2009 NFP Scouting Series: Tennessee

Dale ThortonCorrespondent IJuly 13, 2009

ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 11:  Eric Berry #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers tackles Knowshon Moreno #24 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the game at Sanford Stadium on October 11, 2008 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

For the rest of the summer, the National Football Post will break down every team in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) to identify players who could warrant interest from NFL teams in the 2010 draft.

The Tennessee Volunteers will turn to new head coach Lane Kiffin to help restore the program after a 5-7 season. The Volunteers’ defense features one of the best safety prospects in years as well as a run-and-hit linebacker who is an ideal fit in their new Cover 2 scheme.

Here’s our first look at the Volunteers:


Montario Hardesty: No. 2, RB, 6-0, 215

AP Look for Hardesty to anchor the Vols rushing attack in 2009.

A physical back who does a nice job running behind his pads and fighting for yards after contact.

Has a good first step and showcases some shiftiness and power in the open field. Attacks the line of scrimmage with a vengeance, but lacks some vision and instincts between the tackles.

Isn’t real explosive and struggles getting back up to speed quickly out of his breaks.

Impression: I like his overall skill set and physical demeanor, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy for an entire year.

Jeff Cottam: No. 80, TE, 6-8, 260

A massive target who really towers over the competition. Is a better athlete than given credit for and picks up some decent speed when asked to get down the field.

He’s a bit clunky changing directions and struggles getting out of his breaks. Possesses a long frame and showcases the size and technique to become a very good blocker at the next level. Is also an interesting potential offensive tackle project if he can add some weight.

Impression: A great-looking target who’s a bit limited in the pass game, but you can’t teach his size and he should at least develop into a solid blocker at the next level.

Josh McNeil: No. 50, OC, 6-4, 286

Snaps and steps quickly and really fires out of his stance. A fluid athlete who is comfortable in space and does a nice job redirecting and mirroring defensive linemen laterally.

Displays natural flexibility and body control as a run blocker and has the ability to angle defensive linemen out of the play or cut them down at the line of scrimmage. Possesses long arms, but lacks the overall strength and power to stall opposing linemen when they gain a step on him.

Relies on his technique and quickness to stay on blocks. Has the athleticism to get out to the second level, but simply isn’t much of a Velcro player on contact.

Impression: A good athlete who is fluid in space but lacks any kind of pop to his game. Is best suited for a zone-blocking scheme at the next level.

Jacques McClendon: No. 65, OG, 6-3, 324

Displays a quick pivot out of his stance and has the ability to reach a moving target down the line. Possesses a strong lower body and has the power to drive defenders off the ball.

Is raw with his technique and struggles getting his hands inside defenders. However, he continues to work hard through the block and push opposing linemen away from the play.

Displays a narrow base in pass protection and isn’t as powerful as his frame would indicate. Struggles sitting into his stance and can be bull rushed.

Impression: A physical in-line run blocker who can move defenders off the ball and create holes in the run game.

Chris Scott: No. 79, OT, 6-5, 345

A thick offensive lineman who can really sit into his stance and deliver a nasty punch on contact. Showcases good body control and does a nice job extending his long arms and shuffling on contact. Possesses a powerful lower half and consistently is able to gain leverage and drive defenders off the ball.

Lacks ideal hand placement and technique, but extends his arms well and works his legs through contact. Exhibits decent overall quickness off the snap but isn’t able to consistently get around on reach blocks. However, he fights and scraps for every inch and usually gets his man on the ground.

Lacks the burst on his kick-step to consistently reach the corner and is too high out of his stance. Likes to take a big lateral step in pass protection in order to get his hands on opposing linemen as quickly as possible, but he can be exposed by a sudden inside move. Possesses a heavy set of hands and once he locks on the battle is over.

Impression: The Tennessee offense hides his deficiencies in pass protection well, but he looks like a powerful run blocker on the right side.


Wes Brown: No. 94, DE, 6-4, 257


Lacks any kind of a first step off the edge and gets too high on his pass rush. Isn’t a real flexible or sudden athlete and doesn’t possess the quickness to slip blocks on the outside.

Relies on his hands and overall motor to disengage at the point of attack. However, he lack the burst to close on the football and is too easily stalled on contact.

Impression: Has a good motor, but lacks the power, burst or flexibility to be a factor at the next level.

Dan Williams: No. 55, DT, 6-3, 326

Isn’t as physical as his frame would indicate and doesn’t showcase the power or leverage to get under linemen and drive them into the backfield. Lacks flexibility in his stance and struggles winning the pad level inside. Isn’t a real factor as a pass rusher and lacks the ability to lose an opposing lineman and attack up field.

Does a nice job using his hands to keep offensive linemen from cutting him and has some decent lateral mobility away from the play. Plays with a much stronger base in the run game and can walk opposing linemen toward the play. However, he lacks consistent instincts and doesn’t showcases much explosion in any area of his game.

Impression: Is tough to move off the ball in the run game, but isn’t anything more than a space-eater at the next level.

Rico McCoy: No. 5, OLB, 6-1, 224


A smooth, coordinated linebacker who is patient in his reads and does a nice job picking his way through the line of scrimmage and collapsing on the football.

Is undersized and although he does do a nice job dropping his pad level on contact, he’s consistently handled by offensive linemen at the point of attack.

However, his combination of shiftiness and technique does allow him to slip his fair share of blocks and work his way toward the play. Showcases good range in all areas of his game and has the ability to make plays sideline to sideline.

Gets a deep drop in zone coverage, but is surprisingly a bit stiff in his backpedal. However, he does display the ability to cleanly flip his hips and change directions on a dime.

Impression: Is very explosive, but plays patient and does a nice job sniffing out the ball. An ideal Cover 2 guy.

Eric Berry: No. 14, SS, 5-11, 214

A thickly built athlete who is very smooth in his drop and does a great job getting out of his breaks in the center field-type role. Has the burst and range to make plays sideline to sideline, but it’s his instincts that are the real difference maker.

Does a phenomenal job reading his keys quickly and is always flowing toward the play. Consistently is the first man breaking on the football and always is a half step ahead of any other defender.

Possesses great body control as he locates the ball quickly and has the natural coordination to consistently time up the play correctly. Takes great angles toward the football in the run game and displays the awareness to keep himself clean. Rarely misses a tackle.

Impression: No only has a great physical skill set, but it’s his coordination, ball skills, and instincts that make him the elite safety prospect he is.


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