Anyone who thinks Tennessee's high-profile receivers are overrated might want to ask Vol teammates who showed up en masse to watch arguably the NCAA's most dynamic wideout trio in 7-on-7 drills this summer.
The Big Three of Justin Hunter, Da' Rick Rogers and Cordarrelle Patterson put on such a show going against Big Orange defensive backs during 7-on-7 workouts that the offensive and defensive linemen routinely hurried through their own sessions so they could observe.
"It was very entertaining," senior guard Dallas Thomas recalled. "As soon as we'd get done with our drills, we're like, 'Have they started 7-on-7s yet?' We'd rush through our drills, go find a chair and get in the end zone because we know all they're going to do is throw that fade route in the corner every time. Who's going to get it?"
Two-time All-American and 2011 Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry showed up at his alma mater one day and took part in a 7-on-7 session. Hunter promptly burned him.
"One time Justin Hunter was out there with EB, and he got him," Thomas recalled. "And one time the cornerback — I can't remember which one —
went up and got it, then Cordarrelle jumped up, reached over him and scored. I was like 'Damn!'"
Junior cornerback Prentiss Waggner, one of the guys trying to cover the talented receiving trio, couldn't help noticing that the 7-on-7 sessions were unusually well attended this summer.
"You normally don't see offensive lineman and defensive linemen; the only thing you see is skill positions," he said. "This summer you saw trainers, O-linemen, the whole team out there watching 7-on-7 drills. When the offense would make a play the whole offense would scream and yell. When the defense would make a play the whole defense would scream and yell. That was fun."
Tennessee's Big Three at receiver may prove to be a Big Four. Several veteran Vols rave about the potential of speedy freshman Alton "Pig" Howard.
"I remember the first day of workouts we had to run three 100s on the track, and I saw Pig leading the group his first day," Waggner said. "I thought 'Who's this guy?' Every day since then he's led that group of receivers. He's such a smooth guy."
Several older players also have been impressed with the skills exhibited by 6-foot-5, 220-pound freshman Jason Croom.
"I think Croom's going to help us this season also," Waggner said. "He's a big threat in the red zone area. He came in the first day, catching jump balls off of everybody."
Waggner says Tennessee is blessed with several "A-plus receivers," and he isn't alone in that opinion. Sophomore running back Devrin Young admits that he can't wait to see the havoc the wideouts wreak in opposing secondaries this fall.
"Oh, man, it's awesome to get to work with those guys," he said. "I'm really excited to see what they do. It's safe to say that there's a lot of expectations coming from them."