There will be 21 new faces on the 2013 Tennessee Volunteers football team. Butch Jones was able to bring in a commendable mix of sizes, positions and skill sets, but one thing that remains to be seen is which individuals will stand out and become building blocks for the future.
Talent is an obvious requirement. There is a threshold of raw ability that you have to meet in order to be a building block, but once you meet that minimum, it gets into the intangibles.
Things like leadership, the will to win and a fighting spirit take over from there. I think of Travis Henry, who was the second-, if not third-most talented running back during his college career (Jamal Lewis and Travis Stephens), but he was still the unquestioned linchpin of the running backs.
Here are five freshmen that could be the same.
If MarQuez North is the gem of the 2013 class, then Joshua Dobbs is the definitely the proverbial diamond in the rough.
One of the most fascinating things about Dobbs is his offer list. Alongside familiar football programs like Tennessee, Arizona State, Arkansas, TCU and Mississippi State stood offers from some of the top schools in the country: Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
Dobbs' physical talent and cerebral style make him an excellent fit for Butch Jones' offense. He's a pro-style quarterback, but he can absolutely move when he needs to.
Though I still think Justin Worley has the inside track for 2013, Dobbs is going to be in serious contention to start. Whether it's 2013, 2014 or 2015, he represents the kind of player and person you can build a championship team around.
The gem of the 2013 Tennessee recruiting class was MarQuez North. He was rated the best player in North Carolina, second-overall wide receiver in the country and 37th overall.
The Vols should know better than most how effective a stud receiver can be after Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Da'Rick Rogers graced the field over the past few years. While their prowess didn't ultimately yield big wins, it carried a team that sputtered in the run game.
If you closed your eyes and imagined the physique of a perfect wide receiver, you'd see North. He's 6'3", 205 pounds and runs a 4.48 40-yard dash. Calvin Johnson as 6'4", 210 pounds and a 4.44 40-yard dash when he came out of high school.
I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'...
The Vols haven't had a serious force on the defensive line since Jesse Mahelona's All-American season in 2004. Maybe Daniel McCullers will become one in 2013, but if not, Jason Carr could be the next great Tennessee lineman.
A 4-star from Memphis, Carr got the full-court press mid-January from Alabama and Ole Miss, two of 2013's most successful recruiting schools. He stuck with the Volunteers and in doing so, made himself Tennessee's most exciting defensive line prospect.
Carr is 6'6" and 280 pounds. He carries his nearly 300 pounds like a body builder, i.e., he looks 230. What does that mean? Pile more on! He'll get on a college weight training program, bulk up and likely move to the middle before his time is up.
A 6'6", 300-pound plus defensive tackle that can move like an end is what defenses are built around.
Maybe the entire team isn't built around a bookend left tackle but an elite offensive line sure is. The Volunteers have one in 2013, Antonio Richardson and might have their left tackle of the future in Austin Sanders.
Once the current crop of offensive linemen move on after the season (Ju'Wuan James, James Stone, Zach Fulton, Alex Bullard and potentially Richardson), there will be plenty of room for Sanders to fit in.
A 2014 line consisting of (left to right) Sanders, Marcus Jackon, Mack Crowder, Alan Posey and Kyler Kerbyson would be a great start to the next few years of strong offensive line play. Sanders would be the youngest of the group, much like Richardson was the youngest of last year's group.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin introduced himself as a safety during Butch Jones' national signing day press conference, has the frame to move to linebacker one day, enough speed to see time at cornerback and was an electric offensive player last fall.
Charles Woodson? Champ Bailey? If Reeves-Maybin even gets close to these kind of comparisons, his Tennessee career will have been an epic success, and he has the chance to do that.
The best part about him is that he's Volunteer through and through. After solidifying his commitment to Jones, Reeves-Maybin was active in recruiting other prospects to Tennessee. I see leadership along with obvious football talent.
Reeves-Maybin will likely settle in at safety where his athleticism will allow him to make game-changing plays a la Deon Grant and Eric Berry. Can you build around a Berry-esque player? Yeah, I'd say so.