Tennessee Football: 10 Players Who Will Make a Difference
Each season, there are a handful of players that leave everything on the field. They are also the same guys who create game-changing scenarios that showcase their talent and prove why they were given scholarships.
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley has plenty of athletic talent to work with, and these 10 players will make his job really easy. These athletes could be the difference between gag reels and ESPN highlights.
TB Toney Williams
6'0", 220-pound sophomore Toney Williams will replace Rajion Neal as the No. 2 man behind Tauren Poole. Williams managed to scamper for big gains in the first quarter of the Orange and White game and demonstrated he took his job seriously.
He's big and runs through tacklers. What is really special about his running is he has good cuts but conserves energy by running over defenders.
He will emerge as a real threat against Florida and take over for Neal as the No. 2 man.
LB Raiques Crump
6'2", 220-pound sophomore Raiques Crump will be the guy who fills in where Nick Reveiz left off.
Crump is deceptively smart when it comes to football GPS, and he knows where to go. In the O&W game, he showed us glimpses of speed and maneuverability—and still found time to show leadership.
He will be the heart of the defense. He has a real passion for the game and doesn't slow down. His motor is nonstop. He will be third on the team in tackles.
C Alex Bullard
6'2", 309-pound Alex Bullard (No. 78) is No. 2 behind James Stone, but I expect that to change before the season starts, even though I don't have any real concrete to support this. I'm not relying on anything other than intuition.
Bullard handles the ball better and gets the snap off the block quicker than Stone. He is a natural center and presses defensive tackles back with more direction.
Dooley will want the best man, and I believe that is Bullard. He will be a game changer by opening holes for this guy...
FB Channing Fugate
6'1", 245-pound sophomore Channing Fugate is a rolling stone.
When Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney uses him, he will sacrifice his body like a battering ram and clear holes big enough for Poole and Williams to walk through. He has great leg strength and gets his forearms up quickly in defenders' pads.
When the LBs and DTs finally get tired of pushing him off, he'll run circles around them like a tailback.
And yes, he is fast.
K Michael Palardy
5'11", 175-pound Michael Palardy will work out his spring kinks this summer.
He is better than Daniel Lincoln, but he just doesn't know it yet. In high school, he was responsible for winning eight games by field goals—17 if you count point distribution.
I still don't like his wind problems, but I believe with Dooley pushing him, he will work it out and be Tennessee's next James Wilhoit.
S Prentiss Waggner
6'2", 184-pound junior Prentiss Waggner is a ball hog—and that's why Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox wears Prentiss Waggner pajamas.
All jokes aside, he is a superb spy. He patrols the passing lanes like the CIA, and he sees QB behavior the way Eric Berry did.
He is an awesome open field tackler and will be responsible for saving the Vols from narrow losses. He will lead the defense in interceptions.
WR Justin Hunter
Is 6'4", 191-pound sophomore Justin Hunter really that young? He already shows so much promise that you just expect him to enter the draft after next season.
As a long jumper, he has an uncanny ability to make leaping catches and still keep running. What's more is he is quicker than greased lightning.
He will be the recipient of no less than three game balls, along with this guy...
QB Tyler Bray
It's no secret I don't like 6'6", 210-pound sophomore Tyler Bray, but am I being fair?
For what it's worth, he just reminds me of Lane Kiffin—the brash behavior, the swagger, his name tattooed on his back. QBs are supposed to act that way, though, right?
Whatever. I know a lot of you guys out there like him, so..so be it. He is our QB for better or worse.
If he comes out swinging against Florida the same way he did against Memphis, I will shut my mouth. He is a good QB, and I will admit I am very judgmental about his performance. I will attempt to amend that this season, as long as there is no more throat slashing.
TE Mychal Rivera
I must say I have also been critical of 6'3", 254-pound junior Mychal Rivera.
After the Music City Bowl, I was very suspicious of his performance, however brief it might have been.
However, at the O&W game, which I was also displeased with, he did show greater bursts of speed than I witnessed last season.
Has he been holding out on us?
I think he has, or rather he hasn't been given the opportunity to shine.
He has good hands and will go to great lengths to keep his job. Rivera will be the owner of game-winning scores.
DT Malik Jackson
6'5", 270-pound senior Malik Jackson is the strong arm of the Tennessee law when it comes to defense.
This season, he will be the leading tackler and create turnovers like Reggie White. Personally, that last part—and the leading tackler part, too—would only happen if they moved him back to DE.
He will be the reason RBs have nightmares. The road up the middle will be closed thanks to Jackson. His run-stopping ability will send runners to the corners, where those pesky DEs and LBs will be waiting.
He will be the reason the defense gets respect.