Of Stars and Starters

Here's another quick look back at a recruiting class from the recent past that provides perspective on the present, particularly as it relates to UT's Class of 2006.

Tennessee's Class of 2004 was a premier group that ranked top 10 nationally and contained eight prospects — Jerod Mayo, Robert Ayers, Xavier Mitchell, Demonte Bolden, JaKouri Williams, Brent Schaeffer, Antonio Reynolds and David Holbert rated four stars or higher, plus five-star JC linemen Jesse Mahelona and Albert Toenia.

However, it's interesting to note that five current Vol starters — Erik Ainge, Jonathan Hefney, Inky Johnson, Arian Foster and Chris Brown — weren't a part of the four-, five-star status enjoyed by 10 Vols signed two years ago. By the same token, outside of the JC signees, the only player from 2004 to start more than a single game for Tennessee was Brent Schaeffer.

Other notables rated as three-star prospects from the Class of 2004 that have made an impact in their first two years on the Hill are Ramone Foster, Karl Ryan and Britton Colquitt.

Actually, the entire ‘04 class has turned out to pretty solid. There are no real busts, although some will start to question Bolden if he doesn't emerge as a contributor by next fall.

Only two players, Ell Ash and Schaeffer, have left the program. Schaeffer played a year of junior college and has signed with Ole Miss as a five-star prospect. That, in turn, made it possible for UT to step in and sign four-star signal caller prospect Nick Stephens who committed to the Rebels before eventually signing with Tennessee. In that regard, Schaeffer is still helping UT, and since the Vols aren't scheduled to play Ole Miss the next two seasons, he could continue to help their cause in the course of competition against SEC East foes.

The Class of 2004 also shows how lower regarded prospects can make a big difference in short order. In fact, Arian Foster was probably the brightest light in an otherwise dark and disappointing 2005 season at UT. Year three will see even more from the 2004 group which, combined with the much anticipated impact of the Class of 2005, could make for a standout 2006 football campaign.

And in light of what we've seen already observed over the last two years, we can't discount what the Class of 2006 will bring to the mix net fall — especially those two and three star prospects.

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