Derek Dooley talks after Thursday's practice
When he huddles up his players, Tennessee wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett often rattles off the names of Cris Carter and Randy Moss, the two star receivers he coached for five years with the Minnesota Vikings.
When he's talking to Vincent Dallas and DeAnthony Arnett, the Vols' two freshmen receivers, Baggett switches his role model of choice to another star NFL receiver he coached, shifty slot man Wes Welker.
Baggett sees it as a much more appropriate comparison.
"We're hoping Vincent and DeAnthony can do the kind of stuff Wes used to be able to do, move around and get in those open areas and move the chains, get first downs," Baggett said after Thursday's practice at Haslam Field.
"Both have quickness and both have a lot of ability. I'm looking forward to seeing how far they can come."
Sophomores Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers are locked in as the Vols' two starting outside receivers, but a wide open competition remains in the slot. Dallas, Arnett and oft-forgotten junior Zach Rogers are all in the mix at a position that the Vols consider extremely valuable to their offensive endeavors.
"Anytime you have a pro passing attack, you've got to have a slot guy," Baggett said. "We feel comfortable that we do now and we also have some guys we feel are going to be role players that we can plug in. Some of the young guys really look good. That's exciting to me."
Before any comparisons to Welker surface, the Vols will simply attempt to replace Gerald Jones, who made his biggest contributions on third downs in 2010.
When Jones was out for three games with a broken hand, UT's offense converted just six of 43 third downs and none on third-and-longs. In the final eight games, with Jones entrenched at his spot in the slot, the Vols were a strong 52-for-115.
"When he went out, we suffered a little bit," Baggett said. "We didn't have a guy that could really do things he could do."
For now, Dallas, who participated in spring practice, has the upper hand on Arnett, who arrived the conventional way during the summer. Experience-wise, though, Rogers is ahead of both.
He just has to stay healthy.
Rogers started strong, racking up 183 yards and a touchdown through the first four games, but was largely non-existent during the second half of 2010. Nagging ankle, knee and shoulder injuries along with a concussion derailed most of his sophomore season.
Rogers, whom Baggett said had a "frail body," said he's added a few pounds of muscle as a means of preventive maintenance.
"Hopefully I can hang out a little better this year and keep durable for this offense," Rogers said.
Practice Report: The Vols donned shoulder pads and shorts for Thursday's split practices and will do the same today before a full-pads practice Saturday.
Coach Derek Dooley said Thursday was tougher on the Vols than the previous two days for understandable reasons.
"It's heavy, they're sweating, they're hitting," he said.
"We just got to adjust. That's what your body does. It will adjust to the amount of stress you put on it."
UT's veterans and freshmen will come together for the first time at today's afternoon practice.
"The kids are moving around, the attitude's fantastic, they're working hard," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "They're quiet, which is always a good sign to me. It appears to be a tad bit more mature to me when I'm around our offensive kids."
Roster Moves: Wide receiver Antonio Jones, who teamed up with defensive tackle Maurice Couch at Garden City (Kan.) Community College last season, was added to the roster Thursday.
Defensive end Keensen Chambers, who transferred from UConn last season, and walk-on linebacker Zach Mulitauaopele are no longer with the team.