Newcomers to watch

Only 15 of Tennessee's 18 football signees for 2008 are in school, making it the least imposing class – both in quantity AND quality – of the Phillip Fulmer era.

Quarterback Casey Kelly chose pro baseball, while defensive tackle Montori Hughes and defensive end Marlon Walls have not yet been approved for admission by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Even so, Fulmer says "eight to 11" of the newcomers could see action for the Vols in 2008. Here's a look at the most likely candidates:

THE SURE THINGS

- Gerald Williams, linebacker/defensive end: The 6-4, 240-pound junior college transfer led all tacklers in Saturday night's full-scale scrimmage, recording 7 stops, including a sack and a tackle for loss. He's playing middle linebacker at present but soon may be playing defensive end, at least on obvious passing downs.

- Brandon Warren, tight end/H-back: The Florida State transfer is still awaiting word from the SEC office regarding his eligibility for 2008. A positive outcome could thrust him into the starting lineup. The 6-1, 230-pounder caught six passes for 41 yards Saturday night and provides a level of athleticism the Vols have not had at tight end since Dustin Moore.

- Tauren Poole, tailback: He got a head start by graduating early from high school, enrolling at UT in January and participating in the Vols' spring practice. He is a shifty back who ran for 38 yards on 14 carries Saturday night. He projects to be No. 4 on the tailback depth chart behind senior Arian Foster, junior Montario Hardesty and sophomore Lennon Creer.

- Austin Johnson, fullback: Switched from linebacker to fullback when David Holbert suffered a traumatic knee injury in the spring, Johnson has shown a knack for blocking and for catching the ball out of the backfield. The 6-2, 242-pounder has a great chance to be the No. 2 fullback behind sophomore Kevin Cooper.

- Preston Bailey, guard: This 6-4, 325-pound freshman behemoth from Nashville has quick feet and a quick mind. He has a shot to be the No. 4 guard behind Anthony Parker, Jacques McClendon and Vladimir Richard.

- Rod Wilks, linebacker: When a freshman is switched from receiver to safety to linebacker in the same week, it's obvious the coaches view him as a potential immediate contributor. A big hit by the 6-0, 220-pound Wilks' jolted Lennon Creer into losing a fumble in Saturday's scrimmage. Look for Wilks to be a fixture on special teams and eventually work his way into the rotation at linebacker.

THE POSSIBILITIES

- Prentiss Waggner, cornerback: This speedy Louisiana native recorded four stops, a tackle for loss and a 27-yard interception return in Saturday's scrimmage. The Vols are loaded at cornerback but this guy may be too good to redshirt.

- Herman Lathers, linebacker: This 6-0, 210-pounder is probably "on the bus" after recording 4 stops, including a tackle for loss, in Saturday's scrimmage. Like Wilks, Lathers can contribute on special teams while gradually working his way into the linebacker mix.

- Aaron Douglas, tight end: Probably UT's highest-ranked signee, the 6-6, 245-pounder continues to recover from a shoulder problem dating to his days at Maryville High School. Once he's 100 percent, though, he could work his way into game action rather quickly.

- Stephaun Raines, defensive back: A transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, this speedy juco standout could see playing time at safety behind first-teamers Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley.

- Ben Bartholomew, H-back: Switched from linebacker to H-back last week, Bartholmew is a 6-3, 235-pounder with a great work ethic and a great blood line. His grandfather, Sam, and his older brother, Will, previously played for the Vols.

Fulmer said following Saturday's scrimmage that Waggner "made a couple of nice hits" and that Bailey "has really come on at offensive guard."

Regarding the freshmen and transfers who could contribute right away, Fulmer noted that "There's eight to 11 new guys who will play for us this year, counting Gerald Williams and those guys."


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