The Tennessee Volunteers hauled in a top 5 recruiting class in the 2015 recruiting cycle, adding 30 talented players to their roster in Butch Jones' second full class. The Vols are finally in a position where they don't need the majority of their recruiting class to come in and contribute right away as newcomers to the team. But the 2015 class does have a handful of players talented enough to make significant impacts this season.
Here are the five players from Tennessee's 2015 class who will be the biggest contributors this upcoming season.
5. Drew Richmond, Offensive Tackle
Tennessee's offensive line was one of the worst offensive lines in 2014, giving up an SEC-worst 43 sacks and 101 tackles for a loss. The line was cut some slack when the more mobile Joshua Dobbs took over at quarterback, but even then the line still struggled to consistently protect Dobbs and open up holes for the running game.
Even though he may not win a starting job in 2015, offensive tackle Drew Richmond will at least compete for playing time and push the other offensive tackles, especially Dontavius Blair. Richmond was rated as highly as a 5-star by some recruiting services and is considered one of the top offensive tackles in the 2015 class. He has the potential to win a starting spot as a freshman, but the line will benefit from his presence even if he doesn't.
4. Shy Tuttle, Defensive Tackle
Tennessee's defensive line was one of the most improved and productive units on the team in 2014. While defensive ends Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines, the defensive tackles weren't as disruptive. But defensive tackle was the strongest part of the 2015 recruiting class, and the newcomers at that position should provide immediate help.
As an early enrollee, Shy Tuttle already has a leg up on the other incoming freshmen defensive lineman. He was able to get some early conditioning work done and begin to absorb the defensive playbook. Tuttle has one of the biggest bodies on the team at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, and he's only a freshman.
Tuttle has the ability to start immediately, but even if he doesn't, he will play significant snaps in the defensive tackle rotation for the Vols in 2015 and should be a lane clogger at the very least.
3. Kahlil McKenzie, Defensive Tackle
As talented as Shy Tuttle is, Kahlil McKenzie has the potential to be even better during his time as a Vol. McKenzie consistently garnered praise from recruiters and analysts in high school and when he attended various recruiting camps, and he was a consensus 5-star defensive tackle coming out of high school despite missing his entire senior year because he was ruled ineligible due to transfer rules.
McKenzie has an even bigger body than Tuttle at 6-foot-3, 330 pounds, but he has just as much, if not more, athleticism. McKenzie has speed that belies his size and proved in high school and in camps that he has elite disruptive ability. McKenzie has shown that he has innate leadership qualities even as a freshman that will only benefit the rest of the defensive line.
Even though Tuttle enrolled early and has a leg up on the other freshmen defensive linemen, McKenzie has enough talent to surpass him and earn a starting defensive tackle spot immediately as a freshmen. He's that good.
2. Justin Martin, Cornerback
When junior college transfers are brought in, they are usually expected to come in and contribute immediately to the team. Justin Martin is no exception.
Cam Sutton has the No. 1 cornerback spot nailed down on Tennessee's defense in 2015, but the 2nd spot is wide open after a spring that saw sophomore Emmanuel Moseley miss some time with sickness and junior Malik Foreman fail to take command of the spot in Moseley's absence. That leaves the door wide open for Martin.
Martin was rated as the No. 1 JUCO cornerback in the country according to 247Sports, and he has all the tools to nail down the starting corner position opposite Sutton. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Martin has a big body and is the type of physical corner SEC defenses are known for. Martin should come in and seal down a starting position before the 2015 season whether it's at the 2nd corner position or at the nickel.
1. Alvin Kamara, Running Back
The Vols may not be very deep in the backfield in 2015, but their top two running backs appear to be two of the most talented backs in the league. Returning starter Jalen Hurd is coming off an impressive freshman campaign that saw him amass over 1,100 yards of total offense and was often the team's only productive running back. But he won't be the only dynamic back on the roster this fall.
Alvin Kamara is a junior college running back that was previously signed on as an Alabama prospect back in 2013. Kamara was rated as highly as a 5-star and was considered one of the top two JUCO running backs by all recruiting services in 2015. Kamara showed in high school and his lone season in junior college that he possesses elite play-making ability and is an elusive, shifty back. Kamara should be the perfect compliment to Hurd's power running style.
As long as both backs can stay healthy, they should receive close to an even split of the carries. Kamara has the ability to be a starter on any team in the SEC, but having a running mate like Hurd will only benefit both players.