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Tennessee Football: Ranking the Early Enrollees

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By now, you're probably familiar with the ten newest Volunteers. Each of these players steps foot onto campus with recruiting buzz and high school accolades-- but which of these new faces is likely to make an impact on the field this coming season?

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Knowing which player will come in and meet or exceed expectations early on is an inexact science-- take a look at last year's additions for definitive proof! Had you told me that JUCO All-American Dontavius Blair wouldn't see one snap for the Vols in 2014, I would have assumed he missed the season due to injury.  On the other end of the spectrum, Tennessee's most successful freshman in recent history, Derek Barnett, didn't land on campus until the summer session. While arriving late may have paid off for a once-in-a-generation talent like Barnett, coming in early clearly aided early enrollees Jalen Hurd, Todd Kelly Jr., Von Pearson, Ethan Wolf, Coleman Thomas, Jakob Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley and Owen Williams, as all of them saw the field last season, many in starting roles.

Without further ado, here are my rankings of the early enrollees most likely to make a difference on the field (next season only) from least likely to most likely:

#10 - Quinten Dormady

Position Quarterback
Depth Chart Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman, Jauan Jennings (EE)

Nothing against Dormady, as his film suggests he possesses a very strong arm capable of making just about all the throws asked on the field, but given his slender frame and injury history I see very little chance of him seeing the field next season.  In addition to his history, the Vols have this guy named Dobbs that's supposedly pretty decent.  It should be noted that Dormady also possesses above average mobility for being labeled a "pocket passer".  His high school tape is littered with big runs for touchdowns and his mobility in the pocket designed to help his receivers get open.  One issue Dormady will need to work on at the college level is his footwork.  On many of his throws he appears to rely too much on his upper body to make the throw, and as a result, his footwork is sometimes poor.  The coaches will surely correct this with time, but it could hinder his chances of getting on the field immediately.  The future is very bright for Dormady, let's just hope he doesn't have to see the field in 2015.

#9 - Jauan Jennings

Position Quarterback
Depth Chart Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman, Quinten Dormady (EE)

Just as most fans might underestimate Dormady's ability as a runner, they would equally be naive to question Jennings' arm talent. Some seem to be questioning Jennings ability to play QB at the collegiate level, considering his high level of play in the secondary and relative inexperience playing QB coming into his senior season.  Anyone questioning him now I doubt has seen the tape from this past season.  Jennings consistently hits receivers in stride, even when they are 50 yards downfield.  In addition to his throwing ability, his coaches and fellow teammates rave about his leadership and mental capacity on the field.  Case in point, against Independence High this year, Jennings brought his team back from 42-14 in the 4th quarter to win the game.  His ability to lead and unwavering confidence, Jennings is already claiming he's out to win the starting job next season, put Jennings slightly ahead of Dormady in my mind, until we actually see them on a college field.

#8 - Chance Hall

Position
Offensive Tackle
Depth Chart
Dontavius Blair, Kyler Kerbyson, Brett Kendrick, Coleman Thomas, Jack Jones (EE)

Hall comes in with little fanfare in the recruiting world and is coming off a torn Achilles tendon injury in September that cost him most of his senior season.  Expect Hall to get the best treatment available to a college athlete but it's questionable if he will be able to see the field in 2015 for Tennessee.  The reason I put him 8th and not 10th you may ask?  Butch Jones recently tweeted out a picture of the early enrollees being introduced to the rest of the team, and Hall looks twice the size of Under Armour All-American Jack Jones.  If there is anyway Hall can get on the field, it's hard to not see him making some sort of impact for Team 119.

#7 - Stephen Griffin

Position
Safety
Depth Chart
Brian Randolph, LaDarrell McNeil, Todd Kelly, Jr.

One thing hurting Griffin for next season is his lack of a defined role on the team.  He appears to be slightly slow for a safety but not big enough to be a linebacker, it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff initially attempts to use him.  One thing is certain about Griffin, he has tremendous hands, as he played WR in high school in addition to defense.  His tape includes several highlight reel worthy interceptions and touchdown grabs.  Griffin also displays a knack for big hits as well and has the look of an enforcer of the secondary if that's where he ends up.  Reminds me a bit of Oklahoma's Roy Williams during his glory days with the Sooners.  Griffin was awarded the Luke Kuechly High School Defensive Player of the Year last year for his efforts on the field.  If Griffin doesn't make the first or second unit his freshman season, anticipate hearing his name on special teams during a big play or two next season.

#6 - Andrew Butcher

Position
Weakside Defensive End
Depth Chart
Corey Vereen, LaTroy Lewis

Butcher possess the rare combo of size and speed that makes him somewhat of a tweener athlete for the Vols.  He reminds me of a young Curt Maggitt with his ability coming in and where he may fit into the defense in years to come. Look for the coaches to bring Butcher along slowly and prepare him for the hybrid role in the defense, potentially coming in to give Maggitt rest and eventually to replace him in 2016.  Despite his status as a probable backup, don't expect Butcher to receive a redshirt, as a team can never have too many pass rushers.  Rotating defensive linemen in and out is always an advantage for a defensive working with fresh legs and pounding away at opposing offenses.

Early enrollees pose with Butch Jones Image courtesy 247 Sports

#5 - Shy Tuttle

Position
Defensive Tackle
Depth Chart
Danny O'Brien, Owen Williams, Trevarris Saulsberry, Michael Sawyers

With the emergence of Danny O'Brien and Jordan Williams, defensive tackle was actually one of the stronger positional units in 2014.  With Williams having used up all his eligibility, look for at least one spot on the line readily available to whomever steps up at defensive tackle.  Tuttle may very well be the guy that steps up.  Before suffering a minor shoulder injury, Tuttle was the one of the most impressive players at the Under Armour All American practices the first two days.  Sitting out most of the week, solely as a precaution, looked to have taken a toll on Tuttle's preparation in the game itself.  Reviewing Tuttle's film, the big defensive tackle possess rare skills for a player of his size.  He has incredibly fast hands to fight off blockers and quickness rare for a lineman.  Tuttle even had a pick six while playing DT. Look for him to get an opportunity to compete for a starting job that may come right away if he picks up the schemes fast enough.

#4 - Kyle Phillips

Position
Strongside Defensive End
Depth Chart
Derek Barnett, Dimarya Mixon

Phillips certainly put on a show during the US Army All American game after his commitment to the Vols.  Phillips measured in with the longest arms of any player at the game, which shows he's most likely not done adding to an already large frame.  Watching his tape, Phillips reminds me of Jason Pierre Paul with his size and quickness and how he uses them to his advantage when getting into the backfield.  Time and time again, Phillips is able to burst into the backfield and blow up the offensive plays before they know what hit them.  He was able to show the same speed off the edge, even against some the best competition in the nation and very well could have been named MVP of the US Army game.  Even if Phillips doesn't earn a starting spot initially, keep in mind Derek Barnett was the first ever true freshman to ever start at DE in the opener, look for the coaching staff to get Phillips on the field as much as possible to disrupt the opponent's backfield this season.

#3 - Jack Jones

Position
Offensive Tackle/Guard
Depth Chart
Kyler Kerbyson, Brett Kendrick, Coleman Thomas, Jashon Robertson, Austin Sanders

Jones was made to play right tackle on the offensive line for the Vols.  Coming in at 6'5" and right at 300 lbs, Jones possess the size and strength to play in the SEC, but it remains to be seen if he can play right away.  We all witnessed the horror of starting true freshmen on the offensive line last season and we don't necessary want that trend to continue, Jones may prove to be the lone exception.  Watching over his high school tape, he consistently destroys the guy in front of him, usually several yards back until he throws him on his back.  You could question the talent of the players he's facing, but Jones more than held his own during the Under Armour All American practices and even performed well at left tackle when injuries forced him to be rotated there mid-week.  Don't anticipate Jones playing any left tackle for the Vols next season, but I do believe he will be starting at right tackle before the end of the season.

#2 - Darrin Kirkland

Position
Middle Linebacker
Depth Chart
Kenny Bynum, Jakob Johnson, Gavin Bryant

Kirkland is coming in at a good time to make an impact with Team 119 as a huge void presently exists as no answer has been found for AJ Johnson in the middle of the Tennessee defense.  Kirkland is a sledgehammer of a runner when running down stream and into the backfield.  He has the quickness to cut the gaps in the offensive line and power to end a play as soon as he arrives to the ball.  Kirkland also possess excellent hands for a linebacker and is credited with four interceptions last season.  Kirkland will most likely be battling Kenny Bynum and Jakob Johnson for the starting role and even if he doesn't earn the top spot, look for him to get plenty of playing time for the thin linebacking corps of Tennessee.

#1 - Alvin Kamara

Position
Running back
Depth Chart
Jalen Hurd

Tennessee may have secured the most ready player in the nation to come in and run the ball in Alvin Kamara. Kamara has it all, size, speed, strength, pass catching ability and can pass block when called upon to do so.  Look for the coaching staff to hand the ball off to Kamara and Hurd as early and often as possible to save the legs of Joshua Dobbs as his backups will likely be two true freshmen.  Kamara was on the path to a serious role with the Alabama coaching staff before a falling out with the school, which lead him to the JUCO path in which he won All American honors in his only season there.  Kamara's all purpose abilities appear to be the perfect match to Mike Bajakian's scheme and compliment Jalen Hurd's physical, stiff-arming style.  Their ability to lean on one another as the season goes on will be paramount for both of them making it through a tough SEC schedule with their health intact.