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Bru McCoy flashes in Tennessee debut

A solid start.

NCAA Football: Ball State at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Not only did Bru McCoy play his first game for Tennessee on Thursday night against Ball State, the former top recruit earned the start. After just one month on grass with his new team, the former USC Trojan did enough to run out with the first team offense in the opener.

And the early results were encouraging.

Tennessee was tasked with finding a legitimate option opposite of Cedric Tillman this offseason, and McCoy seems like the obvious answer after just one game. Playing alongside of Tillman and slot receiver Jalin Hyatt, McCoy instantly looked comfortable early on. His 6-3, 220 pound frame gives the Volunteers another physical presence on the perimeter, and you saw that on display pretty quickly.

His first catch was a simple comeback route, which McCoy ran well. You see him press deep, gear down and dig back.

McCoy made a bigger play later in the game, securing a pass from Hooker that was nearly picked off. McCoy went up for the grab, then turned up field a nearly scored with it.

McCoy’s night finished early with Tennessee up big. In total, he caught three passes for 42 yards.

“I thought Bru, it being the first ball game and his first year in this offense, you didn’t notice anything,” Josh Heupel said after the game. “He played really clean. Functioned and operated really well within our tempo. I thought he showed some things as far as the ball in his hands, being physical after contact. That’s one of the things … performing at a really high level. We had a bunch of wide outs that did some things tonight.”

As strange as it sounds, McCoy hasn’t played a lot of football to this point in his career, so these reps were big for him to settle in. He appeared in just six games at USC, playing under 200 snaps total. Through one game, it seems like he’s going to be a large part of what Tennessee does offensively.

Walker Merrill was named as a co-starter with McCoy on Monday, but Bru was clearly ahead in the pecking order against Ball State. Merrill ended up catching a touchdown on Thursday, while Ramel Keyton made some nice plays in his opportunities. Jimmy Holiday also made a splash, hauling in a post route from Joe Milton and taking it 53 yards to the house. Freshman Squirrel White also got his feet wet with three catches.

Heupel has mentioned that he wanted to play more bodies at receiver this year, and against Ball State he certainly did that. We’ll see how that changes next week in a big spot as Tennessee hits the road to take on a pretty good Pittsburgh team.