Scouting the SEC: Tennessee

2002 was a tough campaign in Knoxville; a home loss to Florida, an embarrassing showing in the Peach Bowl and a lot of players that failed to meet expectations. To add to the problem the defensive front seven was hit hard by graduation. Still, there is a lot of talent on this roster that will soon end up in the NFL.

This is especially true on the offensive side of the ball. Casey Clausen is a big-armed pocket passer with nice stature. He battled injury and inconsistency last season, failing to capitalize on a solid sophomore campaign. Clausen has the physical skills to be an NFL quarterback but questions arise when speaking of his accuracy and decision-making. Clausen stares down primary targets, does not always make the correct defensive reads and has wide outs reaching backwards for errant throws. Thus far he's looked good in fall practice moving towards the season and if he continues that path, Clausen has the abilities to make a big move up draft boards in 2003.

Lining up behind Clausen is fullback Troy Fleming, an explosive lead blocker that works hard to do the little things. Fleming's not a bad short yardage runner or pass catcher out of the backfield. He lacks the dominant strength at the point or ability to finish blocks but does just enough that some NFL team may keep him as a back-up.

Cedric Houston displayed flashes of great skill last season and looks to be a complete back. Houston has size, athleticism and football instinct. He now needs to stay healthy and carry the ball for a full season. Back-up Jabari Davis is sort of a ‘tweener; he's built like fullback and runs like one yet displays surprising speed in the open field. His best shot at the next level could be as a lead blocker.

Wide out Tony Brown does not fit the recent mold of recent UT receivers (speedsters that make big plays down the field). Rather, Brown's a nice sized wide out effective over the middle or in the short field on third down. He'll be looked at as a possession receiver at the next level and offers real potential.

The offensive line goes six deep and each has NFL potential in varying degrees. Like his dad Michael Munoz is a big, dominant blocker that does a fine job in all aspects of the game. Munoz is not overly nifty and does not show the great feet yet gets the job done. He did a fine job returning off a knee injury which sidelined him in 2001 and though he must improve the details of his position make no doubt about it; Munoz has good upside for the next level.

Center Scott Wells is explosive on the pivot and blocks with great fundamentals. He does a fine job quarterbacking the offensive line and works well with linemates. Wells lacks the natural strength on the inside but is a solid back-up/developmental prospect for the next level.

Guard Jason Respert has the dominant strength and plays with a nasty attitude. Destroying defenders once engaged at the point, Respert opens holes for the running game. Though efficient, he's not overly effective in space and would be best in a zone-blocking scheme.

Chavis Smith stepped up at guard last season and looks like a solid late round choice. Versatile, Smith does the little things well and projects nicely as a back-up.

When he puts forth the effort, Anthony Herrera is a force at guard. At times he displays athleticism and dominance yet he also frighteningly seems to do a lot of standing around or just plain leaning on defenders. This laziness seems to translate over to the classroom, where Herrera has had his share of problems.

Sean Young moves out to tackle from guard and is a hard working blocker who could catch on as a free agent.

Defensively the top prospects are in the secondary. Rashad Baker had a terrific sophomore campaign, elevating himself as one of the premiere free safeties in the nation. Baker's play turned rather inconsistent last season as he became very hesitant with his decision-making. All signs point to Baker returning to prior form as the Volunteers move through fall camp. Baker is a prospect that could slip into the late part of day one then become a solid starter in the NFL.

Corner Jabari Greer is also very inconsistent; at times he looks like a shutdown corner yet in other situations he's asleep at the wheel or takes chances that get him into trouble. Greer must be closely watched this season; he could move into the first day with a good campaign or end up in the late rounds should he falter.

Gibril Wilson is a solid strong safety best defending the run but has only minimal coverage skills.

Linebacker Robert Peace continues a trend of very solid players at the position offered by the Volunteers and has potential at the next level in the middle or on the strong side.

Constantin Ritzmann, a tough edge rusher, returns from a knee injury that sidelined him last season and must prove he has not lost a step.


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