Tennessee football stumbled to a very dissapointing 5-7 season in 2008, thus sparking a new regime, led by Lane Kiffin, and brought one of top recruiting classes in the country. Though ruffling many feathers along the way Lane Kiffin has proved he can do one thing: recruit.
In about a month, the Tennessee staff which incluces the likes of Monte Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, Eddie Gran, and others, stole Nu’keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague away from Florida, Darren Myles, who most thought was Alabama bound, and secured commitments from two five star prospects Bryce Brown (No. 1 player in the country) and Janzen Jackson (long time LSU commitment).
From day one, Lane Kiffin has preached that the best players will start, regardless of seniority, and that includes freshman. With several recent injuries, specifically at the wide reciever position, it looks as though Kiffin will have no choice but to play freshman. Three potential starters have suffered injuries in Austin Rogers (out for season), Denarius Moore (out 8-12 weeks), and Gerald Jones (should be back by opener). Through this, incoming freshman will likely be thrusted onto the first team at the start of fall camp.
Of the recievers that could see signifigant playing time are Nu’keese Richardson, Marsalis Teague, Zach Rogers, and James Green if he shows. Of the three, as of right now it looks as though Richardson and Teague have the best opprotunity of getting signifigant first team snaps, and both should leading up to the season opener. Both are fairly similar players, smaller but exceptionally quick with excellent change of direction skills. Rogers is one to keep on eye on. So far, he has impressed. He is bigger than both Teague and Richardson, and is listed at 6′2 but is probably closer to 6′1 or 6′.5. He has shown that whatever he may lack in natural ability, he makes up for with hard work.
At other offensive positions, the obvious “playermaker” is top recruit Bryce Brown who the Vols signed well after national signing day. He has impressed most everybody with not only his natural ability, but also his work ethic. Brown is the ultimate do-it-all back, and has a power/speed combo that is truly rare in running backs. Going into the season he should a second stringer and splitting carries with Montario Hardesty, assuming Hardesty stays healthy but should receive the bulk of the carries by the end of the season.
Another very highly touted running back that UT signed after NSD is David Oku. The jury is still out on him, but he should receive limited playing time at running back this year, but will probably get a look at special teams and may get a look at slot receiver. Oku is more a of a scat back than Brown, but the two should be quite a duo by year two. The Vols are also especially thin on the offensive line, so don’t be surprised of one of Jerquari Schofield, Kevin Revis, or possibly even Daniel Hood is a starting on the OL by the end of the season.
The defensive class was headlined by three main recruits: Janzen Jackson, Darren Myles, and Jerod Askew. All three should receive signifigant playing time this fall. Myles should get his first look at safety, and Jackson will likely be a corner, but can also play the safety position. Askew, while he may be a little on the smaller size, is a solidly built, aggressive linebacker with better than average speed. All three should blossom in Monte Kiffin’s defense.
One to keep on eye on is Robert Nelson, who received a lot offer from UT, but has impressed many this spring and seems determined to prove many wrong. Another freshman who should make an impact is Montori Hughes, who was in the class of 2008 but sat out last season. Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron has raved about Hughes thus far, and while he may not start, expect him to receive playing time early after an impressive spring. Another to keep tabs on Marlon Walls, who was signed in an earlier class but spent a year in junior college.
Though originally recruited as a linebacker, he has signigantly outgrown that position and many reports say that he has exploded to nearly 290 pounds. He hasn’t made it to campus yet, but recently got admitted and should arrive soon.