Sixteen seniors dot Tennessee's official 2016 football roster, and we put ten of them in our first pass two deep. You can also safely assume Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd, and Alvin Kamara will be donning the orange just one more season before making their way to the early rounds of the NFL Draft.
So with approximately 19 players to replace following what looks like a cycle up year for Tennessee, the 2016 class must fill a number of needs. Tennessee won't need it immediately thanks to the good work at the top of the 2013 class and throughout the last two classes. But they will be looking for some of these names to be answers in 2017, to continue the forward momentum the Vols have built.
The biggest specific holes the Vols will have to fill in the future, and how the 2016 class is addressing them:
- Who follows Josh Dobbs? After filling in for an injured Justin Worley in 2013 and 2014, last season Dobbs became the first Vol quarterback to take every meaningful snap since Jonathan Crompton in 2009. He'll look to lead the Vols to the promised land in his senior season this fall. After that? Sophomore Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Sheriron Jones are in the hole, and the 2016 recruiting class has long been headlined by Jarrett Guarantano, the number one dual threat quarterback in the nation.
- Major losses in the backfield. Dobbs, Hurd, and Kamara combined for 2,657 rushing yards last season. At running back the next man up is sophomore John Kelly, whose 40 carries came exclusively in blowouts. The Vols are bringing in 5'11" 180 lbs Carlin Fils-aime from Naples, Florida, rated the 12th best back in the nation. But unless injury strikes, we won't learn a whole lot about what he or Kelly can do against real competition this fall either. Adding depth at running back will be a major need in the 2017 class.
- Quantity and quality at defensive end. Derek Barnett remains the best NFL prospect on Tennessee's roster. But the Vols will also lose Corey Vereen and LaTroy Lewis to graduation after this season, leaving the Vols with what is currently a ton of inexperience in Kyle Phillips and a pair of redshirts for Andrew Butcher and Darrell Taylor. So while I think Nigel Warrior is the potential get who could help the Vols the most in 2016, the most important long-term get still on the board for Tennessee is five star junior college defensive end Jonathan Kongbo. He could not only help the Vols right away, but provide some security at defensive end after Barnett, Vereen, and Lewis are gone. If Tennessee fails to land Kongbo, its 2016 class has no true defensive end and Tennessee could be looking at position changes down the line. The presence or absence of his name on the dotted line will go a long way toward how we ultimately feel about the 2016 class.