Class of 2004 is Very Young

In a game that places great value of upside, which is essentially unrealized potential that could come with age, it is interesting to note how very young Tennessee's Class of 2004 actually is.

Consider the a full one-third of the Vols recent haul of 24 prospects have yet to turn 18 years old. The youngest among this group is tailback JaKouri Williams who won't turn 18 until Oct. 21 just two days before the Vols annual battle with Alabama. Tennessee's other tailback recruit Arian Foster won't turn 18 until Aug. 24, just days before the season opener while fullback David Holbert won't turned 18 until Aug. 2, when preseason practice gets underway. This could be a factor if Tennessee is looking for early contributions from this trio of backs.

For instance: the youngest prospect among freshmen in UT's Class of 2003 was defensive back Roshaun Fellows who turned 18 on July 20 and was redshirted.

By comparison, the Vols' 2003 class only had three prospects that had not turned 18 by this time last year. The second youngest was Turk McBride who turned 18 on May 30 last year and earned only nominal playing time while Jerrod Parrish was the third member of last year's recruiting class who wasn't 18 until April 2 and he was also redshirted.

However there are no guarantees for any freshman. The oldest of UT's true freshmen in 2003 was Daniel Brooks who turned 20 on Oct. 6 last fall and will be 21 this year but he didn't play anything but special teams despite coming in as one of the nation's top five linebackers. The oldest freshman member of UT's Class of 2004 is Robert Ayers who will be 19 on Sept. 6. Ayers was rated the nation's No. 8 linebacker prospect. The achievements of Brooks and Ayers might indicate there is an advantage to being a year older at the high school level although the age is also probably relative to position.

Jayson Swain turned 19 on July 27, 2003, and earned serious playing time at wide receiver while offensive lineman Arron Sears who turned 19 on Oct. 25 worked his way into the playing rotation and even earned a start. However another true freshman, offensive lineman Eric Young, turned 20 before the regular season concluded last year (Nov. 22) and he was redshirted. Yet Young didn't start playing football until his sophomore year in high school which may have been a factor in his development. A year on the weights and to work on technique might propel Young into a key role in UT's rebuilt offensive line this fall.

It's interesting to note that one of the most significant incoming freshman is quarterback Eric Ainge who won't turn 18 until June 12, while UT's other freshman QB, Brent Schaeffer just turned 18 on Jan. 24.

The other incoming freshmen in Tennessee's Class of 2004 that have yet to reach 18 are tight end Chris Brown (June 23), offensive lineman Ell Ash (April 20), offensive lineman Anthony Parker (April 2) and defensive end Xavier Mitchell (June 10).

A player's class can be misleading when it comes to the matter of age. Example: Junior College lineman Albert Toeaina, who is perhaps the most physically imposing prospect the Vols have ever signed, won't turn 20 until June 26 which actually makes him nine months younger than Antonio Reynolds, a true freshman and prep school product who will turn 20 on March 23. Toeaina will actually be able to petition for an extra year of eligibility because he missed most of his sophomore season. His young age could become a factor when deciding to leave school early.

The freshman signee whose age most impacted his playing career is punter Britton Colquitt who won't turn 19 until March 20. Colquitt was suspended from the team on Tuesday by Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer after being charged with underage drinking.

Which goes to show you can lead a prospect to opportunity but you can't make him think.

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