Highly touted freshman wide receiver Marquez North turned some heads in 2013 with his amazing catches against South Carolina and Georgia, but he wasn’t quite a household name around the nation.
That will all change in 2014.
North provided the Vols with some of their top moments of the season, but his season-ending stats of 38 catches for 496 yards (the latter of which led the team) were not awe-inspiring in the least.
However, there was good reason for North’s seemingly low numbers. The Vols faced uncertainty and inexperience at the quarterback position and the receivers lining up across from North were, for the most past, as inexperienced as him.
To put it bluntly, the Vols had very little talent around the 6’4″/215 lb Charlotte native.
Despite the lack of talent around North, he still excelled when it mattered. His one-handed 39 yard catch against South Carolina (above), is what the provided the Vols with their biggest moment of the season — beating South Carolina.
On the Vols’ final drive against South Carolina, QB Justin Worley threw off the mark to WR Jason Croom on consecutive plays to bring up third-and-ten.
Had North not made the spectacular one-handed catch, the Vols would’ve been facing a fourth-and-ten situation on their own 35 yard line with no timeouts left and just over two minutes to play.
Who knows what would’ve then happened, but it wasn’t looking good for the Vols if North doesn’t make that play.
Plays like the one against South Carolina are what have fans so excited about North heading into 2014.
North, armed with another year of experience for not only himself, but whoever ends up being his starting QB, will also being playing alongside talented newcomers Von Pearson and Josh Malone, which should take the pressure — and attention — off of North greatly.
The Vols’ offense will be much smoother this season and we should see Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian dive into the play book a bit more.
Jones, who said after the season “We are nowhere close to where we need to be”, wasn’t able to fully install his offensive plan in 2013, due to the inexperienced team he inherited.
With that changing in 2014, you’ll see Marquez North become more of a focal point of the offense. The former four-star wide receiver is set for a breakout season that will have folks across the nation wondering where this guy came from.
Of course, Vol fans already know what they have — they’re just waiting for him to break out in a big way.