John Adams: A new (Young) Wide Receiver U

"Wide Receiver U" is seemingly an outdated moniker for Tennessee football. It was more in vogue a quarter of a century ago when the Vols were blessed with talent, depth and future NFL draft picks at wide receiver.

But the nickname still resonates with sophomore wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers.

"I always paid attention to the SEC," he said. "So I know about the traditions."

He doesn't just know about UT football history. He has a chance to make it. So does his receiving buddy, Justin Hunter.

They will start as sophomore wide receivers in UT's season opener against Montana on Saturday evening. That's not business as usual for a program that is still sending receivers into the pros.

Even in UT's wide receiver heyday, it never had a sophomore tandem with the opportunity to start together for three seasons. Not only do the Vols have the receivers in place for a three-year run. They also have sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray throwing to them.

The passing combination is one of the most promising aspects of the program. It's not so much what they've done, as what you think they could do. And that's based more on looks than stats.

Hunter is 6-foot-4 and an All-American long jumper. Although he caught only 16 passes last season, seven were for touchdowns. His statistic of note is a 25.9-yard average per catch.

At 6-3, 215 pounds, Rogers has an NFL-like body. And his 7.3-yard average on 16 runs last season speaks to his play-making versatility.

The Vols have had productive tandems in the past, the most surprising of which would make a great trivia question: What receiving duo combined for the most catches in a single UT season?

The answer is Lucas Taylor, and either Austin Rogers or Josh Briscoe. Taylor caught 73 passes in 2007 when Rogers and Briscoe each had 56.

That tells you how much the Vols threw the ball in what was David Cutcliffe's final season as UT's offensive coordinator.

Joey Kent and Marcus Nash were almost as productive in 1996, quarterback Peyton Manning's junior season. Kent had 68 catches, and Nash had 53.

But the most talented twosome was Carl Pickens and Alvin Harper, who each played eight years in the NFL. They combined for 90 catches and produced one highlight after another in 1990.

Pickens had a 10-catch, 201-yard, three-touchdown game against Kentucky and a 13-catch, 163-yard game against then-No. 1 Notre Dame. He and Harper each had eight catches for more than 100 yards apiece against eventual national champion Colorado, and Harper had four catches for 118 yards against No. 3 Auburn.

You have to set aside the stats if you want to make a then-and-now comparison.

Like Hunter, Harper was a slender, 6-4 track athlete. He high-jumped at UT.

At 6-3, 200, Pickens was the same height, though lighter than Rogers. He was versatile as well as athletic, excelling on defense and special teams in addition to his starring role as a pass receiver.

Rogers is branching out as a sophomore. He's enthused about the idea of returning kickoffs this season and will remain a threat on reverses.

He has something else in common with Pickens. He exudes confidence. So it's hardly surprising that he has embraced the high expectations.

"I'm highly confident with that," he said. "With high expectations come good things."

Denarius Moore, his former teammate and fellow wide receiver, has surpassed expectations in Oakland's camp. A fifth-round draft pick, Moore has been a preseason standout with the Raiders.

"I tweeted Denarius Moore last night," Rogers said Monday. "He had a great game."

Rogers then segued from former receivers to the current group and put a new spin on and old nickname.

"It's Young Wide Receiver U now," he said. "We're trying to bring that name back to life."

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 52

iowa_vol writes:

I would love to see us get back to the Widereciever U days. Harper and Pickens and Gault to name a few. Wouldn't it be nice to add Dorial Green-Beckham to the list!!

Take_Back_Knoxville writes:

Good story but I'm still not following you on Twitter.

Orange_Scooter writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Spurrier, Tebow, Urbie....

UF = Crybaby U.

UCFgradVOLatHEART writes:

Come on CSS. I know you got some Vandy WR's you want to compare.

LJS1984 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If you want to get caught up in the past, let's go back to pre-1990 Florida football and compare it to Tennessee pre 1990. Not too many titles in Gainesville, except for beating the Florida Women's College (present day FSU) every now and then.

DannyVol writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

DannyVol writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"I had rather have..." That just makes you seem even more credible.

pingkr62 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Go ahead and run your mouth. As I've said before, Tennessee's tradition and history could fill a book the size of War and Peace. Florida's tradition and history could fill a comic book. Hows that for your record book. As for Gainesville being Title Town? Please! You are a long way from being anything close to Green Bay. You glory days are behind you. G.B.O.

Vol43 writes:

Dang. The ink is still wet on this one and the trolls are out in force. Good grief Charlie Brown. CSS, you really have no life do you? I mean really.

pingkr62 writes:

Don't forget Jethro!

fbmf624#277664 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

lets not forget how many players uf bought and by the way wasnt spurrier the one who cried to the refs in 1996 to keep fsu from hitting his QB which is why they won in the first place

chattavfl86 writes:

Css hasn't been quite as bad as of late, gotta give him some slight credit. However, the gator trolls are really ramping it up. Must be worried. I've got my tix for that game, and just can't wait! GBO!

CoverOrange writes:

Hunter may compare to Harper and Rogers may compare to Pickens but does Bray compare to Andy Kelly? Three sophs versus a senior, soph and junior.

hueypilot writes:

Just got my pro football preview Sports Illustrated. Each team has a two page spread with a paragraph inset about one player for each team. The one for the Raiders is Denarius Moore, the pleasant surprise of their preseason. Catches everything, they say.

Also of note, Aubrayo Franklin, a free agent signee expected to make a big splash. I barely remember him as a UT player and mostly because of his unusual first name.

One other featured player: Randall Cobb. He is the featured player on the defending world champion GB Packers. Not a Fulmer hater, but I've got to think that was Phillip's biggest oversight not locking down local boy Cobb.
Also prominently mentioned, Shaun Ellis, who signed with the Pats after being the most prolific sacker of Brady in big Jets-Pats matchups.

Even with Manning, Whitten, Foster, Greer, Mayo,Berry, Clifton, Hayensworth, all big-time stars, there appears to be much lower number overall of Vols on NFL rosters, and that number will decline for a few years yet.

ctownvol writes:

It's so refreshing to see that the trolls are still hanging around trying to stir trouble.

pingkr62 writes:

in response to hueypilot:

Just got my pro football preview Sports Illustrated. Each team has a two page spread with a paragraph inset about one player for each team. The one for the Raiders is Denarius Moore, the pleasant surprise of their preseason. Catches everything, they say.

Also of note, Aubrayo Franklin, a free agent signee expected to make a big splash. I barely remember him as a UT player and mostly because of his unusual first name.

One other featured player: Randall Cobb. He is the featured player on the defending world champion GB Packers. Not a Fulmer hater, but I've got to think that was Phillip's biggest oversight not locking down local boy Cobb.
Also prominently mentioned, Shaun Ellis, who signed with the Pats after being the most prolific sacker of Brady in big Jets-Pats matchups.

Even with Manning, Whitten, Foster, Greer, Mayo,Berry, Clifton, Hayensworth, all big-time stars, there appears to be much lower number overall of Vols on NFL rosters, and that number will decline for a few years yet.

I agree with you in regards to the number of UT players in the NFL. The decline in numbers can be attributed to the decline of recruited talent and defections in Fulmers latter years. As for Randall Cobb, I think Fulmer took for granted he was "in the bag" and didn't bother to make a real effort to recruit him. The number of UT players in the NFL will eventually rise, but it will take some time.G.B.O.!!!!

pingkr62 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks Jethro, I consider that a compliment. G.B.O.!!!

pingkr62 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, Some of those wins came the early to mid eighties when Florida was competing with S.M.U. for the best college team money could buy. Remember that?

CrankE writes:

in response to Orange_Scooter:

Spurrier, Tebow, Urbie....

UF = Crybaby U.

Can't spell FLU without UF.

treytn writes:

in response to hueypilot:

Just got my pro football preview Sports Illustrated. Each team has a two page spread with a paragraph inset about one player for each team. The one for the Raiders is Denarius Moore, the pleasant surprise of their preseason. Catches everything, they say.

Also of note, Aubrayo Franklin, a free agent signee expected to make a big splash. I barely remember him as a UT player and mostly because of his unusual first name.

One other featured player: Randall Cobb. He is the featured player on the defending world champion GB Packers. Not a Fulmer hater, but I've got to think that was Phillip's biggest oversight not locking down local boy Cobb.
Also prominently mentioned, Shaun Ellis, who signed with the Pats after being the most prolific sacker of Brady in big Jets-Pats matchups.

Even with Manning, Whitten, Foster, Greer, Mayo,Berry, Clifton, Hayensworth, all big-time stars, there appears to be much lower number overall of Vols on NFL rosters, and that number will decline for a few years yet.

Randall Cobb wanted to be a QB and if you recall we had two pretty good ones. Fulmer told him we'd sign him as a slot receiver or wide receiver, or perhaps a defensive corner, etc. Kentucky had already promised him he'd be their QB and Cobb truly believed he would make a SEC quarterback.
I appreciate a coach being honest with a young man. And it appears that Fulmer was dead on because Cobb was far from being a QB when he tried it at Kentucky. Sometimes the "fit" just isn't there.

tovolny writes:

I wish you posters would just confine your comments to the article. KNS, do you think you could have a "posters combat" section? The GVX staff could just eliminate a lot of this clutter and have a place for these(probably young teens) to spar with their stupid, mostly non-factual, stupid input. If the posters reply is not related to the article, just move their remark to the "combat zone." A note that says: "see combat zone" would probably work. Then maybe the numb skull replys and even the dumber reponses could be isolated.

Please don't say "go to GVX247"..., which is nothing but a failure zone for for the advertizers.

pingkr62 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back, you could be next. G.B.O.!!!

pingkr62 writes:

in response to tovolny:

I wish you posters would just confine your comments to the article. KNS, do you think you could have a "posters combat" section? The GVX staff could just eliminate a lot of this clutter and have a place for these(probably young teens) to spar with their stupid, mostly non-factual, stupid input. If the posters reply is not related to the article, just move their remark to the "combat zone." A note that says: "see combat zone" would probably work. Then maybe the numb skull replys and even the dumber reponses could be isolated.

Please don't say "go to GVX247"..., which is nothing but a failure zone for for the advertizers.

The combat zone sounds like a great idea!! G.B.O.!!!

VolzsFan writes:

They are more likely to be called "move over Kentucky, there is a new doormat in town". Thanks Hammy.

pingkr62 writes:

in response to Lane_Kiffins_Daddy_Wears_Diapers:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

VERY,VERY GOOD! G.B.O.

OwensboroVol writes:

I've been sick and not able to keep up with any pro Football this year. I am so happy to hear about Denarius Moore's success with the Raiders. I remember a lot of folks saying that he was being signed just to get Lennon Creer to come to UT. I wonder where Creer is now. Moore always impressed me with his effort on the field. He struck me as a player who played hard every down. He is an example of how hard work will eventually pay off. As Coach Dooley has stated, "You make the deposit with hard work in practice and withdraw it on Saturday". I guess Denarius is making a second withdrawal now.

orangehippi writes:

in response to chattavfl86:

Css hasn't been quite as bad as of late, gotta give him some slight credit. However, the gator trolls are really ramping it up. Must be worried. I've got my tix for that game, and just can't wait! GBO!

Gator trolls lil blue bodies big orange hair.My dog loves to chew on them,so will smokey Sept 17th,write it down,And stick that in your title town bs book.

VolFan2883 writes:

in response to Lane_Kiffins_Daddy_Wears_Diapers:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I have to say, that was awesome! Good job. GBO!

GreerVol22 writes:

ain't it fun talking about this instead of the misfortunes of some bad coaching decisions of the past? me an the boy are planning to pile into Krystals on the strip, eat till we pop, then nap somewhere on the hill till game time. Thats my plan..and I really don't care what Florida and Vandy people say. See you in BB bout row 12. GO VOLS!

Davolz11 writes:

Any one else cringe when you read the name Josh Briscoe?

Twelvethirtyone writes:

in response to Lane_Kiffins_Daddy_Wears_Diapers:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That has to be my favorite post I have seen on this site! Great Job!! :)

FLORIDAGATORHATER writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Vanderbilt is a dutch word meaning "almost." Almost good at sports; almost Ivy League (but still a long way to go); almost as many good looking girls as other SEC schools; almost as many southerners enrolled; and almost a school where I would send my kid. Unfortunately "almost" doesn't cut it. No way I'm spending $40,000 a year to send my kid to a school that is "almost" a contender. Might as well send your kid to Belmont or Rhodes.

So have fun this year Vandyfan. I'm sure it will be exciting getting your teeth kicked in by the likes of Kentucky (although you may beat Elon). Meanwhile, I will enjoy the unlimited possibilities and potential this year as a Vol fan. And when we hang 50 on you at Neyland you may want to close your account on this site because you won't hear the end of it from us. Have fun this year loser.

NOthgif writes:

You guys are extremely talented at the wide receiver position. I daresay probably AS talented as any team in the country. Plenty of depth, speed and catching ability. The only question mark will be Bray's accuracy. Can he get the ball close enough to the receivers so they can make a play. I don't think you have to worry about that with Justin Hunter. He has a chance to make a play on every ball thrown in his general direction. I'm not real sure about Rogers though. He looks like he can be a real go to guy. I think you guys will know more about the kind of receivers you have after this Saturday. I am looking forward to trying to find this game on radio somewhere. Any suggestions for the Texas area? Fight ON!
P.S. Yes, I live in Texas!!!

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think Florida fans are having a difficult time coping with the fact that they’re about to experience back-to-back mediocre seasons. Title town is no longer in Gainesville. The sooner you can accept that, the sooner the healing will begin. You're clearly still in stage 1 of the 7 stages of grieving - shock and denial.

givehim6 writes:

A few weeks back I posted about UT in the past was known as WR U, a troll (can't rember who) told me only UT fans called UT WR U, here in your prof in the 90's UT was called WR U by more then UT fans.

Hickmc writes:

in response to NOthgif:

You guys are extremely talented at the wide receiver position. I daresay probably AS talented as any team in the country. Plenty of depth, speed and catching ability. The only question mark will be Bray's accuracy. Can he get the ball close enough to the receivers so they can make a play. I don't think you have to worry about that with Justin Hunter. He has a chance to make a play on every ball thrown in his general direction. I'm not real sure about Rogers though. He looks like he can be a real go to guy. I think you guys will know more about the kind of receivers you have after this Saturday. I am looking forward to trying to find this game on radio somewhere. Any suggestions for the Texas area? Fight ON!
P.S. Yes, I live in Texas!!!

Not sure if this is 100% accurate but I have heard others say outside of Tennessee you can catch the game on ESPN3.com.

treytn writes:

in response to FearTheVols1252:

I think Florida fans are having a difficult time coping with the fact that they’re about to experience back-to-back mediocre seasons. Title town is no longer in Gainesville. The sooner you can accept that, the sooner the healing will begin. You're clearly still in stage 1 of the 7 stages of grieving - shock and denial.

Florida is down even more this year than last. Lots of talent, but unproven youth at most positions, on top of having an unproven QB. Throw in a new system + a new coaching staff and you see a recipe for a very long year. Florida is basically where we were this time last year. That's why this is a VERY critical game for Tennessee that they need to win. It's "almost" a must win for Dooley to show that Tennessee is on track. If we lose this game, I could see us slipping to 7-5, or even worse at 6-6. Rome wasn't built in a day, but progress was expected from one year to the next in the construction.
This is the year that Dooley needs to make Tennessee's presence be known in the conference by beating someone we're not expected to. He isn't expected to win the SEC east, but he needs to be a force in who does win it.

allvol32 writes:

Shouldn't Carl Pickens have won the Heisman with these stats and playing both ways in 1989? Oh yeah, I forgot - the Heisman is a beauty contest to be won by only those kids from the right schools.

Carl Pickens was a staple in the Vols' offense during his three years and earned national recognition his junior year with an All-America nod in 1991.

Pickens caught 49 passes for 817 yards his junior year for an average of 17.9 yards per catch. His 79.73 receiving yards per game led the SEC.

Quarterback Andy Kelly hooked up with Pickens for an 87-yard touchdown against Auburn for what was the longest pass play in school history at the time. His numbers the previous year, however, were even better when he had 53 catches for 917 yards. He led the Vols both seasons in receptions and yards. He played both ways in 1989, recording four interceptions in four games at free safety. He was named the Defensive MVP of the 1990 Cotton Bowl.

Pompey writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

....hey stupid who'e going to get them the ball...too drunk to pass....Brahahahaha!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to NOthgif:

You guys are extremely talented at the wide receiver position. I daresay probably AS talented as any team in the country. Plenty of depth, speed and catching ability. The only question mark will be Bray's accuracy. Can he get the ball close enough to the receivers so they can make a play. I don't think you have to worry about that with Justin Hunter. He has a chance to make a play on every ball thrown in his general direction. I'm not real sure about Rogers though. He looks like he can be a real go to guy. I think you guys will know more about the kind of receivers you have after this Saturday. I am looking forward to trying to find this game on radio somewhere. Any suggestions for the Texas area? Fight ON!
P.S. Yes, I live in Texas!!!

Expectations are indeed high for the Bray-Rogers-Hunter battery this year. From what I gathered last year, Rogers was a bit slow to learn how to run real routes. The same was true to a lesser extent with Hunter.

If they have learned to run the whole gamut of routes appropriate to their positions, I think their production will go way up. Of course, with UT's experienced receiver corps last year, they didn't have all that many opportunities. Bray's completion percentage and ability to read defenses needs to show progress as well. The good thing about it is that the increased experience and depth of the O-line should give him enough protection to be sure of his reads before he throws. That is the theory, anyway; we won't know for sure until the Vols get into the heart of the season.

As for getting the game, I am told that it will be streamed on ESPN3 if your ISP carries it. Since mine doesn't, I will just pick up the Vol Network radio broadcast on utsports.com. Opinions vary on Bob's Kesling's play-by-play work, especially among older fans who loved John Ward's incomparable style, but it is better than nothing, I guess.

Brillovol writes:

in response to Lane_Kiffins_Daddy_Wears_Diapers:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Post of the year. This deserves reposing on all articles.

NOthgif writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Expectations are indeed high for the Bray-Rogers-Hunter battery this year. From what I gathered last year, Rogers was a bit slow to learn how to run real routes. The same was true to a lesser extent with Hunter.

If they have learned to run the whole gamut of routes appropriate to their positions, I think their production will go way up. Of course, with UT's experienced receiver corps last year, they didn't have all that many opportunities. Bray's completion percentage and ability to read defenses needs to show progress as well. The good thing about it is that the increased experience and depth of the O-line should give him enough protection to be sure of his reads before he throws. That is the theory, anyway; we won't know for sure until the Vols get into the heart of the season.

As for getting the game, I am told that it will be streamed on ESPN3 if your ISP carries it. Since mine doesn't, I will just pick up the Vol Network radio broadcast on utsports.com. Opinions vary on Bob's Kesling's play-by-play work, especially among older fans who loved John Ward's incomparable style, but it is better than nothing, I guess.

Just found an app on my phone that is going to have the game! Thanks for the info tho. Fight ON!

Orange_Scooter writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Uh, none of those cried over winning National Titles. Tebow literally cried because he couldn't win. Do you want me to show you the You tube clip? Spurrier, always threw his visor off and threw a fit win he was losing, and finally, there is Urbie. Wittle Urbie cried then quit. Honestly, Floriduh fans are the biggest bunch of sore winners and losers of any fanbase out there. Seriously every fan of other teams in the SEC overwhelmingly thinks your fans are the worst in terms of classlessness. That is why you guys get the monicker Crybaby U. Oh, you and the other 24/7 UF troll posters are living proof of the childish behavior exhibited by UF fans. Crybaby U. That's you. Perhaps instead of the Gayterd chomp, you guys should preform the tissue wipe at games.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to Lane_Kiffins_Daddy_Wears_Diapers:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Outstanding! Give him six!

sameolvolalum writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

coming from a RECYCLED MONKEY, that's pretty funny!

voladdiction writes:

watch this for some great highlights of vols receivers in 1990 & 1998.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrFoN5...

johnlg00 writes:

in response to NOthgif:

Just found an app on my phone that is going to have the game! Thanks for the info tho. Fight ON!

Dang! Guess I'll have to join the 21st century and get me one o' them thar fancy-dancy phones. I live in N.Car., so I don't have access to all the local telecasts. Would you believe that all I do on my phone is make and receive calls? Of course, I understand that can sometimes be a problem with some of those smart "phones". Enjoy!

UT-fan-in-New-Mexico writes:

UNDEFEATED SEASON? UF still doesn't have that.

GO BIG ORANGE!

kcbigorngX writes:

Good column. Thank you, Mr. Adams.

The Vols running game will produce some excellent opportunities for play-action. Combine this with Raijon coming out of the backfield and catching passes in open space.

This could be one wicked offense.

hueypilot writes:

in response to allvol32:

Shouldn't Carl Pickens have won the Heisman with these stats and playing both ways in 1989? Oh yeah, I forgot - the Heisman is a beauty contest to be won by only those kids from the right schools.

Carl Pickens was a staple in the Vols' offense during his three years and earned national recognition his junior year with an All-America nod in 1991.

Pickens caught 49 passes for 817 yards his junior year for an average of 17.9 yards per catch. His 79.73 receiving yards per game led the SEC.

Quarterback Andy Kelly hooked up with Pickens for an 87-yard touchdown against Auburn for what was the longest pass play in school history at the time. His numbers the previous year, however, were even better when he had 53 catches for 917 yards. He led the Vols both seasons in receptions and yards. He played both ways in 1989, recording four interceptions in four games at free safety. He was named the Defensive MVP of the 1990 Cotton Bowl.

Pickens was a terrific athlete who, like Deion and Bo could "outrun the ball". His most memorable play for me was as a db against Vanderbilt when he completely bit on the hitch, on a hitch and go. Pickens recovered, caught back up to the defender and leaped to intercept what was a pretty well thrown deep ball. The QB just didn't realize Pickens could recover that quickly.

I also will always remember him decoying long at Notre Dame as Aaron Hayden took a short pass and scored the winning TD. Pickens came running out of the band in back of the end zone to celebrate with Hayden. He was also one of the few black guys I remember that had freckles.

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