Nice first day Spidey

On Thursday afternoon, a bulkier Chris Hannon may have established himself as a prime receiver in Tennessee's arsenal for 2003. Hannon wasn't the only player to look much improved from this past fall, but he could be further along than any of the rest at this point.

Hannon made several catches in the no-contact drills, which is what the period is designed for specifically. Then when the offense moved to go against the defense, his production got much better.

Chris' afternoon looked a little like this: He had a endzone corner pattern catch over defensive back Lester Ransom, a transfer from Maryville College. Hannon had a few more nice pulls before going up against the DBs higher up on the depth chart. Hannon started the way he did in the Peach Bowl, by dropping a C.J. Leak pass right off of his shoulder pads. The difference was that he would have several more opportunities on the day. A few moments later, Chris caught a curl from Casey Clausen and cut back inside for a would've-been touchdown. After trotting back to the line, cornerback Antwan Stewart would get his turn with the big man. Hannon torched Stewart off the line and caught a 35-plus yard bomb from Clausen. The last big play of his afternoon came against strong safety Gibril Wilson. Hannon was running down the sideline, when James Banks underthrew a pass. The lanky receiver stopped on a dime, cut back up field making the catch, juking Stewart and running towards the endzone.

All in all, Chris had a solid opening to spring practice. He appears to have increased his muscle mass over the last couple of months and had been able to be more physical with defenders. Hannon is still listed at 180, which is what he was weighed in at as a high school senior oddly enough. I would venture to guess he is pushing 190 now. He said his upper body strength was going to be a focus going into the offseason back in January and thus far he looks to be on the right track.

All last season Tennessee players would brag on Chris Hannon and his ability to catch the football. After a solid month of practice, I bragged on Chris and said how I thought he would have a solid Peach Bowl performance. A freshman wide receiver did have a great game, but that freshman turned out to be C.J. Fayton. Hannon stepped in and had one ball thrown his way all night long. That one ball bounced off of his chest.

It is somewhat hard to have patience when it comes to Tennessee's wide receiver situation mainly because there has not been a set of clear first-teamers since Donte Stallworth headed off for the Big Easy. The one receiver left to carry the banner was potential all-American Kelley Washington. Lack of team chemistry and a neck injury in the Georgia game, led to KW's early departure from the ranks. Following a 2003 season where even the starting quarterback ripped his receiving corp wide open in print, you can see the reason Vol fans and reporters are looking for the "Next Big Thing."

Last season as we prepared to do a main feature on Hannon, we discovered he had earned the nickname Spiderman from teammates. In addition to that, he was compared by most to NFL all-Pro Randy Moss. Big shoes to fill? I'd say so. An early start is not a bad way to go, especially in Spidey's case.


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