2. CURT MAGGITT, 6-3, 215 OUTSIDE LINEBACKER WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. [DWYER HS]
Ratings: Rivals 4* No. 198 overall prospect No. 12 outside linebacker No. 31 player in Florida, Scout 4* No. 19 outside linebacker, ESPN 4* No. 63 overall prospect No. 3 outside linebacker, 247 4*. Chose UT over Alabama, Florida, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa, Iowa State, LSU, Marshall, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Rutgers, South Carolina, South Florida, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin (virtually everybody).
Looking back: With UT's lack of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, there was really not much doubt Maggitt would play after Derek Dooley swooped in and stole him from underneath Florida's nose in the 11th hour. The only question really was where would he play? Would he be a defensive end or outside linebacker? Well, he entered camp as an OLB, and it took him about seven seconds to earn a starting job. Blessed with a cool name, blazing speed and a quick grasp of the game, Maggitt became a quick fan favorite and a legit player. He wound up starting eight games and finishing tied for third on the team with 56 tackles, despite being limited by an injury in three games. He also had 5.5 tackles for a loss, two hurries and a forced fumble. He was second among all SEC freshmen with an average of 5.1 tackles per game [behind teammate AJ Johnson]. He was one of two true freshmen to start for UT -- the first two in UT history. He finished with seven tackles four different times.
Looking forward: There aren't many ELITE players on this Tennessee team, but Maggitt certainly qualifies as one. Everybody in the country wanted him, and he proved why last year. There were very few times he was out-of-position, and he really played gap control as well as you could expect from a freshman [even better than teammate A.J. Johnson, who outshined him a bit overall]. Maggitt didn't get the benefit of an offseason in the weight room, which he probably needed, before being thrown into action simply because Dooley didn't have that luxury. There is a possibility that on his frame, he can carry 230 pounds or more and not lose a step -- so I expect him to play next season bigger. He will become an elite pass rusher off the edge, and he is blessed with the ability to be a strength rather than a liability in coverage. Even with all that, he is still a sure tackler, and after a year on the weights and some time with the new defensive coordinator, there's reason to believe he may turn his first-team All-SEC freshman team honor into a spot on the Big Boy team sooner rather than later.
Final projection: I believe that Maggitt will be an All-SEC player before his days on the hill are done, and he will be a terrific pro as well once he adds some weight. He is a very versatile defender who can put a hand down or stand up, and he is only going to get better as a pass rusher. He needs to learn to pin his ears back, go and trust his instincts, and once UT gets better on the defensive line, he will wreak havoc on quarterbacks. It is very possible that Maggitt will be a four-year player at UT, and if so, he'll almost assuredly be a four-year starter who will be remembered fondly in Vols history before his career is over.