Halzle expects huge jump for McCoy in second season with Vols

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee receiver Bru McCoy looks for running room during last December's 31-14 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee receiver Bru McCoy looks for running room during last December's 31-14 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Bru McCoy is a 23-year-old Tennessee receiver who has been in college football since signing as a five-star prospect with Southern California in December 2018.

At least that's one way to look at it.

Another perspective is that McCoy is still a couple of weeks away from his one-year anniversary of being cleared to play for the Volunteers after transferring. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder from the Los Angeles area was somewhat rushed into last season but more than held his own, amassing 52 catches for 667 yards and four touchdowns.

"Coming in last year, I didn't have a great understanding of the offense," McCoy said earlier this month in a news conference. "I had to learn on the go. When you know what you're doing, then you can handle the physical side, because the mental side is kind of reactionary."

The Vols were off Monday and are scheduled to practice Tuesday and scrimmage Wednesday.

McCoy wound up being the second-leading receiver on Tennessee's 11-2 team behind Biletnikoff Award winner Jalin Hyatt. He had 100-yard receiving games against Florida, LSU and Missouri, and his 27-yard reception to Alabama's 23-yard line with two seconds remaining set up the winning field goal by fellow USC transfer Chase McGrath.

According to Tennessee offensive coordinator Joey Halzle, the 2023 version of McCoy will be superior.

"He's done a great job and has completely changed his body since he got here," Halzle said. "The guy is in amazing shape. He has such an intricate knowledge of what we're doing and how we're trying to accomplish it now. It's like with (quarterback) Joe (Milton III). It's just fun to watch him go play now. He's a big, strong, fast guy who's now playing really strong and really fast.

"It's just been great to see him be a transfer who doesn't think he's got everything figured out. He has wanted to improve himself and his skill set, and I feel he's going to take a huge jump this year."

McCoy's productivity and Hyatt's numbers last season were aided by a September injury to Cedric Tillman, but McCoy, Ramel Keyton and Squirrel White answered the bell in the Orange Bowl after Hyatt and Tillman chose to sit out and get a head start on their NFL careers. McCoy, Keyton and White each scored touchdowns during the 31-14 victory over Clemson, and all three have returned and have been joined by Oregon transfer Dont'e Thornton, who averaged 21.5 yards a catch last season.

Only time will tell whether a dominant receiver emerges for a third straight season under head coach Josh Heupel, but McCoy could be front and center in that conversation.

"It makes you want to prepare even more," McCoy said, "because you could be the guy that the ball comes to when the game is on the line."

Professor Peyton

Tennessee announced Monday that legendary Vols and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning will serve as a professor this fall in the university's College of Communication and Information (CCI).

Manning graduated with a degree in speech communication in 1997, the same year he guided the Vols to the Southeastern Conference championship.

"There is no other ambassador for our college and university like Peyton Manning, and we are proud to welcome him to the college's faculty," Joseph Mazer, the CCI dean, said through a statement. "Peyton is a true Volunteer, and I look forward to our students gaining invaluable knowledge from him as we continue to prepare the next generation of communication and information leaders."

Manning, according to the school release, will partner with CCI faculty and teach sports reporting, video production and performance, leadership and communication, and public speaking.

"My time as a student in the College of Communication and Information was a foundational experience during which I learned critical skills and messaging techniques that I continue to put to use almost daily," Manning said. "I look forward to working with the college's talented faculty and directly with students in an effort to ensure they are well prepared for their future careers."

Vols at No. 12

The Associated Press released its preseason poll Monday, with the Vols checking in at No. 12.

Tennessee was No. 10 in the USA Today coaches poll released last Monday.

Georgia was an overwhelming No. 1 in the AP poll, receiving 60 of a possible 63 first-place votes. Michigan was second, with Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Southern California, Penn State, Florida State, Clemson and Washington rounding out the top 10.

Texas was one spot ahead of the Vols.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.

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