The five-star talent is finally experiencing five-star atmospheres.
Tennessee redshirt junior receiver Bru McCoy produced his finest college performance during Saturday's 38-33 victory over Florida, amassing five catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has played before consecutive sellout crowds at Neyland Stadium after sitting out two of his three seasons at Southern California.
His one year of playing at USC was in 2020, when the Trojans won five of six games in empty venues amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"I didn't really know what I was getting myself into," McCoy said after the win over the Gators. "I couldn't picture it. I couldn't fathom it -- the sound, the crowd, everything. It's an unbelievable experience. It's surreal.
"I made the best decision I've made by coming here."
McCoy ranks third on Tennessee's team through its 4-0 start with 13 receptions for 211 yards (16.2 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. His output Saturday was very much needed given the absence of returning 1,000-yard receiver Cedric Tillman, who torched Pittsburgh for 162 yards on Sept. 10 but suffered an ankle injury against Akron the next week.
The No. 8 Volunteers are off this weekend before traveling to LSU on Oct. 8.
"I've just done my best to ride the roller coaster the best way I can and do what I can to help the team," McCoy said. "I came here to do a job and help this team win, and that's what I'm going to try and do."
McCoy, who is from Palos Verdes Estates, California, announced his transfer to Tennessee in early May, instantly becoming the most touted player coming out of high school on the Vols roster. McCoy was the No. 9 overall signee nationally in the 247Sports.com composite rankings in 2019, one spot ahead of current Tennessee right tackle Darnell Wright.
After redshirting with the Trojans in 2019, McCoy collected 21 catches the following year for 236 yards and two touchdowns. A promising 2021 season was derailed last August, however, when he was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department on an intimate partner violence charge.
Though criminal charges were dropped within a few weeks, McCoy was never allowed back on the team but was able to take fall semester classes. He practiced last month with the Vols throughout all of preseason camp, but he wasn't cleared until six days before the Ball State opener.
"Prior to it, I was really anxious just waiting to find out," McCoy said. "I came a long way, and I was happy to be able to give something to the team and provide something and not just be a body that came in with all this media attention behind it. Now, I actually had the opportunity to come out and play.
"It was a big weight lifted off my shoulders and my family's shoulders."
Tennessee second-year coach Josh Heupel was both pleased and emotional when hearing the news, saying in late August, "Now he has an opportunity to move forward with his future and go compete with his teammates, and having the chance to tell him and then hear him tell his dad was one of the great moments in my career."
McCoy credits Tillman with taking him in and for quickly making him feel a part of the team, and constantly moving forward is McCoy's objective now.
"I've grown older and learned a lot," he said. "I'm just happy for this opportunity."
Odds and ends
Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker was named Tuesday as the Maxwell Award national player of the week following his 461-yard performance -- 349 passing and 112 rushing -- against Florida. ... Tennessee has already put 2023 season tickets on sale at AllVols.com.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org.