Vol position analysis: WR

This is the fourth in a series of articles comparing Tennessee's 2009 talent at each position with its 2008 talent at the same position. Today's topic: Wide receiver.

To say Tennessee's receiving corps suffered a dramatic drop-off from 2007 to 2008 might be the understatement of the year.

Lucas Taylor went from 73 receptions in '07 to 26 in '08. Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe went from 56 each in '07 to 14 apiece in '08. As a group, that trio went from 185 combined catches in 2007 to 54 in 2008.

Rogers is the only returnee from that threesome but replacing the combined production of Taylor and Briscoe (40 catches) should not be too difficult.

Here's why:

Gerald Jones registered a team-best 30 receptions as a sophomore last fall and should have a career season this fall.

Fellow junior Denarius Moore looms as a home-run threat after averaging a whopping 24.6 yards per catch, with grabs of 52 yards vs. Northern Illinois, 60 vs. Georgia and 63 yards vs. Kentucky. He was a big-play guy in spring scrimmages, as well, catching eight balls for 122 yards, a 15.3 per-catch average.

Rogers gave indications in spring practice that he will bounce back and at least approach his 2007 reception total.

Senior Quintin Hancock, who didn't record a catch last season, led all Vols with 12 catches for 159 yards in the three spring scrimmages. He grabbed eight balls for 96 yards in the Orange & White Game and was voted Most Improved Offensive Player of spring practice.

Transplanted tight end Brandon Warren finished the spring on a high note, as well, catching four passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns in the O&W Game.

Also back for another shot is sophomore Todd Campbell, who did not record a catch last fall but made progress in the spring.

Two more sophomore wideouts – Ahmad Paige and Tyler Maples – transferred following spring practice but neither projected to be in the two-deep depth chart.

Brightening the outlook considerably is the impending arrival of four heralded signees – Nu'Keese Richardson (Pahokee, Fla.), James Green (Tallahassee), Zach Rogers (Nashville) and Marsalis Teague (Paris, Tenn.). All have the skill to make immediate impact.

Given the modest numbers posted by Taylor and Briscoe last fall, replacing their production should be a snap. And, thanks to a new offense which allows the wideouts to do more reacting and less thinking, the newcomers should be able to contribute right away.

On my usual scale of Plus-2 (significantly improved), Plus-1 (somewhat improved), 0 (about the same), Minus-1 (somewhat weaker) and Minus-2 (significantly weaker), I'm giving the receiver corp a Plus-2. Frankly, I can't wait to see the heralded newcomers in action.

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