Five Impact Players for Tennessee in 2010
A leader can either destroy or save a cause.
In World War II, Winston Churchill's quick attempts to build an air force saved Britain from a Nazi land invasion and the destruction of a great country.
Last year, Eric Berry's ability to play center fielder and keep quarterbacks from throwing his way (only two interceptions because he wasn't targeted much) and make plays at the line of scrimmage as a linebacker hybrid (83 tackles) kept Tennessee's defense together.
On offense, Montario Hardesty's ability to lower his shoulder and break tackles kept Tennessee alive in virtually unwinnable games (96 yards and a touchdown vs. Florida).
But these guys have moved on to six-seven figure salaries playing in front of thousands in large suburban stadiums. Who will step up and take up the leadership and playmaking mantle this year?
WR Gerald Jones (Sr).
Jones really impressed me in the spring game.
He made Simms comfortable, catching six passes. I think this is the season that Jones really lives up to his five-star billing and has a 1,000 yard season.
Coach Dooley developed great receivers like Michael Clayton and Devery Henderson at LSU, and he'll help Jones take that next step.
Maybe even Chaney will bring back the G-Gun offense that allowed him to average 5.5 yards per carry in 2008. Jones might be double covered at times, but his special teams ability will give the Vols great field position.
If defenses decide to put two men on him, the Vols have big play threat Denarius Moore (7 TD in 2009) and incoming freshmen Matt Milton (six catches in spring game) and Da' Rick Rogers (five star recruit).
RB Tauren Poole (Jr.)
Playing behind a second round draft pick (Montario Hardesty) limited Poole's carries so far, but he has shown flashes of being the next great Tennessee tailback.
Poole only has 32 carries, but he dominated Western Kentucky last season, breaking off a 34-yard run. Not bad for a third team tailback.
In the Orange/White game, Poole revealed his ability to break tackles and catch passes in space, racking up 101 yards.
Tennessee always has a star halfback even in down years, and Poole definitely fits the bill. Dooley was pleased with his spring, and hopefully in September, he'll continue to run hard and take pressure off two inexperienced quarterbacks.
TE Luke Stocker (Sr.)
This big ol' Kentucky boy was injured and missed the spring game, but his literally huge body of work speaks for itself.
His short out routes were a great safety valve for Jonathan Crompton last season, and he crossed pay dirt five times.
Stocker has taken even more of a leadership role pass blocking, calling the pre-snap signals during the spring. He's also a good deep threat for a tight end (seven career 25+ yard receptions), and his sure hands will help the sometimes erratic Tyler Bray, who threw a lot of bullets in the spring game.
Stocker should be a team captain and his experience, hands of glue and pass blocking ability should help the Vols in all facets of their offense.
DE Chris Walker (Sr.)
After a huge spring in 2009 where he was named defensive MVP, Chris Walker took the SEC by surprise. He sacked Heisman winner Tim Tebow twice in the swamp prompting defenders to start double teaming him, opening up pass rushing lanes for guys like Ben Martin (3.5 sacks) and Wes Brown (2.5 sacks). Walker also has the instincts to bat a pass down or pick a pass off (pick six vs. Ohio).
He was the captain of the winning White team, finishing with three sacks and holding the Orange to a single touchdown.
Along with Martin, Walker will ensure that the Vols have a merciless pass rush, so the corners and safeties can make plays in Justin Wilcox's high risk/ high reward defense.
Walker could also play linebacker in Wilcox's 3-4 package because he can stuff the run (8.5 tackles for loss) and cover tight ends (2 interceptions).
S Janzen Jackson (So.)
Of all the guys on this list, Janzen Jackson has the most potential.
A five-star defensive back and high school track star, Jackson had great open field tackles and murderous hits (7 solo tackles in a win vs. South Carolina) last year including laying Tim Tebow out in his second game as a college player.
He teased at some playmaking ability when he returned an interception 29 yards against Virginia Tech.
Legal issues cost Jackson four games last year, but he has been more responsible this offseason and had a bone-jarring hit on special teams in the spring.
With help from Darren Myles Jr. (interception in spring game) and Eric Gordon (2 pass breakups in spring game), Jackson should be free to return punts and wreak havoc in the open field