Talent at tight end

Mark Adams (24) and Von Reeves (21) combined for 45 receptions in 1991, which probably ranks as the single-season record for a Tennessee tight end duo.

If so, that record could be in jeopardy this fall. Luke Stocker and Brandon Warren may comprise the best receiving duo the Vols have ever had at the tight end position. Stocker, a 6-6, 245-pound sophomore, is surprisingly agile and sure-handed for his size. Warren, a 6-1, 225-pound sophomore, has the potential to be an All-American. He exhibited as much as a freshman at Florida State in 2006, catching 28 passes for 301 yards.

First-year Vol tight ends coach Jason Michael isn't ready to anoint the duo all-world but he concedes that both are gifted receivers.

"They've done a good job of that," he said. "They continue to work on that every day. I hadn't worked with Brandon before this fall, but I had heard a lot about him ... about how he was a receiver-type guy.

"And Luke has made great strides since spring. He's worked hard on all phases of his game. Part of that was getting out there and catching as many balls as he can. He's really improved in that area. He's a big-bodied guy with really good ball skills. He was a basketball player in high school, and those things make a difference that you can tell on the field."

Michael's tight end stable would be really loaded except that 6-8, 265-pound junior Jeff Cottam, who started six games in 2007, will miss the season's first month due to back surgery.

Michael also lost his top H-back to a preseason injury when senior David Holbert suffered a traumatic ACL tear that may end his career. That leaves the Vols with just one veteran H-back, sophomore Kevin Cooper.

With Cottam and Holbert sidelined, Michael is giving long looks to a couple of talented freshmen, H-back Austin Johnson (6-3, 240) and tight end Aaron Douglas (6-6, 245).

"They're working extremely hard," the Vol aide said. "Austin was out here in the spring and sometimes you forget he's a freshman, but he is. He made good strides in the spring and, because of that, felt a little better coming into fall camp."

If Johnson and Douglas progress rapidly, Tennessee could boast exceptional depth at the tight end/H-back positions when Cottam returns in October.

"You're trying to do that every day – get as many guys as you can ready," Michael said. "We're trying to progress these young guys to the point where they can give us meaningful snaps. That's the goal; to get those guys into position to do that."


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