Sophomore receiver Marquez Callaway will be Tennessee’s primary punt returner for the 2017 season. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones confirmed that he had won the job on Wednesday and offered plenty of praise for Callaway as his punt return man.
“He has great passion for being the punt returner,” Jones said. “He’s out there early every day catching as many punts as he can. He stays after practice. He’s done a remarkable job of working at his craft.”
Callaway certainly didn’t win the job based on his experience. He returned just two punts last year, but made the most of them. He’s averaging a cool 57 yards per return right now for his career. Callaway took this punt to the house last season against Tennessee Tech, running 62 yards to the checkerboards.
Tennessee has had the luxury of Cameron Sutton and Alvin Kamara returning punts in the past. The role has been a nice weapon and a difference maker in years previous, so we’ll see if Callaway can offer that same dynamic, field flipping ability. His (very) limited sample size looks great.
Callaway wasn’t listed as a starter at receiver, surprisingly. He’s listed behind Jauan Jennings, but many thought he would start opposite of Jennings. He still figures to be a huge part of the receiver rotation regardless of what the depth chart says.
Senior Evan Berry will return to his role as the kick returner. He’s already one of the best to ever do it, but Tennessee will need him more than ever as they break in a new quarterback.
Butch Jones said that Berry is expected to play, following his knee injury late last season. Jones did note that it is a “day to day” situation with Berry, so they may ease him back to full speed.
Jones has kept the possibility open of Berry getting some offensive reps this season too. Tennessee would likely want him at full health before they throw him into the offensive gameplan, however. That’s just another storyline to follow as the season gets going.