'Moving on' after Hunter's injury

DeAnthony Arnett, Vincent Dallas should get more playing time

Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers catches a touchdown pass against Cincinnati on Sept. 10 at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2011

Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers catches a touchdown pass against Cincinnati on Sept. 10 at Neyland Stadium.

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers catches a touchdown pass against Cincinnati on Sept. 10 at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2011 // Buy this photo

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers catches a touchdown pass against Cincinnati on Sept. 10 at Neyland Stadium.

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Patrick Murphy-Racey 2009

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Two weeks into the season, Charlie Baggett talked glowingly about how much watching sophomore wide receiver Justin Hunter progress "excited" him as a coach.

Four offensive plays into the Vols' 33-23 loss at Florida, the Tennessee wide receivers coach was helpless as he watched Hunter land awkwardly, writhe in pain and limp off the field with a torn ACL.

The immediate disappointment from Baggett, whom CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson promptly spotted shaking his head after a conversation with UT head athletic trainer Jason McVeigh, was obvious and understandable, just like it was for anyone on the Vols' roster.

But for Baggett, the pain lasted just a little longer.

"It took me a while. Justin's one of my favorites," Baggett said after Wednesday's practice. "It's unfortunate that it happened, but we have to move on and he'll be back, he'll come back strong.

Eleven days after the injury, Hunter underwent successful surgery Wednesday to repair the ligament. He was seemingly in good spirits shortly after the procedure, joking about the quality of hospital food on his Twitter account, and he's expected to be back in time for spring football.

"Moving on" has been a common phrase echoed from UT players and coaches during the bye week and the days leading up to Saturday's return to Neyland Stadium (TV: CSS, 12:30 p.m.) against Buffalo. How exactly the Vols plan to do it from a personnel and schematic standpoint remains a bit of a mystery because Hunter, as Baggett said Wednesday, was "unique."

"The team knows that Justin was a big part of what we do and who we are," Baggett said. "Somebody's got to step up."

Baggett considers himself to be fully recovered from Hunter's injury. A 34-year coaching veteran, Baggett said he's only seen one of his players go down the way Hunter did — Webster Slaughter, 1983, Houston Oilers — so it was a relatively new experience for him.

Now, though, Baggett said he is excited to see how his young receivers will handle the pressure. That's exactly what he told them during a meeting before Wednesday's practice.

"I think I'm going to challenge them a little bit," he said. "We'll see who responds. It's going to be interesting and fun for me to stand over there on the sidelines and see young guys perform."

With junior Zach Rogers sliding over from his normal role in the slot to the X position vacated by Hunter, opportunities are expected to abound for freshmen Vincent Dallas and DeAnthony Arnett.

In the immediate aftermath of Hunter's injury, Arnett seemingly made the biggest jump, hauling in his first career catch in the second quarter and grabbing seven more to finish with eight receptions for 59 yards.

Quarterback Tyler Bray's consistent connections with Arnett were similar to how often he looked for Hunter, but the yards gained, of course, were not. Hunter averaged 18.5 yards per catch and had 11 of his 17 catches go for more than 10 yards. Arnett, meanwhile, had six of his eight receptions go for fewer than 10.

"We saw some things in high school and we saw some things in early fall camp that lead us to believe he can do a lot more things," Baggett said. "You can't give it to them all at one time, you spoon-feed them and that's what we're doing.

"That's the exciting part."

Dallas, also a freshman who is listed behind Da'Rick Rogers at the "Z," caught his first career pass on the same drive Hunter went down with his injury, but wasn't able to add to the total. An early enrollee, Dallas has been on the field plenty when the Vols go with five wide receivers, and his playing time is understandably expected to increase now that UT boasts one less target for Bray to find.

Baggett said he's been communicating with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to figure out the remaining receivers' strengths, weaknesses and plays that maximize their respective abilities. That, Baggett said, is "part of coaching," which, again, excites the 58-year-old coach.

Chaney, meanwhile, has bristled at questions posed about how the Vols planned to replace Hunter's production. Pressed about the issue Wednesday, Chaney sarcastically joked that he didn't recall when Hunter was injured before saying he's "moved on from that."

Chaney said nothing much should change from a X's and O's standpoint, either.

"I feel like we're trying to still run the routes that our receivers do best and put them in those positions," Chaney said. "I feel schematically we're going out and executing our plays.

"Tyler can throw an accurate football. You don't have to be real open for him. He can stick the ball in there. We keep increasing his accuracy and his ability to play and make plays, and (if) everybody else does what they need to do, I think we'll be OK."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 24

skm writes:

let's go vols!

VolsFanInNC writes:

WR U is back..We'll be fine now that the adjustments have been made.

tennvolsman19651965 writes:

I am expecting big things from Arnett. I hope he is ready to grow up fast like Hunter and Da'Rick did last year. Even though Moore was the freak last year, we could always tell that Hunter was something special. I hope Hunter gets well soon, but it is time for Arnett to show us a little bit of what to expect next year with 3 incredible receivers on the field.

oldster writes:

From Hunter to Zach Rogers? That is not a drop, it is a free fall. Rogers is no Craig Faulkner. He and Da'Rick have already, in three games, dropped three third down passes that would have been first downs if they had caught them and gained no more yardage. Not good and bad omens.

MtJ_Orange writes:

in response to oldster:

From Hunter to Zach Rogers? That is not a drop, it is a free fall. Rogers is no Craig Faulkner. He and Da'Rick have already, in three games, dropped three third down passes that would have been first downs if they had caught them and gained no more yardage. Not good and bad omens.

I agree. I hate to pile on Zach but the drops, a fumble, and a lackluster effort after a int last year seem to stand out. Mr. Arnett it's your time to shine. LGBO!

ravensearay writes:

Hey Compare - easy does it! we all agree that this is a young and talented team and their day in the sun is going to come - sooner than later.

Mobbdeep4life writes:

The next few years look very promising as this team matures and the sophomores become juniors, etc. Years from know we as fans may look back and say the 2011 season was the turning point. I'm going to enjoy watching every game this year win or lose. I'm watching a young team go through adversity and grow right before my eyes. GBO!!

516milesfromUT writes:

DE Trent Taylor commits to the Big Orange! This young man is a beast! Welcome Mr. Taylor.
Another mans loss is a Vol Nation gain.
-T-

VolGrad writes:

I anticipate that Arnett will be difficult to cover, and will develop into a real go-to guy for Bray.

Go Vols!!!

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to CantCompare:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How do you know what preparations were made after losing Hunter

rockytn2jc writes:

Zach Rogers to replace Justin Hunter!?.....OMG!!

Volunatic writes:

Glad to see the Vols just got a commitment from 4* DE Trent Taylor (Lakeland FL)

MtJ_Orange writes:

It appears I have fallen for some troll bait from CantGrowHair. I meant no offense to Zach Rogers but I hope someone else steps up for Justin Hunter. I have not been that impressed with a wr since Carl Pickens. Get well Justin.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to MtJ_Orange:

It appears I have fallen for some troll bait from CantGrowHair. I meant no offense to Zach Rogers but I hope someone else steps up for Justin Hunter. I have not been that impressed with a wr since Carl Pickens. Get well Justin.

I don't think one receiver will step up for Hunter. If that was the case, he would have been playing alongside Hunter and D. Rogers all along. Arnett, Z. Rogers, Dallas, and posibily Milton will all need to step up. I also see an increased role for Rivera within the passing game. Things will be fine if the Vols can find a running game, but that's another article.

As always, GBO!

usafvol writes:

in response to CantCompare:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Since you seem to have all the answers; please enlighten the rest of us what this "something Big" would be! I said please..

usafvol writes:

in response to MtJ_Orange:

It appears I have fallen for some troll bait from CantGrowHair. I meant no offense to Zach Rogers but I hope someone else steps up for Justin Hunter. I have not been that impressed with a wr since Carl Pickens. Get well Justin.

I wasn't exactly thrilled to hear that ZR was no. 1 on the depth chart but after thinking about it, I realized that I (like the rest of you) don't go to practice and see these guys every day so it's not really fare to automatically form a negative opinion. I trust our coaching staff will make the right decisions based on daily performance, not knee jerk reactions.

martinvol34 writes:

in response to oldster:

From Hunter to Zach Rogers? That is not a drop, it is a free fall. Rogers is no Craig Faulkner. He and Da'Rick have already, in three games, dropped three third down passes that would have been first downs if they had caught them and gained no more yardage. Not good and bad omens.

LOL

HtownVol writes:

in response to usafvol:

I wasn't exactly thrilled to hear that ZR was no. 1 on the depth chart but after thinking about it, I realized that I (like the rest of you) don't go to practice and see these guys every day so it's not really fare to automatically form a negative opinion. I trust our coaching staff will make the right decisions based on daily performance, not knee jerk reactions.

I like most on here do not like to see Zach replace Hunter. I just have never seen Zach do anything that impressed me.
Last week I saw Arnett get his first significant playing time and he showed more in one game than Zach has in over 3 years.
I am sure Dallas and Arnett each will make a bad play soon but I have already seen Zach make a few bad plays (fumble,not running fast and many dropped passes placed right in his hands).
That said Bray will no doubt give Zach every chance he can handle to impress this weekend. We will have a better idea of what 83 can do after Buffalo. UGA will be a different story though. Can Zach perform the same vs Buffalo and the SEC?

GO VOLS

usafvol writes:

in response to SpongeBobOrangePantz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks; he just makes it so hard to resist sometimes. While he (they) are amusing; it's almost like arguing with the wife; logic doesn't seem to be a factor..

usafvol writes:

in response to HtownVol:

I like most on here do not like to see Zach replace Hunter. I just have never seen Zach do anything that impressed me.
Last week I saw Arnett get his first significant playing time and he showed more in one game than Zach has in over 3 years.
I am sure Dallas and Arnett each will make a bad play soon but I have already seen Zach make a few bad plays (fumble,not running fast and many dropped passes placed right in his hands).
That said Bray will no doubt give Zach every chance he can handle to impress this weekend. We will have a better idea of what 83 can do after Buffalo. UGA will be a different story though. Can Zach perform the same vs Buffalo and the SEC?

GO VOLS

Really can't argue about that; I really thought it would be Arnett. I'd say this will be a pretty good game to see if any of the WR's step up..

jdcdjc writes:

in response to Volunatic:

Glad to see the Vols just got a commitment from 4* DE Trent Taylor (Lakeland FL)

I agree, just hope he doesn't change his mind again.

VolGrad writes:

in response to CantCompare:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I guess anyone who isn't living in and rehashing the past constantly like yourself is "drinking the koolaid."

The General was awesome, but he ain't coming back from the grave to coach again. CPF was great as long as Cutcliffe was his OC, but they aren't coming back, either. So all that is left for you to do apparently is to belittle the current staff. You are the loser, and you are the one drinking the soured koolaid with an expired date of almost 3 years.

Not all of us are constantly drinking the koolaid, so to speak. Support for Dooley in and of itself does not qualify as such. But if you'd like to continue thinking that, then I submit to you that at least ours is fresh-squeezed.

Go Vols!

Theo writes:

in response to HtownVol:

I like most on here do not like to see Zach replace Hunter. I just have never seen Zach do anything that impressed me.
Last week I saw Arnett get his first significant playing time and he showed more in one game than Zach has in over 3 years.
I am sure Dallas and Arnett each will make a bad play soon but I have already seen Zach make a few bad plays (fumble,not running fast and many dropped passes placed right in his hands).
That said Bray will no doubt give Zach every chance he can handle to impress this weekend. We will have a better idea of what 83 can do after Buffalo. UGA will be a different story though. Can Zach perform the same vs Buffalo and the SEC?

GO VOLS

Like you and lots of other folks on here I just don't see ZR as much of a solution for us. The only thing I can think of is that his knowledge of the playbook is just a lot more superior than Arnetts. Understandable Junior v Freshman but surely athletic ability counts for something. Well, we'll find out this weekend.
Go Vols!

OrangePsyched writes:

Do the math. There are 43 comments before mine with 26 comments either from or responding to the village idiot with multiple handles. He has taken over this site and we and KNS have allowed it. People think that they are telling him off and all they do is feed the troll. He loves it. Please ignore him.

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