Reinvented receiver

He averaged a whopping 24.6 yards per catch in 2008 and appeared to be a real horse in Tennessee's receiving corps. Instead, he says he was more of a one-trick pony.

"I was averaging 25 yards per catch because I was only sent in for the go routes," senior Denarius Moore recalled this week. "Now I'm learning to be more of a possession receiver, getting the ball when we need a catch.

"I'm a more versatile guy than just going straight down the field now."

Even so, Moore was pretty productive just going straight down the field two years ago. The 6-1, 190-pound Texan recorded the Vols' three longest pass receptions of '08 - reeling in a 63-yarder vs. Kentucky, a 60-yarder vs. Georgia and a 52-yarder vs. Northern Illinois. He also registered a 45-yarder vs. Mississippi State, giving him four catches of 40-plus yards, matching the big-play output of Tennessee's other receivers combined.

Last fall, however, Denarius reinvented himself. He increased his catch total from 11 to 40 and his touchdown total from 2 to a team-high 7. With the Vols relying on more of a controlled passing attack, however, his yards-per-catch average slipped from 24.6 to 13.5. Still, he reeled in a 40-yard pass vs. Virginia Tech, a 33-yarder vs. Georgia, a 32-yarder vs. Auburn, a 31-yarder vs. Alabama, a 25-yarder vs. Ohio and a 25-yarder vs. Ole Miss.

Although he still has a knack for the big play, Moore no longer is a one-trick pony relegated to going deep on every snap. He's becoming a more well-rounded and more dangerous weapon.

"That spreads out the defense a little bit more," Moore said. "Instead of me just going straight down the field and having somebody (cover him) over the top, now they've got to put a linebacker or somebody to help out underneath."

Moore always had the speed to be a deep threat. Now that he's improving his short and intermediate routes, he could be one of the SEC's premier pass catchers this fall.

"I feel like I'm a better player because I'm into the playbook harder," he said. "I'm talking to my coach (Charlie Baggett) and offensive coordinator (Jim Chaney) to get the plays down and get the corrections I need."

Like other Vol veterans, Moore is playing for his third head coach in three years and operating in his third offensive scheme in that span. He says the adjustment isn't as difficult as most fans might expect, however.

"It really ain't that hard once you know the plays," he said. "You already know what the defensive backs are going to do, and they (by their reactions) are going to let you know what you're going to do."

Moore believes the offensive scheme Tennessee will play in 2010 should enable him to have another productive season this fall.

"It fits me about the same as last year," he said. "I've just got to make a play when the ball comes my way."

Fellow wideout Gerald Jones (46 receptions), Moore (40) and tight end Luke Stocker (29) combine to give Tennessee its top three receivers back from 2009. That should bode well for the 2010 passing attack.

"The passing attack is going to be pretty much the same as last year, if not better," Moore said. "We've still got me, Luke Stocker, Gerald Jones, Marsalis Teague and some freshmen coming up that are going to be good."

Although superstar signee Da' Rick Rogers won't report until August, mid-term freshmen Matt Milton and Ted Meline have shown some flashes as rookie receivers this spring.

"Matt is working hard and really learning the playbook," Moore said. "And Ted is one of those versatile guys who can get the ball and do something with it."


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