Tennessee senior wide receiver Denarius Moore is oh-so-close to becoming just the seventh wideout in Tennessee history to record 1,000 receiving yards. But until Tuesday, the Tatum, Texas native had no idea how close he is.
"I did not know until you said something. I wasn't even going to say anything about it," Moore told VolQuest.com Tuesday after practice. "That was something new to me. I wasn't going to think about how close I was. I was just going to play football and that's it."
Moore is sitting at 912 yards on the season and has been known as a deep-threat throughout his career; the numbers back that up as well.
With only 43 receptions on the season, he has a staggering 21.2 yards per catch average and would easily be the Vol with the fewest receptions to reach 1,000 yards. Kelly Washington had 64 receptions in 2001 when he notched 1,010 yards, which is currently the lowest for any Tennessee receiver with 1,000 yards.
A season that may have started out frustrating for Moore saw a midseason dip in production during the LSU, Georgia and Alabama games, when he caught only four receptions for 37 yards. It made it even more painful that he only saw action in one play against Alabama and didn't record a catch. Moore suffered a concussion in that game on an end-around run on jut the Vols' second play from scrimmage.
"It's really frustrating as a senior to lose to Alabama and I really couldn't do nothing about it. That's what is mostly on my mind, but then again I didn't know I was just 88 yards until now," Moore said.
Since the Alabama injury, Moore has been on fire the last five games of the season. He's recorded a touchdown in all five games and has recorded two 200-yard games. With the late season surge in production Moore's NFL stock seems to be rising at the right time.
Although he's trying not to pay attention to that until after the bowl game, he said it's always been his dream to play in the NFL.
"I know there's a couple of folks talking about it and it was my dream to play in the NFL and I hope I still do," Moore said.
Moore hasn't only been an asset to the Vols catching balls, he's also been a big help when it came to helping the Vols young and highly-touted receiving corps. Freshman wideout Justin Hunter has been one to look up to Moore all season.
"I think so. Every time I have a problem I look up to him and ask him. He says I'm his little brother, his nagging little brother and I guess I am," Hunter said.
And Hunter probably had a lot of questions when he first arrived on campus, saying he was like any other freshman.
"I guess like any other freshman coming in and not knowing what's going on and as time came along it got better and I got used to it," Hunter said.
Moore must have given him good answers as Hunter finished on the Freshman All-SEC team with 15 receptions for 407 yards and six touchdowns. The aptly nicknamed 'Bones' said he's looked up to Moore all season long.
"I look at his game as inspiration for me. I want to run my routes like him because I'm not a good route runner. So, I look up to him a lot to him," Hunter said.
Hunter said they both have similar play and while Moore has been known as a deep threat, Hunter said it may be time to pass the torch.
"Just the way we both play. I think I'm a better deep threat than he is. Y'all can tell him I said that. I think I just judge balls kind of good too," Hunter said.
Malik Jackson said weeks ago he was the Vols' fastest defensive lineman, and he intended to prove it in a race against his front-line teammates.
According to a playful Jackson, he won handily.
"I beat C-Walk (Chris Walker) in the race by like 28 yards, 30 yards. You can ask him. He'll tell you," Jackson said. "It was a 40-yard race, yes it was, and I just got off on him. And I gave him a head-start.
Gerald (Williams), he didn't participate. He knew I was going to beat him. I just roasted C-Walk."
While Jackson has been among the Vols' most personable players this season, he does see benefits from his speed on the defensive front, where he moved from end to tackle and nabbed second-team All-SEC honors. He finished the regular season with 46 tackles, including five sacks and 11 tackles for losses as he started 11 of the Vols' 12 games.
"You just got to work your hands. It's all about technique. You've just got to study your opponent and all their tendencies. It's just all technique and watching film and using your weapons," Jackson said of utilizing his speed. "I'm not really a trash talker. I just try to do my job, really. I never think I do good until I watch the film, to be honest with you. I really don't trash talk on the field. I just try to beat them and if it happens, it happens."
Roughly 265 pounds, Jackson acknowledged the wear of tear of playing along the interior had taken a toll.
"It was much needed. The season was really tough," said Jackson. "The SEC is a tough conference. Any time off is much-needed. It worked really good for my body. Just got to come back, now healthy, and go play some good football next Thursday."
NO JET LAG
A native of Northridge, Calif., Jackson won't have time to travel home once the Vols break Thursday morning for Christmas before he and his teammates are due to report in Nashville on Sunday for meetings and an evening practice.
"I'll get to go home after the bowl game, unfortunately. I'll just chill with some teammates down here for Christmas. See how it goes," Jackson said. "I's my first time missing a Christmas. I'm pretty bummed, but it's my job kind of so I've got to deal with that for one year.
"Not too many (aren't going home). I think I'm the only one to be honest with you."
Brent Brewer garnered his first career start in the Vols' October finale at South Carolina, and the freshman safety from Tyrone, Ga., started each of the team's four games that followed.
A former Minor League baseball player who had been away from football for several years, Brewer said it simply took some time to get readjusted to football.
"I see a big difference. I just feel like I need to be able to play a lot faster and be able to go the whole 60 minutes," Brewer said of his progress from the season's onset till now. "I'm just going to keep working hard and keep playing my hardest. Especially just in practice getting the reps and working against the ones, it really has helped."
Though Brewer started the Vols' final five games and appeared in all 12 contests, he pointed to the Ole Miss game the second weekend of November as when he finally began to feel a noticeable comfort level.
Brewer was the Vols' leading tackler with eight stops in their blowout win against Ole Miss.
"Yeah, I think the Ole Miss game, that kind of helped. I did pretty good in that game and was playing hard. Made some big plays," he said.
Brewer's week to week improvements have stood out to Dooley, who praised Brewer's learning curve through the season.
"A guy who got better every week. He doesn't make the same mistakes," Dooley said. "I think Brent is getting better and better. He's going to be a good player for us. He has good stature. He's smart. He's mature. As he grows, his strength and speed and experience, I think he will be better and better.
"An ability to show improvement, no question (is vital), because we don't expect anyone to come in and be perfect. As long as they are showing improvement, they are listening to coaching and taking coaching and getting better, that's all I have ever demanded of my players."
Now Brewer is working alongside Tyler Wolf, as well as Prentiss Waggner some, as the Vols try to decide how to approach the Music City Bowl if Janzen Jackson does not rejoin the team and play in the contest. Jackson has been gone from Knoxville for roughly the last week and has not participated in any bowl practices.
"It's going good. We talk a lot, and before every play we just communicate and tell each other what we want from each other," Brewer said of the secondary work.
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