It was supposed to be the class that elevated Tennessee back to elite status.
Eight U.S. Army All-Americans.
Four Parade All-Americans.
Two USA Today All-USA honorees.
Too bad most of the honors stopped on signing day.
There’re no college championships and few individual accolades for the vaunted 2005 class that recruiting services had rated among the top five in the country.
You can debate whether the 2005 class was simply a group of busts or lacked proper coaching. I’ll just outline the production.
Here is a player-by-player breakdown of one of the most disappointing signing classes in UT history:
Demonte’ Bolden: Bolden has started 19 games during his UT career, registering 12 tackles for loss, including three sacks.
Slow to contribute initially, Bolden has grown into a starter since being rated the top prospect in Tennessee and one of the top prospects in the nation in 2005.
Ulysses Alexander: Never made it to UT because the Vols over signed, meaning there was no scholarship available. A questionable prospect anyway, Alexander enrolled at Auburn, then transferred to Howard.
Alexander’s playing ability was one reason he was an SEC-level prospect. His uncle, rap star Luther Campbell, was another. Campbell is influential in Miami-area recruiting.
Josh Briscoe: Briscoe was rated the No. 1 receiver in North Carolina but was far from being UT’s top-rated prospect in 2005. Still, he’s become a solid player when UT’s offense is productive.
Briscoe had 56 catches for 557 yards last season, yet has 10 receptions for 150 yards this season.
Wes Brown: A high school All-American by Prep Star, Brown has locked down a starting job and seems to be coming into his own.
Brown has three tackles for a loss, including 1 ½ sacks, and six quarterback hurries this season.
LaMarcus Coker: There was a time when Coker looked like the most explosive player from the 2005 class. Then he was kicked off the team and enrolled at Hampton.
Jeff Cottam : Like his brother Brad Cottam, Jeff’s career has been sidelined far too often by injuries. However, he has good upside and is UT’s best blocking tight end.
Todd Cox : Picked the No. 4 prospect in the state by the News Sentinel, Cox faced academic hurdles then decided against pursuing a career at UT and went to Ole Miss. Cox never showed the promise he did as a high school prospect.
Jonathan Crompton: Following two surgeries to his throwing arm and two years on the bench behind Erik Ainge, Crompton appeared poised to be a two-year starter at UT before this season began.
Alas, Crompton struggled under his third offensive coordinator at UT and was benched in favor of sophomore Nick Stephens. Crompton was widely thought of as one of the elite quarterback prospects in the nation.
Montario Hardesty: Along with Briscoe, Hardesty was a big pickup out of North Carolina. Injuries hurt Hardesty’s development early.
Since then, he has become a solid tailback who should see more playing time.
Raymond Henderson: A U.S. Army All-American, Henderson was dismissed from UT in 2006. He transferred to Minnesota and has played in three games this season, registering one tackle.
Ricardo Kemp: One of UT’s many losses in the secondary in recent memory. This one came due to dismissal.
Andre Mathis: One of the top linebacker prospects in the nation, Mathis has grown into a defensive tackle and is contributing as a reserve this season.
Rico McCoy: Thought to be UT’s next star linebacker, McCoy’s stat line concerning explosive plays has been less than impressive: one sack, one quarterback hurry and two pass breakups.
A captain in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, McCoy has started every game this season. He played well last week, registering 13 tackles.
Josh McNeil: A mainstay in the starting lineup for two seasons, McNeil is to be commended for playing well despite being undersized.
Still, as the top center prospect in the nation in 2005, McNeil hasn’t yet been as dominant as many projected him to be.
Demetrice Morley: Part of the storied South Florida trio of 2005, Morley has shown the ability to turn in fantastic plays but still lacks consistency. He is to be commended for returning to the field following a season away from football due to academics.
Morley was also known as a dynamic returner and part-time receiver in high school. Those talents haven’t shown up at UT.
Darius Myers: Considered a project when he signed, Myers spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy and has since been refining his skills before being suspended for two weeks this season. Myers returned to practice this week.
Adam Myers-White: It took this U.S. Army All-American some time to work his way into the lineup, which isn’t unusual for UT linebackers.
Myers-White has three tackles for a loss, one quarterback hurry and one pass break up this season while rotating with Nevin McKenzie at strongside linebacker.
Malcolm Rawls: A quick transfer, Rawls returned home to Memphis and was moved from defensive tackle to the offensive line.
Vladimir Richard: One of UT’s top six offensive linemen, Richard is another member of the South Florida Trio. Richard started his first game against Mississippi State and then again last Saturday against Alabama.
Austin Rogers: Having emerged with 56 catches last season as a sophomore, Rogers was seen as a proven contributor coming into 2008.
Nevertheless, he’s been largely unused this season, catching just eight passes for 81 yards.
Chris Scott: A Parade All-American, Scott has locked down a starting position. Still, like UT’s entire offensive line, this U.S. Army All-American/USA Today All-USA selection/Parade All-American hasn’t lived up to expectations.
Slick Shelley: A U.S. Army All-American, Shelley transferred to Tulsa before the 2007 season once he determined he had been passed on the depth chart by UT’s younger receivers.
Shelley has 25 catches for 457 yards and six touchdowns for the Golden Wave this season.
Lucas Taylor: A high-school quarterback, Taylor made the transition to receiver with ease and has become one of UT’s most explosive receivers when healthy.
Taylor is UT’s leading receiver with 22 catches for 273 yards.
Antonio Wardlow: Despite being the first Vol on the cover of Sports Illustrated since Peerless Price in 1998, Wardlow was dismissed in February. His career was largely forgettable except for that famous punt block for a touchdown against Georgia in 2006.
Dan Williams: Just the eighth best prospect in Tennessee according to The News Sentinel, Williams has turned into a solid starter at defensive tackle. He has 34 tackles, 6 1⁄2 for a loss.
Gerald Williams: It took the third of the South Florida trio three years to get to UT due to academic issues. Williams was moved from linebacker to defensive end early this season. He has since shown flashes of greatness.