All-American Joel Bradford, along with Sloan Allison and Jeff Veres are gone from last year's team. Bradford led the team in receiving in each of the last two seasons, including 53 catches for 660 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. Allison was third on the team, hauling in 24 passes for 213 yards and two TDs, while Veres had 12 grabs for 116 yards.
There are eight receivers currently competing in spring practice with three more signed in the 2012 recruiting class that will join the team in the fall. The eight the Mocs currently have on the field are getting in plenty of work, and will have plenty of practice reps under their belts when camp begins in August.
"When you play three and four wides, which we are doing most of the time, they get weary during practice," stated UTC head coach Russ Huesman. "There is a lot of running and we need more numbers there. I think (receivers coach) Will (Healy) is doing a really good job and they are working hard. We have a good group, I am just not sure if the numbers are where we need to be right now with what we are doing."
Marlon Anthony (Acworth, Ga.) is the leading returning receiver and a lot is expected of him as he heads into his junior season. Anthony (6-5, 205) has 41 catches for 528 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons, including 27 receptions for 333 yards and four scores in 2011. He started all 11 games last season and is No. 1 on the depth chart at split end.
"Starting with Marlon, he needs to have a big year for us," said Huesman. "Not just his 25 catches, but he has to be a monster kind of guy out there. He has the ability and he has all of the physical attributes. He just has to put it together, day in and day out. He has to work on his craft and be a Brian Quick (Appalachian State) or Aaron Mellette (Elon) kind of guy and make those kinds of plays for us."
The only other returning receivers with any catches are Ron Moore (Sanford, Fla.) and Tommy Hudson (Moultrie, Ga.). Moore is currently listed as No. 1 at flanker while Hudson is the No. 1 slot receiver.
Both played as true freshmen in 2011 with Moore (6-0, 165) making three receptions for 147 yards and two scores. His touchdown strikes were 60 and 35 yards and he also had a 52-yard catch. Hudson (5-10, 160) had five receptions for 30 yards in 10 games of action.
"Ron Moore showed flashes last year," said Huesman. "He has great speed and is working hard this spring. We think he can take the top off the coverage and run. We have to make sure we get it to him when he gets out there which is something we have not done in the spring."
"Tommy Hudson is a possession-type of guy," continued Huesman. "He knows what he is doing. He is a really bright player and we have to continue to bring him along and let him know what his role is. He should have a lot of catches this year."
Bryant Belew (Columbia, Tenn.) played in three games as a redshirt freshman last season, but did not make a catch. Belew (6-3, 198) is another tall target for the Mocs and is competing with Moore for the No. 1 spot at flanker. "Bryant Belew has to keep coming," said Huesman. "He has to be more consistent. We need him to be a good player for us next fall."
The four remaining receivers on the roster are battling for various backup roles, including Taylor Stanford (Fayette County, Ga.), Michael Trundle (Chattanooga, Tenn.), Max Zinchini (Hendersonville, Tenn.) and Malcom Jones (South Pittsburg, Tenn.).
Stanford (6-1, 190) and Zinchini (5-11, 190) redshirted in the fall while Trundle (6-2, 200) rejoins the team after redshirting in 2010 and not participating in 2011. Jones (5-11, 160) was an all-state teammate of Terrell Robinson at South Pittsburg High School in South Pittsburg, Tenn., and is in his first semester with the Mocs.