Having ranked Tennessee's top five seniors and top five juniors, it's time to project who the Vols' top five sophomores will be for the 2003 football season:
1. Kevin Simon, LB: He appeared to be blossoming into a star when a broken ankle caused him to miss the 2002 season's last nine games. He's a lock to start in 2003, either at strongside or middle linebacker. The heart and toughness he has displayed while battling through injuries and personal tragedies is an inspiration to his teammates and his fans.
2. Cody Douglas, OL: Big, strong, quick and tough, he's everything you look for in an offensive lineman. The only question is: Will he start at guard or tackle? One thing's for sure; barring injury or an early jump to the NFL, he'll be starting somewhere in Tennessee's line every game for the next three seasons.
3. Jason Mitchell, LB: If Kevin Simon beats out Robert Peace for the middle linebacker job, Mitchell projects to start at strongside linebacker. If Simon stays at strongside, Mitchell will be a first-rate reserve who is capable of quality play at either outside 'backer spot. He acquitted himself well as a late-season fill-in last fall and could be an All-SEC caliber player in time.
4. Parys Haralson, DE: Haralson (6-2, 240) is a bit undersized for defensive end ... then again, so was Leonard Little, and look what he accomplished. Like Little, he's a converted linebacker who is still growing -- mentally and physically -- into his new position. The guy has a knack for making plays, though, and needs only to gain some weight to become a dynamic defender.
5. Jason Allen, CB: Though listed behind starters Jabari Greer and Antwan Stewart on the depth chart at cornerback, Allen is sure to see a ton of action this fall. He has the size (6-2, 200) of a safety and the agility of a cornerback, so it's entirely possible he'll be utilized in both capacities this season. He's also an excellent special-teams player.
NEAR MISSES: RB Gerald Riggs, LB Marvin Mitchell, WR C.J. Fayton, QB James Banks, CB Robert Boulware, DE J.T. Mapu, G Rob Smith, LB Omar Gaiher WR Chris Hannon, DE Jason Hall, FB Will Revill, WR Jonathan Wade, TE Aaron Kirkland, TE Justin Reed, DB Brandon Johnson (juco with 3 years left).
Tomorrow: Tennessee's top five freshmen.