Malone (TN) and McLaughlin (VT) Square Off in 2016 Battle at Bristol
One of 21 true freshmen to debut in Tennessee's home opener against Utah State, wide receiver Josh Malone is yet another name on the team's lengthy list of talented up-and-comers.
The Gallatin, Tenn. native has accrued playing time in all six games this season, with his first start coming against the Georgian Bulldogs in Week 5. The highly touted receiver, ranked by ESPN as the nation's No. 6 wide receiver prospect in last year's recruiting class, has amassed 14 catches totaling 134 yards thus far.
Malone's career high numbers to date came in his first start against Georgia, recording five receptions for 43 yards, but according to Coach Butch Jones just his presence on the field adds another dimension to the Volunteer offense.
"You can see he adds a whole other dynamic to our offense," said the head coach following Malone's debut performance in Tennessee's spring game.
"I said it in the offseason: we have to be able to throw a 5-yard pass and turn it into a 20-yard gain. That was missing from our offense last year, and we've really helped ourselves in recruiting. Josh has been an individual that, right from practice one, he can be as good as he wants to be."
Fans have an opportunity to witness just how good Malone becomes at the 2016 Battle at Bristol - college football's largest game. The Sept. 10 contest, which pits Malone's Volunteers against the Virginia Tech Hokies, is expected to shatter the NCAA attendance record.
In 2013, Jonathan McLaughlin became the first true freshman to start every game at left tackle under Head Coach Frank Beamer.
In his inaugural season with the Hokies, the Mauldin, S.C. native was in on 896 plays, racking up 39 knockdown blocks. In 2014, the sophomore has started in all six games - recording seven knockdowns in the team's opener against William & Mary, five knockdowns in their Week 2 win against Ohio State, eight against Georgia Tech and six in their win over North Carolina.
The 6-foot-5, 306-pound offensive lineman received accolades early in his career, earning Virginia Tech's prestigious Paul Torgerson Award at spring practice and ending the 2013 season with second-team freshman All-American honors.
"I thought Jon did a great job in terms of just being competitive and confident," said offensive line coach Jeff Grimes in a 2013 interview. "He just has a natural competitive fire in him. He's the kind of guy that I think is going to play at his best when the pressure is on."
In 2016, McLaughlin and his counterparts will feel the pressure of college football's biggest stage as the Hokies face the Tennessee Volunteers in the Battle at Bristol. Expected to draw more than 150,000 fans, the Sept. 10 game will be the largest in NCAA history.