Through the first five practices of the fall there have been numerous players who have had good moments, good plays, or good reps. Derek Barnett tackling Derrell Scott for a loss in team work, Von Pearson’s toe-tapping touchdown in one-on-one drills, Pig Howard’s one-handed snag in skeleton work, and the list goes one.
But the goal of fall camp isn’t to be flashy. The goal is to be consistent.
After five days on the practice field at a position that is loaded with playmakers, true freshman Vic Wharton has been one of the most consistent members of Team 118. He has made plays, but it’s his dependability and steadiness that have earned him more praise from the coaching staff than anyone else. That persistency has already helped him work his way into first team reps in the Vols’ 5-wide set on offense after being a forgotten man by many.
What has been Wharton’s secret to success thus far in camp? A willingness to be quiet, listen to his coaches, listen to his teammates, and work as hard as he can on every rep so that it all comes naturally when the live bullets start flying.
“I’m just trying to build my habits, as Coach Z (Zach Azzanni) says, every day. That’s the main thing, just build our habits and listening to everything,” Wharton explained. “That’s the main thing, just being coachable.”
Wharton told the media that the toughest part about the college game is learning the different moves and techniques that his coaches require from his position. From hand positioning to footwork, Vic admits that it is a much different focus at the collegiate level. But by paying attention and leaning on his coaches and his teammates, he feels like he is progressing at an acceptable pace.
“In high school you get away with things without having technique, just off your athleticism. Now, you have to have technique and you have to have habits and that’s what Coach Z teaches us, and that’s what our older guys are teaching us. All of the receivers are doing a great job of showing me everything that we’re supposed to do. I’m just trying to learn everything and take it all in.”
Not being able to enroll early with Von Pearson and Josh Malone may have put Wharton behind from an experience standpoint, but he is grateful to those two for their help over the summer. Vic admits that his level of knowledge preparation is due in large part to the willingness of his receiver teammates to teach him.
“I would say our older guys this summer (on what helped him the most). They did a great job of taking me under their wing. All the receivers did, not just one guy, every single one of them. It’s been awesome to learn from them, learn everything that Coach Z wanted just by being here all summer.
“I was just trying to do whatever they told me to do, Josh Malone and Von. Our competitiveness is the good competitiveness. Everyone is teaching each other. Von and I play the same position, but he’s still teaching me everything I need to know. That’s all we’re supposed to do is teach each other.”
The receiver position looks completely different than it did a year ago. A lot of credit for that has to go to wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni. Wharton credited Azzanni’s coaching style as one of the main reasons he chose Tennessee. Most often, when you hear that, it’s because players think that a coach will be easy on them, but in Vic’s case it was the exact opposite.
“I like hard coaching, and Coach Z is a hard coach on me. I just like to learn everything and take everything in. If he wants to be hard on me I’ll accept everything, just always accept criticism.”
Wharton has certainly been one of the surprises at fall camp thus far. He has picked the offense well and he never has to be told the same thing twice. We have seen him work in the slot at receiver as well as fielding punts and kickoffs and his demeanor and effort are unwavering. It’s the competition that drives Vic Wharton, and he doesn’t plan to let up any time soon.
“It’s a fight every day. That’s what Coach Z teaches and that’s what every receiver does. You can’t be a part of WRU without being competitive.”