From the moment that Josh Heupel was hired at Tennessee, people began pointing at Jalin Hyatt as a guy that should immediately benefit in the new offense. With good reason too — Hyatt flashed as a true freshman even in Jeremy Pruitt and Jim Chaney’s old-fashioned offense with struggling Jarrett Guarantano under center.
Right out of the gates against Bowling Green, Hyatt racked up four catches in the first quarter. After that? Not much — nothing, actually. Hyatt was injured against Pittsburgh, slowing his sophomore season all the way down to a halt.
By all reports, Hyatt is now healthy, but he’s seemingly fallen out of the top three in the receiver rotation. Velus Jones moved to the slot, while JaVonta Payton has taken over on the outside with success.
Hyatt did play against Missouri, but didn’t receive a target in his handful of snaps. He also played against Florida, but again didn’t record a reception.
“Jalin Hyatt has gotten closer to getting his process right to prepare,” offensive coordinator Alex Golesh said Wednesday. “He’s still learning how to play within the offense. I’m absolutely not down on Jalin Hyatt. He’s still learning how to play. He’s an electric player, he’s really fast. We got to continue to find ways to get him the football and I think he’s going to continue to grow and have a really bright future here. He’s still young in so many different ways.”
Hyatt’s legitimate 4.3 speed should pay dividends down the road, but the staff is clearly helping him work through some things in terms of how he prepares. Luckily for Tennessee, Payton has stepped in and delivered a couple of big plays over the last two weeks.
After Hyatt went down against Pittsburgh, sophomore Jimmy Calloway stepped up to the plate and immediately delivered on a 44-yard screen pass, taking it all the way for a touchdown. He was a guy that really emerged in both spring and fall camps, and you could see the natural athletic ability on display against Pitt.
However, a key drop against Florida on a massive fourth down play ultimately sent the Volunteers into a spiral in The Swamp. That’s something he’s going to have to put behind him, but he didn’t get that chance last week against Missouri.
Hyatt and Calloway seemingly are in a similar spot, according to Golesh.
“Jimmy Calloway has to continue to learn – again this is his second year playing receiver, this is his second year in college – he’s still figuring it all out,” Golesh said. “Kodi (Burns) has done a really good job of helping him there. I feel like we’re all hands-on deck with Jimmy Calloway trying to help him continue to perfect his process. Again, has nothing to do with Saturday, you guys see the result of what his daily process looks like. He’s got to continue to grow up and perfect that part of it. There’s a ton of talent in there. He’s going to be a really electric player here at some point as well.”
With veterans like Cedric Tillman, Jones and Payton, Tennessee can afford to slowly bring these young players along. The Volunteers have actually had a really nice pipeline of receivers over the past several years, who all waited their turn and spent their first couple of seasons really developing.
Hyatt and Calloway won’t totally disappear from the offense, but there does seem to be a veteran top three that has emerged. Both of these former four-star receivers have the talent to be special, but it sounds like they’ll be brought along a little slower than anticipated.