Tennessee spring practice 2014: The receivers

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With spring practice less than a week away, we’re revisiting some of our projections from the post-season. Today: the receivers. 

Receivers coach Zach Azzanni (right) talks to offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian during practice. (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — There have a few changes which could alter the spring depth chart. First, here’s what I wrote a few months ago.

Marquez North emerged as a big-play threat in his freshman season with the Vols.

In an offense that struggled to throw downfield, he was sometimes the only big-play threat.

The good news is that North was still raw for much of his debut season and he should improve after a year of coaching.

Alton “Pig” Howard should hold down the slot position if he stays focused on off-the-field responsibilities. Coaches thought he turned a corner in maturity in the 2013 season, but they still have some lingering concerns about his ability to lead by example.

Jason Croom and Josh Smith shared the third receiver spot, although Croom began to pull away as the season progressed. I’m told there are no plans to move Croom to tight end, where he had worked some earlier in his career.

Only two players are leaving (see below). Vincent Dallas departed mid-season, while Josh Harris was the most surprisingly of the three players who were given their release earlier this month.

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Dallas had bounced between receiver and defensive back during his career. Harris was only a freshman, but his best chance to make an impact may have already come and gone during 2013.

There are reinforcements coming.

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Coaches expect Josh Malone and Von Pearson to make an instant impact. The duo will have every opportunity to start in 2014. 

The added depth will give the Vols more flexibility in four-receiver sets. The team can also give North a breather so he doesn’t have to play on nearly every snap.

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Post NSD update: Ryan Jenkins will miss the spring due to injury, which is a blow to his chances of working his way into the rotation. We won’t change him on the roster until it becomes officially official, but the plan was for Devrin Young to get more looks at running back than receiver this spring. We’ll also hold off on “officially” changing Neiko Creamer‘s position, but he could experiment at more than one spot this spring.

A note on the statistics: The snap count shown in the first graphic includes only offensive snaps. It does not count special teams. The statistics are unofficial and come from our snap-by-snap database. “YPP” is yards per play, or simply the number of yards Tennessee gained while the player was on the field, divided by the player’s total snaps. “Adjusted YPP” adjusts the average for various factors, including game, situation, formation, down, distance and position. “Impact factor” is the degree to which a player’s YPP outperformed the average YPP for a player in a similar situation. A factor of 100 is average; above that is better, lower is worse. You should view Adjusted YPP and Impact Factor as “interesting” stats and not necessarily relevant ones. Someone who plays every snap will, by definition, have an Impact Factor of 100. On the other end, the small sample size of many reserves means just one or two plays can significantly shift their score. I hope to improve this metric in 2014.