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Titans Have High Expectations for Rookie WR

Posted Aug 13, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Shawn Jefferson is the kind of coach who wears his cleats during practices to demonstrate exactly what he wants from his Tennessee receivers. He's just as enthusiastic whether celebrating with or chewing someone out.

Titans rookie Justin Hunter has heard plenty both from his position coach and his fellow receivers this training camp.

"Sometimes it's misleading us yelling and getting after him,'' Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "It's more our expectation for him is very high.''

The Titans liked the 6-foot-4, 203-pound Hunter so much coming out of college at Tennessee that they traded up to draft him at No. 34 overall. Hunter left the Vols after his junior year when he led the team with 73 catches for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. He also averaged 26 yards a catch as a freshman and was off to a strong start as a sophomore before tearing his left ACL against Florida.

Tennessee held the 40th overall pick in the second round, so general manager Ruston Webster traded that pick, a seventh-round selection and his third-round pick in 2014 to San Francisco to move up and draft Hunter.

A sore hamstring limited Hunter through the team's offseason practices. But he has been healthy through training camp and has had his share of Jefferson correcting him after any dropped passes. Jefferson said Hunter has a good skill set so he's pushing the envelope with the rookie, possibly too much.

"To be honest with you, he hasn't frustrated me at all,'' Jefferson said. "I've had lesser frustration with him than I did coaching another guy ... If we were playing golf, he's even right now.''

Asked who that other guy was, Jefferson said Calvin Johnson. He coached Johnson with Detroit the previous five seasons and said Johnson cleared his hurdle in his second year in the NFL. Jefferson said it takes time for super freakish athletes like Johnson and Hunter coming out of college where they were bigger, stronger and faster than everybody else.

"Everybody on this level is good, so you have to re-establish yourself all over again,'' Jefferson said. "That's the process they have to go through. Once they figure it out, then the sky's the limit for them.''

The Titans drafted Kendall Wright in the first round a year ago. They also have veteran Nate Washington with Michael Preston pushing for a roster spot too after spending most of the last two seasons on the practice squad. Hunter offers another target for Jake Locker and an insurance policy for Kenny Britt in the final year of his contract. Mix in Damian Williams, and it's a receiving corps that Jefferson says is the most talented group he's been around as a coach in the NFL.

And whenever Jefferson starts fussing at Hunter, someone like Washington is there to reinforce the coach's teaching in a quieter tone. Hunter said it's almost like Jefferson plays the bad cop with his fellow receivers acting as good cop.

"One thing he always says is never take it personal,'' Hunter said of Jefferson's critiques. "That's the motto I got with him so never take anything personal. Just listen and learn.''

That includes last week when Hunter tried to loop around a defender for more yards on third down only to come up short of the first down marker in the preseason opener against Washington. As a tall receiver, Hunter said Jefferson has been a big help reminding him to stay lower especially when running drills running around trash cans to mimic cutting back and forth in pass routes.

Britt isn't sorry for Hunter at all with the attention the rookie is getting from Jefferson because he faced similar attention himself as a rookie. He said he tells Hunter every day that the reason the coaches are on his back so much is because they want him playing and not on the bench.

"They're just trying to prepare him for the season,'' Britt said.

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