Frosh will play

In a perfect world, a college football coach would have so much veteran talent that he could redshirt all of his freshmen.

Derek Dooley didn't encounter a perfect world at Louisiana Tech, and he hasn't found one at Tennessee, either.

Since spring practice ended the Vols' first-year head man had to dismiss safety Darren Miles (two arrests) and defensive tackle Chase Nelson (academics). No. 3 quarterback Nick Lamaison left school and junior college safety signee Dave Clark couldn't qualify to enter school. Junior college defensive tackle John Brown is still awaiting academic clearance.

All of this attrition has taken a toll on a Big Orange roster that was thin to begin with. As a result, Dooley may be looking at playing several freshmen in key roles this fall.

"I have zero problem with playing freshmen," he said Tuesday. "In fact, at Tech I think we played almost 10 a year."

After conceding that "Every freshman is going to get an opportunity," the coach added: "They have to be able to adjust physically, mentally, emotionally and academically."

Three of Dooley's incoming freshmen are still awaiting approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse - safety Eddrick Loften, defensive back Marcques Dixon and linebacker Marteze Jackson. The others will begin battling for playing time when practice begins Wednesday.

Based on his experience as an assistant at SMU and LSU, plus his stint as head man at Louisiana Tech, Dooley believes there are three types of freshmen.

"One type comes in and right away you know they're going to help you," he said. "They get it and they roll.

"The next group is guys who the first week or two you go, 'I don't think he's going to help us.' But I'm very big on continuing to develop 'em. There's a lot of opportunity not just to put 'em on the shelf.

"Sometimes, you think, 'Woo. That guy looks different. He's starting to get it.' So you start playing him in Game 3 or 4. When you play as a true freshman it makes you a better sophomore.

"Then the third type is the ones that never really get there and they redshirt."

Given Tennessee's glaring lack of experience and depth at numerous positions this fall, Dooley will give all of his freshmen a long look in weeks ahead.

"We don't make decisions on who we'll redshirt until deep into the season," he said, "because I want them to constantly keep developing as players."

Vol fans can look for several freshmen to get their introduction to college football on special teams.

"It's a great way to use 'em ... always the best way," Dooley said. "You get 'em out there for a play, they trip over themselves but they get their feet wet a little bit."

One of Louisiana Tech's top players in 2007 was a 5-8, 175-pound freshman wide receiver named Phillip Livas.

"He came in the first week or two and I thought, 'There's no way this guy is playing,'" Dooley recalled. "Then, about the second week, you go 'Woo.'"

Livas wound up starting five games that fall, leading Tech in receiving yards with 504 and posting a sparkling 26.4-yard kickoff-return average.

Dooley said he played a lot of freshmen at Ruston "because we always had number problems, depth problems."

Sound familiar?

Senior linebacker Nick Reveiz says several of Tennessee's incoming freshmen have caught his eye with their dedication during offseason workouts.

"I've been really impressed with Rajion Neal, the running back," Reveiz said. "He's done a really good job. He's really been working hard."

Reveiz also mentioned freshman linebackers Raiques Crump and John Propst, noting: "Both of those guys have been working real hard, trying to learn the defense."

Another player who has exhibited considerable maturity and devotion is rookie quarterback Nash Nance.

"Nash Nance has impressed me, as far as his working," Reveiz said. "Obviously, I don't know a lot about quarterback and the reads he's making but I know what he's doing in the weight room and how he's worked and gone about his business. He's been very professional, and I've been impressed with that."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories