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Report Card: Tennessee’s 2014 Season

Pig Howard

 Receivers/Tight Ends

Daniel: It’s difficult to recount all the highs and lows for this group in just a few sentences. The highs included the consistency of Pig Howard, who came back from a brief absence from the team last spring, to help lead this group. Von Pearson also stepped up along with, at times, Jason Croom, Marquez North, Josh Smith and several others. But injuries were a huge part of the narrative this season. Four scholarship receivers – Croom, North, Smith and Cody Blanc – all had their season shortened via injury, while almost every other key receiver suffered from some form of minor-to-moderate issue. Even when healthier, North didn’t step up as the true No. 1 receiver that many predicted that he could be. And then there’s the case of Josh Malone – who battled nagging injuries and inconsistencies all season in what many considered a frustrating first year for the five-star recruit.

The tight end was, in many ways, reintroduced into this offense. After the position totaled less than 100 total yards receiving in 2013, this unit more than tripled that this year, but somewhat faded down the stretch. Ethan Wolf, especially, emerged as somebody who can be a four-year starter in this program. It was clearly an up-and-down campaign for these units overall, but there’s a lot of hope for a bright future for Tennessee’s pass catchers. Grade: B-

Houston: Various injuries to Josh Smith, Marquez North, Von Pearson, Josh Malone and Jason Croom – along with less-than-stellar quarterback play for much of the season – make it very hard to grade this group. Pig Howard’s play will certainly help their cause; the junior receiver’s return to the team over the summer after serving a suspension proved to be one of most impactful stories of the year for team 118. Von Pearson had some jaw-dropping moments, but his ankle injury against Arkansas State really took the wind out of his sails and hurt the big-play ability of this group. Marquez North also had a few injuries keep him from taking the next step in his development, but he was still able to show flashes of his playmaking ability when given the opportunity early in the season and should return to lead this group in 2015.The tight end position looks set for years to come thanks to Ethan Wolf. The freshman caught 23 passes for 213 yards this year and only looks to get better as he gets bigger, faster and stronger. Another year in the weight room and studying the position should make him a real weapon in in 2015.

The plays that WRU is known for didn’t come in bunches, but returning every player in 2015 should have Vol fans very excited for the future of the position. Grade B-

Reed: We all expected big things from this unit headed into the season and injuries, more than anything, severely hampered their production. Josh Smith exiting the Oklahoma game with a season-ending injury hurt the Vols more than most expected. Marquez North was never himself after taking a big hit against Chattanooga. Von Pearson missed significant time with a high ankle sprain. Josh Malone and Jason Croom also battled injuries. Pig Howard was healthy and a massive bright spot for this unit. Howard led the Vols in receptions and yards and really emerged as a consistent playmaker once Dobbs took the reins of the offense. The tight end position was better than it has been since Mychal Rivera headed for the NFL. Ethan Wolf could be in for a breakout season next year if he’s not required to stay in and block as often. While it wasn’t the breakout year of big plays for this group that many expected, there were clear bright spots despite the multitude of injuries. Grade: B-

Average Grade: B-

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