X marks the spot

Tennessee's two biggest receivers are having big springs, and there's a simple reason for that: Big, physical targets tend to thrive in the Vols' new passing scheme.

That's because the attack new head coach Lane Kiffin is installing at UT this spring is the same one that made superstars of Mike Williams (6-5, 230) and Dwayne Jarrett (6-5, 210) when Kiffin was offensive coordinator at Southern Cal. These "X" receivers can be a matchup nightmare when lined up in the slot and covered by a safety or linebacker.

"Traditionally, you look at the guys like Mike Williams that Coach Kiffin had at USC, and the big receivers had success within this system," Vol receivers coach Frank Wilson said this week. "Hopefully, our guys will be able to come close to that. If we can do anything like those guys did at USC, I think we'll be OK."

The pro-style offense Kiffin utilizes relies heavily on short passes into high-traffic areas. Obviously, catching the ball in traffic requires some strength and toughness. That's why Quintin Hancock (6-3, 207) and converted tight end Brandon Warren (6-2, 218) are getting an awful lot of balls thrown their way in practice this spring.

"A lot of our concepts are the quick game," Wilson said. "A lot of schools in this conference play press coverage, so you have to be a physical receiver – be able to use your hands and have some strength about yourself – and they present that for us."

Since the Vols' new passing scheme requires at least one big, physical receiver, Wilson feels blessed to have two in Warren and Hancock.

"We didn't know if we had that person (big receiver) here," the Vol aide said. "Now we think we may have found some young men who want to compete for it – Brandon and Quintin, as well as Denarius Moore (6-1, 190)."

Hancock, in particular, has been impressive this spring. He caught touchdown passes on the final two snaps of last Saturday's scrimmage, made a clutch third-down reception in Tuesday's practice and turned in a spectacular diving grab in Thursday's workout.

"He can give us that big body we weren't sure we had," Wilson said. "This signing class we didn't sign a big receiver, and we had some concerns about it. We talked to those guys who played the X position about doing it, and that was one of our reasons for moving Brandon."

Warren looks much more comfortable at the X receiver spot than he did at tight end. And Hancock is having a banner spring.

As Wilson noted: "Both of those young men have done a great job of having good springs for us."


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