Brandon Warren caught 28 passes for 301 yards as a freshman at Florida State in 2006, then transferred to Tennessee so he could be closer to his ailing mother in Alcoa. The fact he caught just 10 balls for 85 yards last fall – with 42 of those yards coming on one catch – remains a source of frustration for Warren and UT fans alike.
Like Vol fans, Vol coaches are convinced that Warren's rare abilities should be better utilized than they were in '08. The staff believes he can be the kind of offensive force elated Big Orange fans envisioned when the NCAA cleared him for eligibility last August.
"He's a big, physical target," first-year receivers coach Frank Wilson said. "He's someone we can get the ball to more frequently and create matchup problems with defensive backs, without having to put his hand in the dirt as a tight end. We feel he's a big, physical, athletic target that can enhance our passing game."
One of new head coach Lane Kiffin's first acts upon taking the Vol reins was shifting Warren to wideout. What precipitated the move?
"Just watching him move around and not having a bunch of physical receivers on our roster," Kiffin said. "He had lost some weight, and it's important for us to have a big, physical receiver on our roster.
"If we don't, then we'll operate with other-size guys. We'll play the best players, but he does fit the role of what we're looking for out there, as far as height, weight and speed. Now we'll see if he can do it."
Whether Warren proves to be a breakout at wideout in '09 or not, new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney believes his willingness to change positions is proof of his dedication to the program.
"To me, it's a very unselfish kid that changes positions for you," Chaney said. "That's really special, and that's what the program's really built on – doing things for the team and getting outside of yourself individually."