ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / Tennessee redshirt junior tight end Jacob Warren has a team-high six receptions to lead the Volunteers through their first two games.

From Joe Milton's overthrows to Milton's injury to Hendon Hooker's respectable performance last weekend until his final play, it's been quite the interesting start to the passing portion of Tennessee's aerial attack.

It's been a bit unique on the receiving end, too.

Through the first two games for the Volunteers — a 38-6 whipping of Bowling Green and a 41-34 loss to Pittsburgh — the leading pass-catchers are tight end Jacob Warren, tight end Princeton Fant and third-string running back Jaylen Wright. Warren has a team-high six receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown, including a 34-yard catch and an 8-yard touchdown against the Panthers.

"It was a concept we put in just to try and capitalize on their aggressiveness in the back end," Warren said after Saturday's setback. "We were trying to find space where they weren't and take advantage of it. They were just straight, up-the-field routes — nothing crazy."

As for Tennessee's receivers, Jalin Hyatt has four catches for 62 yards, while Cedric Tillman has three for 68 with a touchdown and Jimmy Calloway three for 59 with a score. Velus Jones Jr. has three receptions for 31 yards so far, while Mississippi State graduate transfer JaVonta Payton has two for 14.

Of course, Hyatt and Tillman would have better numbers were it not for Milton's overzealous arm to this point.

"I thought we did a really good job of game-planning Pitt and trying to get some guys open and freeing some guys up," Tennessee receivers coach Kodi Burns said Tuesday. "I also think they went out and did their part as far as trying to run by guys. Listen, we're young in the offense, and we're young at receiver as well.

"Really, when you look at it, all the quarterbacks are very young as well. We've just got to continue to grow. We're going to start connecting on those big balls, because those are what really change the game."

Tennessee's two biggest receptions this season have been Calloway's 44-yard touchdown against Pitt, which was mostly the result of perimeter blocking and Calloway's speed down the sideline, and Tillman's 40-yard score with 5:11 left in the opener. Hyatt had a 30-yard catch against Bowling Green but also endured a couple of drops in that game.

Hyatt was injured on the fifth play against Pitt, and his status for this week's noon matchup against visiting Tennessee Tech is not yet known.

"Jalin's got elite speed," Burns said. "He can run by anybody in this league, really. He's a young player, and it's my job as a coach to grow and develop him and to make sure those 50/50 balls are catches for him.

"If he continues to grow, which he will, he'll be a special player when it's all said and done."

Burns was pleased with how Calloway, Jones and Walker Merrill played in Hyatt's absence, adding that Jones was injured for most of preseason camp and is "just getting back into the flow of things." While Tennessee's receivers continue to develop, the veteran tight ends seem to be making the most of the situation.

"It's just a matter of putting guys in position to make the plays that they need to, whether that's me running vertical routes or press-and-run verticals or a wide receiver running a vertical," Warren said. "I don't care. I just want us to catch the ball and score."

 

Odds and ends

Tennessee is 6-0 lifetime against Tennessee Tech by the combined score of 297-20. ... The Vols have a whopping 21 tackles for loss through their first two games, which ranks fifth nationally and third in the Southeastern Conference behind LSU (25) and Auburn (22).

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT