published Friday, July 31st, 2009

Wilson in dream job with nightmare news

Tennessee's new wide receivers coach is having to adjust to a flock of injuries.


by Wes Rucker
Audio clip

Frank Wilson

KNOXVILLE -- Frank Wilson describes Tennessee as one of 10 college football "dream jobs."

He joined Lane Kiffin's UT staff as wide receivers coach in January, less than three weeks after being named running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at fellow Southeastern Conference program Mississippi State.

"That was a tough decision for me at that time, but just the opportunity to coach on this staff with the type of coaches and the expertise that they have, it was kind of irresistible," Wilson said. "I was excited about it, and it became the best professional move for me, to put myself in position and align myself with guys who could help me grow as a coach.

"I thought I could come in and contribute here at the University of Tennessee, which in and of itself is one of the premier universities in the country. It's one of those 10 schools out there that are your dream jobs, so I was excited about the opportunity and leaped forward when it came."

Then came Wilson's first offseason as UT's coach.

The Volunteer's most experienced receiver, senior Austin Rogers, tore his ACL, leaving his season in jeopardy.

The team's leading returning receiver, junior Gerald Jones, has struggled to come back from a spring wrist injury and could miss the Sept. 5 season opener against Western Kentucky.

And UT's best deep receiving threat, junior Denarius Moore, almost surely will miss the first few games after fracturing his foot.

Wilson will open preseason camp Tuesday with six receivers who totaled 10 receptions for UT last season. All 10 came from junior Brandon Warren, who played tight end at the time. Half of the six -- Nu'Keese Richardson, Marsalis Teague and Zach Rogers, Austin's brother -- are true freshmen.

Some "dream job."

"It's a really tough situation," Wilson said Tuesday afternoon. "It's one of those things when you first hear about it, you're mad, you're shocked, you're upset about it. But then you move on."

It is what it is, Wilson said. He has what he has.

"You move on, and you raise the bar for some of those younger guys, whether it's by classification or just experience," Wilson said. "You let them know that a lot more will be required of them, and they'll have to step up. I'm eager to see how it goes.

"It's certainly a big blow to see those guys get injured, but I'm anticipating some of those young guys stepping forward and getting some repetitions through fall camp, and putting themselves in position to compete for a long time, because we're going to need them. And then whenever we get Denarius and Gerald back, we'll be excited about that to get us going."

Kiffin doesn't want an invitation to a pity party, either. UT's first-year head coach said situations like this "are just part of the game.

"And that's another reason why I hired the staff I hired," Kiffin said. "I didn't want guys who were just great coaches but not great recruiters, or guys who were great recruiters but not great coaches.

"I wanted guys who could do it all."

UT is at least the fourth SEC program in the past five years to hold Wilson in such high esteem.

A versatile player who was named all-conference as a running back and defensive back at Nicholls State, Wilson always hoped to coach. He served a brief stint as graduate assistant at his Louisiana alma mater before spending 1997-2003 at New Orleans high schools Edna Karr and O. Perry Walker.

UT associate head coach Ed Orgeron was an NSU assistant during part of Wilson's playing career, and the two stayed close throughout Wilson's high school coaching career. Orgeron recruited both schools as a Southern California assistant, especially O. Perry Walker, which led the nation with 11 players sent to Division I programs in 2002.

"Coach Orgeron always told me, 'Hey, when I get a head job, I'm going to come back and get you, because what you're doing in pretty special,'" Wilson said. "You hear that all the time, but he was sincere about it, and when the opportunity came, he gave me my first collegiate job (at Ole Miss)."

Wilson coached Mico McSwain and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to successful seasons at Ole Miss, but he was still let go with Orgeron after the 2007 season. Wilson coached at Southern Miss last season but nearly left for Florida after developing an immediate connection with then-Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen.

Mullen eventually hired Wilson at Mississippi State, but Orgeron and the Kiffins wooed him away just weeks later.

"Things don't always work out like you planned, but it doesn't do anybody any good to sit around and worry about it," Wilson said of the Vols' injured receivers. "We're going to start this thing with the six guys we've got, and we'll do everything we can to get those guys in position to be successful. We expect success around here."

about Wes Rucker...

Twitter - @wesrucker Facebook - /tfpvolsbeat

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