17. ALAN CARSON, 6-2, 325 DT OXFORD, ALA. [OXFORD HS]
Ratings: Rivals 2*, Scout 3* No. 62 defensive tackle, ESPN 2* No. 112 defensive tackle, 247 3*. Chose UT over Illinois, Kentucky and Vanderbilt .
Looking back: Another confusing decision by Derek Dooley was taking the redshirt off Carson to play him as a reserve in five of the season's last seven games, where he failed to make a tackle or even be a factor. Carson really would have benefited from a redshirt season to re-shape his body and gain some strength. The Vols felt they needed to bulk up the defensive interior against teams like Alabama and LSU, but playing Carson was far from the difference in a win and loss. He was very little recruited out of high school, but UT liked him and offered him early. He committed early and stuck with the Vols through the process, showing coaches in practice last year that he was worth the scholarship.
Looking forward: A year in the weight room will really help Carson, and I believe he'll be in the rotation next year. If the Vols are looking for him to provide a ton of help right now, that means we are probably not in great shape along the defensive front, but I could see him being a three-year contributor with the possibility of being firmly in the rotation as an upperclassman. His size and strength will help UT down the road.
Final projection: I don't believe Carson will ever start, but I do think he will be a fine player for the Vols his last two years. There's no doubt UT needs any big bodies it can, and for a freshman defensive lineman to crack playing time his first year speaks not just to the fact that we're thin at the position but also that he made enough strides that the coaches thought they could put him out there. It would have been best for everybody if he could have redshirted, but he didn't, and we'll go from here.