Scouting the SEC: Tennessee

In an expression-WOW! Even though they had ten players drafted last year, three alone in the initial 13 choices, the Tennessee Volunteers have as many as 20 draft eligible players on this years roster that could hear their names called during next April's affair. Factor in up and coming sophomores and several scouts should just head to Knoxville and set up the base camp!

Tennessee Volunteers

There are so many prospects on offense we will start from the line and work our way backwards. There's an abundance of talent on the front wall of protection from both seniors and underclassmen. Right tackle Will Ofenheusle is a big strong lineman that plays with a great deal of intelligence. Ofenheusle easily controls opponents at the point of attack with brute force but also does an outstanding job using blocking angles and body positioning to wall defenders out of the play. He sets with a wide base and works to play low, (though not a natural knee bender or agile) and gets the job done. In many ways reminds us of a bigger version Chad Clifton and like Clifton we'd expect Ofenheusle to make his way into the top 90 choices and have a successful career at the next level. Playing inside of Ofenheusle is fellow senior Anthony Herrera. Equally strong and a better run blocker, Herrera has even less mobility or abilities to play in space but is well worth the risk of a late round selection for a team needing a zone blocking guard. Junior center Scott Wells is solid on the pivot and was good enough to keep Fred Weary at guard last year, though we don't think Wells is as good a pro-prospect as the aforementioned Weary. They have a pair of tremendous red-shirt sophomores on the line. Obviously we could talk about the upside potential of Michael Munoz for paragraphs but won't and will take a wait and see approach on him as he returns from the knee injury that sidelined him last season. One youngster we really have high hopes for is redshirt sophomore guard Scott Respert, a mean, nasty and dominant interior lineman that continually progressed last season and looks to have a great future ahead of him as an early draft pick. Former defensive end Jason Witten had an incredibly successful campaign last year after moving to tight end and turned into a complete player at his position; dominant as a blocker and reliable as a pass catcher. Witten gets movement from his run blocks and at the same time anchors in pass protection if asked to stay in at the line. When used as a receiver he always makes the catch and though not fast, does a great job reading the defense, finding the open seam and sneaking it down the field. He's not going to make the highlight reel receptions, outrun defenders in the middle of the field or time well in the forty but when Witten enters the draft (he's a junior) he's a late first day/early second day choice that could quickly start for a team and have a productive ten-year career at the next level. Kelly Washington came on like gang-busters last year and made sure the Volunteer offense did not skip a beat after Donte' Stallworth went down with an injury early in the season. Washington looks and plays like a man amongst boys (heck, he is in his mid-twenties and a former semi-pro ball player) displaying total receiving skills. Big and strong, he effectively uses his frame to box out opponents, extending his hands and catching the pass away from his body. Washington also has that extra gear that enables him to run to the long throw and make the deep reception. One aspect of his game that goes unnoticed the downfield blocking, which is superb. He is also a decent route runner; crisp in and out of his breaks and stays low as he exits them, quickly positioning himself to make the reception (though he will get lazy and round them off at times). 2002 will be a huge campaign for Washington; with questions about the Vol running game and no second wide out to take the pressure off him, opposing defense will double Washington and game plan for him. A big campaign could catapult him into the drafts top eight selections, if not earlier, if he leaves Knoxville. If there is a second wide out scouts would be watching it is Leonard Scott, an athletic pass catcher with some size and almost nil production. The man running the show behind center is Casey Clausen, a big, athletic, strong-armed passer that makes all the throws. Clausen easily drives the ball down the field or zips the outs and for the most part, throws with solid fundamentals, all along displaying the ability to make plays on the move. Two areas Clausen needs to work on are his timing and pass release; all to often targets wait for the pass as they come out of their breaks and he does not throw the tightest of spirals but all things considered, he is an excellent prospect for the future.

On defense the Volunteers have numbers as well, though not as much impact. Not having the one-two punch of Henderson-Haynesworth with Overstreet coming off the edge, UT will rely on a three-four punch (a pair of prospects that could surprise), coupled with a third that will be rush off the corner. Rashad Moore did a fine job after transferring form junior college last year and is a nice sized thumper in the middle best stuffing the run. Moore, a defensive tackle with both growth and upside potential, is quick and strong off the snap but best making plays in a straight line. If he builds upon the flashes he displayed last year he could make a big move up draft charts. Likewise, Dementrin Veal is also very quick but a little more athletic then Moore and has some upside to his game. Originally slated for defensive tackle, Veal will most likely be pushed out to end due to the season ending injury suffered by senior Constantin Ritzmann (a lineman that would've received late round consideration had he played this season) and if Veal picks up the consistency of his pass rushing abilities, he will move into the later frames. The star up front could be unheralded defensive tackle Ed Kendrick, an explosive interior lineman that sat out last season due to academics but a player that did start ahead of Albert Haynesworth in 2000. Kendrick is quick, athletic and causes a lot of mayhem up front. Though a little small he does have growth potential and if he gets back on track, does his homework on and off the field then impresses scouts prior to the draft, Kendrick could be headed for the initial day. Finally, Omari Hand moves into the starting line-up and if the senior defensive end turns in a productive season it would enhance his ability to get draft consideration. Linebacker Eddie Moore is a solid athlete, intelligent defenders and does a nice job in both pass coverage or run defense, making plays laterally or up the field. He has weak-side size, even a strong safety build, but is a little stiff and does not display the great range one likes to see in a smaller, athletic linebacker. Someone could take a liking to Moore and draft him in the later rounds as a back-up/special teams type. As usual, the Volunteer secondary is loaded but starting to build a bad reputation as highly ranked prospects (Deon Grant, Terry Fair, Dwayne Goodrich, Andre Lott) either fall flat on their face as seniors or rarely live up to the expectations at the next level. Senior strong safety Julian Battle is big, athletic and an intimidating force in the defensive backfield, constantly blowing plays up with monster-type hits. He's good against the run but can only pass cover in a small area and plays very stiff, not displaying the great range. If you're a defense that does not play a cover two type system and want your strong safety near the box, then Battle is worth a top 75 choice. Willie Miles returns to the line-up after the highly ranked cornerback missed all of 2001 and a good campaign could push him into the middle rounds. The best players in this unit could be a pair of underclassmen. Free safety Rashad Baker has terrific cover skills and plays a tough, disciplined brand of football, positioning himself to make positive plays on the ball. Baker's size would be listed as adequate, but his ability to defend the pass could move him into the first day in a year or two. He's so athletic and such a good football player Tennessee may use him as a situational wide receiver at times in 2002. Fellow underclassman Jabari Greer has the size to play corner and matches that with terrific cover skills and instincts. Greer can run with opponents and is constantly around the action whether it be defending screens or the deep pass. He has the makings of a big time corner and an early draft choice in the near future.




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