Not only will Tennessee be breaking in a new coaching staff with a completely new philosophy this year, but they’ll be forced to bring several new faces into the mix. The Volunteers were hit hard by the transfer portal, as several key members of the Jeremy Pruitt era decided to play elsewhere in 2021. Tennessee also lost a couple of key players to the draft, most notably in receiver Josh Palmer.
Palmer’s exit, along with the transfer of Brandon Johnson, will free up snaps for some new threats at receiver. We know senior Velus Jones Jr. will be heavily involved, and we’re guessing Jalin Hyatt becomes a primary target in this new spread offense.
The former four-star prospect is entering his sophomore season in Knoxville and has a chance to make a big impact as a dynamic piece for Josh Heupel. Hyatt made big splashes as a true freshman, most notably against Alabama. The 6-foot speedster got behind the Crimson Tide secondary more than once, creating a couple big chunk plays for a Tennessee offense that couldn’t seem to buy big plays last season. Now equipped with a friendlier offense, those splashes we saw from Hyatt should become the norm.
Hyatt’s legitimate 4.3 speed should be put to good use by Heupel, who isn’t shy about attacking down the field. His offense is based on what the defense gives him — a somewhat simple concept, but one that has been highly successful over the last decade. To execute this, you need a guy that can get down the field, which is where Hyatt steps in.
Check out this description of Heupel’s offense from Pro Football Focus with Hyatt and Velus Jones Jr. in mind.
The Heupel offense is a chip off the old Baylor offense from the early 2010s. It’s performed via a quick diagnosis of pre-snap space and then executed via a power run game inside or a one-on-one vertical shot outside. In an ideal world, they would love to use the one-high versus two-high binary against the defenses they play. When teams show a single-high safety against them, it means they are going to have access to vertical shots on the outside down the sideline. And when teams show a two-high safety against them, it’s the slot receivers who can now play in space. (PFF)
We saw some of this during the Orange and White Game this spring, as Harrison Bailey and Brian Maurer consistently pushed the ball down the field with great success. Of course, plenty of that was a lack of defense, but it at least served as an example of what this offense is supposed to look like.
Hyatt caught 20 balls last season for 276 yards and two scores, which, amazingly enough, was good for third on the team in receiving yards. That stat alone paints the picture of how bad this offense was, and why Josh Heupel was brought it.
Going back to Hyatt’s tape as a prospect, it’s important to note that he’s not just a speed guy. The South Carolina native was pretty well-rounded as a recruit, even flashing some ability at the catch point. Now as one of the top options in this passing game, I’m going to be interested to see how this staff utilizes him. Attacking down the field is one thing, but both Hyatt and Jones are guys that can win in space. Getting the ball out quickly to the perimeter and giving them a chance to make something happen is likely something you’ll see often.
Hyatt was set to step into a big role regardless of who the coach was, but bringing in Heupel could really set him off. By the end of the 2021 season, you could be talking about Hyatt as one of the best receivers in the SEC.