Tennessee hasn't had 1,000-yard receiver since Eric Ainge and Lucas Taylor hooked up for exactly that number on the way to the 2007 SEC championship game. In the two seasons since, Tennessee's leading receivers, Taylor and Gerald Jones, have gained 330 yards and 680 yards, respectively.
This year hasn't started much better for Vols' receivers, who up until last Saturday had only one 100 total yard reception all season, but Senior Denarius Moore changed all that.
Against the 20th BCS-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks, Moore had the best outing for a receiver all season. The senior caught a jaw-dropping six passes for 228 yards and a touchdown.
Back in 2008 (for those who blocked that year out of memory), Moore put an exclamation point on the end of his sophomore season with a 63-yard bomb of a touchdown catch from Jonathan Crompton, giving Vol fans a sneak peek of what to expect the next two years.
The deep threat carried that momentum into last season, racking up 540 yards and leading the team in touchdowns with seven.
This year, Moore has gained 485 yards and is third in the SEC with 20.2 yards per catch; and conditions are perfect for the Vols' deep man to make a run at a 750 plus yard season.
Due to a running game that has averaged only 2.7 yards per carry in the last three games, Dooley has abandoned the running game, giving the keys to the offense to big-armed freshman Tyler Bray. A one-dimensional offense will be easier on opposing defenses, but Tennessee does face some of the worst defenses in the FBS the last four weeks of the season: Memphis (119th), Mississippi (81st), Vanderbilt (90th) and Kentucky (50th).
Next week's game against Memphis should provide a good tune-up opportunity for Bray and Moore, and give the offense some more confidence going into homecoming against Ole Miss. Bray should be feeling pretty good after his second-half surge at South Carolina, but there is nothing like going against a glorified high school defense to get the confidence brimming for homecoming.
As long as Bray can keep spreading the ball between Gerald Jones and Moore enough that it doesn't keep too much attention on either one of them, you can count on Bray to keep the deep ball coming to his speedy No. 1 threat (that is, No. 6).
The SEC championship and 1,000 yards may be out of reach this season for Moore, but stranger things have happened. Hey, he did put up 228 yards with only six catches against the No. 20 team in the nation. Just think if he catches a few more balls this weekend.
You never know.
Brett Parisi is the head sports writer for knoxvilleman.com, and can be reached a Brett@knoxvilleman.com or for the latest on ponderings from the sports mind that is Brett Parisi, follow him on twitter. twitter.com/brettparisi
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