UT's talent has eroded

Fans don't like to admit it, but one reason Tennessee's football team has gone 18-8 the past two years with two humiliating bowl losses is a slippage in talent.

A Vol program that used to churn out first-round NFL Draft picks with amazing regularity is about to go two years without producing a single first-rounder. Linebacker Eddie Moore was picked late in Round 2 last April, and no UT player is projected to go in the first round this spring. In fact, cbssportsline.com lists the top five draft prospects at each position without mentioning a single Vol. Additionally, our own TheInsiders.com NFL Draft section lists the top 50 NFL prospects for 2004 without a Vol to be found.

This year's draft-eligible Vols include offensive linemen Anthony Herrera, Scott Wells, Chavis Smith and Sean Young (pending an NCAA appeal for a sixth year of eligibility), receiver/safety Mark Jones, quarterback Casey Clausen, fullback Troy Fleming, defensive end Constantin Ritzmann, linebacker Robert Peace, defensive backs Jabari Greer, Gibril Wilson and Rashad Baker.

Moreover, there does not appear to be a first-rounder in Tennessee's 2004 senior class. It includes tight end Victor McClure, tackle Michael Munoz, guard Jason Respert, wideouts Tony Brown and Derrick Tinsley, tailbacks Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis, defensive end Karlton Neal, linebacker Kevin Burnett and punter Dustin Colquitt. Colquitt projects to be college football's best at his position but punters almost never go in the draft's first round.

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