If you are reading this, chances are you have also read pieces one and two of this six part series. If you haven’t, here is a quick recap of my “Give (them) six)” 2019 countdown, which looks at six returning Vols who MUST have a big season for the Big Orange for U.T. to return to the zenith of the SEC’s Eastern division:
Now for number four on the countdown.
Remember when U.T. seemed to trot out wide receivers that were early round NFL talent seemingly year in and year out? What about when Tennessee was widely accepted as “Wide Receiver U”? It is no coincidence that these years were also when the Vols were regularly winning the East. I say all of that to make the point that a true return to SEC East prominence is only going to come when we have better-than-average talent at receiver (i.e.; Alabama and Georgia, of late). BUT guess what?… we actually do have some impressive talent on the outside heading into 2019. Even better? We have a big time Wide Receivers coach in 1998 National Champion Quarterback Tee Martin. With all of that being said, I believe that Josh Palmer is the receiver that must show out this year in order for the Vols to start the process of getting “back”.
- Name: Josh Palmer
- Position: Wide Receiver
- Class: Junior
- Hometown: Brampton, Ontario, Canada
- Height/Weight: 6’2”/195 lbs (187.96cm/88.45kg for all of you other Canadians)
I fully expected Josh Palmer to come in last year and rip defenses apart as the number two to Marquez Callaway. He has the height, he has the speed, and he has the frame that are all typical of an elite SEC wide receiver. Palmer’s 2018 numbers were not terrible for a sophomore pass-catcher, especially considering the number of passes the offense completed/attempted. Palmer caught nearly two balls a game with a total of 23 on the year. Those 23 catches lead to 484 receiving yards, a whopping 21.0 yards per catch average (7th best in the country, 3rd best in the conference). He got into the endzone two times after catches, and even recorded one rushing touchdown. He was not a let-down for the Vols, but definitely a player we as fans would have loved to have seen more production out of.
I, like most fans, look at the 2018 game at Auburn as the contest in which we learned the most about the potential future of the Vols. Palmer’s stats against the Tigers were not game-breaking, but the stats plus the plays were a glimpse into his “what can be”. The following play was when I realized that with a better O.C. (CHECK), and a more confident Jarrett Guarantano (TBD), Palmer could be a game-changer (jump to 5:15 mark of video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A78kjpblBfE
Let’s look back at the comment I just made about Palmer potentially becoming a game-changer. I hear the titles “game-changer” and “difference-maker” all the time, often interchangeably. But here is the thing; in order to be a starter in the SEC (unless of course you play at Vanderbilt), being a difference-maker is a pre-requisite. If you aren’t a difference maker, you are on the bench unless someone is injured or needs a quick hit of the O2 (are those things even used anymore?). A “game-changer” is something different. It is something not all athletes can be. It is someone whose presence is more important than the presence of other players in regard to the outcome. With as explosive as Josh Palmer is (see previous section/stats) and his sheer athleticism, he is one of those who can be a game-changer.
Marquez Callaway attracts attention because he has already proven himself a game-changer. If U.T. can successfully line-up two game-changers out wide from Guarantano, we may see a big improvement in our beloved Vols.
I trust Marquez Callaway; he has shown me he can do the darn thing. I am dying to trust Josh Palmer. I am certain that if he can put all the talent and intangibles and play-making ability together, the Vols could end up with the most dangerous wide receiver duo in the entire SEC. Josh Palmer has all the pieces, but he is thus far lacking one big thing; the numbers. If we see those numbers start to creep towards the top-ten in the SEC, we will also start seeing the Vols creep towards the top of the SEC standings. Wouldn’t it be WONDERFUL to truly be in the “WRU” conversation again? A big season from Palmer could prove to be the first step towards that possibility.
The Extra Point
While Tennessee has a number of former players who have gone North of the Border to play in the CFL, it is not often that a Canadian-born player has come to Rocky Top to suit up for the Big Orange.
While Palmer played his high school football at St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida, he is listed as being a native Canadian. He is the only [football] Vol in the past decade from Canada. Furthermore, he is only the sixth Canadian-turned-Vol to earn a letter all time.
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