Soft-spoken superstar

Soft-spoken superstar

Big-time wide receivers tend to be flashy and outspoken – Chad "Ocho Sinco" Johnson, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Keyshawn Johnson, for instance.

Then there's Tennessee's Lucas Taylor, who couldn't be less flashy or less outspoken. The 6-0, 185-pound senior from Carencro, La., prefers to let his actions do his talking, and they spoke volumes last fall.

After recording just 14 catches for 101 yards in his first two seasons with the Vols, Taylor exploded in 2007. He surpassed his career receiving yards in each of the first two games, posting 103 in Game 1 at California and 118 in Game 2 vs. Southern Miss. He cracked the century mark again in Game 4 vs. Arkansas State (104 yards), then earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week recognition for an 11-catch, 186-yard receiving effort in Game 6 at Mississippi State.

Taylor led the entire SEC with 618 receiving yards at the season's midway point, then limped to the finish line – literally and figuratively – because of a painful turf-foe injury. He posted just 392 receiving yards over his final seven games, then missed the Outback Bowl due to academic issues.

Now that he's healthy again, Taylor projects to be the go-to guy in Tennessee's receiving corps and the primary focus of opposing defensive coordinators. What will he do now that he's a marked man?

"You've just got to go out there and make plays," he said. "If they start to focus on me, then another player just has to step up and make plays."

Given what Taylor accomplished in 2007, it's a safe bet he'll see some double teams early in 2008.

"It's possible," he said with a shrug. "Nobody can tell until the games come on."

Foes who double-team Taylor will risk being burned by Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe, who caught 56 balls each last fall. Clearly, Tennessee's talent at wide receiver is plentiful.

"Oh, good, good," Taylor said, literally gushing. "As a receiver group we can make big plays."

Vol wideouts didn't get to make many big plays in 2007. With senior quarterback Erik Ainge was hampered by finger and shoulder problems throughout the season, Tennessee relied on a dink-and-dunk passing attack. The arrival of Dave Clawson's West Coast attack could mean the Big Orange will attempt more bombs in 2008.

"Yeah, it's possible," Taylor conceded. "This offense spreads the field, so there could be more deep balls."

Coming off only the fifth 1,000-yard season by a receiver in Vol history, Taylor faces a tough task: What can he do for an encore?

"Just stay focused," he said, "and make plays."

It's too bad Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss don't follow that same script.

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