Fulmer looks for big-play WR

With superstar Kelley Washington injured much of the season, Tennessee's receiving corps was a major disappointment during the just-completed regular season. Still, head coach Phillilp Fulmer joked following Saturday's 24-0 defeat of Kentucky that he noted improvement at the position.

''We were terrible,'' he said. ''Now we're just awful.''

Because Washington is expected to turn pro rather than return for the 2003 season, UT's receiver outlook is no better for next fall. That's why Fulmer says finding a big-play receiver is a recruiting priority this winter.

"We'll be out looking to fix that (lack of a big-play wideout) from a recruiting standpoint,'' he said. ''If Kelley Washington doesn't get hurt and Jason Witten isn't always double-covered, I think we would've made more progress than we did. Injuries and a number of things have held us back.... We haven't developed as much as we wanted.''

Without a Peerless Price or Donte' Stallworth type, Tennessee had to rely on 15-play drives inorder to score. As a result, the Vols didn't crack the end zone much this year. A big-play receiver would've enabled UT to hit a few more ''home runs'' for scores.

As Fulmer put it: ''I just want us to not have to do everything the hard way.''

The Vol wideout corps was particularly disappointing in the UK game, dropping at least four passes that could've produced another two or three touchdowns.

''We dropped a takeoff (to Jonathan Wade) early,'' Fulmer noted. ''We got a wheel route there. We had two or three opportunities. We even tried to put James (Banks) in there to try and make a play but he's not ready for that. I think he will be a fine receiver someday.''

Despite the problems UT had at the receiver spots this year, Fulmer is excited about young wideouts such as Wade, Banks and fellow freshman Chris Hannon.

'I'm looking forward to those kids getting where we need to get to,'' he said. ''It's amazing how much they'll improve in a year."

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