So, yeah, I completely forgot about this series yesterday. My bad. Call it the First-Day-Back-At-Work-And-Snowed-Under excuse, because that's exactly what it was. Call it laziness or just the fact that I mentally checked out after I wrote the quick-hitters from the press conference because I was sick of "As the Vol Turns." It's probably a bit of all of the above.
But we're back today with two more reviews -- with just two to go after this.
Also, for clarification purposes, I've had two buddies tell me in the past two days that I needed to have already talked about Justin Worley in this series. One person just made a flippant comment. The other conversation went a little like this:
"Dude, I cannot believe you haven't already written the Worley blurb."
"Why?" sez I.
"Because you're doing them in order, right? Maurice Couch and Marlin Lane had bigger impacts than Worley. Lanier, too."
Me: "Uh, these aren't in any order, really. Basically, it's just kind of what I feel like doing on a given day. I mean, I'll give you that I was saving the best 7-8 for last, and I was going to do the top three on the last three days, but it really wasn't some sort of in-order countdown, and this year's recruits won't be either."
Him: "Oh, well, you threw me off. What the heck? I thought the suspense was building or something. Thanks for nothing."
Ummmm yeah. So, I probably should have clarified that at the beginning, and now we're, like, 20 days into the series, man. To piggyback Kid's comment yesterday in the quick-hitter thread and to paraphrase the great Dude, "That would have been a great plan, Brad. That would have been [redacted] ingenious, if I understand it correctly. That would have been a Swiss [redacted] watch."
Alas, I'm not that smart. So I went with the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method. Here are two more reviews of last season, and no, they aren't in any order. Though Brian Randolph and the two that will run the next two days certainly had the three best seasons [by my estimation] of the class.
4. JUSTIN WORLEY, 6-4, 200 QB ROCK HILL, S.C. [NORTHWESTERN HS]
Ratings: Rivals 3* No. 30 pro-style quarterbac, Scout 3* No. 37 quarterback, ESPN 3* No. 18 quarterback, 247 3*. Chose UT over Notre Dame, Florida, LSU, Florida State, Kentucky, North Carolina and Stanford.
Looking back: One of the most disputed recruits rankings-wise UT has had in recent memory, Worley came in as a universal three-star prospect after a record-setting career at Northwestern High School where he threw for more than 13,000 yards and 157 touchdowns. He won Gatorade National Player of the Year, but analysts criticized the shotgun-spread offense in which he played and his shoddy mechanics. Still, Worley was a quick learner as a mid-termer and student of the game who replaced Matt Simms as the starter in the fourth quarter of the Alabama game following Tyler Bray's injury earlier in the season. He started the next three games, winning one and looking, well, like a freshman. Despite his mediocre numbers [55% completion percentage, 604 yards, one TD, three interceptions] he displayed stellar arm strength and mechanics. Obviously, his decision-making was flawed -- especially in his first career start against South Carolina when his two interceptions were a major difference in the game. Still, he looked the part and seems to be a solid option down the line.
Looking forward: Worley will almost assuredly be the backup to Bray this year barring an injury or something else happening to Bray. It was sort of a baptism-by-fire for the first-year signal caller, and there have been rumors that he or his family [or both] weren't completely happy with Derek Dooley throwing him in when he clearly wasn't ready. While I think that's ridiculous if true, Worley certainly gave me some hope for the future, and I think he'll be a fine quarterback in two years, though I hope we don't have to see him much in 2012.
Final projection: Worley has all the tools and the heady presence to start in Knoxville for two years, but the Vols continue to recruit and sign quarterbacks every year, and Nathan Peterman looks the part as well. I think UT fans can feel much better about what's behind Bray this year, and we know that if Peterman wins the job after Bray's career is over, it'll be because he beat out a pretty good quarterback. I expect Worley to start more games before his Tennessee career is over, and I am excited about his upside.
3. BRIAN RANDOLPH, 6-0, 190 SAFETY MARIETTA, GA. [KELL HS]
Ratings: Rivals 3* No. 32 safety, Scout 3* No. 42 safety , ESPN 3* No. 32 safety, 247 3*. Chose UT over Georgia, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Mississippi State, NC State, South Carolina, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech.
Looking back: Again, this was a universal three-star who was the Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year in a loaded state last season. Still, recruiting services wouldn't budge on his ranking, and Randolph made them look like fools this season. He was honored with a first-team freshman All-SEC recognition, and he became one of UT's four most consistent defensive players late in the season. He started eight games, playing free safety and nickel, and finishing fifth on the team with 55 tackles, two pass break-ups and a TFL. The number of tackles ranked him fifth all time for UT freshmen. In a three-game span against Alabama, LSU and South Carolina, he had 23 tackles and finished with a career-high 12 tackles in the disappointing loss to Kentucky.
Looking forward: The Vols got a star here, and he will be at least a four-year starter [if he sticks around that long] and a sound difference-maker from here on. Last year, he showed some timidity in coverage but was a relentless tackler. He'll get more aggressive in the pass game this year, and will mature into the type of player capable to make game-changing plays now that he's used to the speed. Very smart player who rarely got beat, and a year in the training program will have him bigger, stronger and faster.
Final projection: Fully believe Randolph will be an NFL starter one day. I was very high on him throughout his recruitment, and he was one of my three favorite players on signing day last year along with A.J. Johnson and Jordan Williams. I still believe Randolph will be a great player, and he caught on quickly. It'll be interesting to see who UT hires to be defensive coordinator and if guys like Randolph can step up and provide the on- and off-field leadership this team desperately needs.