Although Tennessee football hasn’t seen an ideal season now 75-percent of the way through the 2013 campaign, there have still been improvements for the team.
The defense looks considerably better than a year ago, even though they still have their mistakes. Special teams play has been much improved, and the Vols still have an NFL like offensive line.
Tennessee lost their four offensive leaders last season when juniors Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter all declared for the NFL Draft, as well as the loss of senior wide receiver Zach Rogers.
The Vols had one of the most prolific offenses in the country last season, and were left to build from scratch this year. A new offensive skill set with a new line of coaches to try and back-up what the 2012 Tennessee offense was able to accomplish hasn’t turned out too well so far.
Tennessee is on their third quarterback of the season with true-freshman Josh Dobbs taking the reins after Justin Worley and Nathan
Peterman both went out with hand related injuries. Dobbs’ performances through his first two games have been up-and-down to say the least, but it’s another true-freshman on the offense that’s really provided a spark as of late.
Marquez North, a true-freshman receiver out of Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, N.C., has stepped up to be the offensive weapon the Vols have needed. He’s the only receiver to start all nine games this season, and leads all receivers on the team with 436 yards receiving, averaging 48 yards receiving per game, and 14 yards per catch. North’s best statistical game of the season came in Tennessee’s upset over South Carolina where he had three grabs for 102 yards, including a Sports Center “Top 10,” play with a one handed catch that helped set up the game-winning field goal for Michael Palardy. Every reception North had against the Gamecocks came with some kind of contact, making the plays he made that much more impressive.
Although he only has one touchdown on the season, that score also came with some amazement as he snagged the ball that was on its way into the student section while still getting a foot in bounds in the corner of the endzone in the Vols close call with Georgia.
After a slow start where his best game was a four receptions for 43 yards performance against Florida, North has really turned things up in his last four games with 18 grabs for 304 yards and a touchdown. In those four games he has averaged 76 yards per game, with a 17 yards per reception average.
While 2013 hasn’t been kind to the Vols to this point in the season, players like North show a strong, promising future on Rocky Top.