In order for Tennessee to reach its first bowl game since 2010, the Volunteers need several freshmen to make major contributions this season—starting with the first fall practice in August.
The bad news is that the Vols have one of the youngest, most inexperienced rosters in the country, as noted by Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The good news is that the freshmen who enrolled between January and June of this year are some of the most talented players on the team.
The 14 early enrollees who arrived on campus in January got the benefit of participating in winter workouts and spring practices and will be ready to hit the ground running in August. They also got a taste of playing at Neyland Stadium during the 2014 Orange and White Game.
However, the bulk of the freshman class who arrived in June won't have the luxury of taking their time to adapt to college life and the speed of SEC football. Many will be asked to log significant minutes during the upcoming season, and some are already in the mix to start by Week 1.
That said, there are no guarantees in life or college football. While many players in the 2014 recruiting class arrived on campus to high hopes and expectations, a quick glance over previous SEC recruiting classes shows that star rankings don't always translate to on-the-field achievements.
Here are the five Tennessee freshmen who must prove themselves and live up to their recruiting rankings during fall practice to give the Vols a fighting chance at playing in December.