Marquez North's stock should rise in 2014

Having things unsettled at quarterback in the SEC isn't exactly a recipe for success. And it certainly doesn't help a coach who is entering his second year on the job.

But that's the hand that Butch Jones was dealt at Tennessee, as he enters summer No. 2 with the Vols.

However, it's not exactly bleak when it comes to Tennessee's passing game. Finding a quarterback is of top priority for the Vols, but the good news is that whichever QB takes the reins this fall should have a big-time, top-flight receiver to sling the ball to.

If you haven't already met rising sophomore Marquez North, say hello to one of the best catches your eyes will have the pleasure of seeing.

If that wasn't enough for you, North finished his freshman season with a team-high 496 yards on 38 receptions. He had just one touchdown grab last year, and that number will have to increase in 2014, but North likely won't have an issue doing that.

Even with the quarterback position unsettled, there are a few things working in North's favor this year.

For starters, North was working mostly with raw talent last year. He was an athlete who could go on the field and find the ball. Through the first six games, North averaged three catches for 29.9 yards per game. During his last five games, North averaged four catches for 63.4 yards per contest. During that last stretch, North saw South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri, Auburn and Vanderbilt. Three of those defenses -- Alabama, South Carolina and Vanderbilt -- ended the season ranked in the top 25 nationally in total defense.

As the year went on, North simply got better. He learned, using his ever-growing knowledge to be a legit threat for the Vols. That's exactly what you want to see out of young players, especially one who could be a real game-changer for a team that needs some more excitement in its offense.

What Vols coaches and fans should be excited about is that North also took a few big steps forward in his development this spring. He added some bulk and looks even more the part physically. He's better with checks at the line and ran crisper routes this spring. He's learning to do more than just be an athlete. He's turning into a well-rounded wide receiver.

He'll also have more help around him this fall with the additions of freshman Josh Malone and junior college transfer Von Pearson. That will give North a lot of room to breathe and roam around the field. It won't make sense for defenses to key on just him this fall.

And that will make North that much more potent for the Vols. We saw flashes of what North could be, and we'll start to see what he really is this fall. That's very good news for the Vols.