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Coffee County's Alontae Taylor runs the football for the East team during Friday's all-star game at Austin Peay.

Editor's note: This is the sixth story in a series previewing Tennessee football before spring practices begin Tuesday.

When Tennessee's leading returning receiver Jauan Jennings left the 2017 football season opener against Georgia Tech with a wrist injury, it was a loss from which the team never recovered.

With then-redshirt senior Josh Smith also dealing with injuries, the Volunteers' receiving corps struggled all year with a new position coach and a group of young players.

Tuesday could be the start of a new beginning. The Vols will start spring practices with another new wide receivers coach, David Johnson, and a new offensive scheme under first-year coordinator Tyson Helton and first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Joining the competition at receiver in time for spring drills is Alontae Taylor from Coffee County, who was one of the highest-rated players in Tennessee's 2018 signing class.

The 6-foot speedster has been in the Vols' weight room preparing for the rigors of the college game and should have an immediate opportunity to become an impact player. Jennings is on the path back to being fully reinstated to the team, but he will not participate in spring practices because of a knee injury that required a minor operation recently.

With Tyler Byrd moving to cornerback, that leaves junior Marquez Callaway, sophomore Josh Palmer and junior Brandon Johnson as the returning receivers with significant playing experience.

All will need to take a step forward for the unit in 2018. Joining the mix at tight end for Tennessee in time for spring practices is class of 2018 recruit Jacob Warren. He could get a shot to play wideout at some point because of Tennessee's more robust depth at tight end.

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.

 

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