Yesterday, we ranked the top five seniors on Tennessee's football team. Today, we take a look at the top five juniors.
1. Kevin Burnett, LB: You've probably heard that Burnett was poised to be a superstar -- the next Leonard Little perhaps -- when he went down with a knee injury in last season's opener. Well, it's all true. Burnett is a special athlete who can be one of the most dominating players in college football if he is fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered last fall. He's also the finest pass rusher and one of the most vocal team leaders on the Vol roster.
2. Cedric Houston, RB: Tennessee's ground game wasn't exactly imposing last fall but it was downright pathetic while Houston was sidelined/hampered by injuries. He rushed for 763 yards last fall and might double that output this season, if he stays healthy. Trimmed down from a year ago, he looked considerably quicker and more agile in spring drills.
3. Michael Munoz, OT: When Tennessee needs a crucial third down, it runs behind Munoz. He's the most consistently effective blocker on the team. He's also one of the most determined and dedicated players on the team. That's why he, like Burnett, will be a junior captain this fall.
4. Jason Respert, G: Guard was a disaster area for the Vols last fall, and a healthy and productive Respert could provide relief. Phillip Fulmer once said Respert could be as good as Fred Weary, maybe better. After a sophomore season hindered by nagging injuries, it's time for Respert to prove that Fulmer wasn't just blowing smoke.
5. Karlton Neal, DE: He has just four career starts but that's more than any other end candidate, including senior Constantin Ritzmann (3). Neal is a converted linebacker with superior agility. If he develops more consistency at his new position, he could emerge as one of Tennessee's top defenders. It would be nice if he'd emerge by Aug. 30.
Tomorrow: Tennessee's top five sophomores.