16. DEVRIN YOUNG, 5-8, 165 KR/PR/TB KNOXVILLE, TN. [BEARDEN HS]
Ratings: Rivals 3*, Scout 3* No. 118 running back, ESPN 2* No. 134 running back 247 3*. Chose UT over Stanford and a bunch of small schools.
Looking back: One of the most polarizing recruits in recent memory for the Vols, Young was lauded by many [and questioned by many more] when he chose hometown Tennessee over very few offers. After he recovered from a broken collarbone suffered in the preseason, he showed flashes of being the dynamic player in the return game that UT coaches saw when they offered him a scholarship. In just nine games, he finished third on the team with 756 all-purpose yards, and had 27 kickoff returns for 628 yards and eight punt returns for 94 yards. He nearly busted a kick return for a touchdown multiple times, including a 60-yarder against LSU. Still, he faded a bit toward the end of the season, and a good, healthy offseason in the weight room will do him good.
Looking forward: The Vols simply must find a way to get Young -- or players like him -- involved in the offense. He wasn't enough of a weapon last year, and he was the only player with his skill set on the team. UT is addressing the speed/quickness need a bit in this year's recruiting class, but that doesn't mean they'll be as dynamic as Young has the potential of being. He is an incredible weapon in the return game and will stay there, but UT needs to find ways to get him the football on bubble screens and in space. He had just 34 offensive yards, but that needs to change this year. Look for Derek Dooley to get him and Rajion Neal the football much more. Nobody is asking for Young to be an every-down player, but he can and should be a change-of-pace athlete that keeps defenses on their toes. He just needs to get tougher and stronger without losing any speed and quickness.
Final projection: He will probably never have a Dexter McCluster-esque impact offensively, but he can do many of the same things, and it would behoove the Vols to go talk to Houston Nutt or Urban Meyer or somebody who has had these players in the past and excelled in utilizing them. I expect Young to continue to progress and be a player that we all look back and say, "Man, I'm glad UT took him." Even if he can break a couple of special teams touchdowns a year, he's worth the scholarship. I think a lot of fans -- and coaches -- are excited about having him the next three years. If he isn't utilized properly, that will fall on the coaches, who seem to have made a very good decision getting a player with his attributes to be part of the program.