Tennessee Receivers Earning the Right to Swagger and Confidence

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    Cedric Tillman Tennessee

    Tennessee Football Wide Receiver Cedric Tillman. Photo via Tennessee Athletics

    After Cedric Tillman’s dominating game against Pittsburgh last Saturday, including the go-ahead touchdown in overtime, the Tennessee wide receiver dropped one heck of a memorable line.

    “Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments,” Tillman said with a laugh.

    Tillman immediately went on to say that he was just messing around as he was clearly running from a high off the game. But, at the same time, Tillman definitely said that line with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. And who could blame him?

    Cedric Tillman went from a two-star recruit to a backup receiver to one of the top wideouts in the entire SEC. It has been quite the career for the Las Vegas native.

    That swagger that Tillman has, and the confidence that the entire team has, is something that offensive coordinator Alex Golesh values. But that’s something that can’t be given. Instead, it has to be earned.

    “I think they should have swagger and confidence,” Golesh said on Tuesday. “You earn the right to be confident. Cedric Tillman continues week to week to prepare like that, and he’s earned the right to be confident. There are a bunch of guys in that room who have earned the right to be confident. I don’t necessarily want us to be arrogant about it, but there’s a standard from the day we got here and from the day we met when everyone returned at the end of January that the standard here is to be the best offense in the country.”

    There’s a difference between saying it and being about it, though.

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    “We can say it, or we can work like it,” Golesh said.

    Although he was the one that made the statement originally, it’s not just about Tillman. It’s about Jalin Hyatt, Bru McCoy, and the rest of the receiver room. It’s about Hendon Hooker, Jabari Small, Jaylen Wright, and the entire backfield. It’s about the offensive line.

    A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and Tennessee’s offense is no different. With the pace and tempo the Vols play at, each of the 11 men on the field has to be executing their task. And when that happens, success usually follows. Consistent success turns into confidence, and confidence turns into swagger.

    “For Cedric to say that jokingly or not, I hope they are the best at their position in the entire country,” Golesh said. “We need them to believe that. He’s certainly really good, and you could make an argument that he is the best in the country. For us, it’s important that all of those guys continue to get better. Big-time players do make big-time plays in big-time games. He certainly did there, so did Hendon Hooker, so did the five guys blocking their tails off, so did the guys next to him, so did the running back who picked up the protection and so did the coaches who helped prepare them.”

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.