The Vols have high hopes in 2012 after a strong recruiting class.
While many programs across the nation were celebrating their recruiting classes thanks to ESPNU and its extravagant coverage, Tennessee was quietly signing a strong group of youngsters.
According to the ESPN class rankings, the Volunteers brought in the 21st best class in the country, which includes 21 overall commitments—two from ESPN 150 and six four-star recruits.
This class is nothing to sneer at.
It may not be comparable to the likes of SEC rivals Alabama and Florida, but the class fills some holes. Included are some skill players that could impact the Vols upcoming season and beyond.
Looking at the class overall, it could help Tennessee as they progress through the Dooley-era and bring about some positive change in 2012.
However, it isn’t perfect and might bring some issues for Dooley and company later on down the road.
Here are some gaps and gifts:
There were no offensive line recruits to protect Tyler Bray in 2012.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first.
As I have confessed earlier, this is a strong class, but the weak point is the lack of guys in the trenches.
This is not to denigrate the seemingly strong o-line that UT has been developing over the past two years, but the void of lineman could be a problem.
You can never have too many offensive linemen. They are the anchor of any great team, and it is a major negative to not have a single one in this class.
Hopefully, this will not come back to bite the Vols in the future.
Justin Hunter will have plenty of company with the receivers from the 2012 class.
The addition of the wide receivers in this class is a big plus for the Volunteers.
Drae Bowles and Alton Howard are the prime examples for this category; both are ESPN 150 commits and potential game changers for the offense.
Bowles was compared to Dez Bryant when he was coming out of high school. He is a well-built receiver with explosive capabilities.
I would look for him to get some touches this upcoming season.
Alton Howard stands in unique contrast to Bowles.
Howard will more than likely be a Wes Welker-type for the Vols at 5’9”, 175 lbs. Even at his size he is able to play physical and be a difference on the offensive end.
Other notable pickups in this category include Jason Croom out of Norcross, GA and Cordarrelle Patterson from Rock Hill, SC.
There will be another Volunteer QB in town this year.
Nathan Peterman was the sole quarterback for this class.
He is not very tall but has a quick release and plenty of intangibles to succeed as a quarterback at the college level.
The quarterback position has been an issue since Dooley came to town; not that it has much to do with him, but the consistency has not been there since his arrival in Knoxville.
Peterman is not ready to start for the Vols, but with time in the film room and practice, he could become an asset under center in the future.
The 2012 class will have a positive effect on the defense this season.
The offensive talent has been the spotlight of this class so far, but there is definitely some talent on the opposite side of the ball in this class.
While there are no defensive superstars here, there are some players to watch.
LaDarrell McNeil is the highest rated defender for the Volunteers in the 2012 class. He is a physical DB that will be a dominating presence in the Big Orange secondary.
With McNeil is Deion Bonner—Bonner needs some development but has the upside to becoming a standout corner in years to come.
Other standout defenders in the recruiting class include DE LaTroy Lewis, DT Trent Taylor, and OLB Justin King.
Dooley added a potentially great kicker in this class.
George Bullock is the lone special teams pickup of this class and none too shabby either, according to reports.
A local kid out of West High School in Knoxville, Bullock has quite the foot for a two-star recruit.
He has a solid height to his field goals, and the ball flies off of his foot.
He will more than likely need to work on his accuracy as he progresses, but he is a good recruit for this class.
Look for him to follow in the line of great UT kickers.