After closing the book on the 2010 football season, Tennessee Head Coach Derek Dooley's attention has been strictly focused on restocking the Volunteer's roster with top-notch recruits for the upcoming 2011 season and beyond.
Dooley's first year with the Vol's got off to a rocky start, to say the least. Having been hired just weeks before National Signing Day (NSD) 2010, and becoming the third head coach in as many years, Dooley inherited a Tennessee roster that was razor thin. The Vol's had their share of talent, but the severe lack of depth was of major concern. Dooley once quipped, "We don't have a depth chart, we just have a chart."
Obviously, for Dooley and the Volunteers, the recruiting class of 2011 represents a huge step in the rebuilding efforts of the storied SEC program.
As the Tennessee coaching staff prepares for the coming season, almost every area of the team has its share of needs and concerns. So far, so good for Tennessee, as Dooley's recruiting class for 2011 is coming together quite nicely with the N.S.D. only a week away on February 2nd.
Based on team rankings by Rivals Rankings, Tennessee is currently listed as 16th nationally in recruiting.
As the pieces of the Tennessee puzzle begin to fall into place, let's take a look at the top positional needs as well as the key departures for the Volunteers as NSD 2011 approaches.
Rivals star rankings for key additions are shown in parentheses.
Though not the most glamorous role on the gridiron, the most glaring deficiency for Tennessee for the 2010 season was the offensive line. Along with allowing the most quarterback sacks (41) in the conference, the O-line also struggled to allow Tauren Poole and the running game to get on track. The Vol's running attack finished at the bottom of the SEC, gaining just 109 yards-per-game.
Help is on the way in the form 4-star recruit Marcus Jackson and 3-star giant Alan Posey. With these additions, Tennessee's line play should be much improved in 2011.
Key Departure - Jarrod Shaw (G)
Key Additions - Mack Crowder, OL (3); Kyler Kerbyson, OL (3); Alan Posey, OL (3) and Marcus Jackson, OL (4)
The Vols lose the book ends to their D-line, as departing seniors Chris Walker and Gerald Williams hope to take their game to the NFL. Maurice Couch, a junior and college transfer, will be an instant impact player for Tennessee and can play either defensive tackle or end.
Key Departures - Chris Walker (DE), Gerald Williams (DE) and Victor Thomas (NT)
Key Additions - Allan Carson, DT (2); Maurice Couch, DT (4); Trevarris Saulsberry, DT (3) and Jordan Williams, DE (3)
The secondary was a strength for the Vols in 2010 and the good news is that they lose only one key performer due to graduation. Dooley's recruiting staff has loaded up as of late on talented defensive back prospects in an effort to add much-needed depth for Justin Wilcox's squad. With returning All-SEC defensive backs in Janzen Jackson and Prentiss Waggner, look for the Tennessee secondary to be one the elite units in the SEC.
Key Departure - Tyler Wolf (DB)
Key Additions - Justin Coleman, DB (4); Izauea Lanier, DB (4); Pat Martin, DB (4); Geraldo Orta, DB (3); Brian Randolph, DB (3) and Tino Thomas, CB (3)
The linebacking corp takes a hit with the loss of the SEC's fifth leading tackler, Nick Reveiz. Justin Wilcox must also find replacements for seniors LaMarcus Thompson and Savion Frazier. All three departing linebackers were key contributors on defense for the Vols and Reveiz, a captain, was widely recognized as the heart and soul of the 2010 team.
Four-star commit, A.J. Johnson is exactly what Wilcox needed to fill the void left by Reveiz.
Key Departures - Savion Frazier, Nick Reveiz, and LaMarcus Thompson
Key Additions - Christian Harris, LB (3); and A.J. Johnson, LB (4)
Tennessee returns several top performers from 2010 at the skill positions, including emerging SEC stars Tyler Bray at quarterback, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers in the receiving corps and Tauren Poole at running back. The Vol's must replace both the SEC's fourth and 10th leading receivers in yards-per-game, in Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones, respectivley. The loss of tight end Luke Stocker to graduation also creates a huge void that Tennessee must soon fill.
Derek Dooley is counting on 4-star recruit DeAnthony Arnett (WR) to help pick up some of the slack at receiver, and 4-star running back Marlin Lane could contribute immediately to the ground attack. Tennessee has 3-star tight end Brendan Downs already on campus as an early enrollee, but Dooley continues to pursue another tight end for the 2011 recruiting class.
The Vol's have also seemingly solidified the quarterback position for the foreseeable future with the signing of 2010 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year, Justin Worley.
Key Departures - Gerald Jones (WR), Deanrius Moore (WR), and Luke Stocker (TE)
Key Additions - DeAnthony Arnett, WR (4); Vincent Dallas, ATH (3); Brendan Downs, TE (3); Marlin Lane, RB (4); Tom Smith, RB (3); Justin Worley, QB (3) and Devrin Young, RB (3)