Wide Receiver U.
It was the moniker for the Tennessee program for nearly three decades. From the 1970s until the mid 1990s UT produced the likes of Willie Gault, Alvin Harper and later Carl Pickens. UT fans can probably still hear the call from John Ward on one of Gault’s many touchdown receptions if they listen hard enough. It was a glorious time to be a wide receiver at the University of Tennessee.
After Signing Day 2010 and the group of wide receivers brought in by new coach Derek Dooley, that moniker may be apropos once again.
Headlined by Da’Rick Rogers, the top player in the state of Georgia and a top 10 national recruit, the Vols signed a group of four talented receivers, all ranked four stars or better by Rivals.com. Joining Rogers in the class are Ted Meline out of Miami, Justin Hunter out of Virginia Beach, Va., and Matt Milton from Mascoutah, Ill. Dooley said he was excited about the group, but they still had plenty of work to do before being admitted to Wide Receiver U.
“Every year you’re always looking for game-changing, playmaking offensive weapons,” Dooley said. “I mean, you’re looking for every position, but certainly when it gets down there in the fourth quarter and it gets tight, usually the guys on the perimeter — a running back, a quarterback and a receiver — are the guys that win a game for you.”
Although all the receivers come in highly touted for their various playmaking abilities, they all share one attribute in common: size. Meline is the shortest of the group at 6-3, Milton is a towering 6-foot-6, Rogers is 6-foot-3 and Hunter is 6-foot-5. Despite their size, all four run the 40 in 4.5 seconds or better.
Rogers and Hunter are the two most highly touted of the quartet and should have the first shot at becoming the go-to guy on the perimeter the Vols have lacked since the departure of Robert Meachem after the 2007 season. However, Dooley noted that rankings don’t mean much once the player arrives on campus.
“Who knows what they’ll be,” Dooley said. “Wes Welker … nobody wanted. He turned out pretty good for Texas Tech and in the NFL. We’re trying to get every position U when we go recruiting. So there is not a guy we go out and recruit or sign we don’t hope turns into an All-American or all-conference football.”
“Anytime I think it’s going to be this guy, it’s always the other guy, and if we could project that, then, well, we wouldn’t make the number of mistakes we do as coaches,” Dooley said. “It happens in the NFL. These guys have more resources and access to information on players than anybody and first-round draft choices end up being busts all the time. So it’s the human element. It’s the hard-wiring inside that you can never project.”
All coach-speak and down-playing aside, the new Vols coach, who had just 21 days to recruit, has to be thrilled with the four new additions at wideout. The group is ranked behind only Texas, who signed five receivers, as the nation’s top group of wide receivers, and the Vols’ class comes in at ninth nationally overall, according to Rivals.com. With that type of talent making its way to Knoxville, the moniker of Wide Receiver U is sure to return in short order.