Butch Jones said this week that he expects 28-30 freshmen to play…Sunday. Not at some point in their first season at Tennessee…Sunday.
The 2014 recruiting class ranked by Scout as No. 4 nationally and the talent influx has been apparent throughout August. It’s the program’s highest-rated group since the 2007 class also ranked fourth.
Is it too much to ask for a teenager in this day and age to contribute so early into his college career? Tennessee welcomed 14 of its 32-man class in January and 17 more sacrificed summer vacations to get to Rocky Top in late May.
Pair their early arrivals with the bigger, faster, stronger athletes coming out of the prep ranks and it’s possible to see several green-horns contributing positively to the two-deep.
“Their key is to understand the playbook from Day 1 and take it one practice at a time. Don’t look ahead. Don’t get caught up in your body being tired,” said quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who started four games as a freshman. “You’ve just got to take it day-by-day and give it the best you can. If you do that, then coach will see that and you can continue to to execute, you’l put yourself in position to play early.”
A mere five positions in the two-deep do not have a Volunteer that’s never taken a snap in a game for the Orange & White.
“We’ve got a lot of talent,” said sophomore wide receiver Marquez North, who earned Freshman All-American honors from multiple publications. “We’ve just got to really know our assignments in order to reveal that talent.”
Tennessee didn’t have a recruiting class that finished in Scout’s top 5 in team rankings from 2008-13. Four times in that span classes ranked outside the top 15. The Orange & White’s record the last six seasons? Try 33-40.
The 2010 Vols put six true freshman in the starting lineup for their Music City Bowl appearance. If not for a bogus NCAA rule that allows 1 second remaining with a clocked pass with 17 men on the field that squad enters the offseason victorious.
To a certain extent, youth can be served…even in the SEC.
Here’s a look at how Scout ranked the last 13 Tennessee recruiting classes:
2014 — No. 4
2013 — No. 36 *
2012 — No. 22
2011 — No. 10
2010 — No. 16 ‡
2009 — No. 7 €
2008 — No. 35
2007 — No. 4
2006 — No. 24
2005 — No. 1
2004 — No. 9
2003 — No. 7
2002 — No. 5
*-Butch Jones hired as head coach on Dec. 7, 2012.
‡-Derek Dooley hired as head coach on Jan. 15, 2010.
€ -Lane Kiffin hired as head coach on Dec. 1, 2008.