Teague time

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

Just ask Marsalis Teague.

Teague caught six passes for 86 yards in Tennessee's 2009 opener vs. Western Kentucky, raising hopes that he might be the "next big thing" in the Vol receiving corps.

"That was a great experience," he recalled. "That would be a great experience for anyone - going into your first college game, making a start and leading your team in receptions and receiving yards. But that's in the past, so right now I'm just looking forward to this season."

The preference for looking ahead is understandable. After the dazzling debut, the rest of his 2009 season was pretty bland. He caught just seven passes for 61 yards in the final 12 games. Although 13 receptions and 147 receiving yards are OK numbers for a college freshman, Teague's sterling start had folks expected better ... including the player himself.

"After I had that first big game of the season people were saying, 'Oh, yeah, you're going to be this and you're going to be that,'" the 5-10, 178-pounder recalled. "You've got to tune some of that stuff out, stick to what you're doing and just play ball. You've got to stay focused and never get sidetracked."

Teague is trying to do just that this spring. Not content to be a one-game wonder, he's working hard to become a consistent threat. He believes he has improved considerably since last fall, especially in one area.

"My route running," he said. "I feel like I've developed more technique to my route running. I'm more precise on my cuts and stuff like that.

"I'm still going to work on my technique. You can't ever be too perfect when it comes to running routes. And you can always work on your hands - overall catching ability - so that's what I have to keep doing."

Teague's dynamic debut last fall occurred while junior wideouts Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore were sidelined. Their eventual return to health diminished his role and his impact. Now he's looking forward to joining them in what he expects to be a quality passing attack this fall.

"I feel real comfortable about it," Teague said. "Our quarterbacks are looking great, O-line is looking great, so I feel like we're going to have a good year this year."

Helping fuel that optimism is the return of 2009 offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who helped resurrect an attack that had been horrendous in 2008. He's helping the Vols adjust to new terminology brought in by first-year UT head man Derek Dooley.

"Coach Chaney was here last year," Teague noted. "So, once we get the terms down, we've pretty much got the same concepts, so it's not that bad."

Despite new terminology, a new playbook and a bunch of new faces this spring, the Vols are moving forward rather quickly.

"We're moving at a nice pace," Teague said, "but everybody seems comfortable with it, so it's not that big an issue."

After playing quarterback at Henry County High School in Paris, Tenn., Teague was forced to do on-the-job training as a Vol receiver last fall. He believes he's a lot more polished now than he was then.

"I feel very comfortable," he said. "That comes from hard work in the offseason. We stayed after practice every day and came up here in the summer time to do extra stuff. It really seems like I'm really getting the knack for it. I feel more natural at receiver than I did last year."

Teague believes he, Jones and Moore are headed for strong years in 2010. He also sees bright futures for Ted Meline and Matt Milton, two freshman wideouts who enrolled at mid-term and are participating in spring practice.

"They're real good," Teague said. "It's their first actual experience going against college DBs, so they might struggle here and there. But they're so easy to teach. They like to learn. That makes it easier for us to actually help them when they want to be helped.

"Any time they have questions they come to me, come to Gerald, come to Denarius and we help them any way that we can."

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