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JD PicKell: Tennessee secondary must trade punches with receivers in spring game

Barkley-Truaxby:Barkley Truax04/13/23


Tennessee has dealt with the fallout of roster turnover all spring long, and Saturday’s Orange & White scrimmage will be the best chance for fans see the new-look Vols before the season begins in September.

On a recent episode of The Hard Count, On3’s JD PicKell revealed that the wide receiver vs. secondary matchup is the one he is most curious to watch when game time rolls around. He explained what he needs to see out of both groups as spring trainig wraps up.

“Self-belief, confidence, swagger — that is everything. You have to believe in yourself to be able to be effective. I’m not saying the Tennessee secondary doesn’t believe in themselves, but if they make some plays in the spring game, it ain’t hurting,” PicKell said.

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It goes both ways, though. The wideouts have just as much to prove for the Vols this spring as the secondary does after losing a decent chunk of its production to the 2023 NFL Draft.

“When it comes to the wide receiver room, I don’t have any concerns,” PicKell said. “But the fact remains that there is some production that was left behind by Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman that needs to be accounted for. How much production do you ask? About 18 touchdowns, over 100 receptions and over 1,500 yards. Somebody is going to have to step up and be an alpha dog.”

Hyatt and Tillman were key parts to Tennessee’s huge success this past season, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the Vols’ receiving yards this past year. They also almost caught essentially half of the team’s passing touchdowns.

PicKell doesn’t need to see options like Bru McCoy or Squirrel White explode at the same level. His focus is more so on how well they run Tennessee’s style of play and, in turn, create the depth necessary at the position to play at that pace.

Still, McCoy found success with the Volunteers in 2022, finishing this season with 48 catches, 619 yards, three touchdowns and 12.9 yards per catch while contending for targets with the aforementioned NFL-bound duo. Those numbers are only expected to multiply, and potentially put him on the same pedistal as his former teammates.

Tennessee’s annual spring game is set to kick off on Saturday, April 15 live from Neyland Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET.