UT must replace some elite talent

A visit to the Scout.com NFL Draft rankings site suggests Tennessee has some elite-level talent to replace between now and September. In fact, the Vols lead all SEC schools with four players projected as top-50 draft picks.

Guard Arron Sears is ranked No. 26, wide receiver Robert Meachem No. 27, defensive tackle Justin Harrell No. 33 and cornerback Jonathan Wade No. 50.

Meanwhile, SEC rivals LSU and Florida are saying goodbye to three top-50 prospects each. The Gator trio consists of safety Reggie Nelson at No. 23, defensive tackle Ray McDonald at No. 34 and defensive end Jarvis Moss at No. 41. The Tiger trio is quarterback JaMarcus Russell at No. 2, safety LaRon Landry at No. 7 and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe at No. 36.

Other SEC players on Scout's top-50 list are Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson at No. 8 and Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston at No. 23, Auburn guard Ben Grubbs at No. 18 and Auburn running back Kenny Irons at No. 40, Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis at No. 16 and South Carolina wideout Sidney Rice at No. 39.

If you break down Scout's top 50 by state, you'd expect the top three to be Texas, Florida and California ... and you'd be right. The Lone Star state produced seven elite players, the other two five each.

It's a bit surprising, however, to find that the state of Alabama is just one step back with four top-50 prospects – all ranked among the top 26. They are Russell (LSU) at No. 2, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (Louisville) at No. 13, Grubbs (Auburn) at No. 18 and Sears (UT) at No. 26.

The seven top-50 players from Texas include four who attend their home-state university – cornerback Aaron Ross at No. 21, guard Justin Blalock at No. 30, defensive end Tim Crowder at No. 31 and safety Michael Griffin at No. 38. The other native Texans are Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson at No. 4, Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston at No. 23 and Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss at No. 41.

The five Floridians among the top 50 are: No. 20 safety Reggie Nelson (Florida), No. 24 linebacker Jon Beason (Miami), No. 34 defensive tackle Ray McDonald (Florida), No. 36 wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (LSU) and No. 42 linebacker Buster Davis (Florida State).

California's top-50 contributions are: Michigan cornerback Leon Hall at No. 6, Cal running back Marshawn Lynch at No. 17, Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards at No. 44, Southern Cal receiver Steve Smith at No. 47 and FSU running back Lorenzo Booker at No. 48.

Here are the top 50 state by state:

Texas 7, Florida 5, California 5, Alabama 4, Virginia 3, Ohio 3, Georgia 2, Tennessee 2, Wisconsin 2, Louisiana 2, South Carolina 2, New Jersey 2, Pennsylvania 2. ONE EACH: Mississippi, Minnesota, Michigan, Hawaii, New Mexico, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington, Arkansas.

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