Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class finished as the best class for the Vols in years, and we thought that many of the incoming freshmen would be difference makers. Through the first three games of the season, how have they done?
Playing Time and Stats
The charts below break down the contributions of each individual player. Twelve offensive players (not counting those listed as athletes) signed with the Vols, and defensive tackle/offensive guard Jashon Robertson has played solely on the offensive side of the ball since his move at the end of camp. Of those thirteen players, nine have played in at least one game so far, with two players missing time due to injury (running backs Treyvon Paulk and Derrell Scott), one player likely to redshirt (offensive lineman Ray Raulerson), and one player remaining a gigantic enigma (JUCO offensive lineman Dontavius Blair).
|Skill Position Players|
|Name||GP-Starts||Rush Stats||Receiving Stats||Notes|
|Jalen Hurd||3-0||48 rushes for 209 yards, 4.4 avg., 1 TD, long of 43||4 receptions for 40 yards, 10.0 avg., 1 TD, long of 30|
|Treyvon Paulk||--||--||--||Dismissed for disciplinary reasons|
|Derrell Scott||--||--||--||Missed first three games w/ injury|
|Josh Malone||3-0||None||5 receptions for 63 yards, 12.6 avg., long of 15|
|Von Pearson||2-2||None||7 receptions for 98 yards, 14.0 avg., 1 TD, long of 56||Missed the OU game w/ a high ankle sprain|
|Vic Wharton||2-0||None||None||Played on special teams|
|Daniel Helm||3-1||None||1 reception for 0 yards||Started the OU game in place of Wolf|
|Ethan Wolf||2-2||None||8 receptions for 46 yards, 5.8 avg., long of 12||MIssed the OU game w/ injury|
|Other Offensive Players|
|Dontavius Blair||0-0||None||Has yet to appear in a game, working as the second-team right tackle|
|Ray Raulerson||0-0||None||In line to redshirt|
|Jashon Robertson||3-3||Started at right guard in every game so far||First team right guard|
|Coleman Thomas||3-1||Started at right tackle against Oklahoma||Promoted to first team right tackle with the line reshuffling prior to the Oklahoma game|
|Aaron Medley||3-0||Made 4 of 6 field goals with a long of 38, kicked off 7 times for 407 yds. with an average of 58.1||Kicked off against Utah State, but has only attempted FGs against other two opponents|
Early Reviews Revisited
Here's what we had to say about Hurd in February:
A tall, long-striding player with good breakaway speed, Hurd has an upright running style reminiscent of former Titans' players Eddie George and Chris Brown. If there's any knock on him, it's that this bruising running style may make him prone to injury, after he missed his senior season with a torn labrum. Assuming his recovery remains on pace, Hurd may be too talented to keep off the field, and will likely supplant the slower Alden Hill as Marlin Lane's primary backup.
While we urged caution in setting expectations for the talented freshman, Jalen Hurd was busy working on living up to his substantial potential. He not only supplanted Alden Hill as Lane's primary backup, he relegated Lane mostly to the bench in the second half of the Oklahoma game. After starting the year with an embarrassing attempted block in pass protection, Hurd has really stepped up his effort in all phases of the game: running with authority, blocking with tenacity, and most of all, serving as a reliable option for a Vols' offense that has struggled at times with mental mistakes.
Grade: A. He outpaced expectations, unless you expected him to play well enough that Eddie George would notice. Oh, wait.
Pearson was on his way to being a truly feared complement to Marquez North when he injured his ankle against Arkansas State. Although he didn't participate at all in the game against Oklahoma, Pearson is still the Vols' third leading receiver behind North and his replacement at Y-receiver, sophomore Josh Smith. The only thing holding him back is his recovery from the high ankle sprain he suffered, which tends to be a lingering injury.
Grade: Prior to injury: B+. Met expectations, but he can't contribute while sitting on the bench with an injury.
Although it's possible that UT coaches could put him at the number two spot, it's more likely that he will learn the number one position, giving the offense a similar threat when North needs a breather.
Through three games, the only thing holding back Josh Malone is Josh Malone's work ethic. Coach Azzani has raved about Malone's physical skills, but so far the talented freshman has struggled with consistency and focus, running poor routes and dropping catchable balls. With Pearson out and Josh Smith dinged up, Malone may get his first start of the season against Georgia in Athens. He's always been the type to play his best under the brightest lights, and the opportunity to make a splash won't get any easier than the game on Saturday.
Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm
It's not that Helm isn't good, or that he won't earn playing time at the expense of incumbent starter Brendan Downs... it's that it's hard to project how he and the other players listed here will contribute to the offense, based on what we've seen from coaches. Helm and Wolf will absolutely compete with Downs, A.J. Branisel, and (assuming he stays on the roster) Woody Quinn, but given the learning curve with the new offensive line, coaches may ask tight ends to stay in and help block, which may make it harder for even talented freshmen to see the field.
Chalk this one up to looking at stars rather than actually watching film on prospects. Helm is probably the superior pass-catcher, but he lacks the strength and skill to play along the line of scrimmage, while Wolf has been a revelation both blocking and catching passes as an outlet receiver. With Wolf sitting on the bench nursing an injury, Oklahoma's defensive front absolutely feasted on the all-freshman (RG Robertson, RT Coleman, and TE Helm) right side of the Tennessee offensive line, with the Sooners' savvy veterans frequently confusing the young Vols with different looks and blitzes.
Grades: Wolf: A-; Helm: C+
Before the season, only one offensive lineman from the 2014 recruiting class made our list of likely contributors, with the others expected to redshirt, or, as in one notable case, play defense.
- Dontavius Blair was expected to come in and compete for immediate playing time, with most (including yours truly) penciling him in as the starter at the left tackle position. Instead, Blair came into Tennessee out of shape, was quickly beaten out by a walk-on fifth year senior, and has sunk all the way to the second team right tackle position (Tennessee is so thin along the line that he can't drop any further or he'll be listed behind Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the third Sullins twin). Unless the light bulb comes on soon, he looks like a physical talent without the right mental makeup to succeed. Grade: F.
- Coleman Thomas was a largely unknown quantity who "could win immediate playing time, but more likely will need time in the weight room and at the training table to see the field." So... basically, we had no idea. He's since come in and started two games at right tackle as a true freshman, which is impressive, even he hasn't always been. Grade: B
- Jashon Robertson started out on the defensive line before giving offensive line a try. In our preview article, we hedged our bets by saying that he would "likely redshirt, and could end up as an offensive guard (he played both ways in high school), depending on where coaches see the most need." He's been an absolute revelation at right guard, and looks like a major building block for the next several years. Grade: A
- Ray Raulerson. See Thomas above for early reviews. He hasn't seen the field or made waves in practice, so for now, he remains an unknown. Grade: Incomplete
- Aaron Medley. Medley handled the kickoffs in the opening game against Utah State, but has since focused solely on field goals, where he's 4 of 6. Grade: B-
- Derrell Scott hasn't played while he's been recovering from a series of nagging injuries, but early reports have been good. Grade: Incomplete.
- Treyvon Paulk has been dismissed from the team as part of an alleged domestic violence incident without ever playing a down for Tennessee. Paulk may never play at the college level, but he's still young, and he should actively seek help to address the root causes of his behavior and take stock of the harm he's caused. For the Vols, it's impressive that head coach Butch Jones dealt so swiftly and thoroughly with off-the-field trouble. Grade: F