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Tennessee WR depth was on full display for Vols

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Tennessee receiver Chris Brazzell II didn’t need to be told the Vols have something special brewing at receiver. He’s been a part of it for weeks.

“In the beginning, it was hard,” said Brazzell, who transferred from Tulane during the offseason. “The tempo of the game (was hard). I think we got the fastest offense in the nation type thing. So now I’m used to it. I’m accustomed to it. So it feels normal to me now.”

When asked after the Orange and White Game what makes the Vols different than previous years at receiver, Heupel said, “Athleticism. Ability to to go attack the football at the catch point and competitive situations that can be over the middle. It can be a deep ball that you know someone called 50-50. I think those guys have continued to refine their traits at the line of scrimmage. 

“In press man coverage, it’s the transition for every high school, high level high school wide receiver as they come to college. Typically, you know, they’re seeing a bunch of off coverage and making sure the, you know, the defense you’re seeing isn’t getting run by. And and, uh, so learning how to play at the line of scrimmage. Um, they work they compete. They get the ability to make plays.”

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That was certainly the case in Neyland Stadium for the Orange and White Game on Saturday as the Vols were plenty adept at passing the ball after a bit of a slow start. Redshirt freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava saw limited action and finished 7-of-9 for 96 yards with one touchdown. Backup quarterback Gaston Moore was 12-of-18 for 184 yards and two touchdowns, while true freshman Jake Merklinger completed 5-of-7 passes for 105 yards and one score.

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Moore turned in one of highlights of the day, a 53-yard touchdown pass to freshman Mike Matthews.

“I feel really good,” the walk-on quarterback said. “You know, I was with this coaching staff at UCF, so I’ve been with them for a while. Learning from great quarterbacks ahead of me. I’ve just learned a lot, and I feel like I’m really comfortable in this offense.”

Brazzell, who caught a 71-yard touchdown pass from Merklinger, will have to continue to fight for playing time, along with any other Vol receivers who may have stood out during spring camp. Tennessee was without their best receiver, Bru McCoy, who was held out of spring practice with an ankle injury he suffered last season. It’s a good thing the Vols have depth. The Vols have suffered a significant injury at receiver in both of the last two seasons.

“We got a lot of dogs on the team, Brazzell said. “With those guys (this) is going to be fun….I think we just got a lot in our receiver room, a lot more receiver depth than we’ve had before…It’s fun to see this room grow, to become. And I’m excited to go out there and play with those guys.”

When asked what stood out this spring about highly touted freshman receiver Mike Matthews, quarterback Nico Iamaleava said, “I just I think his catch radius, man, he can go up and get the ball at a high level. We’re seeing that from young guys coming in, but I think Mike Matthews, him coming in, I think we we’ve expected that with him. And, he’s showing that every day in spring.”

Apparently, he’s not the only one.

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