Committee of receivers trying to make an impact without receptions

The members of the group haven't changed any.

The mission of the unofficial Committee to Replace Justin Hunter appears to have undergone a slight change recently, though.

An offense that once was airing it out with regularity was bound to become more ground-based when Hunter was lost for the season with torn ligaments in his knee. The subsequent loss of quarterback Tyler Bray certainly didn't help Tennessee any after that.

But where the Vols had been looking to fill the receiving production left vacant by Hunter, the guys responsible for picking up the slack have had to find other ways to make a measurable impact with few catches to show for their work heading into a clash with No. 14 South Carolina on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 7:15 p.m.)

"It's been a little bit (frustrating), but at the same time we've got to look past that and focus on what the team needs," junior Zach Rogers said. "We've been pounding the running game, and our job the last couple weeks has been blocking. I think we've gone out and done that very well.

"It will be our turn at some point, and we'll be ready when it happens."

The Vols (3-4, 0-4 SEC) are trying to get there soon after two sloppy weeks throwing the ball since Bray went down, outings that didn't feature much variety on the stat sheet and prompted a change at quarterback with Justin Worley pulled off the bench and plugged into the starting lineup.

The true freshman has yet to even attempt a pass since having his redshirt removed last weekend, but when he does get a chance against the Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1) it would surely help to have more options available to him than sophomore Da'Rick Rogers.

In the loss to the Crimson Tide, Da'Rick Rogers was the only receiver with more than one reception, and he finished with a season-low total of two grabs for just 32 yards. And in two games without Bray, only Rajion Neal among the other wideouts has multiple catches. Zach Rogers, DeAnthony Arnett and Vincent Dallas have collectively been shut out.

"We haven't gotten much outside of Da'Rick at receiver, that's exactly right," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "(Tight end Mychal Rivera) is doing OK. Da'Rick's doing OK. The (running) backs are doing OK when they've gotten their chances, but we haven't had anybody else.

"Between Rajion, DeAnthony, Vincent and Zach, there just hasn't been much from a production standpoint."

The same holds true even when Rivera is thrown into the equation, though like the receivers, the junior has been called upon to do other things aside from catching the ball.

Rivera has proven to be a reliable blocker in the running game, and at times he's been called on to use his size and strength in pass protection as well. The latter doesn't allow him to run a route or make a grab though, which again can make it hard to gauge his impact statistically.

"That's really the life of a tight end," Rivera said. "I've had a conversation with coach Dooley, many of them actually, and me and him know that tight ends have to block and they have to catch.

"I can't worry too much about my catching because I have to show both skills."

Bumps and bruises: Dooley again stressed that the Vols were dealing with a lot of soreness, but his roster only required a pair of green, non-contact jerseys to handle it Tuesday morning.

Freshmen Devrin Young (undisclosed) and Curt Maggitt (calf) were both limited during the workout, though neither is expected to miss the game on Saturday. Defensive linemen Ben Martin and Daniel Hood were wearing normal practice uniforms but were held out of some drills during the media viewing period.

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Comments » 24

clvolfan writes:

Gosh,Zach Rogers speaking out!!!
Since he must hold the record for drops,maybe he should become a fulltime blocker.
And,I repeat,Where's milton?

Smokey91 writes:

Why us Milton never mentioned? I thought he was part of the three amigos. Give this guy the same chance that they keep giving to Zach Rogers and see if he can put his size to work for the Vols.

CoverOrange writes:

I noticed that Daniel Hood was out of the line a lot during the second half, but never saw any explanation of why.

Devrin Young has been battered a lot in the last two games. Maybe they shouldn't use him except on special teams for a while.

Prostar writes:

Nothing ever is said about Matt Milton, he's got the size and speed, what's the problem? Inquiring minds want to know. KNS, since it's your site and you write the articles, why don't you ask the question for us?

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to Smokey91:

Why us Milton never mentioned? I thought he was part of the three amigos. Give this guy the same chance that they keep giving to Zach Rogers and see if he can put his size to work for the Vols.

Milton... THE question. If the issue with Milton was effort, Dooley would be calling him out in the press to motivate him. We know he's not injured, and last we heard, he had decent hands.

That leaves route running and reading defenses. Can't put him on the field if the QB can't be sure he's going to be where the ball is thrown. That would also explain why we don't see his size in the red zone, ala Plexico Burris--you've still got to read the CB the same way the QB is reading him.

That's the good/bad of running a pro-style offense: it allows you to recruit guys with NFL potential, but it takes longer (at some positions) to get them game-ready (especially in the NFL-ready SEC).

dvhill100 writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

Milton... THE question. If the issue with Milton was effort, Dooley would be calling him out in the press to motivate him. We know he's not injured, and last we heard, he had decent hands.

That leaves route running and reading defenses. Can't put him on the field if the QB can't be sure he's going to be where the ball is thrown. That would also explain why we don't see his size in the red zone, ala Plexico Burris--you've still got to read the CB the same way the QB is reading him.

That's the good/bad of running a pro-style offense: it allows you to recruit guys with NFL potential, but it takes longer (at some positions) to get them game-ready (especially in the NFL-ready SEC).

Good explanation. It would be nice to have what is actually keeping him off the field explained. Preferably by the coach.

volfanz writes:

in response to dvhill100:

Good explanation. It would be nice to have what is actually keeping him off the field explained. Preferably by the coach.

Can't remember what class Milton is, but I'm starting to think that the redshirt is being applied in this situation? Maybe trying to stagger his big body against that of Hunter....trying to retain a big receiver after Hunter leaves for the NFL, which is most certainly bound to happen! Who knows, it's not like KNS gives us the answers?

jdcdjc writes:

in response to Smokey91:

Why us Milton never mentioned? I thought he was part of the three amigos. Give this guy the same chance that they keep giving to Zach Rogers and see if he can put his size to work for the Vols.

Agree, and Arnett was coming along with Bray and I have not heard his name since Bray went out.

Docrok writes:

in response to dvhill100:

Good explanation. It would be nice to have what is actually keeping him off the field explained. Preferably by the coach.

Earlier in the season and in fall camp the reporters were asking Dooley regualrly about Milton and his response each time was that Milton had trouble with the speed of the game and drops in practice. If he is losing focus and dropping the ball in practice its likely its going to get dropped in the game.

Docrok writes:

in response to jdcdjc:

Agree, and Arnett was coming along with Bray and I have not heard his name since Bray went out.

I think this has as much to do with Simms missing the open receivers as it does with Arnett.

lomas98 writes:

in response to jdcdjc:

Agree, and Arnett was coming along with Bray and I have not heard his name since Bray went out.

The 2 defenses LSU and Bama have will have a lot to do with some names not being mentioned in addition to Bray being out. They have 2 of the best secondaries in the country. To expect a true freshman the size of Arnett to be able to get off the line against those secondaries is expecting too much. Rivera has not been mentioned since Bray has been out as well. He made one play against Bama, but he was having a really good year with Bray in the game. Hopefully Worley will be able to spot the dump off receiver. Milton sounds like he is going down as some of the past "all spring first team" players UT has had. He just must not have it physically to contribute.

mytrifecta writes:

in response to Docrok:

Earlier in the season and in fall camp the reporters were asking Dooley regualrly about Milton and his response each time was that Milton had trouble with the speed of the game and drops in practice. If he is losing focus and dropping the ball in practice its likely its going to get dropped in the game.

Look at Bray's spring stats and pre-season practice reviews. We saw how that worked out. Some guys are gamers. Not sure if Milton is one of them but no one else is stepping up so I'd like to him get his shot in the game. He can't be worse than Rogers.

MemphisHog writes:

Too bad for the Vols that Houston Nutt isn't at Arkansas. When he was, the Vols annually came in and recruited Warren, AR for receivers (Bret Smith, others). Thank goodness his toxic relationship with Ark high school coaches doesn't hurt the Hogs anymore.

Good luck with the Gamecocks this weekend. Bruise 'em up so they'll be easier for us next weekend.

MilitaryBrat writes:

I just wish they would catch the ball. I know they are not going to get every one.

Look at the Alabama game, their QB wasn't that accurate. But the receivers were making the tough catches. I remember one play Alabama's receiver dived for the ball and caught it with his fingertips, then spun in midair to land on his back so the ball wouldn't hit the ground.

I've seen Bray throw a perfect pass, that has been dropped. Hopefully they will help out Worley, and get a needed win from USC.

murrayvol writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

Milton... THE question. If the issue with Milton was effort, Dooley would be calling him out in the press to motivate him. We know he's not injured, and last we heard, he had decent hands.

That leaves route running and reading defenses. Can't put him on the field if the QB can't be sure he's going to be where the ball is thrown. That would also explain why we don't see his size in the red zone, ala Plexico Burris--you've still got to read the CB the same way the QB is reading him.

That's the good/bad of running a pro-style offense: it allows you to recruit guys with NFL potential, but it takes longer (at some positions) to get them game-ready (especially in the NFL-ready SEC).

Good post.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Docrok:

I think this has as much to do with Simms missing the open receivers as it does with Arnett.

Simms' total focus was on the primary receiver. Didn't do a lot of checking down. Opposing CBs noticed this.

OrangePride writes:

Let me say this. I was at both the Georgia and LSU games and our lack of production thru the air has NOTHING to do with receivers not being open. In these last two games in particular, Simms just never saw the open receiver. So, if Worley is able to check down when he needs to, keep from looking receivers down, and throw accurate balls (a tall order for a freshman with no big game experience), then our numbers will move back in a positive direction. This is an outstanding defense we will face Saturday, so everyone will need their A+ game if we expect to get a different result. GO VOLS!!

kd45music writes:

Maybe the change in quarterbacks will get Rivera back into the mix. He's been a non-factor in the last two games and was hardly ever thrown to. I got to believe there is a better receiver than Zach Rogers. He's no threat whatsoever.

VolGrad writes:

in response to Prostar:

Nothing ever is said about Matt Milton, he's got the size and speed, what's the problem? Inquiring minds want to know. KNS, since it's your site and you write the articles, why don't you ask the question for us?

Actually, he isn't a speed guy at all. Our LB'ers can run as fast or faster than his 4.57 40 time. But his size could equalize that if could actually run the routes. His issue from the beginning has been route running and finding the open spot. But he is not going to run away from anybody in any team's secondary. He is a much different WR than Justin Hunter or Da'Rick Rodgers. Essentially he is a mediocre tight end in a receiver's body. If he can improve his knowledge of defenses and route running, hey, he could take advantage of his height and really help us. The fact he is not playing much seems to indicate he isn't able yet to do that.

GBO!

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to clvolfan:

Gosh,Zach Rogers speaking out!!!
Since he must hold the record for drops,maybe he should become a fulltime blocker.
And,I repeat,Where's milton?

While Zach continues to drop balls, Arnett is very sure-handed. I would throw it to Arnett and put Zach on the bench. And yes, where is Milton?

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to MilitaryBrat:

I just wish they would catch the ball. I know they are not going to get every one.

Look at the Alabama game, their QB wasn't that accurate. But the receivers were making the tough catches. I remember one play Alabama's receiver dived for the ball and caught it with his fingertips, then spun in midair to land on his back so the ball wouldn't hit the ground.

I've seen Bray throw a perfect pass, that has been dropped. Hopefully they will help out Worley, and get a needed win from USC.

Agree with your post. Some QBs throw a ball easier to catch than other QBs do. Whether it's spin, velocity, timing of the throw, or whatever, some balls are easier to catch. I think Worley will have an "easy" ball to catch. If he can adapt to the speed of the college game, we will against SC. Go Vols!

utfaninga writes:

People, Get the ball to Rajion Neal. Look at the stats....of the people that arent hurt and actually have more than 1 carry, he leads the team in yards per catch AND yards per carry. WAKE UP COACHING STAFF! What if he actually touched the ball more than 2 times a game!

VolGrad writes:

in response to utfaninga:

People, Get the ball to Rajion Neal. Look at the stats....of the people that arent hurt and actually have more than 1 carry, he leads the team in yards per catch AND yards per carry. WAKE UP COACHING STAFF! What if he actually touched the ball more than 2 times a game!

I think he probably leads in fumbles per touch as well.

:(

utfaninga writes:

in response to VolGrad:

I think he probably leads in fumbles per touch as well.

:(

He has 1 fumble lost the entire year JAc%#SS! How bout them apples? How many do Lane and Poole have?

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