Tennessee has to replace their two leading receivers of the past couple seasons heading into the 2020 campaign. Both Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway are now in the NFL after strong UT careers, and that leaves the Vols’ wide receiver room with less proven talent and depth than its had in a few years.
One prominent analyst in the college football world believes one of the Vols’ most veteran receivers in the group is primed for a breakout campaign, though.
Jim Nagy, the Executive Director for the Reese’s Senior Bowl and an NFL Draft analyst for ESPN, tweeted out his praise of Tennessee senior wideout Josh Palmer on Sunday, circling him as a potential breakout player for the upcoming 2020 season. Nagy says that despite lower numbers from last season, Palmer has “put good stuff on tape” and could be the Vols’ top pass catcher this season.
“One of toughest and best contested ball catchers in ’21 draft,” Nagy wrote. “The Senior Bowl expects Palmer to breakout if he gets bulk of Jennings and Callaway [sic] targets.”
Despite having only 34 rec. and 1 TD last year, @Vol_Football WR Josh Palmer put good stuff on tape. One of toughest and best contested ball catchers in ‘21 draft. @seniorbowl expects Palmer to breakout if he gets bulk of Jennings & Calloway targets. 🇨🇦📈#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/3PRlAq4b46
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) July 26, 2020
The Ontario, Canada native has essentially been Tennessee’s third receiver the last two seasons as he served in a support role to both Jennings and Callaway. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver caught 23 passes for 484 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018 and followed that up with 34 receptions for 457 yards and a score last season. Palmer also ran for a touchdown as a sophomore in 2018, giving him four total touchdowns in 37 games played.
Tennessee will need Palmer to step up this upcoming season, and a breakout campaign for the senior would go a long way in helping the Vols’ offense take that next step forward.
Palmer’s 1,039 receiving yards and 66 catches in his career are easily the most of any returning player on UT’s roster for the 2020 season. Redshirt senior Brandon Johnson comes close with 60 career catches for 738 yards and a touchdown in 37 career games, but those two make up the main bulk of Tennessee’s returning production at receiver.
USC grad transfer Velus Jones Jr. has 36 receptions for 347 yards in his career, and both sophomore Ramel Keyton and redshirt sophomore Cedric Tillman only have four career catches apiece to their names as Vols. Deangelo Gibbs, a talented transfer from Georgia, will be playing receiver for the first time in college after playing defensive back for Georgia, and the rest of UT’s scholarship wideouts are all freshmen.
Palmer has flashed his potential multiple times throughout his Tennessee career thus far, and he came on strong to end the 2019 campaign, hauling in 22 catches for 306 yards and his lone touchdown of the season over Tennessee’s final six games of the year. Consistency and nailing down the details of the wide receiver position have been the biggest issue for Palmer thus far, however.
The Vols need Palmer to take that next step forward and make up for the lack of Jennings and Callaway on this year’s roster, and he has the ability to do so.