KNOXVILLE — It hasn't been Tee Martin's success at developing receivers that has piqued the interest of Tennessee's two seniors at the position, Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings.
It's where he got as a player at Tennessee that has more of their attention.
"He's been here," Jennings said recently, adding that he was going to ask Martin to bring his 1998 national championship ring to the next team meeting. "He's done what we want to accomplish, so I'm going to soak in all the information he gives me."
Added Callaway: "Having him here is everything you'd expect. Having a former Vol come back and coach us, it's exciting to have him back. His atmosphere, his name, his title. Everybody is happy around him, and we're happy to have him."
Martin's return to Tennessee after spending the past 10 years as an assistant at New Mexico, Kentucky and the University of Southern California was met with nothing but praise. The quarterback of the Volunteers' most recent national championship team spent the past seven years at USC, mainly working with receivers but spending the past three seasons as co-offensive coordinator.
Having played quarterback throughout his career, he has been able to provide a unique perspective to his position group about what the signal-caller is looking for on a play.
"He sees the game like a quarterback," Callaway said. "If we're supposed to go on an outside release and we go inside, he tells us how fast he'll look off us because we did the wrong thing. As soon as we do the wrong thing — if we're supposed to go outside, we go outside, if inside, go inside — he snaps away from us because he knows we're not getting the ball."
Callaway is the team's leading returner in both catches (37) and receiving yards (592). Jennings, who flirted with entering the NFL draft before deciding to stay with the Vols, was second on the team last season in catches with 30 and third in yards, while junior Josh Palmer was second in yards with 484 and ranked fifth in the nation in yards per catch (21.0). Throw in freshman Ramel Keyton, an early enrollee, and other talented younger players, and the receivers could be the best position group on the team.
To get back to where they want to be, though, the Vols are going to need high-level contributions from the group.
"The seniors now have been here for a while and we know it's our last year, so we want to do what we can to go out the way we want to," Callaway said. "Do we want to go out not making a bowl? Or go out where people are saying, 'Tennessee is getting there.'
"We have to find it in ourselves to not take any days off and to treat any game like it's our last."
Pro day update
The Vols had 12 players participate in pro day workouts Thursday morning at Haslam Field.
Standouts were defensive linemen Kyle Phillips and Shy Tuttle, while defensive back Micah Abernathy also had a solid day. Phillips weighed in at 277 pounds and ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash and did 17 bench-press repetitions. Tuttle weighed 290 pounds, posted a 4.94 time in the 40 and bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times.
Abernathy, a safety during his Tennessee career, ran a 4.45 in the 40 and posted a 38.5-inch vertical jump. His 40 would have been the seventh-best time at the recent NFL combine, while his other scores would have ranked in the top five.
Keller Chryst, who spent his college career at quarterback — three seasons at Stanford, then one at Tennessee — ran some routes as a tight end in addition to throwing.
Joe Parker, who played his final two seasons at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was also present for Tennessee's pro day and will be at UTC's on Friday.