Injuries slowed him down.
A huge number of carries for another running back limited Bryce Brown even further.
Oversized expectations for the Tennessee freshman might have been difficult to reach even without those obstacles, but that doesn't mean the Vols will be lowering them anytime soon. If anything, the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech on New Year's Eve (TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m.) could be the start of something special for Brown after a trying first season.
"At the beginning I didn't know what to expect," Brown said. "Now I'm broken in and I know what to expect coming into next year. I think it was a nice season for me as far as learning and getting my feet wet.
"I think it's what everybody has to go through at some point in time. I think it's good for everyone, but for me that's definitely what it was. It was frustrating, but it's more mental than it is physical by far."
At times it seemed the opposite was true for the No. 1 recruit in the nation last year, who was visibly bothered by a nagging hip injury and often couldn't quite find his extra gear to break open a play.
Brown finished the year with 460 yards on 101 carries with three touchdowns, numbers that certainly bode well for a productive future when a large majority of the attempts aren't going to Montario Hardesty.
"I feel like Bryce looks the best that he has," UT coach Lane Kiffin said. "I think for freshmen in general the season gets so long, they get so worn down and it's so different than what they're used to in high school that their bodies start to wear down. Then when they have a little bit of break like they did after the season, they come back refreshed and so I think our freshmen in general have looked better.
"I think he would have (met preseason expectations) if he would have had the opportunity to. His average per carry was up there, and he played extremely well. There was a variable that a lot of people wouldn't have been able to predict, and that was a 1,300-yard rusher in front of him."
Ultimately that could turn out to be a blessing for Brown since he didn't have to shoulder the load before he was ready.
In addition to all the offense he supplied, Hardesty also gave Brown time to develop behind him and likely saved the Vols some mileage on their tailback of the future.
"I think it's been a good year, but I feel like I can contribute more and do a lot better than I've showed," Brown said. "I think just overall the pounding on the body that I felt, I don't think I've been 100 percent in any game. That's just how it is, and I know going into next season how I've got to take care of my body and think about those things like doing the extra stretching, getting the extra ice and those little things because they count.
"I don't think (high expectations) were unfair. Unfortunately it didn't happen, as much I would have liked it to happen. I got my first year under my belt and I'm excited going into next year, but I really just want to focus on this bowl game. It's our seniors' last game and I want them to go out on top."
Either way, Brown is ready to slide in when they're gone.
Take Two: Nick Stephens got another extended shot with the first team again Sunday, and for the second day in a row the junior quarterback didn't disappoint.
"I think it's a very good example of when someone has to play, they play better, usually," Kiffin said. "He's done really well.
"He's playing the best he's played since we've been here. A lot of that has to do with he's going in there with the (starters) and going in there with a tight end that's playing extremely well, a couple of tailbacks and receivers. When you go in with those guys, it helps. Especially as well as those guys have been playing."
Bumps And Bruises: Starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton was limited again with soreness after hitting his hand during a throw Friday.
Cornerback Stephaun Raines and defensive tackles Wes Brown and Dan Williams were all limited with concussion issues.
The Vols had a couple other injury scares in their Sunday workout when offensive linemen Aaron Douglas and Jacques McClendon went down with apparent leg injuries, but Kiffin indicated both would have kept playing it if were a game.
"Other than that we're pretty healthy," Kiffin said. "We continued to pound away, very physical practice, guys were in good spirits. We're making progress."