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Tennessee Vols Recruiting 2012: Who Could Start, and Who Will Get Lost in Mix

Daniel HudsonCorrespondent IIIJanuary 31, 2012

Tennessee Vols Recruiting 2012: Who Could Start, and Who Will Get Lost in Mix

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    The Tennessee Volunteers are looking to shake off bad 2010 and 2011 seasons with a strong 2012 campaign. The first step is to sign all or most of the current commitments on National Signing Day, and the second step is for those players to turn into contributors, hopefully starters.

    But as we all know, not every player is able to make the transition. For every Eric Berry and Justin Hunter there is a Bryce Brown and Matt Milton. While I can't guarantee there are any Berrys in the 2012 class, we can all rest assured that there are a few Miltons.

    Which ones are which? Based on comments from coaches, performance at the college prep games and overall physique, here are my best bets of future Vols that could start and those who will get lost in the mix next season.

Davante Bourque, Athlete

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    The Tennessee Volunteers' running game last year was last in the SEC in virtually every measurable statistic. This has got to change if they hope to bounce back in 2012.

    Enter Davante Bourque, 6'3", 200 pound athlete from Georgia, who committed just two weeks ago. He is expected to play running back and join the slew of unknowns that back-up rising sophomore Marlin Lane.

    Lane showed glimpses of what he's capable of last year, but inconsistency and injuries limited his further development. His assumed starting role could be in jeopardy if another runner steps up.

    Bourque is a strong player that should guarantee three to five yards on every carry if he continues improving. His speed is slightly above average.

    Status: Could start.

Daniel McCullers, Nose Tackle

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    When the Tennessee Volunteers hired Alabama outside linebackers coach (yes, they divide inside and outside duties down there) Sal Sunseri to be the next defensive coordinator, there was an idea that he could bring the vaunted 3-4 defense with him.

    Quick explanation of the 3-4: As opposed to the traditional 4-3 where there are four defensive linemen, -- two ends and two tackles -- the 3-4 sacrifices one of those tackles for an extra inside linebacker.

    It calls for lots of athletic linebackers, which Tennessee showed it had last year in Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson. Herman Lathers will also return.

    However, the most important piece of the 3-4 is having a huge nose tackle to line up right across the center and clog things up. That player didn't exist on the Vols' roster until the commitment of JUCO defensive tackle Daniel McCullers.

    McCullers is a beastly 6'6", 380 pounds. For reference, that's the same height and 30 pounds heavier than Albert Haynesworth.

    Status: Could start.

Otha Peters, Outside Linebacker

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    This is why writing about National Signing Day is so fun. When I began this article, Otha Peters was committed to the Tennessee Volunteers.

    When I went back for a quick review, Peters had switched to Arkansas.

    If he sticks with that commitment and signs with the Razorbacks, it will be very important for the Vols to grab one or two linebackers to ensure the switch to the 3-4 can happen.

    Status: Could've started for the Vols. Don't know/don't care about Arkansas.

Jason Croom, Wide Receiver

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    If Derek Dooley is good at anything, it's recruiting wide receivers to the Tennessee Volunteers.

    He wrapped up the recruitment of Justin Hunter and added Da'Rick Rogers two years ago. Last year he successfully added the now departed DeAnthony Arnett.

    Now he has three 4-star receiver recruits, including the Georgia native Jason Croom. At 6'5", he is about the same height as Hunter and is a solid target.

    The only problem is there is a glut of receivers on the Vols' roster. The top JUCO player in the country, Cordarrelle Patterson, is still on Tennessee's radar and is the same kind of receiver as Croom.

    Status: Gets lost.

Nathan Peterman, Quarterback

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    It's not often that a school successfully recruits a top-flight quarterback and little is said about it. But that's the case with 4-star Nathan Peterman.

    This is a classic case of a player buying into the vision of an offense and its coaches. Even though Tyler Bray and Justin Worley sit in front of him on the depth chart, Peterman is still going to be a Tennessee Volunteer.

    Could he start in two or three years? Sure. It could be a very different team by then though, so in the meantime, I expect him to continue laying low.

    Status: Gets lost.

LaDarrell McNeil, Defensive Back

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    Pop quiz! Who was the best player in the secondary for the Tennessee Volunteers last year?

    The correct answer is Brian Randolph, a freshman last season. Randolph wasn't going to make any huge plays, but he also limited his mistakes. That's not exactly the kind of description I want for my best defensive back.

    LaDarrell McNeil is arguably the best player in the 2012 class for the Vols. He is the only one in the Rivals 100 and is the seventh ranked defensive back.

    The Texas native could unseat the lackluster Justin Coleman, who failed to live up the expectations at cornerback. Regardless, expect to see McNeil get worked into the action early.

    Status: Could start.

Cody Blanc, Athlete

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    I've seen this before. An extremely fast Knoxville native commits to the Tennessee Volunteers in hopes of becoming an electric playmaker on offense, defense or special teams.

    We have that guy. His name is Devrin Young. I love Young, but he didn't look quite as fast on Saturday afternoons for Tennessee as he did on Friday nights for Bearden High School.

    I'm always happy to have a fan of the Vols join the team, but as far as starting/sitting, I don't see much of an opening.

    Status: Gets lost.

George Bullock, Kicker

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    Did you see the Tennessee Volunteers' kicking game last year? Did you wonder why Derek Dooley even tried that 40-yard field goal against Kentucky? Are you wishing Jeff Hall could re-enroll?

    Then you, my friend, are in luck with George Bullock. He attended Knoxville West and was a finalist for Mr. Tennessee Kicker, which encompasses all kickers regardless of class or division.

    We shouldn't have to bash Derek Dooley for trying 40-yard field goals. That's like bashing him for running the ball on 3rd and inches: You have to be able to do it.

    Status: PLEASE START!

Deion Bonner, Defensive Back

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    Deion Bonner was one of the bright high school prospects entering his senior season this past summer. But he and two other people were charged with theft after stealing items from the Georgia Bulldogs' locker room during a college prep camp, hurting his value.

    [Insert stealing/interception joke here.]

    This transgression led to Bonner being suspended for most of his senior season, but in the six games that he did play, he tallied nine interceptions. Extremely impressive.

    I don't condone theft, of course, but if he has paid his debt to society, maybe he can direct some of that skill to stealing balls out of the air when the Vols play Georgia next year.

    And really, what's a top 15 recruiting class without a little craziness in there?

    Status: Could start.

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