The immediate future might not have looked bright for the Tennessee football program in 1963.
The final tally for that season was 5-5 under Jim McDonald, with a change in football philosophy on the way, the Vols moving from the single-wing to the "T" a year later.
With the advantage of hindsight, however, an observant fan can look at that season's freshmen and find a number of young men who would contribute to the renaissance of Vol football under Doug Dickey in the ensuing years.
The 1963 freshman class was the last assembled by Bowden Wyatt and staff.
There were some historically relevant names from this class found in a story in the Knoxville Journal from Sept. 12, 1963, nine days before the season opener against Richmond.
A story entitled "Frosh Team Features Big Line" tells us there were 52 freshmen on hand for that fall campaign, with 40 on scholarship and 12 out on their own.
Dale Haupt was the freshman coach that season and was impressed by what he had seen.
"We have some big linemen," he said. "And several of them have shown some real promise in scrimmage work against the varsity. I'm sure a lot of them will be playing a lot of varsity ball next season."
There weren't many players from this class who did make it to their senior season at Tennessee, but there were some big names on the list, some of the integral pieces of Tennessee Vols history.
"John Mills, a member of the Journal-Coaches' All-East Tennessee team last fall as a quarterback, has been converted to end and has made the transition in fine style. Another end with major league potential is Paul Naumoff from Columbus, Ohio."
Mills, known in his Tennessee playing days as "Johnny," did make it as wide receiver, but Naumoff found his niche on the defensive side of the ball, at end, then at linebacker.
He was All-SEC and All-America in 1966, with Mills also being named All-SEC. Naumoff had a distinguished career with the Detroit Lions 1967-78.
There also was mention made of "Lynn Gammage," a 230-pound lineman from Cedartown, Ga., known better in later years as "Elliott." The story reported that Gammage, described as the "massive tackle from Georgia," had been "a real standout in scrimmages against the varsity."
The story also took note of "Fayetteville's Joe Graham, a 6-1, 205-pounder, and Bobby Morel, 210-pound star from Battle Ground Academy."
Gammage and Graham became offensive linemen and were two of the standouts on the 1967 line for a team that won the SEC title and the Litkenhous national crown. Morel was a spunky nose guard who got by on sheer determination and grit.
There also was a defensive tackle named Derrick Weatherford, 218, from Darlington, S. C., who contributed mightily during his career.
At wingback were Ron Jarvis of Pittsford, N.Y., and Harold Stancell of Karns High School in Knoxville. Jarvis played fullback. Stancell was a starter in the secondary 1964-66.
Among the contenders at blocking back was Doug Archibald from Sarasota, Fla. He started as the "monster " (a floating linebacker/strong safety deployed in unexpected places) in 1964 and as a more traditional linebacker in 1966. He had the game-clinching interception and touchdown return against Georgia Tech in 1964.
Knoxville's Rod Harkelroad was listed among the centers. He didn't play a lot, but before Rod died several years ago, he and Gammage helped steer Steve DeLong through a rough patch in his life.
Then came the topper of them all, the player who came out of nowhere to be a star - Dewey Warren.
Warren was one of the freshman tailbacks, signed by assistant coach Bob Woodruff and aided immeasurably by former Vol center Lamar Leachman, Warren's high school coach in Savannah, Ga.
We all know well how things worked out for Warren, once he discovered jersey No. 16 and earned his chance against Ole Miss on Nov. 13, 1965, in a game at Memphis.
He had labored on the scout squad, making the varsity look bad at times, but once he got his opportunity, he made the most of it. He was like a wolf getting his first taste of sheep. No one could hold him back.
Known as the "Swamp Rat," Warren threw the ball all over the field during his time, talking about "Humming that tater."
Never lacking for confidence, Warren brought his own brand of "swagger" to the Vol offense. His game-winning run in the 1965 UCLA game, chronicled on Vol Network video, the famed "Rosebonnet Bowl," is always worth another look. You always had the impression that if Dewey started walking down the street, teammates would fall in behind him just to see where he was going.
Even when things might have looked bleak in the Vol program, there were players on campus ready to make a positive impact on Vol fortunes. There weren't many of them, but all they needed was an opportunity.
Tom Mattingly is a freelance contributor.