Projecting the top five seniors, top five juniors and top five sophomores on Tennessee's 2003 football team was difficult. Projecting who the top five freshmen will be is virtually impossible. But, when you throw in the redshirt freshmen (who I HAVE had a chance to assess), the task becomes a little more manageable.
Remember: This rating is based more on projected impact than on raw potential.
That said, here goes nothing:
1. James Wilhoit, PK: He hasn't kicked in a game yet but he showed in spring practice that he has the leg strength and accuracy to be a quality four-year starter, as was predecessor Alex Walls. It's a safe bet that Tennessee will play several close games this season and that Wilhoit's right foot will be the determining factor in some -- if not all -- of them.
2. Antwan Stewart, CB: After showing excellent cover skills all spring, Stewart enters preseason drills listed first-team at the cornerback spot opposite Jabari Greer. Given the demanding role cornerbacks play in UT's defensive scheme, this shows how much confidence coordinator John Chavis and secondary coach Larry Slade have in Stewart's abilities.
3. Justin Harrell, DT: He missed much of last fall and most of spring practice with a stress fracture, but Harrell still might be starting by Tennessee's opener because DT is the weakest position on the squad. He hasn't practiced a whole lot, yet veteran Vols say Harrell has the size, quickness and strength to be an awesome player someday. At worst, he'll be a key second-teamer this fall.
4. Jayson Swain, WR: The only true freshman included on my list, Swain has been compared to former NFL standout Sterling Sharpe by Vol assistant Woody McCorvey. Given UT's crying need for playmakers at receiver, Swain should be able to make immediate impact. Don't be surprised if he's the No. 3 wideout behind Mark Jones and C.J. Fayton by midseason.
5. Robert Meachem, WR: This true freshman-to-be looks like he could be ready for the NFL right now. His 6-2, 200 pound frame is big enough to make him a threat as soon as he arrives on campus in a few weeks. His frame and athletic ability are comparable to Marcus Nash, but 'Meach' looks to be a little further along than Nash at this point in his career. Assuming he can come in and pick up the bare aspects of the playbook, his playing time will be very significant early on.