Vols wideouts look to improve


Published: Friday, September 16, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 16, 2005 at 3:47 a.m.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee's receivers wanted to make big plays in the opener. Catching the ball first would have set them up.

They didn't do much of either in a close win over UAB marred by dropped passes and other mistakes.

The experienced receiving corps, heralded as one of the best ever for the fifth-ranked Volunteers, returned to the basics to prepare for Saturday's game at No. 6 Florida.

''We've been working hard on just catching the ball,'' receiver Chris Hannon said.

Quarterback Erik Ainge had two passes intercepted and finished 5-of-14 for 57 yards against UAB. Rick Clausen, who will start ahead of Ainge on Saturday, was 17-of-24 with one interception caused by the fullback bobbling the ball. Several of their combined 16 incomplete passes were drops by the receivers.

Calling the dropped passes and interceptions ''silly,'' coach Phillip Fulmer criticized the whole offense, particularly the linemen and running game, after the Sept. 3 opening victory. The Vols, idle last weekend, did not score in the second half against UAB, and they will have to do much better against the Gators.

''Those receivers take it really personal when they drop balls,'' Clausen said. ''Playing a team like Florida we can't have drops. We can't have bad runs or bad throws. Those kill drives.''

Tennessee's top receivers are two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore who led the team in passing yards. While there is no single standout like Donte Stallworth or Kelley Washington of seasons past, together they are fast, athletic and not supposed to be a weakness on the team.

''We made a couple of tough catches. That was a plus, but we dropped too many easy balls,'' Fulmer said.

Receiver Jayson Swain said he believes the receivers were too concerned about getting YAC - yards after the catch.

''I know in my case and the other guys, they were thinking about running before they caught the ball,'' Swain said. ''This week we're just working on concentrating. We're doing a good job of that, so I don't think we'll have problems.''

Seniors Hannon and C.J. Fayton scored both of Tennessee's touchdowns on receptions in the end zone.

The receivers are hoping to redeem themselves against Florida just as Fayton did in the UAB game.

Fayton dropped a pass but stayed in the game and made a diving catch for a TD two plays later.

''That's the reason I was still in,'' he said. ''I wanted to come back and made a big play for the team.''

On the touchdown, Clausen first looked at throwing the ball to a receiver in the flat and then the tight end before he saw Fayton cutting across the middle.

''It goes to show that if you do get open you will get the ball. That's my job to reward them with the football,'' Clausen said. ''Those guys make me look good.''

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