Tyler Bray and the Top 5 Tennessee Volunteers Entering 2011
Here we are in May, Tennessee Fans.
It’s 104 days away from kickoff and I personally can’t wait. The 2010 season was a bumpy ride to say the least, but the Vols ended the season on quite a roll. They started the season 2-6, but won four straight games to make a bowl. They did, however drop the bowl game to North Carolina in a heartbreaking game that warranted a 10 second runoff for College Football.
Many players have momentum on their side entering Fall 2011, so let’s get started.
5. Herman Lathers, Jr. LB
If you have ever seen Herman Lathers, you know he is the definition of a beast.
He’s 6 foot and 225 pounds of pure muscle and strength. He arrived in 2009 after a redshirt 2008 season and started five games in place of injured linebacker Nick Reveiz. He held his own his freshman year and got some much needed experience. In 2010, he started all 12 games and ranked second on the team in tackles with 75. He also finished the season with 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. Lathers is known as one of the biggest hitters on the team, so opponents had better watch out for him this fall.
4. Da’Rick Rogers, So. WR
This sophomore wideout is one of the most physically gifted receivers to come to the UT in a while.
He is 6’3" and 215 pounds of talent just waiting to be utilized. He was the crown jewel of Derek Dooley’s first recruiting class as he unexpectedly de-committed from Georgia to go to the UT. He had a lackluster outing his freshman year, however, only posting 11 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
He was a star in the running game, though, running 16 times for 117 yards. He was fourth on the team in rushing, while finishing seventh in receiving. Rogers has posted a great spring this year and has continued to improve his receiving game. He carries a lot of momentum from this spring and looks to have a breakout year this fall.
3. Justin Hunter, So. WR
Here we have the big play wide receiver/track star Justin Hunter.
Hunter was undoubtedly the fastest wideout the Vols had last year. He ran with blazing speed and jumped over just about any defensive back. His first catch showed you everything you needed to know about him. Hunter made a miraculous catch in the Oregon game to put Tennessee inside the five-yard line en route to taking a 10-0 lead on Oregon.
He went on to make many more of these spectacular catches in a season where he caught 16 passes for seven touchdowns and 415 yards. That comes out to an incredible 25 yards per catch.
That’s all that needs to be said about Hunter.
2. Tyler Bray, So. QB
Tennessee was 2-6 and needed a spark midway through the 2010 season. That’s when Derek Dooley decided to take a chance and start freshman quarterback Tyler Bray. No one thought he could take the beating that came with the job of being an SEC quarterback, especially with the Vols starting line.
To his credit, Bray stepped in and immediately proved himself. He passed for 325 yards and five touchdowns. He finished the 2010 campaign with 18 touchdowns and 1,849 yards. He averaged 205 yards per game in the last five games of the season. That’s 73 more yards per game than former starter Matt Simms.
If Tennessee is going to have a good 2011 season, Bray must perform.
1. Tauren Poole, Sr. RB
The most consistent performer in 2010 was running back Tauren Poole. He led Tennessee in rushing by a mile with 1,034 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also tied Heisman winner Cam Newton for the lead in the SEC with six 100 yard rushing games. Tennessee rode his back in the first six games of the season, where he got up to 24 carries in a game. He will look to add to the success of his 2010 season with a great year in 2011.
With the help of an improved line, Poole could get very close to Travis Stephen's school record of 1,464 yards in one season.
If Tennessee wants to have a much improved year, all of these players will have to step up their game. If all do their part in improving, I think the Volunteers could contend for the SEC East title. But if they don’t, they could have another down year. I think at least four of them will have a chip on their shoulder and come out to perform in 2011.
You might want to go ahead and write these names down, because these players are the future of the UT and hold Tennessee’s fate in their hands.
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