That, as much as anything else, may be responsible for junior receiver Josh Briscoe's surprising level of production for the Tennessee Vols this season.
Heading into today's game with Georgia (3:30 kickoff at Neyland Stadium), he is the Vols' second-leading receiver, with 23 catches and 191 receiving yards. That's 14 more catches and 58 more yards than he managed in his first two college seasons combined.
Briscoe, a 6-3, 183-pound junior from Lawndale, N.C., smiled when asked to explain his sudden rise from obscure reserve to key contributor.
“I've been in the system and I'm getting a lot more reps in practice and games,” he said. “That's helped me out a lot.
“In the past we had Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain and Chris Hannon, so I wasn't getting many reps in practice and in the games. It's just a matter of getting reps on a consistent basis and getting a chance to show what I can do.”
Even while he was stuck behind the veteran receivers mentioned above, Briscoe never lost faith in himself. He says receivers coach Trooper Taylor and quarterback Erik Ainge never lost faith in him, either.
“Coach Trooper and Erik Ainge have been there to support me and encourage me the whole time,” Briscoe said. “They let me know that I have the talent to do it; I just had to go out and do it on an every-day basis.”
Still, the wiry wideout had to prove he could “go out and do it” in real games. He did that with six catches in Game 1 vs. Cal, eight more in Game 3 vs. Florida and six more in Game 4 vs. Arkansas State. Thanks to those performances, he has earned the trust of his position coach and his quarterback.
“I definitely have,” Briscoe said, adding that he also earned some respect by “working with Erik during the summer, getting stronger in the weight room, working on my speed and doing the little things.”
Although he is off to a terrific start this fall, Briscoe was glad Tennessee had an open date following its Sept. 22 defeat of Arkansas State. He believes it will benefit the Vols a great deal in the weeks to come.
“It was real good for us,” he said. “We're getting into the meat of our schedule now. Seven of our eight games left are SEC games. We've just got to take it one game at a time, knowing we can win all of these games.”
Although Auburn's upset of Florida last Saturday and South Carolina's defeat of Kentucky on Thursday night leaves every team in the SEC East with one loss, Briscoe says that's of little concern to the Vols.
“We can't worry about what anybody else in the SEC does,” he said. “We've just got to worry about Tennessee, what we do best and what we've got to do to win this game.”