If there’s one area where Tennessee doesn’t need help this season, it’s the wide receiver position. Loaded with Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings and Josh Palmer, new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has plenty of weapons to call upon in the passing game. But down the stretch of 2018, a new face started making some plays for Tennessee.
Rising junior receiver Jordan Murphy finally found the field near the end of the season, really showing up during the blowout win over Kentucky. The 5-11 speedster offered a new dimension for the Tennessee offense, making two explosive plays against the Wildcats.
Could that have been a preview of things to come in 2019? Murphy worked with the White team during the Orange and White Game, making another big play down the seam late in the game off the arm of JT Shrout.
Murphy closed 2018 with momentum, accumulating stats in each of the final four games of the year. He closed the season with just 11 grabs for 155 yards, but the ability to do more is there.
Here’s the first of two big plays against Kentucky from Murphy. Tennessee featured bigger bodied guys like Josh Palmer and Marquez Callaway down the field last season, but here they gave the speedster a shot, and he delivered. Murphy created separation down the field and the ball from Jarrett Guarantano arrived just outside of the safety’s reach.
Next is another play from Murphy made down the field. It’s a wheel route that ETSU drops the ball on. Keller Chryst delivers in stride for the easy score.
Finally, here’s the last big play from Murphy and the second one from the Kentucky game. It’s a nice design from Tyson Helton first off, but the play pops thanks to Murphy’s speed to get around the edge.
Murphy ended up averaging 14 yards per catch and 29 yards per carry in 2018. On an offense that badly needs some spark-plugs, there’s no reason why Tennessee shouldn’t get Murphy some more run in 2019.
He brings something that Callaway, Jennings and Palmer don’t — pure speed.
Now, of course, in order to fully utilize a downfield threat, you need a capable offensive line. That’s something that Tennessee hasn’t had in a couple of years, but thankfully, help has arrived in the form of two five-star tackles from the class of 2019. How much of an immediate Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright can make remains to be seen. But there’s no question that Guarantano hasn’t had the protection needed to this point.
As we’ve said before, the offensive line is still the key to this offense, but Tennessee has the athletes on the perimeter to be an explosive unit. It remains to be seen if they have the bodies in the trenches — and under center — to succeed.