Ramel Keyton wasn’t supposed to play much football for Tennessee Football last season. In fact, he was barely mentioned as a key playmaker at all this time last year. Now, the senior receiver is expected to be every bit as dependable as he was in 2022. Keyton has gone from unknown to proven in less than 12 months.
Entering last season, Keyton was behind a logjam of talented receivers, specifically Cedric Tillman. As it turned out Jalin Hyatt proved to be named the best receiver of the nation. Squirrel White became a household name, but Keyton was needed before the calendar even turned to October when Tillman went down with an ankle injury against Akron.
It may seem a fallacy now, but Tillman was supposed to be the Vols’ best receiver. Instead, Hyatt took that mantle, but Keyton may have been the most valuable as he filled in for Tillman. As a strong threat on the outside, Keyton helped Hyatt rack up all those big plays from the slot receiver position. Thanks to Keyton, the Vols never missed a beat and asserted themselves as the top offense in the nation
Keyton ranked third among Tennessee Football in three categories: 31 catches, 562 receiving yards and five touchdowns. His 18.1-yards per catch ranked second on the team and was fifth in the SEC. Thanks to his play last season, the upperclassman is a leader for the Vols’ younger receivers.
“If they need encouragement I’d tell them, ‘Everything happens for a reason,” Keyton said. “You might be doing this because God is setting you up for something different. You have to work even harder for what you need.’ They understand that, and there are no egos or anything like that. I feel like they’ll be successful by knowing that.”
Tennessee’s receivers are certainly a team strength. Keyton, Bru McCoy, Squirrel White and Dont’e Thornton are all expected to have major impacts this fall.
“I feel like we are more mature and more like a professional group,” Keyton said. “We come to work every single game. I expect us to go out there and do what we do with no pressure. Just go out there and play how we practice.”
Keyton knows that by experience. Had he not kept plugging away as a projected backup before last season, he wouldn’t have emerged as a trusted playmaker who is mentioned every time the Tennessee Football offense becomes a topic of conversation.