Who'll be most-missed Vol?

Tennessee football fans didn't realize how valuable unsung fullback Will Bartholomew was to the program until he departed, leaving Vol tailbacks without a dependable lead blocker in 2002.

And they didn't realize how valuable Fred Weary was to the program until he departed, leaving the Vols with an ineffective mix of guards in 2002.

Similarly, fans didn't realize how valuable Deon Grant was to the program until he departed, forcing the Vols to switch promising freshman receiver Rashad Baker to free safety in 2000.

Several other UT players of recent vintage weren't truly appreciated until they left -- linebacker Eric Westmoreland, receiver Peerless Price, defensive end Shaun Ellis to name a few.

Tennessee lost several starters off its 2002 team. These include tight end Jason Witten, receiver Kelley Washington, linebackers Eddie Moore and Keyon Whiteside, defensive back Julian Battle, defensive tackles Rashad Moore and Aubrayo Franklin, defensive ends Demetrin Veal and Omari Hand, kicker Alex Walls and offensive tackle Will Ofenheusle. This raises the question: Which of these guys will be the most-missed Vol in 2003?

- Witten's receiving skills were never fully exploited, so his departure is serious but not crippling.
- Washington's 2002 season was wrecked by injuries, so he won't be missed terribly.
- Eddie Moore and Whiteside were exceptional but UT is still loaded with quality linebackers.
- Battle played well at both corner and safety but had too much attitude (Peach Bowl).
- Veal and Hand were solid ends but Ritzmann, Haralson, Neal and Mapu have loads of potential.
- Walls was a very accurate kicker but James Wilhoit has better range.
- Ofenheusle was a good blocker and leader but heir-apparent Cody Douglas is a budding star.

Perhaps the return to health of Justin Harrell and the arrival of juco transfer Zarnell Fitch will boost the outlook at defensive tackle between now and Aug. 30. At present, though, it appears that D-tackles Rashad Moore and Aubrayo Franklin could be the most-missed Vols for 2003.


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