One of the gems of Tennessee's 2007 recruiting class was Brent Vinson, a 5 star wide receiver out of Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. Vinson signed with the Vols in 2006 but did not qualify academically. He spent last year playing football at Hargrave getting his grades up in addition to becoming stronger, faster, and more anxious than ever to play for the Vols.
In just one game last year, against the West Virginia junior varsity team, Vinson had more than 350 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
"I like the speed that he plays with," wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor says of Vinson. "He comes in and out of his breaks well. He wants to win and you can tell. Even in practice when he catches the ball, he takes the ball all the way. I never have to tell him to finish. Some of those younger guys, I have to say, 'Finish, finish, finish.'"
"I try to go full speed on every play" Vinson said. "Even though we are supposed to slow down on some of the drills, I found myself going too fast because I'm so anxious to play."
The Vols definitely need one of the incoming receivers to step up and Vinson could well be that guy.
Kenny O'Neal is the other heralded newcomer in the wide receiving core and he has stolen his share of the spotlight. Offensive Coordinator David Cutcliffe has been quoted as saying that O'Neal was the guy that stood out early to him, and Taylor deemed him "a king in shorts" due to his impressive early play.
O'Neal had been held out of practice early last week because of a sore hamstring, thus all eyes
were on him in Saturday's scrimmage to see if the missed practice time had put him behind his fellow newcomers. He responded by recording 2 receptions for 64 yards and one touchdown, including a 60-yard touchdown reception off a throw from Red-shirt freshman quarterback Nick Stephens. He dropped an additional 37 yard pass that would've been for a touchdown, but was tipped by freshman corner back Art Evans.
On a sidenote, there was an altercation involving O'Neal and Evans earlier in the game that would've gotten him ejected according to Phillip Fulmer.
"I don't have any idea what happened to cause the whole thing, but Kenny would have been kicked out," Fulmer said. "You can't do that, but you like the fact that he's out there trying to compete."
Speed is the first thing teammates and coaches mention when you ask about the new receivers. But speed alone does not a receiver make. It is early, but one has to be impressed by the showing of these two young men.
The Vols will have Sunday off from practice but will return Monday morning in full pads.