Wide-eyed wideouts

Heralded freshman Nu'Keese Richardson is likely to have a lot of great days during his Tennessee football career; Tuesday wasn't one of them.

The 5-10, 165-pound wideout from Pahokee, Fla., struggled mightily to fight through press coverage and get downfield in the early stages of the Vols' first preseason practice. This earned him some animated criticism from receivers coach Frank Wilson.

After several failed attempts, a clearly frustrated Richardson beat his defender, burst into the secondary and gathered in a quick pass over the middle.

"Finally!" Wilson shouted. Then the coach praised the player to soothe his wounded ego.

It was the kind of up-and-down day you'd expect from a freshman wideout enduring his first college workout. Overall, though, Richardson did OK. So did fellow rookie receivers Marsalis Teague and Zach Rogers.

"I was really impressed," junior receiver Gerald Jones said following the workout. "Zach was running great routes. Nu'Keese started out a little slow, then Coach (Wilson) got onto him and I saw him drop his head. I didn't say nothing to him because I wanted to see how he'd respond. The next three plays he ran great routes and made great plays."

"Marsalis Teague probably impressed me the most. He was in three different positions, so you can tell he had studied his playbook. And he made plays in all three positions."

Based on what he has seen since the three freshmen showed up for voluntary workouts earlier this summer, Jones believes they're going to help a lot this fall.

"They're coming along," he said.

Wilson thinks so, too.

"Not bad for a first day," he said when asked for a post-practice assessment of the rookie receivers. "They're making strides. We're proud of the first step that was taken. There's a long way to go but certainly we're headed in the right direction."

Tennessee's practice tempo is remarkably brisk, much faster than the freshman wideouts experienced during their high school days. Wilson says it's vital that the newcomers learn to keep pace.

"It becomes habitual; that's the only way they know how to practice," the Vol aide said. "And, if you practice fast, you'll play fast."

With senior wideout Austin Rogers sidelined for the year with a torn ACL and junior receiver Denarius Moore sidelined indefinitely by a broken bone in his foot, UT's first-year receivers have a chance to earn immediate playing time this fall.

"It's a tremendous opportunity," Wilson said. "There's no choice (but to throw them into the mix). They'll have to step up and respond. Today we made a step in the right direction in doing that."

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