Tennessee football has had a very good week. The team’s 35-0 win over Iowa on Monday showcased freshman sensation QB Nico Iamaleava, who accounted for 4 total touchdowns against one of the top defenses in the country.
On Tuesday, WR Bru McCoy announced that he would be returning to the Vols for one more season next fall. The announcement is a massive boost for the Tennessee offense.
McCoy’s value to the Vols can’t really be overemphasized. The veteran receiver is a reliable route runner and sure handed when the ball is in the air. While he doesn’t ooze the playmaking ability that Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt flashed in 2022, he’s still had his share of memorable plays, including a game filled with chunk plays in a 7 catch, 140-yard performance against LSU.
But it’s his importance to the Vols’ offense when the ball isn’t in his hands that has been on display since he went down against South Carolina with a gruesome ankle dislocation. He’s the most willing and able run blocker on the perimeter among all of Tennessee’s wideouts. For a wide receiver, he’s a mauler. No one after he went down on the roster was able to do what he could as a blocker.
Josh Heupel likes to implement the perimeter passing game in his offense. That’s something the Vols have utilized constantly in Heupel’s three years. It’s basically an extension of the run game.
Now, Heupel will have his guy to execute that section of the playbook to its fullest, which also opens things up for the rest of the offense.
Tennessee’s passing game largely disappointed in 2023, for which blame fell on both the quarterback and the wide receivers. Both should be significantly better in 2024. Nico Iamaleava is already exhibiting a comfort and pocket presence of a player two years his elder. Tennessee is bringing in some major weapons in TE Holden Staes, portal WR Chris Brazzell II (Tulane), and highly touted (and talented) WR signees Mike Matthews and Braylon Staley. All have the potential to make a quick impact.
But it’s the return of a familiar face that should have the biggest impact for the Vols in 2024. Fortunately, Vol fans won’t have to remember the sight of him down on the field as their last memory of him inside Neyland Stadium. Hopefully it will be of him celebrating with his teammates in the checkerboards next fall.