Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt eating six times a day to beef up

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee junior receiver Jalin Hyatt is working this spring to bounce back from a subpar 2021 season that contained fewer yards than his freshman year.

Jalin Hyatt has the rather bizarre distinction of flourishing more in Tennessee's offense under Jeremy Pruitt than Josh Heupel.

The junior receiver has been working relentlessly to fix that this spring.

"I had to look back at last season on what I did wrong," Hyatt said this week in a news conference. "That was the biggest thing I had to do. I had to change everything I did last season, because obviously it didn't work."

The former four-star signee from Irmo, South Carolina, amassed 276 receiving yards as a freshman in 2020, producing a 38-yard touchdown catch against Alabama and a 26-yard score at Vanderbilt. He averaged 13.8 yards per reception as a Volunteers newcomer and was expected to thrive under Heupel's fast-paced system, but last season yielded just 226 yards and a 10.8-yard average.

Hyatt takes full responsibility for the regression.

"When Coach Pruitt got fired and Coach Heupel came in, I just got complacent," he said. "I wasn't working as hard as I usually work, and I've never worked as hard as I did this offseason. I'm just trying to build on that. Last year, I was playing around 164, and I wasn't confident in my weight. When you get on the field in the SEC, there are some big guys out there.

"I've tried to eat six times a day, just getting my meals in, and right now I'm around 184, but I'm not done yet. My goal is to get to 190 before fall camp."

Tennessee held its 10th spring practice Friday and will scrimmage for a second time Saturday.

With consistency and being more physical the two biggest objectives of his atonement tour, the 6-foot Hyatt went to work immediately, teaming with sixth-year senior quarterback a week after the Music City Bowl to improve the timing between the two.

"It's almost like night and day," Hooker said this week. "Hyatt is a speed guy and loves to make moves in the open field. Getting him the ball and keeping his confidence high is something I've been trying to do. I think his confidence is going through the roof, and his game is elevating to another level."

Hyatt is appreciative of Hooker and thanks former receiver Velus Jones Jr. for helping him get through last season, adding, "I was struggling with the offense, and he wasn't."

This season, Hyatt will have his third position coach in as many years, having worked under Tee Martin as a freshman and Kodi Burns as a sophomore. Now it's Kelsey Pope, who served last season as an offensive analyst before getting promoted to a full-time role in early March.

Heupel said following last Saturday's first scrimmage that Hyatt has taken a "huge jump" from last season, and Pope likes what he's seeing as well.

"I think he kind of saw himself in high school and in younger years as a speed guy," Pope said. "We've talked about him embracing physicality and bringing that part of his game out, and he's done a great job of embracing that. Mentally, off the field, he's taken a huge jump. He's in the building 24 hours.

"A lot of times I'm leaving late at night, and he's either pulling away or about to walk out of the building as well. He's done a great job of buying in, and it's consistent."

Return candidates

Special teams coordinator Mike Ekeler said Friday that senior safety Trevon Flowers, junior receiver Jimmy Holiday and freshman receiver Marquarius "Squirrel" White are vying for the opportunity to return punts.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.