Of course, Pickens got his first taste of playing time as a true freshman at free safety from where he led the Vols in interceptions. The move shored up a secondary that was suspect and helped the Vols go 11-1 with a victory in the Cotton Bowl. Pickens, who also returned punts and kickoffs, was a principle player in UT's recovery from a 5-6 record in 1988. Seventeen years later the stage is set for Little to come and and be a part of the Vols' return to prominence.
Another parallel to Pickens is LIttle's capacity to play several positions in college including: running back, defensive back, linebacker, wideout and return specialist. Think a more athletic, better defined Michael Bush and you have Greg Little aka the Durham Bull.
As a junior at Hillside High School, Little ran the ball 160 times for 1,166 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns. And in spot duty for the defense, he got four picks.
Little burst on the scene at the national combine in San Antonio last January, making the all-combine team and impressing scouts with his size, speed, strength and physical skills. He has some polishing to do as a wideout but his potential there is unlimited.
Another plus is the fact he is working toward graduating in December and participating in spring practice at the school of his choice. That time frame is pushing his recruiting process on pace to commit in October. That type of ambition only improves his stock and value as a true freshman.
"I've narrowed it down to Michigan, Notre Dame, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Clemson and Tennessee," he told Don Callahan of NC Prep Report. "It [The cut] kind of just happened. Those are schools that really like me and I really like them.
"I want to get out to see what [each school] has to offer as a school and what the coaches are like."
Tennessee's proximity and need for wide receivers should be an advantage for the Vols. Ditto for having recruiting ace Trooper Taylor on the case along with the steady Dan Brooks, and the reputation of offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe for maximizing a player's talent. It doesn't hurt that such notable North Carolina natives as Montario Hardesty, Josh Briscoe and Jonathan Crompton have all done well in their first year on The Hill.