Key for Vol wide receivers

Tennessee receiver coach Trooper Taylor has no shortage of candidates for the four spots in the wideout playing rotation.

The veteran cast consists of senior Casey Woods, juniors Lucas Taylor and Josh Briscoe, sophomores Austin Rogers and Quintin Hancock. The rookie cast consists of juco transfer Kenny O'Neal, prep school grad Brent Vinson, mid-term freshman enrollee Todd Campbell and new freshmen Gerald Jones, Ahmad Paige and Denarius Moore.

For those keeping score at home, that's 11 guys battling for four jobs. Naturally, you wonder which attributes Taylor will weigh most heavily while deciding who stays in the mix and who doesn't – hands ... speed ... ability to separate ... route-running ability ... blocking ability ... savvy ... toughness?

Basically, the answer is none of the above. Taylor says two attributes override everything else in determining who will be in the mix for the Sept. 1 opener at Cal and who will not.

"The biggest deal is alignment and assignment," the Vol aide said. "If they can't line up and they don't know their assignment, it doesn't matter how fast you are or how many balls you can catch. You're not going to be able to help us."

Because they already are familiar with their alignments and assignments, the veteran receivers have a distinct advantage over the rookies, who must digest and process a lot of information between now and Sept. 1. The rookies should close the gap over time, of course.

Odds are, the 2007 wideouts will not be as productive as the 2006 trio of Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Bret Smith was last fall. Taylor says that's OK because the current wideouts don't HAVE to be as productive. If he's correct, their teammates will be shouldering a big part of the load.

"We've got an experienced quarterback, experienced running backs and three tight ends that can come in and help us," Taylor said. "So my guys have just got to go out there and play their role, which is to get lined up and make the plays they're supposed to make. If they can get that done, I think their athletic ability and talent will take over. But they HAVE to know their alignment and assignment."

Naturally, the rookies are hoping to win favor by making spectacular plays in upcoming scrimmages this Saturday (Aug. 18) and next Tuesday (Aug. 21). First, however, they need to prove themselves capable of making all of the routine plays.

"I try to make sure they understand: 'Go make the plays you're supposed to make and let everything else fall into place,'" Taylor said. "I'm excited about the group we're going to take out there. We're going to find out more and more about them each day."

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