Ranking the 17 Newest Vols
Tennessee welcomed 17 prospects onto its campus this weekend. They’re no longer signees. They’re UT football players.
Some will see the field this season. Many won’t. It’s hard to have a major impact as a freshman. Here’s my rank of who will have the biggest impact on the field this season.
17. RB Treyvon Paulk
There is no reason to rush Paulk into service considering he suffered an ACL injury last season. Moreover, the Vols should have at least three – and maybe four – tailbacks that should be able to contribute this fall.
16. OG/DT Charles Mosley
Mosley has some work to do to get into college football shape. Conditioning will be key considering he has weighed in at over 350 pounds. Also, it’s unclear what position Mosley will play. He could play defensive tackle but offensive guard seems likely.
15. LB Gavin Bryant
Bryant was highly rated with scholarship offers from big-time schools like Alabama and Florida. However, he projects as an inside linebacker. The Vols only have one of those on the field at a time. Middle linebacker A.J. Johnson has proven incredibly consistent and durable at that position.
14. DT Jashon Robertson
Robertson flew under the radar for much of his recruitment because he committed to Vanderbilt so early. Playing early at defensive tackle is a challenge in the SEC. Robertson figures to be a solid player but it will likely take some time.
13. DT Michael Sawyers
Already over 300 pounds, Sawyers could definitely see spot duty this season. However, like Robertson, he will be playing one of the toughest positions to find early playing time.
12. ATH Elliot Berry
It’s unclear which position Elliot Berry will play in college meaning he’ll have to find his way onto the depth chart. The one thing he certainly has going for him is speed. That could get him on the field. Linebacker seems likely for the 6-foot, 200-pound athlete.
11. DE Joe Henderson
Henderson weighed just 222 pounds when he was evaluated in high school. At 6-foot-4, he has a great frame but he’ll need to add some mass before he’s ready to contribute. This season will likely be about preparing for the future.
10. DB Evan Berry
The Vols need help in their secondary. Evan Berry will be one of the ones asked to step up to the challenge. Like his brother, Berry has speed on his side. He also will be competing at a position – safety – where the Vols could use some help.
9. RB Derrell Scott
The Vols have a solid starter in senior Marlin Lane at tailback. They also have a stout freshman in Jalen Hurd who enrolled in January. Senior Devrin Young also showed some flashes in spring practice. Scott will likely play this season but how much remains to be seen given the competition. The transition to tailback is one of the easiest in college football if a player is physically ready.
8. ATH Vic Wharton
Considered the ring leader of UT’s 2014 class, Wharton’s physical skills have often been overlooked. He has the quickness to get on the field in some capacity. Punt returner seems likely if Young is asked to play much tailback. Wharton may be an upgrade regardless.
7. DL Derek Barnett
Barnett was considered a defensive end prospect in high school. However, he’s 270 pounds and the Vols need help at defensive tackle. He’ll be expected to play this season but the transition could take some time.
6. DE Dewayne Hendrix
Much like Barnett, Hendrix was a defensive end prospect that could be asked to move inside to fill a need at defensive tackle. How long will the transition take if that happens? UT coaches are hoping not long. Even if he doesn’t slide inside, he’ll be expected to play this season.
5. LB Dillon Bates
Bates has the athleticism to play extensively as a freshman. He also has the football acumen given his upbringing by his father, former UT standout Bill Bates. It would be a surprise if Bates didn’t play this season. If converted linebacker Curt Maggitt plays most of his snaps at defensive end, Bates could even start at outside linebacker.
4. S Todd Kelly
The Vols need a safety to step up in this class. Kelly will be one of the ones called upon. He has the athleticism to succeed early in college. Kelly weighed 190 pounds in high school. He’ll need to be bigger than that to play safety in college. Also, the competition at safety will be steep. (See below.)
3. DB Rashaun Gaulden
Like Kelly, Gaulden was a little light in high school. He was just 175 pounds. However, it’s reasonable to think the Vols could utilize junior starter Brian Randolph closer to the line of scrimmage and let Gaulden roam deep.
2. S Cortez McDowell
At 6-3 and 200 pounds, McDowell seems the most ready to play this season among the incoming defensive backs. It would not be a surprise if McDowell nails down a starting position at safety this season.
1. K Aaron Medley
Medley is widely thought to be ready to step in and be UT’s starting kicker. Reviews of the mid-state prospect have been tremendous. He’ll be needed since the Vols lost senior Michael Palardy from last season.