Vol receiver Wilson has found route to success
BY STEVEN M. SIPPLE Lincoln Journal Star
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tennessee wide receiver Cedrick Wilson considers himself a student of football. Give him a defense, and he'll dissect it.
His primary source of power is not his body -- the baby-faced junior is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds -- it's his brain.
"There are receivers on this team who are probably as talented as I am, but they don't have the knowledge I have and they don't know the game like I know it," said Wilson, the Volunteers' go-to wideout. "That's the advantage I have on most of them."
Former New England Patriots receiver Stanley Morgan, a Tennessee alum, taught Wilson to try to pick up a defense's coverage within the first three steps of his pass routes. Wilson heeds the advice.
"I'm always running out to the line of scrimmage and seeing what the defense is in, and it's helping me get open," he said. "Those are the little things I try to teach the other guys."
Wilson exudes confidence as Tennessee prepares for Nebraska and Sunday's Fiesta Bowl. He regards the Huskers' use of man-to-man coverage in the secondary as something the Volunteers can exploit.
"That's what we're looking for," Wilson said. "I don't think anybody can stop us man-on-man because of the type of talent we have. It's just up to our offensive line to get (quarterback) Tee Martin time to throw.
"Nobody's stopped us all year playing man-to-man."
Wilson, though, studies enough film and knows the game well enough to understand that Sunday will be no picnic for Tennessee's wideouts, who have helped the Vols produce an average of 214.9 passing yards per game.
The Huskers, meanwhile, have limited opponents to 175.2 yards through the air and rank second nationally in pass-efficiency defense.
"We're going after two of the best defensive backs in the country, two All-Americans," Wilson said, referring to Nebraska cornerback Ralph Brown and rover Mike Brown. "It's going to be special. When Nebraska loads up the box (line of scrimmage), our receivers have to make plays."
Though Tennessee has shifted its offense more toward a power game in the last couple of seasons, the Vols still feature a talented fleet of receivers, led by the talkative Wilson.
Wilson's 57 catches for 827 yards rank sixth and seventh, respectively, on the single-season chart of a school that has produced a long line of talented wideouts, including Peerless Price, Marcus Nash, Carl Pickens and Alvin Harper.
With 42 receptions for 598 yards in the first six games this season, Wilson was on pace to set single-season school records until he injured a hamstring in game seven, an injury that lingers and may slow him Sunday. He was held to 15 catches for 229 yards in the last five games.
Martin, however, says he and Wilson retain a "special bond" as players.
"I know his tendencies more than the other guys, and we're on the same page a little more, just due to his experience," Martin said. "But throughout the season, I have developed a better chemistry with the rest of the receiving corps. We're getting everyone involved in the pass routes, and every one of our guys is a weapon in their own respect."
Though somewhat slowed by injury this week, Wilson is no less talkative. A standout quarterback at Memphis Melrose High -- he passed for nearly 3,000 yards as a senior -- he feels it's important to share his wisdom about the game with teammates. And anybody else who will listen.
"My teammates know I'm a very outspoken person," he said. "I'm going to say what's on my mind. If I feel something ain't right, I'm going to tell you. I had the power of a coach in high school. That's how my coach treated me. Even if they were big "ol defensive tackles and offensive tackles, sometimes I had to jump down their throats a little. It's just been instilled in me.