Brandon due breakout game

Maybe this is the week that tight end Brandon Warren steps out of the shadows and into the limelight for Tennessee's offense.

The Vols didn't need a big game from him to beat UAB 35-3 last Saturday but they may need a sizable contribution from him this Saturday against fourth-ranked Florida.

Warren might be the most talented offensive player on Tennessee's offense. The 6-1, 225-pound transfer from Florida State has the strength to steamroll cornerbacks, the quickness to outrun safeties and the athleticism to outmaneuver linebackers. He's rugged enough to make tough catches over the middle and fluid enough to make big plays in the vertical passing game, as well.

Despite this imposing assortment of physical tools, Warren has recorded just three catches in the Vols' first two games.

So, what must he do to get more involved in the attack?

"It's just getting Brandon to learn more and more of the offense," offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said this week. "Right now Luke Stocker is our starting tight end and Brandon, when we go to two tight ends, is in there.

"Every week we've added a little bit more to his package. We got him the ball a couple of times last week, and we had a couple of other opportunities to get him the ball that didn't work out. Once was on Brandon and the other time we missed him."

Stocker, a more traditional fit for the tight end position at 6-6 and 245 pounds, caught two balls for 16 yards vs. UAB last weekend but dropped three catchable balls – one of which might've produced a 54-yard touchdown.

Although Warren may be a tad small to take the pounding of an every-down tight end, he also is capable of lining up at H-back and wide receiver. In other words, he's versatile enough to be a featured weapon. So why isn't he?

"There's a lot of guys we want to get the ball to,"Clawson explained. "We have four good tailbacks. We have two really good tight ends. We have (wideouts) Gerald Jones and Lucas Taylor.

"We don't take the approach that we're going to force-feed one guy. We have a number of different targets."

Still, with nothing to lose against a clearly superior Florida team, maybe trying to force-feed Warren this weekend is worth a try. Regardless, the talented tight end appears destined to play an increasingly significant role in the Vol scheme as the season unfolds.

As Clawson put it: "The longer Brandon is here, the more he plays and the more he understands the offense, the more he'll get involved in the natural progression."


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