More from Marsalis

When you lead your team in receptions and receiving yards in your collegiate debut ... well, there's really nowhere to go but down.

Just ask Tennessee's Marsalis Teague.

The 5-10, 180-pound freshman from Paris, Tenn., caught six passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in Tennessee's opener vs. Western Kentucky, suggesting he might be the next Alvin Harper, Carl Pickens, Joey Kent, Cedrick Wilson or Donte Stallworth.

As fate would have it, though, his output for Games 2 through 10 combined could not equal that of his dazzling debut. He caught six passes for 58 yards during that span.

Is the drop-off disappointing? Yes. Is it surprising? No. For one thing, freshman receivers rarely have dramatic impact in Year 1.

"He got off to a very, very fast start with Western Kentucky – high expectations there," Vol receivers coach Frank Wilson recalled. "He had great success. As the season has gone on - contrary to what it may appear - Marsalis is improving continually. He's doing a good job for us. We're very pleased with his progress. I think he's going to be an exceptional player for us."

Another factor that kept Teague from building on his Game 1 performance was Gerald Jones' return from preseason injuries. He reclaimed the Z receiver spot, bumping Teague from the starting lineup.

"Once Gerald got healthy he kind of emerged and Marsalis was still there and still learning and still growing," Wilson said. "We're pleased with his progress. He's going to be a really good player."

With just two regular-season games left in his rookie season, Teague won't be termed a freshman much longer. When the Vols reel in their 2010 signing class in February, he and his classmates will become rising sophomores.

"Coach (Eddie) Gran, Coach (Willie Mack) Garza and I work the most with the freshmen," Wilson said. "We tell them 'It happens fast. We want you to embrace the change that's happening. Understand that time flies, and you have to grow up really fast.'"

After catching six balls in Game 1, Teague had zero catches in Games 2 and 3. He caught one nine-yard pass in Game 4, then went catchless in Game 5 at Auburn. He reeled in a five-yard touchdown pass in Game 6 vs. Georgia, then caught two balls for 17 yards in Game 7 at Alabama. Following a no-catch game against South Carolina, he caught two balls for 27 yards in Game 9 vs. Memphis. Last weekend saw him go catchless at Ole Miss, however.

"It's highs and lows – which is natural for any freshman at any school," Wilson said, adding that one of the keys is "just being accountable away from home, and he is one of the freshmen who handled it extremely well."

Teague isn't Tennessee's biggest or fastest receiver but he could have great impact at the position, especially since freshman classmate Nu'Keese Richardson has been dismissed from the program.

"He's smart. He's tough," Wilson said of Teague. "He has good speed and he's very, very coachable. Those variables give him a chance to be a very good player."


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