When Marquez North stepped on Tennessee’s practice field as a wide-eyed freshman last season, it was obvious why he garnered such much national attention as a multi-position star at Mallard Creek High in Charlotte, N.C.

The 18-year-old’s frame rivaled an NFL receiver’s physique in his prime and his hands?

Those mitts caught everything thrown their way.

It took a few games for North to adjust to defensive alignments and route running at a relative new position since he was primarily a ballcarrier at the prep level, but by October, North was Tennessee’s impact player on offense and scored his first touchdown against division rival Georgia.

That outing provided the rest of the SEC with a glimpse into North’s multitude of abilities.

“I started to get a lot more confidence probably in the Georgia game,” said North in a recent interview with The Daily Times. “In high school I didn’t really play a lot of receiver. Just like coach Jones said, it’s like a toolbox. As receivers, you’ve got to know your breaking points, your blocking, your “6-3” mentality — all that.

“So I’m just trying to put all that together right now and build on that confidence.”

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The following week, North’s insane one-handed grab in coverage against South Carolina — a catch that would eventually keep the Gamecocks out of Atlanta — was a SportsCenter Top 10 play and seemed to mark the moment he arrived in college football.

His final freshman numbers — 38 catches, 496 yards and a touchdown — were impressive considering Tennessee’s ineptitude at the quarterback position, but could have been better with more targets.

Several teammates noticed a different North this offseason, a player with more confidence as a second-year starter.

“(North’s) just been stepping up more as a leader,” offensive lineman Mack Crowder said. “Leading some of the other guys like (true freshman) Josh Malone, just kind of stepping up and kind of taking over that role. Even though he might not be an expert himself, he’s definitely trying.”

That’s what it is going to take this season at a program with an influx of youth and inexperience. Some of Tennessee’s older players, even sophomores, showing others the ropes and working together during the day-to-day grind in the SEC.

“I mean I’m still young myself,” North said. “But (the receiving group) is coming together a lot. It’s got a lot of potential, and they’re all eager to work.”