Final Four Freshmen of Influence

In this last installment of Freshmen of Influence we take a look at four more rookies capable of crashing that glass ceiling for the Vols this fall.

(2) DEMONTE BOLDEN (6-5, 300) It hardly seems possible that after being such a prominent name in Tennessee football for better than three years, Bolden could really be a true freshman but, in fact, it was April of 2003 that the Chattanooga Tyner grid star committed to the Vols.

The big D-lineman proved to be worth the wait when he arrived last spring and was one of the bright spots of an otherwise injury plagued spring practice. Based on that showing he is sure to be in Tennessee's tackle rotation this fall, and looking ahead, he could well be the block the Vols build their defensive front around after 2005.

Bolden has the skills needed to be about as good as he wants, but needs to guard against letting his intensity level drop. In that respect, he is somewhat like Albert Haynesworth although his pace and style more closely resemble Rashad Moore.

Expectations have always been extremely high for Bolden and, when he hasn't been injured, he has mostly lived up to them. He benefitted significantly from his one-year stint at Hargrave Military.

If Tony McDaniels returns as a contributor at tackle, Bolden's presence will allow Turk McBride to play some defensive end, giving Dan Brooks' charges a big look. He'll also enable Jesse Mahelona to catch some breathers and stay fresher. If the need at tackle was as great as it is in the secondary, Bolden might top this list.

(3) MONTARIO HARDESTY (6-0, 190) Talk about speed, athleticism and versatility and you've just described Hardesty. An explosive open-field runner with legit 4.4 speed and acute instincts for the game, he could be plugged in at running back, defensive back or wide receiver. That type of diversity is hard to find and more difficult to ignore. That's why Hardesty is more likely to have an impact on the 2005 Tennessee team than higher rated running back LaMarcus Coker, DB Adam Myers-White or receiver Slick Shelley. Each member of that aforementioned All-American trio is plenty talented in his own respect, however, Hardesty is more likely to see playing time because he can help out at several positions and his speed is very disposable.

(4) CHRIS SCOTT (6-6, 325) The Lovejoy, Ga., All-American fits the mold of such recent O-line talents as Cody Douglas and Arron Sears both of whom lettered as true freshman.

A very intelligent player and hard worker with great size and speed (5.1), Scott looks like a natural to slot in behind Sears at left tackle. He also has the strength (400-plus bench press) to contribute early in the O-line and the quick feet required to slow speed rushers.

Scott gets the slight nod over Josh McNeil because it's easier to make the transition to tackle than it is to center, but it wouldn't be surprising to see both make an early contribution. McNeil will need more time to learn the offense and line calls, while Scott will be groomed from Day One to eventually succeed Sears.

(5) RICO MCCOY ( 6-2, 210) The need at linebacker isn't as great this season as it will be next season when all of UT's starters complete their eligibility. Still McCoy will get the playing time needed to challenge for a starting job next spring and should become a mainstay on special teams where his speed and aggressive play will prove to be of great value.

McCoy is a bigger version of Omar Gaither as a true freshman and could take over his spot at outside linebacker next year. He has great range, a nose for the football and he plays with true passion. McCoy is one of the best coverage linebackers Tennessee has recruited in recent years and could conceivably play strong safety in short yardage situations.

This real McCoy is destined to become a fan favorite.


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