1. Wide receivers
Now let’s get to who deserves credit for the elite quarterback play. Tennessee football didn’t find its receiver rotation in the spring, but it confirmed that it’s got a collection of elite skill players who can handle Josh Heupel’s system.
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With Josh Palmer being selected in the NFL Draft and Brandon Johnson transferring to the UCF Knights, there were legitimate concerns about this unit. However, Velus Jones Jr. proved he could handle the responsibilities as the feature receiver, consistently living up to his expectations throughout the practices and having a touchdown the spring game.
Cedric Tillman became the surprise breakout player at wideout, and he also had a touchdown in the spring game. Meanwhile, Jimmy Calloway continued to stand out and draw praise from the coaches. Expectations never subsided for Jalin Hyatt either, which has to count for something.
Then there’s walk-on Jack Jancek, who led everybody receiving in the spring game with two catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. Sure, that was likely fool’s gold, but we’re judging these units by spring practice play, and that has to count. There was a collection of receivers who all proved themselves in a big way, and that’s huge for the passing game.
Make no mistake, the elite passing in the spring was more the quarterbacks and receivers succeeding than the secondary failing. That’s why the secondary was so high. Tennessee football’s failures largely came from the front seven on defense anyway, which could cause concerns. However, the receivers still deserve praise.