How great did it feel to see the Vols get the season off to a strong start last weekend? The team is mature and ready to show the college football nation that the Power T is back, and they certainly made a good first impression. There is still work to be done, but all in all, the staff was pleased with the effort versus NC State.
One slight disappointment from the first game was Rajion Neal's low yards per carry average and his tendency to stretch runs horizontally rather than focus on getting north-south. Marlin Lane is really starting to turn the heat up on Neal. Lane was banged up in the offseason with a hand/wrist issue but is healthy now and will be splitting more of the carries in the coming weeks. Look for Devrin Young to get more playing time as well. Neal has all the measurables and can still be a very good SEC back, but he has to show more of a willingness to run between the tackles with consistency and run north-south if he expects to garner as many carries as he had in the first game. Of course, the running game isn't all about the backs. The OL did a great job of protecting Bray against NC State but will need to show improvement in run blocking as the SEC season gets geared up.
There are some newcomers and/or younger guys who will look to make a contribution to the Vols' efforts in the coming weeks:
LB Christian Harris is chomping at the bit to return, and he is almost there. He is a much needed piece depth wise.
Alton "Pig" Howard will run the Wildcat at some point this season. He's been banged up, and the coaches are downplaying him much like they did Cordarelle Patterson. We don't necessarily expect Howard to have the type of impact that Patterson had week 1, but he has another gear when he is in the open field. He can also throw relatively well and will be used to engineer an option-like attack out of the backfield
WR's Jason Croom and Drae Bowles are getting looks in the slot because UT is searching for another physical third down receiver. Both of these guys have a good combination of size and speed, but Croom will probably have more of an impact earlier in the season. It would not surprise us at all to see UT target Croom for his first TD as a Vol on Saturday.
Two players that we once thought would be for-sure takes for the Vols are starting to look a bit more questionable: DB Donald Gray does not have the grades or test scores to get into UT as of now, and DT Rod Crayton may be losing steam in favor of another couple of DTs. The staff likes Crayton a great deal, but we are also trying to get Deadrin Senat and Keith Bryant to visit. It's our understanding that Bryant has set up his visit already.
The RB dominoes will start to fall in the next week or so, and we expect the staff to take two backs. This site has stood by Derrick Henry as one of the backs. As previously mentioned, he will be visiting for the Florida game, and a commitment from him could help get the recruiting momentum going for the Vols. Don't rule out the combination of AJ Turman and David Williamsif Henry disappoints us and ends up at Alabama. Derrick Green was trying to get here for the Florida game, but as of now, we do not believe that is planned.
UT will sign a JUCO WR in this class, and we believe that it will most likely be Jonathan Rumph. We're not saying that he has the same athleticism as Justin Hunter, but at 6'5" 215 lbs, he fits the same mold. Getting him as part of the 2013 class could be very important if Justin Hunter is playing on Sundays next year. Rumph will be here for the Akron game. If UT misses on Rumph, Jatavius Stewart would be next in line. He doesn't posses the same size and isn't as physical as Rumph but could still be a good receiver for the Vols.
The surprise at WR could be UT's replacement for Camion Patrick. Marquez North is trying to get back on campus with his parents and Jay Graham is recruiting him very heavily. Simply put, North is a stud. UT is also recruiting North's teammate Brian Walker for the last CB spot. He should be here for the Florida game. For other CB's, the staff continues to try and flip Jalen Ramsey in additon to Mackensie Alexander.
This site remains sold on DT Toby Johnson, DB Vonn Bell, and OL Reeve Koehler all being Vols.
We've mentioned before how big the Florida game will be for recruiting visits. As of now, we expect all of these guys to be on campus:
Derrick HenryDavid WilliamsJalen RamseyVonn BellJason HatcherJermaine GraceMatt RileyKameron MilesBrian Walker
It will be interesting to see if any more big time names pop up throughout next week. These names could include, Marquez North, DeMarcus Walker, and Derrick Green. We'll update the list in next week's Hill and as always will be discussing the Vols' efforts on the field and in the recruiting world in our forum.