Ray of sunshine

We now interrupt the doom and gloom surrounding Tennessee football to bring you this important message: The Vols might have the best trio of first-team pass catchers in the SEC this fall.

Granted, the Big Orange projects to be shaky at pass protection and at quarterback. But if the blockers can show improvement and the QB can show poise, Tennessee has the receiving talent to field a solid aerial attack in 2010. You can make a good case, in fact, that the Vols' starting trio of wideouts Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore, along with tight end Luke Stocker, is the SEC's best threesome.

Jones is the sure-handed possession receiver, although he showed an unexpected big-play knack last fall by averaging 14.8 yards per catch. Moore is the speedy deep threat who posted 10 catches of 25 yards or more among his 54 grabs the past two seasons. Stocker is the guy with the height (6-6) to excel in the Red Zone, the bulk (253 pounds) to block well and the burst to beat linebackers and safeties who don't respect his speed.

Eight of Stocker's 29 catches last fall covered 20 yards or more. Five produced touchdowns. His 13.4 yards-per-catch average was tops among 2009 SEC tight ends.

Jones caught 46 passes for 680 yards last fall. Moore added 40 for 540 and Stocker 29 for 389. That's a combined 115 receptions for 1,609 yards and an average of 14.0 yards per catch.

Only one SEC team returns a trio that was more productive last season - pass-happy Arkansas. The Razorbacks' Greg Childs (48 for 894), fellow wideout Joe Adams (29 for 568) and tight end D.J. Williams (32 for 411) combined for 109 catches, 1,873 yards and a mind-boggling 17.2 yards-per-catch average in 2010.

Also registering 109 catches last fall was the South Carolina triumvirate of wideout Alshon Jeffery (46 for 763), wideout Tori Gurley (31 for 440) and tight end Weslye Saunders 32-353). They parlayed their 109 grabs into 1,506 yards and a 13.8 yards-per-catch mark.

Georgia returns a strong trio, as well, in superstar A.J. Green (53 for 808), fellow wideout Tavarres King (18 for 377) and Freshman All-America tight end Orson Charles (23 for 274). They combined for 94 receptions, 1,459 yards and a 15.5 yards-per-catch average last season.

Auburn wideouts Darvin Adams (60 for 997) and Terrell Zachery (26 for 477) combined for the same number of catches as UT's Jones and Moore (86) but got little help from tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who recorded just five catches for 22 yards as a freshman last season.

Here's a quick look at the rest of the SEC's wideout/tight end trios:

- Mississippi State returns wideouts Chad Bumphis (32 for 375) and Leon Berry (14 for 170), plus tight end Marcus Green (27 for 306).

- Alabama returns wideouts Julio Jones (46 for 596) and Marquis Maze (31 for 523) but lost tight end Colin Peek (26 for 313).

- Kentucky returns receivers Randall Cobb (39 for 447) and Chris Matthews (32 for 354) but is unproven at tight end.

- LSU returns Terrance Toliver (53 for 735) but lost fellow wideout Brandon LaFell (57 for 792) and tight end Richard Dickson (21 for 157).

- Vanderbilt returns quality tight end Brandon Barden (29 for 357) but is unproven at wide receiver.

- Florida lost ace wideout Riley Cooper (51 for 961) and top tight end Aaron Hernandez (68 for 850).

- Ole Miss lost its top two wideouts - Shay Hodge (70 for 1,135) and Dexter McCluster (44 for 520).


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