In spite of all the transfers and losses on the recruiting trail, one saving grace for Tennessee football was the personnel in place for an elite passing attack and a head coach who knew how to utilize such players. That future took a big hit on Tuesday.
According to Patrick Brown of GoVols247, rising sophomore receiver Malachi Wideman is no longer with the program. Standing at 6’4″ and weighing 200 pounds, the Sarasota, Fla. native played in six games last year and had one catch for 24 yards.
Wideman was a four-star recruit across the board in Tennessee football’s 2020 class out of Florida’s Venice High School. Given his size, he figured to be a huge part of the passing game as a wideout in the future regardless of who was head coach.
Although UT has several up and coming options at receiver, the wideout position is a bit thin on size. Among scholarship receivers, incoming freshman Julian Nixon is the only player on the team as tall as Wideman. Ramel Keyton and Cedric Tillman are the only other guys over 6’2″, standing at 6’3″ 195 pounds. Andison Coby is the only other receiver at 6’2″ or above, standing at 6’2″ exactly.
To be fair, everybody is at least 6’0″ who will be a crucial part of the offense. However, height can be a big deal at wideout, and you want at least two guys who are 6’3″ or above and have proven they can play a major role in the rotation.
Wideman hadn’t proven anything, but nobody at that size has just yet on the roster, so the more players Josh Heupel has who fit that profile, the better off he is. Even if Wideman doesn’t work out this year, there definitely would have been room for him in the future if he developed.
You could have seen a 2022 roster in which Nixon, Wideman, Keyton, Tillman and Coby made up an elite collection of receivers with size. At least two of those guys would have panned out as solid wideouts, and that would have allowed Jalin Hyatt, Jimmy Calloway and Walker Merrill to become effective receivers in the slot.
Now, though, Heupel has one less player at a position that should be deep. Tennessee football could afford to lose a receiver more than players at other positions, but Wideman is still a costly loss for the future. Given Heupel’s tempo, he also needs as many pass-catchers as possible. A guy like Wideman could have played a huge role in helping with that.