Tennessee Receiving Core Flourishes with New Athleticism Added to Bunch

(Courtesy / UT Athletics)

Tennessee Receiving Core Flourishes with New Athleticism Added to Bunch

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee wide receiver group has taken big steps during spring ball with the new additions of transfers and incoming freshmen. With the new boost of faces, the squad is leveling up their production each practice under the direction of third-year coach Kelsey Pope.

Pope and receivers Squirrel WhiteDont’e Thornton Jr. and Chris Brazzell II spoke with local media following the conclusion of the eighth spring practice on Wednesday afternoon. The Vols worked out in shoulder pads prior to Thursday night’s scrimmage.

“It’s been physical, and it’s good to see,” Pope said. “I’ll tell you, there are some days the defense wins. You don’t always like that as a coach, but you do like to see which guys will respond to tough situations. That’s one of the things we have tried to put an emphasis on in the spring. It’s putting our guys in more physical situations. Last year, I can’t tell you if we got a pass interference call. You probably are not going to get one. So, we have to start practicing that way and not even anticipating it. Regardless of what happens, you have to go make plays regardless of who is draped over you or pulling you.”

White, a third-year veteran junior, returns as one of the main leaders in the receiving core. The Birmingham, Alabama, native produced his best season during the 2023 campaign with 67 receptions for 803 yards and two touchdowns. He produced three 100-yard receiving games, doing so against South Carolina, Alabama and Vanderbilt.

“The competition has been really good,” White said. “The defense, they are flying around making plays. We are getting each other better each and every day. Coming out there with a mindset of having fun out there, just playing from snap to whistle.”

Thornton Jr., a former Oregon transfer, returns as a primary outside threat for the Vols. Thornton Jr. posted 224 receiving yards on 13 receptions while securing one touchdown at Missouri, in which he sustained a lower-body injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

“To start, I am feeling very confident now that I have a year under my belt with the offense,” Thornton remarked. “I feel like everything is a lot easier for me. Now I can play faster, and not have to think too much while I am playing. With things going a little bit better towards the end of last season, then with me going down, that’s nothing I can control. I just used that as a way to get deeper in the playbook, build my faith and know what I need to work on when I come back.”

Brazzell II has made his way to Rocky Top after a two-year stint at Tulane. Brazzell II brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the field and in the film room. The 6-foot-5 lengthy receiver saw action in all 13 games during last season and boasted 44 receptions for 711 yards while hauling in five touchdown passes.

“I’m a bigger and also a taller receiver,” Brazzell said. ” I’m not really like a big-body receiver who runs big-guy routes. I’m able to run a slant, curl or a dig route. I’m also able to take the top off. I feel like I am an all-around receiver.”

Country News


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