With the departure of their top-three wide receivers and starting tight end, the new-look Tennessee Volunteers offense will rely heavily on a talented recruiting-class of wide receivers and current players lacking big-game experience. However, fans faithful to the Big Orange shouldn’t fret as Tennessee’s staff has done an impressive job in finding replacement talent for one of the nation’s top receiving corps.
The Vols signed two Rivals.com four-star wide receivers in their 2013 recruiting class. Both Marquez North and Paul Harris are expected to compete for immediate playing time in a Volunteer offense that lacks experience at the wide receiver position.
North was Rivals’ No. 1 player in the state of North Carolina and the No. 2 wide receiver of the 2013 recruiting-class. He is 6’3, 205 pounds and saw time from both the wide receiver and running back position in high school.
Paul Harris was also a 4-star wide out in the 2013 class. Harris measures at 6’4, 186 pounds.
Both receivers will have a daunting task of replacing a top-ranked UT passing attack that included two recently drafted NFL wide receivers. Both Cordarrelle Patterson (first round, Minnesota Vikings) and Justin Hunter (second round, Tennessee Titans) found NFL homes quickly in last months draft after a season in which Tennessee ranked No. 21 nationally in receiving yards.
No returning Tennessee wide receiver recorded over 200 yards for the 2012 season. Running back Marlin Lane leads all returning Vols with 228 receiving yards from out of the backfield.
Tennessee is also expected to integrate sophomore Alton “Pig” Howard into their offense more often in 2013. The versatile Howard saw most of his running from the wildcat position and recorded just 54 yards and one touchdown on 13 catches last season.
Junior Vincent Dallas is also expected to see more time in the Tennessee offense. Dallas caught nine passes for 149 yards, the most amongst a returning Tennessee wide receiver.
The Vols will have a wide open race for playing time amongst their wide receiving corps due to a lack of experience from returning players and optimism brought upon young talent. Although the expectations of the wide outs have dropped since last season, this group may make a surprising splash if they reach their full potential.