Fayton's fast finish bodes well

Finding a silver lining to the dark cloud that was Tennessee's Peach Bowl performance is an imposing task. Still, the play of redshirt freshman receiver C.J. Fayton qualifies as a bright spot.

After catching just six passes in 12 regular-season games, Fayton caught five balls in the 30-3 Peach Bowl loss to Maryland. He caught four passes in the second quarter alone. The first was a diving grab of a 12-yarder he literally picked off the turf. The next three -- 21, 12 and 10 yards -- came on Tennessee's lone scoring drive.

What happened to suddenly lift him from season-long obscurity?

''The last two months, my confidence has grown so much,'' he said. ''I feel out there I can do anything and I can make the big plays when the game's on the line. I had the opportunities and I came through.''

Fayton and his fellow receivers had difficulty getting open this season and also struggled catching the ball. Many UT fans blame receivers coach Pat Washington for those troubles. Fayton says the criticism is unfounded.

''He's done a great job with us,'' Fayton said. ''I have nothing but praise for Coach Washington. When everybody else doubted us, he supported us, told us we could do it.... He worked with me one-on-one, showed me what I could do in situations. He's been instrumental in me coming out here and making big plays.''

With Kelley Washington suffering through an injury-plagued 2002 season, Tennessee kept looking for a go-to receiver to emerge from the pack. None ever did.

''I think we were looking too hard for a person to step up,'' Fayton said. ''I think if they had just let somebody naturally step up and make big plays, we would've solved this problem a long time ago.''

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