It's the morning after, and all of us are excited about our four-stars who possibly probably definitely should have been five-stars and our three-star diamonds in the rough just waiting to be coach-em-upped. It's what we do. For Tennessee, much of the conversation on the Class of 2016 also involves what they don't have to do: make an impact right away.
Any rebuild begins on signing day; Tennessee's began with Butch Jones three years ago and has continued every February since. Those rebuilds end in the NFL Draft, where the Vols should be one April away from business as usual. In between is what we all hope will be the payoff season. But that hope doesn't have to be built on the backs of any true freshmen.
That has not been the case for the more desperate hopes of the rest of this decade, when the Vols have seen 16 true freshmen start a majority of games over the last six years:
- 2015: Darrin Kirkland Jr.
- 2014: Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd, Jashon Robertson, Ethan Wolf
- 2013: Marquez North, Josh Smith, Cam Sutton
- 2012: LaDarrell McNeil
- 2011: A.J. Johnson, Curt Maggitt, Brian Randolph
- 2010: Tyler Bray, Zach Fulton, Ja'Wuan James, James Stone