New Tennessee coach Derek Dooley showed some signs of his Cajun touch recruiting in salvaging this top 10 class. Defensive line guru and architect of USC's 2004 national championship Ed Orgeron persuaded some class members to join him at SoCal. This coup included Brandon Willis, a five star linebacker who bolted for the Men of Troy.
However, Dooley kept future star quarterback Tyler Bray at Tennessee, even though he's a native of Central Valley, California and got offers from USC and Fresno State. He also plucked five star wideout Da'Rick Rogers straight from his daddy Vince's old stomping grounds in Georgia.
Recent Vols teams led by Phil Fulmer and Lane Kiffin have been talented like this recruiting class (two NFL first-rounders in 2010), but they have lacked the discipline to capture an SEC title. Bad luck has also plagued the Vols this decade as exemplified by a loss to LSU in the 2001 SEC title game when Tennessee was a one loss team with talented players like Albert Haynesworth and Donte Stallworth and had a lead going into the fourth quarter.
I think these offensive recruits, especially early enrollees like Tyler Bray, Matt Milton, and Jawuan James could be key contributors in 2010 with the loss of five offensive line starters and quarterback Jonathan Crompton to the NFL. The Vols also have more four and five star studs filling out the fall camp roster who will provide depth.
Tune in for Part Two tomorrow which will feature a five star stud and secret weapon... on special teams.
QB Tyler Bray Kingsbury, CA
This early enrollee may have no meat on his bones at 6'6" 187 lbs, but he has a cannon arm to contrast with his fragile frame. At the Orange and White game, Bray zipped the ball, occasionally overthrowing his wideouts, but he showed a quicker release than Matt Simms, getting sacked many less times and hurling a short TD pass to Denarius Moore.
Bray is stone footed (5.45 40), but his speed will increase at Tennessee's state of the art facilities, and immobile quarterbacks have gone on to win championships in the NFL (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner) According to rivals.com, he has blue chip arm strength, and his ability to hit deep threats Gerald Jones(two catches of at least 20 yards in the spring game) and Moore will spark some life into an inexperienced offense if he beats out Simms in the fall.
ATH Channing Fugate Jackson, KY
Tennessee continues to mine the Kentucky pipeline (Luke Stocker) and picked up this three star gem. Fugate is a multi-talented athlete who had over 3,000 yards rushing his senior year in high school. His 6'2" height gives him the versatility to play receiver too, but he'll probably stay at tailback because the Vols recruited four and five star receivers and return both starters.
Fugate caught a short pass in the spring game, and he will likely be a third team running back behind Tauren Poole and David Oku. Going through the spring will give him an edge on the Vols other tailback recruit Raijon Neal and even in limited spring reps, he had better stats than Sam Edgmon (1 rushing yard). Fugate has great size for a tailback, and he could definitely see playing time in 2011 or 2012.
G Zach Fulton Homewood, IL
Fulton was a late signee and visited Nebraska, but he decided to stick with the Vols. This a good thing because fifth year senior Jarrod Shaw is the only experienced guard on the team. He's a fall enrollee, but Fulton could see time behind Shaw and Cody Pope in 2010 because the Vols' other line recruits are too undersized for the interior line.
Described by Scouts Inc. as having the long arms and aggressiveness of a prototypical offensive guard, Fulton will definitely be in the two deep in the fall. If he has the work ethic to go with his physical talent, Zach Fulton could be a fixture on Tennessee's interior line.
WR Justin Hunter Virginia Beach, VA
From the early highlight videos, Hunter is a Big Mac away from being WR U's next tall deep threat. He ran a 4.4 40 and is described by scouts as having great leaping abilities. Hunter didn't enroll early, but this four star recruit was a touchdown machine in high school (13 TDs) and should be a great red zone target with his 6'4" height.
Milton might have a leg up on Hunter and fellow recruit Da'Rick Rogers, but if Hunter gets in the weight room, he could see some time on the second unit. Or Dooley could redshirt him to improve his physique. Anyways, Hunter has great potential to be both a possession and deep threat at receiver, and he'll definitely be starting down the road.
T Jawuan James Suwanee, GA
In order to contend in the SEC East, the Vols are gonna have to keep on beating out Alabama, Florida, and Georgia for beasts like this guy. James started the spring game for the winning White team, and he kept defensive ends Willie Bohannon and Gerald Williams from making any big plays.
James is only at 293 lbs right now, but he has the body frame to gain more weight. At the end of the spring, he will start at right tackle opposite of sophomore Dallas Thomas, who improved greatly. He'll need to get use to SEC defensive lines, but James could be a four year starter and protect the new quarterbacks from fierce SEC linemen like Marcel Dareus of Alabama.
WR Ted Meline Miami, FL
Lane Kiffin's reputation of developing great receivers (Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett) caused guys to flock to Tennessee. The Vols beat out Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Oregon for the four star prospect from South Florida.
Meline runs a 4.4 40 and has decent ups (32 inch vertical). He committed early last season but could be behind because he didn't enroll early. Rogers and Hunter were rated ahead of Meline, but his raw physical tools and experience playing Class 6A ball in Florida against powerhouses like Miami Northwestern could earn him playing time in the future.
WR Matt Milton Mascoutah, IL
Matt Milton is the only member of Tennesse's bumper crop of receivers to enroll early and get a leg up on the competition. In early scrimmages, Milton was a great possession receiver in the red zone catching a touchdown pass in the last scrimmage before Orange/White. He definitely utilized his 6'6" height, which made Big 10 and Pac 10 schools covet him.
In the spring game, Milton was the third leading receiver (47 yards) behind seniors Moore and Jones. He could be a great slot receiver for the Vols using his size to create mismatches against smaller nickel backs. His sure hands and knowledge of the Vols' offense definitely gives him a leg up on his classmates going into the fall.