With the way the game has changed, the role of tight ends is what the role of fullbacks used to be. Both are hybrids as blockers and receivers or runners. Tennessee Football has had a long history of success with both. Here are the 10 greatest seasons collectively by Vols who have played that role.
10. Troy Fleming – 2003
Casey Clausen didn’t have a lot of options at receiver in 2003, but Troy Fleming was a nice safety blanket for him despite being a fullback. Fleming caught 36 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns while gaining 305 total yards from scrimmage on the year.
9. Ken DeLong – 1968
Doug Dickey was the first to really use the tight end in the passing game, and Ken DeLong was one of the stars on that front. DeLong had over 200 yards receiving in each of his three years with Tennessee Football, but in 1968 he had 34 catches for 393 yards and three touchdowns, his best year.
8. Austin Denney – 1966
Before DeLong, Dickey had Austin Denney, who helped the Vols reach a new era in this fashionable T-formation. With Dewey Warren throwing the ball, Denney had 21 catches for 264 yards and an impressive seven touchdowns in 1966.
7. Chris Brown – 2007
Brad Cottam was the star during this time but got hurt in 2007, so Chris Brown stepped up. With no elite receivers for Erik Ainge, Brown was crucial in the red zone, and he finished the year with 41 catches for 282 yards and six touchdowns, helping UT to win the SEC East.
6. Bill Anderson – 1956
Buddy Cruze was technically an end around this time and was the bigger star, but in all honesty, he was just the first wide receiver in UT history. Bill Anderson manned the tight end and fullback role from 1955 to 1957, and 1956 was his best year. He had 15 carries for 172 yards, 10 catches for 216 yards and three total touchdowns as UT won the SEC.
5. Shawn Bryson – 1998
You could have made a case for Shawn Bryson’s 1997 year when he had over 400 yards of total offense, but blocking for three different running backs along with Tee Martin combined with his key touchdowns against Florida and in the national title game put this season on here. As a fullback, Bryson totaled 367 yards and five touchdowns.
4. Princeton Fant – 2022
Despite only 22 catches for 241 yards, Josh Heupel’s use of Princeton Fant as a fullback is what puts Fant on here. He thrived in short-yardage running plays while also playing tight end, scoring eight touchdowns in the process and gaining a total of 258 yards from scrimmage.
3. Luke Stocker – 2009
Although he had more yards in 2010, hitting 417, Luke Stocker had five touchdowns in 2009. He thrived in Lane Kiffin’s offense and finished that year with 29 catches for 389 yards. Playing in four different systems and succeeding in all of them propelled him to an NFL career.
2. Jason Witten – 2002
With an array of injuries and no go-to receivers, Jason Witten was the leading receiver for Tennessee Football in 2002. Following a breakout year midway through the 2001 season, Witten had 39 catches for 493 yards and five touchdowns, and the real question was why he wasn’t used more.
1. Mychal Rivera – 2012
It was a bad season, but it was a record-setting offense with Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. Mychal Rivera was reliable in 2011 and 2012, but 2012 was his best year. He caught 36 passes for 562 yards and five touchdowns, propelling himself into an NFL Draft pick.