Hooker: Likely starters have varied travels

Dave Hooker

Tennessee free safety Janzen Jackson, front, is congratulated by Jacques Smith after Jackson stopped tailback David Oku during the Orange and White Game on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

So just who are these guys, anyway?

While Tennessee's starting lineup isn't set in stone, it has started to take shape and the paths they traveled to Knoxville are mighty varied.

As one might expect with three coaches in three seasons, the Vols will showcase a hodgepodge collection of recruiting stars and surprises this fall.

Here's a breakdown of UT's likely starters and the recruiting road they took to play for the Vols:

-- Quarterback: Matt Simms. He signed with Louisville in 2008 and played in two games before deciding to transfer. The New Jersey native then spent a season at El Camino Community College in Torrance, Calif., where he completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,204 yards, 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Simms enrolled at UT in December after receiving a much-delayed scholarship offer from former UT coach Lane Kiffin, who seemed to always be looking for another option.

-- Tailback: Tauren Poole. Many forget that Poole was one of the top prospects in Georgia when he signed with the Vols in 2008.

Poole committed to UT early despite scholarship offers from Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia Tech. Georgia, however, did not offer.

-- Wide receiver: Gerald Jones/Denarius Moore. Widely considered one of the top 100 prospects in the nation in 2007, Jones selected UT over most every other school in the nation, including Florida.

Moore was one of Texas' standout sprinters when he selected UT over Arkansas, Florida and several Big 12 schools. Moore came to UT along with tailback Lennon Creer, who has since left the program.

-- Tight end: Luke Stocker. He wasn't an elite prospect when he signed out of Kentucky, but he's blossomed into one of the SEC's best tight ends. He chose the Vols over Kentucky, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Louisville.

-- Left tackle: Dallas Thomas. He didn't receive a scholarship offer from his in-state school, LSU, but had offers from several other schools. UT picked up a prospect who is becoming a valuable player.

-- Left guard: JerQuari Schofield. A bit of a late bloomer in recruiting, Schofield may prove to be a steal for the Vols, who signed him in 2009 after beating out Clemson.

Schofield has the frame of an offensive tackle. That could come in handy later in his career.

-- Center: Cody Pope/Victor Thomas. Pope signed with UT over Colorado, Arizona, Washington and Utah. He's played every position on UT's offensive line but has yet to find a permanent home - and consistent playing time.

Thomas had scholarship offers from the Mississippi schools and Louisville as a defensive tackle prospect coming out of high school. Unable to contribute on the defensive line, Thomas has been moved to center.

-- Right Guard: Jarrod Shaw. He signed with UT over UCLA to play defensive tackle in 2006. He started the season last year but was bested by freshman Aaron Douglas, who has since left the team. This might be Shaw's best chance to start a whole season.

-- Right Tackle: Jawuan James. With offers from Florida, Georgia and Alabama, James was clearly one of the top prospects in the nation. He'll need to be to start as a freshman in the SEC this fall.

-- Defensive ends: Chris Walker/Gerald Williams/Ben Martin. Walker was largely overshadowed by fellow West Tennessean linebacker prospect Chris Donald in recruiting in 2007. That was a mistake. Donald is no longer with the program, while Walker is one of its most talented players.

Williams signed with UT in 2005 as a linebacker. Academics delayed his arrival, but there's never been any doubt about his athleticism. He also had scholarship offers from Georgia and Florida among others.

Martin was one of the top defensive end prospects in the nation in 2007 but has yet to live up to that hype.

-- Defensive tackles: Montori Hughes/Marlon Walls. Credit former coach Phillip Fulmer's staff for identifying Hughes, who was overlooked by recruiting services.

Fulmer's staff also secured Walls, who was originally a linebacker before growing into a defensive lineman while improving his academics.

-- Linebackers: Nick Reveiz/LaMarcus Thompson/Greg King/Herman Lathers. Reveiz' story is well documented. Some thought he was just a local walk-on until he impressed three coaching staffs with his toughness, smarts and underrated athleticism.

Thompson had scholarship offers, but not one from his in-state Georgia Bulldogs, so the Vols swooped in.

King was a key get for Lane Kiffin's staff in 2009. He has the sort of athleticism that is reminiscent of some former Vol greats. King clearly was one of the top linebackers in the nation.

Lathers wasn't considered a top prospect; he wasn't offered a scholarship by his in-state LSU Tigers. Still, it's easy to wonder how much a blood disorder might have affected his high school play. With that hopefully behind him, Lathers has the athleticism to grow into a great player.

-- Cornerback: Art Evans/Eric Gordon. Gordon was one of the top prospects in Tennessee and beyond when he committed to UT. Alabama was a likely destination had he not signed to be a Vol.

Evans didn't have a scholarship offer from any of the three big in-state Florida schools, but Ohio State and West Virginia were in hot pursuit.

-- Safety: Janzen Jackson/Darren Myles Jr./Prentiss Waggner. Jackson has turned into the best player Kiffin signed at UT, when he stays out of trouble. Rightfully so, he was considered one of the top prospects in the 2009 class.

Myles was almost as highly rated but didn't get much of a shot to play last year.

Waggner is yet another prospect UT took from Louisiana whom the Tigers didn't deem worthy.

Dave Hooker covers recruiting. He may be reached at hookerd@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 12

Bkvols88 writes:


virginiavolfan writes:

I dont see any way that Dooley doesn't start Bray over Simms against UT-Martin. But than again, Bruce Pearl plays his no talented son 20 minutes a game so anything is possible.

FWBVol writes:

Dave, I hope you're wrong about Simms over Bray at QB. I know it was just one spring game, but Bray looked much better at moving the team. Granted, the White team did seem to get more pressure on Simms than the Orange team did on Bray, but I just like the way Bray handled himself on the field. I had to remind myself that he is a true freshman that enrolled in January.

bugman (Inactive) writes:

they'll both play. dont get your panties in a wad

rabidvol1998 writes:

I like the starting line-up. Depth will obviously be an issue. We better get Oregon while the season is young.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to virginiavolfan:

I dont see any way that Dooley doesn't start Bray over Simms against UT-Martin. But than again, Bruce Pearl plays his no talented son 20 minutes a game so anything is possible.

This is all about football, and there is once again the pathetic person bringing up basketball and Bruce Pearl's son.
Also, don't embarrass two states.........Virginia and Tennessee. Grow up.

jesusvol4 writes:

I think we need both quarterbacks to be working as co-starters this summer. They need to be prepared to share the position, switching on each play. Two quarterback system is the best way to go with this situation. It will keep the opposition on their heels as well. I have a feeling with the no-contact jersey off, Simms will show a little more scrambling ability as well, picking up 5 yards or so with his feet. Then Bray with his height and arm stregth will show his threat to be his downfield vision and ability to connect in tight spots with precision passing. The tandem may be leathal? Let's roll!

RoadTrip writes:

It's Bray. Has to be if they are serious about the future. The kid's got it. I want him in there learning all he can this year so he can make the rest of the SEC's defenses miserable for following 2-3 years.

rockytopatl writes:

If I had to bet, I'd say Simms will start the season and Bray will take over a few games in. The OL won't be good enough to protect either one to the standards we need, which means both will be needed. We may, God forbid, even need Lamaison and Nash before it's over.

VOLume27 writes:

Good article Dave Hooker!

Please do these "look back" articles more often.

transplantiam writes:

We really don't know all we need to with Nance and Rogers not being on the field yet, along with the rest of the signees due to come in. The new linemen coming might suprise and wind up either filling a hole or at least some good #2's. I watched some of 'Bama's game and they do look good. Hate to think of all the trolling that we might have to put up with until CDD gets some more depth.

tripsavol3#650322 writes:

I was at the game saturday...Simms was horrible. Bray looks like a future stud.

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