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Cedric Tillman: ‘Now it’s my time to step up’

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Despite some shaky quarterback play over the last several years, Tennessee hasn’t been short on talent at the wide receiver position. This year, just like the last couple of years, a new face or two is set to step into the spotlight for the Volunteers.

One of those veteran names is Cedric Tillman, a redshirt junior receiver out of Las Vegas. The 6-3, 215 pounder signed with Tennessee late in the class of 2018, ranking outside of 247Sports’ top 1,500 players in the class. A few years later, Tillman has a chance to become a legitimate starter in the SEC.

“Now it’s my time to step up,” Tillman said on the latest episode of ‘The Slice’ podcast. “Like you said, technically I am the big dog. Guys like Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Josh Palmer, I try to follow them. Now it’s my turn to take on that role. So I plan on doing that.”

Tillman has just eight career catches in three seasons in Knoxville, two of which went for touchdowns. However, as he mentioned, with Palmer, Callaway and Jennings all out of the picture, it’s his time to step up. The big-bodied receiver now has a chance to really shine in Josh Heupel’s up-tempo offense, which was a mainstay in the top five of total offenses in the FBS during his time at UCF.

It’s a massive change from the Jeremy Pruitt and Jim Chaney era, which utilized a more traditional pro-style attack.

“I had to adjust to it,” Tillman said of the new offense. “I was so used to certain things. So when Coach Heupel and the rest of the staff got here, I definitely had to adjust to some of the new things, the new culture — right now, I kind of know the expectations. I know the standard. So everything is normal to me now.”

We got a taste of the new feel during the Orange and White Game back in April. Brian Maurer and Harrison Bailey attacked early and often down the field, and Tillman was one of the beneficiaries. He was able to haul in a team high five catches on the day, totaling 67 yards and a score. Tillman’s longest reception was 29 yards.

“We’re going to go much faster on the offensive side of the ball,” Tillman said. “So that took some getting used to. A bunch of other little things that I’m not going to reveal, but yeah, just the fast, new-tempo offense. The route combinations. All that stuff.”

Tillman will be a key part of the Tennessee passing game, along with Velus Jones Jr. and Jalin Hyatt. Ramel Keyton should also play a role, while younger players like Jimmy Calloway, Jimmy Holiday, Andison Coby and Walker Merrill try to crack the rotation.

Whether this new offense produces wins in year one remains to be seen, but the Volunteers should at least score some points, which would be a welcomed sight after the last several years.