Tennessee Football : Predicting the Offensive Depth Chart for the Season Opener
Spring and summer; it's the span for college football players to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack before the opening kickoff bounces into awaiting hands.
This season, like the last, freshman players could have an immediate impact on the 2011 Tennessee Volunteer fate.
Let's face it, Derek Dooley went out looking for players that could be potential starters, and he found some.
- James Stone, 6'3" 315lb; sophomore
- Alex Bullard, 6'2" 315lb; sophomore
The chances of Stone starting are about 60/40 over Bullard, favoring the crazy snap style of Stone.
He is an explosive hitter that can stand up DL getting them off their leverage. His hands are powerful and he knows where to put them. He's a little middle heavy now much like Bullard, but by the start of the season, they should shed some of that baby fat and replace it with power-lifting padding.
His biggest drawback is keeping his feet in position, he tends to draw them together after the snap putting him off balance. After the feet, it should all be fine.
Hiestand is a miracle worker, and that will be reflected in every O-lineman that starts. If Stone mishandles any snaps, Bullard will be more than ready to play middle man.
- Zach Fulton, 6'5" 330lb; sophomore
- Darin Gooch, 6'2" 300lb; junior
Unless an injury should arise or Gooch does a 360, Fulton should get the start. While Gooch seems like the smarter bet because of power, Fulton is a fiercer aggressor.
I'm not making fun of Fulton but he uses his hands like a Sumo wrestler. Off the snap, he will pop DL hard and high with his hands and with his added weight, will make defenders look like they're dancing in quick sand.
Expect this position to be locked up until he is drafted or graduates. Gooch may never see another down, and freshman Mack Crowder exhibited enough raw talent that he may move into the No. 2 behind Fulton should he finish the summer strong.
- JerQuari Schofield, 6'6"; 335lb sophomore
- Marcus Jackson, 6'2"; 325lb freshman
The carefree, fresh-faced young man seen here has been replaced with a stern faced monster that breaths fire at the whistle of O-line coach Harry Hiestand.
Incoming freshman Marcus Jackson is an incredible talent but he may be waiting for Schofield for some time. Schofield is one of those linemen that just happens to be a brick wall. If you couldn't use him for anything but pass protection he would still be worth his weight in gold.
Hiestand has shaped his raw talent into an ALL-SEC performer. Why you ask? He improves with each play. His feet work improve with each game, and he has gotten stronger.
Not the best man with hands, but rock-steady with pro-set protection barriers.
- Dallas Thomas, 6'5"; 300lb junior
- Antonio Richardson, 6'6"; 325lb freshman
Marques pair is actually listed behind Thomas on the current depth chart, but I expect this to change due to Richardson's extraordinary blocking talents. Regardless, the man taking the snaps is Thomas.
He is by far the smartest lineman. You can see his wisdom on pass plays as his head and eyes are constantly moving in unison with his hands and feet. And his talent matches his wisdom; he will easily follow a DT or LB away from the line of scrimmage to keep runners gaining that extra foot, or to keep a TE from venturing too wide.
There are no others like him on the squad.
- JaWaun James, 6'6"; 320lb sophomore
- Alex Bullard, 6'2"; 315lb sophomore
A point on Alex Bullard: I am aware that he is listed twice. He is what I call a journeyman lineman. Bullard, is really good enough to serve any position on the line, and Derek Dooley and Harry Hiestand will realize this before the season ends.
On to James. Last season, he was the real freshman stand-out on the O-line. He is truly the hardest working of them all. You could see how easy of a transition it was for him as the season progressed, and with the spring game, it was abundantly clear that he was still as polished and honed as he was from the last five games.
He is one of those guys you want until the end, and if he is as focused on completing his education as I think he is, he will stay through his senior year.
There is nothing else I can say about him other than he is the best man on the line next to Dallas Thomas, and he should eclipse his ability by season end.
- Mychal Rivera, 6'3"; 255lb junior
- Brendan Downs, 6'5" 230lb freshman
Expect Rivera to get the majority of the snaps. Early on I was very suspect of his talent, but he has proven he is as capable as the next TE. He isn't as vertical as what you normally expect out of a TE, and Bray will be forced to throw on target with him.
Whereas with Luke Stocker, you could count on him to go high for the uncatchable passes. But Rivera is a better break-away runner and seems to be more of a blocker than his predecessor. He should have decent numbers.
I was going to list freshman, Cameron Clear, but I think Dooley will redshirt him over Brendan Downs. Downs is improving and should in all likelihood be the starter next season.
- Da' Rick Rogers, 6'3"; 215lb sophomore
- Matt Milton, 6'5" 210lb sophomore
Zach Rogers is listed second behind Da'Rick Rogers, but he will lose the No. 2 spot to Matt Milton's height and speed. He just isn't able to break away from corners without being smothered and outrun by LBs and the secondary.
Da'Rick Rogers will have a terrific season. He is developing as a versatile receiver and has great evasion skills. In my opinion he is a better runner than Poole, but he has yet to really play to his ability.
If he and Milton can successfully prove themselves over the summer, I would expect DeAnthony Arnett to be redshirted.
- Justin Hunter, 6'4"; 195lb sophomore
- Vincent Dallas, 5'11"; 175lb freshman
On the previous slide, I stated that DeAnthony Arnett would be redshirted, there is one other factor that could arise to negate this. There are rumors that Vincent Dallas has an ankle problem that has plagued him since the spring.
I can not verify this, but if it is true Dooley won't hesitate to throw his 5-star phenom into the mix.
Justin Hunter on the other hand is in no danger of losing his job. You can't really say anything more that hasn't already been said.
But he gets super high, has great hands and has no problem out running defenders. He will be All-SEC and should double last year's numbers.
- Channing Fugate, 6'1"; 245lb. sophomore
- Ben Bartholomew, 6'2"; 250lb. junior
You just have to smile when you see a fullback on the field. They're the unsung heroes.
That being said, Fugate will have a very tough job ahead of him with SEC defenses but the job is his. Despite his size and bulk, he is a true runner and could even find himself taking more snaps than the TBs he's blocking for.
There is nothing to dispute his leg power as he pushed himself through the line with relative ease during the Orange and White game. Expect to hear his name mentioned a lot whenever a runner busts through heavy traffic.
Bartholomew will see limited snaps but is capable of running good routes at the corners. His weight and limited play will keep him on the bench.
- Tauren Poole, 5'10"; 210lb senior
- Toney Williams, 6'0"; 220lb. sophomore
The last ride of the orange brigade. Poole is the most intelligent runner on the field, and that is what wins him his top spot. I still believe he will exceed a 1,000-yard season, but he isn't the best runner.
But as I said, his strengths are his intelligence and knowing how to utilize his ability.
At the No. 2 spot is Rajion Neal, but I also believe he will lose out to Toney Williams who is to say the least a brutal runner. The hit he planted on Brent Brewer (who is a very mean, hard hitting safety) was nothing short of criminal.
Neal is a good runner, but Williams works harder and runs better through the tackle. If Neal emerges as the No. 2 man this fall it will be because Williams is hurt.
- Tyler Bray, 6'6"; 210lb. sophomore
- Matt Simms, 6'3" 210lb. senior
Who else would it be, honestly? Bray will emerge this fall stronger and perhaps five pounds heavier. Though I am concerned about what he has learned from the playbook, I have no doubt in his delivery or arm strength.
But, he still looks a little unpolished with his touch. Critics at this point could argue that he throws much too hard and that is why the receivers drop so many of his passes, but at this point, the receivers should just remember to wear gloves and suck it up.
Bray is a capable QB but will be tested many times going up against the likes of Florida, Georgia, LSU, Alabama and Arkansas. If he comes out of all this unscathed, win or lose, he has won his due respect.
Matt Simms, as capable as he is missed the train when Bray seized the reins last season and will most likely see the remainder of his college career as fourth quarter finisher. And even that he will have to share with Justin Worley.
The good thing for the Vols is that at the moment, there aren't any negatives from the QB position other than deciding who the best man is.