Hunting Post-Hunter


It has been 10 days since our season flashed before our eyes with one awkward landing, and our Tennessee Volunteers are still trying to determine which offensive path they're going to take from this point forward.

There's so much season left and no time to roll over and quit or to sulk about having a mark in the loss column and another bigger loss in the personnel column. The question was posed in Sunday's podcast about what we'd like to see most in this weekend's Warm-up for October against 1-3 Buffalo -- a run-dominant performance or the development of another viable target to alleviate the pressure on Da'Rick Rogers and Mychal Rivera post-Justin Hunter's season-ending injury.

Of course, the correct answer is we need to see both against the Bulls. And while the running game doesn't look to have many -- if any -- immediate fixes, there is talent and opportunity in that young receiving corps. So, below, we'll look deeper into each candidate's attributes and let you determine who you think is going to come closest to filling Hunter's irreplaceable cleats when it comes to keeping the passing game flowing and allowing the Vols to take advantage of their greatest weapon -- sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray.

  • Anthony Anderson 5-11, 185 senior WR. The consummate team player and leader, Anderson moved from the secondary to provide depth at wide receiver this summer. After some initial good reviews, he hasn't cracked the rotation in a game. Coaches say he's blessed with good hands, but will he even make a blip on the radar?
  • DeAnthony Arnett 6-0, 175 freshman WR. Many of us who follow recruiting and were excited about Arnett's commitment were wondering exactly where he was those first couple of games. When he came in against Florida, we quickly found out that he wasn't sitting the bench because he wasn't good enough, but only because he wasn't needed. Arnett led the Vols with eight catches for 59 yards against the Gators. Though he isn't the fastest or biggest receiver and doesn't pose much of a deep threat, Arnett makes up for those flaws with pristine routes and good hands. He'll be firmly in the game plan moving forward.
  • Cameron Clear 6-6, 265 freshman TE. How far behind is Clear? He hasn't sniffed the offensive side of the football this season after being one of UT's most prized recruits. Not getting here in the spring hurt Clear's development, and fellow freshman Brendan Downs is ahead of him on the depth chart. With Hunter gone, will the Vols be able to unleash another big, physical receiver? Is he ready? Will he even stick at tight end?
  • Vincent Dallas 5-11, 185 freshman WR. Practice reports had Dallas -- who participated in spring drills -- ahead of Arnett in the pecking order initially, but the Georgia native has snagged just one ball for 6 yards so far this season. He has gotten sporadic playing time, but with an open competition, you'd think he'll be more in the mix now. Dallas is probably a more complete receiver than Arnett right now, but he doesn't do anything elite, so he's perhaps a little behind his classmate.
  • Brendan Downs 6-5, 237 freshman TE. A very pleasant surprise so far for the Vols. Nobody expected a lot from Downs after a spring practice that saw him somewhat lost and practice reporters suggesting he needed a year to add some weight. After hitting the weight room, however, the Bristol native looks big and physical, and has made an impact so far. He has two catches for 32 yards and has picked up a lot of playing time.
  • Matt Milton 6-5, 210 sophomore WR. Without question, Milton is the most physically gifted of this group. He is blessed with incredible size and the second-fastest electronically-timed 40-yard dash of any of UT's receivers, behind only Hunter. But for some reason, Milton can't put it together. He plays almost robotic out there, struggling to catch the ball, play with an urgency and to run routes. Can he put it all together with such a major opportunity? He has just one catch for 12 yards this year.
  • Rajion Neal 5-11, 210 sophomore WR/TB. Is he a wide receiver? A tailback? A versatile weapon? The coaches would like to use the sophomore from Sandy Creek in a bunch of different ways since he's the fastest player on the team and blessed with really good hands. But he has battled a knee injury and also not produced nearly the way the coaches believed he would after getting off to a fast start last year. There have been rumblings that Neal would get plenty of opportunities vs. Buffalo. It's time for him to step up. He has five carries for 20 yards and no catches so far.
  • Zach Rogers 6-0, 180 junior WR. He has five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown this year, but Rogers is one of the most frustrating players on this team. He entered the year as UT's No. 3 receiver, and he'll probably always be firmly in the rotation, but when the lights come on, he drops balls and completely disappears in the offense. Rogers has really good straight-line speed, but he is going to have to be more consistent if UT is going to continue its success passing.
  • Devrin Young 5-8, 165 freshman ATH. I don't really know where to put Devrin. He's working out with the running backs, he's a return specialist, he can probably play in the slot and coaches crave getting him the ball in space. But he broke his collarbone before practices began, and this will be his first action of the year. What can we expect from him? Will he make the kind of impact that other jitterbug athletes around the SEC have? He's such a polarizing player and an enigma that I don't think anybody really has a handle on what -- if anything -- he can bring the offense. But I think he's certainly going to be involved.
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