Tenneesse Football: Updating the Volunteers' Draft and Post-Draft Signings
The 2012 NFL Draft was one of the more disappointing drafts in recent memory for the Tennessee Volunteers. With such lackluster performances from the Vols over the past two years, however, it wasn't too much of a surprise. Still, there are a few post-draft signings to update.
This time next year, the Vols could have as many as four first-round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft: Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers and JaWuan James. This is not a prediction, but it is within the realm of possibility. There's Prentiss Waggner, too.
But before we jump to next year, here's where the handful of NFL-eligible former Vols ended up.
The lone Tennessee player who was drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft was defensive tackle Malik Jackson.
Jackson showed flashes of brilliant defensive line play that certainly got the eyes of many NFL scouts. He's small for a tackle but much faster than most at his position, making him an interesting puzzle at the next level.
The Denver Broncos took a chance on him in the fifth round. Former Vol Robert Ayers has started a solid career there, and Al Wilson spent eight excellent years there until injuries shortened his career.
Of course, Tennessee alum Peyton Manning now plays in Denver, too.
There will be plenty of familiar Tennessee faces in the Mile High City, and when Denver uses its 3-4 defense, doors will open for the versatile Jackson.
It didn't take long for middle linebacker Austin Johnson to get a call from an NFL team.
Johnson will get to learn under one of the game's greatest linebackers in Ray Lewis and can benchmark his own rookie progress with fellow SEC alum Courtney Upshaw, who was drafted in the second round out of Alabama.
In his senior year on Rocky Top, Johnson led a highly skilled but very young linebacker corp, helping A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt earn All-SEC Freshmen honors. He racked up 81 tackles and started all 12 games in 2011.
You can't underestimate the effect that Arian Foster's story had on Tauren Poole's signing with the Carolina Panthers.
Sure, NFL teams aren't going to start assuming that every Tennessee Volunteer running back that went undrafted will one day carry the load for their offense, but don't think for a second that Panthers management didn't toss around Foster's name when discussing Poole.
In fact, the mediocre Poole had talks with the Seattle Seahawks, too.
Poole joins Cam Newton and the high-flying Carolina offense in Charlotte where he'll back-up DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
Don't forget about the long snapper.
Every position in the NFL matters, and the San Diego Chargers showed that when they signed Nick Guess.
Guess served as the primary long snapper in each of the Volunteers games in 2011, and was the long snapper for punting formations in 2010. He played in 26 games while at Tennessee.
He'll be working to crack the starting lineup for San Diego, whose kicking game is infamous for its struggles.
Bryce Brown was drafted and Janzen Jackson was signed undrafted. Raw talent still means a lot, regardless of off-field issues (at least, in the short-term).
Jackson finished his college career at McNeese State where he tallied 32 tackles and three interceptions last year.
Before being dismissed from Tennessee, Jackson was a stalwart on the defense. He racked up more than 100 tackles, six interceptions and two sacks in his two seasons as a Volunteer.
Brown's departure from Tennessee has been well-documented. He was unwilling to meet with Derek Dooley face-to-face and instead sent a text message informing the coach of his intention to transfer to Kansas State.
Brown ended his college career with three carries for 16 yards last year.