Tennessee’s offense received some bad news on Wednesday.
The school announced redshirt freshman wide receiver Vincent Perry will be ineligible to play this season due to academics. Perry has lost his scholarship but will be able to practice with the team this fall with the hopes of regaining his eligibility in 2017.
Perry, who missed last season due to a knee injury, was expected to help Tennessee in the slot position this fall. His loss will put more pressure on Tennessee’s freshman receivers to play right away.
The Vols have 10 players projected to begin fall camp at wide receiver; five are returning veterans and five are newcomers.
Here’s what Tennessee has returning (with their stats from the 2015 season):
Josh Malone — 31 catches, 405 yards (13.1 average), 2 TD
Josh Smith — 23 catches, 307 yards (13.3 average), 2 TD
Jauan Jennings — 14 catches, 149 yards (10.6 average), 0 TD
Preston Williams — 7 catches, 158 yards (22.6 average), 2 TD
Those numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping, although the big-play ability from Williams has created plenty of buzz.
The Vols also have redshirt senior wide receiver Cody Blanc, who didn’t catch a pass last season. Running backs Alvin Kamara (second most receptions last year) and Jalen Hurd will help, as will tight ends Ethan Wolf and Jason Croom, a converted wide receiver.
The concern for Tennessee is the unknown. All of the receivers listed above have shown flashes of their potential, but no one has emerged as a dangerous threat.
There’s also the health concern. Jennings and Malone are returning from offseason injuries; Smith and Williams have dealt with injuries of their own at Tennessee.
Senior quarterback Josh Dobbs completed less than 60 percent of his passes last season. That will likely improve, and his running ability is still his biggest strength. But will Dobbs get more out of his receivers to help the passing game?
Freshman wide receiver Marquez Callaway is on campus and should add speed to Tennessee’s offense right away. Tyler Byrd, who signed as an All-American defensive back in February, is expected to begin his college career at receiver. Perry’s questionable status was likely a factor in that decision.
Tennessee’s offense will be driven by the running attack of Hurd, Kamara and Dobbs. If they stay healthy, Tennessee’s offense will be difficult to stop. The three players combined to rush for 2,657 yards in 2015.
But what if Tennessee needs to move the ball through the air to win a game late in the fourth quarter? Can Dobbs and his receivers lead the offense? That’s still unknown.