Ethan Wolf entered Tennessee with high expectations.
After enrolling early in 2014, Wolf drew comparisons to Volunteers legend and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten for his similar frame and skill set during training camp. He also became the first true freshman to start a season opener at tight end in program history. That season, Wolf finished with a career-best 23 receptions – which he matched the following season – for 212 yards.
Wolf finished fourth among Tennessee players in receptions (21) and fifth in receiving yards (239) in 2016, when he shared time with Jason Croom.
Croom is gone and Wolf — who has started 35 games in his career — is expected to be a crucial part of Tennessee’s offense. Although tight end hasn’t been a go-to position for the Vols, Wolf provides a nice safety valve for either Quinten Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano, either of whom would be a first-time starter at quarterback.
That’s a challenge Wolf is hoping to take on in 2017. “I think the tight ends could be featured a little bit more,” Wolf told reporters after Tuesday’s practice.
Wolf was criticized for a lack of physicality during his first three seasons. He has added about 15 pounds — he’s listed at 6 feet 6 and 258 pounds — and feels more comfortable with his abilities.
“I’ve learned a lot of things here,” Wolf told reporters. “And between the things I’ve learned over the last few years and then the hard work we all put in this offseason, it’s going to really transform my game.”
Wolf should become the third Tennessee tight end with 1,000 receiving yards this season. He has 752 through three seasons; if he hits his average of 251, he will finish with 1,003 yards. The two tight ends with more than 1,000 receiving yards are Reggie Harper (1977-80) with 1,141 yards and Mychal Rivera (2010-12) with 1,018.
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