:
- Bret Smith: A backup to Meachem and Swain, Smith still managed to catch 83 balls for 1,100 career yards and 14 TDs.
- Cory Fleming (1992-93): A two-year starter, he led the team with 40 catches for 490 yards in '92.
- Mark Jones (2003): He spent three years at safety before starting at wideout as a senior. He caught 36 balls for 556 yards, five touchdowns and a 15.4 yards-per-catch average that fall.
- Chris Hannon (2004-05): He tantalized fans with his rare combination of size and speed but never lived up to his potential.
- Tony Brown (2002-04): A three-year starter, he led the 2004 Vols with 31 catches for 388 yards.
- C.J. Fayton (2005): A converted quarterback, he was a solid contributor once he moved to wideout.
- James Banks: Another converted QB, he rarely started in 2003, yet led the Vols in catches (42) and receiving yards (621) that season. A chronic disciplinary problem, he was dismissed from the team prior to the '04 season.
- Eric Parker (2000): Plagued by injuries at UT, he accomplished very little in college but went on to have a very nice career in the NFL.
- David Martin (1999): In an otherwise quiet career, he had 12 receptions (one off the school record) vs. LSU in 2000. He's now playing tight end in the NFL.
- Leonard Scott (2002): A typical track guy – fast feet, bad hands.
- Kendrick Jones (1994): He operated in Joey Kent's shadow.