Tennessee Football: 10 Young Players Who Could Become Legends
In the last four decades, the SEC has done exceedingly well in filling the ranks of legendary football players, and Tennessee has met its fair share of that quota. The first name that immediately comes to mind is Peyton Manning, but there are plenty of others.
"The Minister of Defense" Reggie White, Dale Carter, kickoff specialist extraordinaire, Bill Bates a Cowboy to be reckoned with and Eric Berry a defensive back with skills beyond his years, who has just begun to build his legendary epic. But, this is a new dawn; if you'll excuse the phrase. Derek Dooley has ushered in a new recruiting phase in the pages of Tennessee Football history; these newly recruited Vols could soon be mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned legends.
Curt Maggit DE, West Palm Beach FL
What immediately catches you about Maggit is that he is always smiling. He genuinely loves to play football, and you can see it in his play. In his senior year, he was a major component of his high school team that held all opponents to a TD or less in a 12-2 season.
Maggit has received more than 17 accolades that includes prestige in All-State, All-Conference, all-Division, and All-American mentions. He attained good numbers in his senior year with 17 sacks, 28 QB pressures, two forced fumbles and netted 65 solo tackles.
He has faced personal struggles that eclipse most any player to ever don cleats, but through it all he maintains a persona that is nothing short of positive. Whether he redshirts or tries his hand at LB his speed will overcome it all.
Alex Bullard OL, Brentwood TN
Sneaking into the mix is Notre Dame transfer Alex Bullard. He was recognized as a high school senior as one of 100 players that reached the top of athletic excellence out of an eight-state statistical nightmare. Notre Dame was quick to scoop him up in the recruiting process when they noticed he had 52 pancake blocks in his junior year and easily outmatched every defensive lineman that mirrored him. Due to personal misfortune, ND allowed Bullard to transfer back to his home state. I will tactlessly admit his misfortune is Tennessee's gain.
At 6'3"and 310lbs, he is an imposing strength for any offense. He can be utilized at guard or center and could even fill the tackle position without feeling guilty. He is fast and gets low like the best All-American linemen. He is best when the runner needs a big hole, and he knows how to open for direction. Nothing but good can come from his acquisition, and there is no doubt he will fill an NFL roster in the near future.
Toney Williams TB, Apharetta GA
Originally recruited as a fullback, Williams was ranked as No. 4 at his position. He was one of the last runners that was heavily sought after by former head coach Phillip Fulmer back in 2008. Like Tauren Poole, Williams never thought he would have a chance under Kiffin, but good things come to those who wait.
If I were a betting man, I would lay money that he has a better year than Poole, but that is my money. He had a good appearance at the spring game, and I expect that to continue. He is the true definition of an all-purpose runner who never shuns contact. If you were to compare him to another great I would in good conscience say Herchel Walker. He will have a sensational season this year that gets sports agents drooling.
Given the chance he will be Tennessee's next great runner if this next guy doesn't beat him to the punch.
Marlin Lane RB, Daytona Beach FL
Usually when you mention an ACL injury, you write off a recruit, and hope he does well at whatever career that doesn't involve football, but that isn't the case with Lane.
He is a work addict. Put him on the field and he will continue to run until you drag him off. The ACL injury would have put a normal man on the bench, but in his senior year, he managed to rebuild his legs and revert to back to just-shy of his 4.4 speed. As a big back at 6'1", you would think that he would have mobility problems, but it is just the opposite as he takes corners and push routes with the definitive ease of Barry Sanders. If he stays healthy, he could have his jersey hanging beside Berry's.
Christian Harris LB, Woodstock GA
Compiling 107 tackles in his junior year and 127 in his senior year, Harris made his mark at Etowah high school. He is a versatile LB that is well suited for the OLB position. At 6'2", 235lbs, he has the immediate size you want to be a dominant force in the backfield.
He was rated by ESPN as the No. 54. OLB which in my humble opinion should have been ranked at least nine spots higher. He has enormous field vision and gets to the ball quickly. Whether it be pass or rush, he has the uncanny ability to be there when it counts. Harris hits like a runaway freight train, so get ready.
Again that word versatility. Martin was a DB that made his defense look way better than it was. Netting 70 solo tackles with four interceptions and a fumble return for a TD, he was a keystone in the backfield. Often singled out for his questionable speed, he always quieted his critics and pulled out just enough to get dual receivers off balance.
Martin was also a good short field runner that was often utilized much the same way Travis Henry was down in Frostproof, FL, and we all know how he turned out. Martin probably won't see the offensive side of the ball, but he is well-suited to spy on QB's and break up a lot of passes, or interrupt pass routes to unravel the nerves of any OC. Look for Martin to play key roles in game-winning situations.
Antonio Richardson OL, Nashville TN
Richardson was listed in almost every roster that named top OL in 2010 and 2011, and he was listed as Tennessee's No. 1 recruit in the 2011 season with very little argument. At 6'6", 325lbs, it is no surprise that over 27 different schools were calling for his services, luckily for Tennessee, he chose state pride and didn't go to Alabama.
Richardson should play early, and that is no joke. He is strong off the snap and gets under his opponents pads almost immediately leaving them stumbling about. He can turn LB's into Pop Warner rookies without sweating and can turn DL off leverage so fast that RB's can walk through and never get touched.
I hate to keep saying this, but greed will red shirt him, and after that, it's All-SEC until graduation.
Cameron Clear TE, Memphis TN
It was unclear up until the last moment as to where Clear would end up. Again, luck must have played a part.
It won't matter if he plays DE or TE, he can excel at both and do so with ease, as it seems players at either position do well at Tennessee. As a senior TE, he had 250 receiving yards with six TDs, and doubles his performance at DE with 60 solo tackles and eight sacks...so he is at the very least again...versatile.
With Wilcox's front arsenal and Chaney's TE overload, he should do well and still have time to play both sides when the need arises. He will end up on ESPN real soon for snatching the ball out of mid-air like he was playing quiditch.
Eric Gordon DB, Nashville TN
I couldn't resist adding the redshirt sophomore to the show. As a freshman last season, Gordon topped the frosh squad with 49 tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a TD.
Although he played each game last season, he was used minimally, but could have contributed more had he been given more reps on the field. With great speed and reading ability, he should see plenty of playing time this season and next. All of his stats should increase dramatically should he stay healthy. He can match pre-NFL Julio Jones now I believe given the opportunity, he can get high and break passes and read runners quickly before the block.
Whatever his career holds at Tennessee, he will most assuredly be taken early in the draft whenever he chooses to do so.
Brendan Downs TE, Bristol TN
When you think of a replacement for Luke Stocker, Downs is who you want to replace him. Having watched him play in high school, I can vouch for his athleticism. He is tall and agile with huge hurdling legs that can leap over defenders with one step going downhill. Given time and the right tutelage, he will soon be mentioned alongside Jason Witten. He is a good blocker despite his 240lbs at a very lean 6'5."
His numbers do not reflect his ability, with 470 yards receiving and four TDs, it does nothing to highlight his 34 receptions that were usually game-breaking plays. This season, he will discover his areas of improvement then carry it over to All-SEC play. Whomever is throwing to Downs will have an easy completion rate for their career, and the runners will thank Dooley.
I'm predicting now that he goes first round in a future draft.
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