Tennessee football is deep at wide receiver. But who’s the Volunteer’s No. 1 go-to target? Will he be Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings or somebody else?
It’s no secret that a major strength for Tennessee football this year is the wide receiver corps. Jim Chaney returns as offensive coordinator with a chance to replicate what he did in 2012, when he had Tyler Bray throwing to Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Zach Rogers with Mychal Rivera at tight end.
This year, the Vols are looking at Josh Palmer in the slot and Dominick Wood-Anderson at tight end while Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings are the wideouts. But now that they’re fully healthy, who is the No. 1 option between Jennings and Callaway?
Both are proven gamers in their own right. Jennings tied Ty Chandler for the team lead with three touchdown receptions last year, but Callaway led the team in receiving overall with 37 receptions for 592 yards. He had two touchdowns, while Jennings had 30 receptions for 438 yards.
Callaway’s stats combined with his Hail Mary touchdown reception against the Kentucky Wildcats makes his 2018 campaign eerily similar to what Jennings did in 2016, when he had 580 receiving yards and also caught a Hail Mary touchdown pass. Jennings’s Hail Mary catch was more significant, as it was for the win at the Georgia Bulldogs.
However, Callaway has shown his ability to do more with the ball in his hands. He has two punt return touchdowns in his career, including one last year, and was the only preseason All-SEC player voted on by the media from Rocky Top last July.
Taking all of this into account, Tennessee football has two elite receivers. When it comes to physical abilities, Callaway is the better receiver. The 6’2″ 204-pound senior ran a 4.4. 40 this summer, according to Tee Martin, he’s got an amazing vertical, and he is incredibly shifty with the ball in his hands.
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But Jennings is still the more proven gamer. His performances have been more significant. He caught the go-ahead touchdown against the Florida Gators in 2016 one week before his game-winning catch at Georgia. Even last year, as he was coming back from injury, he caught the go-ahead touchdown pass at the Auburn Tigers.
Also, the 6’3″ 208-pound fifth-year senior is a very vocal Vol. He and Callaway together make for a veteran duo of wideouts and can really help Jarrett Guarantano put up big numbers provided they both stay healthy, which is a big if for Jennings.
Within the standard offense, though, Jennings is probably the top receiver fully healthy. Despite Callaway having bigger numbers last year, Jennings spent the first half of the season coming back from a season-ending injury in 2017 and then missing all of spring ball while trying to get back on the team.
Jennings is just the ultimate gamer. He will be the main target for Guarantano this year to get all the big yards and touchdowns through the air. However, there will be more creatively designed plays for Callaway, and he’ll also have more opportunities for touches since he’ll likely be a return specialist again. So both will likely be valuable with Jennings as the No. 1 receiver.