RTI contributor Murphy Carlton contributed to this article
The 2019 season will be the last for Marquez Callaway as a Vol. Coming off of a very productive junior season, Callaway has grabbed the attention of the analysts over at Pro Football Focus College.
According to the college division of Pro Football Focus, Callaway shined despite Tennessee’s inconsistent offense in 2018. The Vols finished at the bottom of the SEC in most offensive categories, but Callaway put together an efficient season himself.
With some consistent play around him, Marquez Callaway could have a big season. pic.twitter.com/ThEYmdwf1p
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 31, 2019
Not only that, but Callaway was one of the best receivers in the entire SEC on third and fourth down. He received the fourth-highest grade of any SEC receiver from the PFF College team for his play on third and fourth downs last season.
Kalija Lipscomb was brilliant on 3rd/4th down for Vanderbilt: he caught 74 percent of his targets, totaled six touchdowns with 10 contested catches and a 134.0 passer rating when targeted. pic.twitter.com/MjTMGBtyAG
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 2, 2019
The 6-foot-2, 204-pound receiver averaged 2.08 yards per route run in 2018. He also forced 10 missed tackles, which shows why he can be such a dynamic punt/kick returner.
Callaway was also responsible for 30 first downs and touchdowns, and he helped his quarterback have a passer rating of 86.2 when throwing him the ball. His overall grade as a receiver in 2018 was 75.5, which is considered “good” in the PFF rating scale.
The 2018 season was an up and down one for the Vols’ offense. Some games, like the South Carolina, Kentucky, and Auburn games, saw the offense able to get on a roll and put together about as close to a complete game as you could ask for. But there were also times where the offense could not get anything going and seemed very one-dimensional.
Tennessee’s 2019 offense is full of play-makers, and with the addition of Jim Chaney as the new offensive coordinator, the Vols should find ways to spread the ball around to utilize everyone. Callaway is definitely one of the guys that will get the ball in his hands very often this season.
Callaway’s new position coach is a big fan of him, that’s for sure.
Wide receivers coach Tee Martin was very complimentary of Callaway earlier this week when discussing his wide receiver group.
“Marquez has a skill set that is very similar, to me, like (Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver) JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was very intelligent,” Martin said. “He did everything on special teams. He can do anything on offense. He can play inside and outside. He’ll play hurt. Anything you ask the young man to do. I didn’t know Marquez when I came here, but he was always eager to jump in and do whatever you ask him to do, and he loves the game.
“This is his last year, and he ran a 4.40 flat (40-yard dash) over the summer. He’s gotten faster since a season ago, and that’s something I challenged this group with.”
Martin coached Smith-Schuster at USC and helped develop him into a second-round NFL Draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Comparing Callaway to the NFL standout should give Vol fans reason for optimism.
In 2018, Callaway reeled in 37 catches for a total of 592 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers should certainly rise in Jim Chaney’s offense.
With Jarrett Guarantano showing good development at the quarterback position and the additions of Chaney and Martin to the offensive coaching staff, the Tennessee offense should be much improved in 2019. At least, that’s Vol fans are all hoping for.
Consistent play from the offensive line will also go a long way in helping Callaway and UT’s other play-makers have big seasons.
The Vols will be getting Brandon Kennedy back from injury, Trey Smith is still hopeful to be playing come Week 1, and true freshmen Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright will most certainly have a positive impact to an offensive line group that needs to be much improved in 2019 if Tennessee is going to get to where it wants to be.
A consistent, cohesive offense will allow for the Vols to unleash guys like Callaway, Jauan Jennings, Ty Chandler, and others on opposing defenses. If that can happen, both the PFF College team and Tee Martin think Callaway will finish his Tennessee career with a bang.
“I think he has the potential to be one of the best receivers in the SEC, and I’m not just saying that because he’s here at Tennessee,” Martin said of Callaway. “His body of work to this point speaks for itself. If he just continues to take his game to the next level, I think he could be one of those early round guys (in the NFL Draft).”