8 fifth-year seniors want to be building-block class for Vols

Derek Dooley concerned about depth at tight end

None

They signed with Phillip Fulmer, played as youngsters under Lane Kiffin and came of age under Derek Dooley.

Today, eight players remain from Tennessee’s 2008 signing class, a remarkable total given the tumultuous years they have endured.

Willie Bohannon, Dallas Thomas, Carson Anderson, Ben Bartholomew, Herman Lathers, Rod Wilks, Steven Fowlkes and Prentiss Waggner are now fifth-year seniors. Some are stars. Some will be role players. A few have had only limited on-field contributions.

But Lathers said the group can take pride in making it to the finish line of their college careers.

“I remember all of us coming in together, and we’ve been through all the struggles and coaching changes,” Lathers said. “Through it all, we stuck together and leaned on each other and picked each other up when we needed to be picked up.”

Now the only question for the 2008 class is how their story will end.

“We can turn it around,” Bohannon said. “We have a chance to be the senior group that started University of Tennessee’s comeback, and that makes me feel really good. It doesn’t matter if I come off the bench, it doesn’t matter if I never start this season. Just to be a part of it is important to me.”

The 18-player 2008 signing class was not especially well-regarded, falling outside the top 25 in national recruiting rankings. None of the remaining players were ranked better than a three-star prospect, according to Rivals or Scout.

One signee, defensive lineman Marlon Walls, failed to qualify but later re-signed with UT after a stint at Hargrave Military. Including Walls, 50 percent of the class is still with the program nearly five years later.

The group has seen not only different head coaches, but a revolving door of position coaches, coordinators and even strength coaches.

“It’d probably take a while (to name them all),” Lathers said. “I had a good relationship with them all. College football is a business. Coaches are going to come and go. I learned that early.”

Dooley said he appreciated the players who weathered the storm.

“Those guys obviously believe in Tennessee and appreciate all that Tennessee’s given to them, despite all the change that’s happened,” Dooley said.

Of the group, only a handful have been consistent contributors. Thomas has started 25 consecutive games at offensive tackle. Bartholomew emerged as the starting fullback in 2011. Waggner, a defensive back, hasn’t missed a game in his career.

Others are hoping for a strong senior finish. Bohannon had a career-high 27 tackles in 2011 but is adjusting to a new linebacker role in Sal Sunseri’s 3-4 defense. Wilks, a defensive back, was one of the Vols’ top special teams players last year. Fowlkes didn’t play last year due to academics, but is fighting for serious playing time on the defensive line.

“We have a good group of leaders on this team,” Waggner said. “We talk about it all the time. We want to be the group of seniors and the team that brings Tennessee back and puts Tennessee back on that pedestal that everyone is used to seeing.”

A strong season would be the perfect ending to an unusual career, but Lathers said he has no regrets no matter how the story unfolds.

“It’s been a struggle, but if we had to go back and change anything, we wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “It’s made us who we are today. It’s a good group, and I’m proud to say I came with them.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 51

PUL4VOLS writes:

Hats off to these guys for hanging in there. No doubt they wondered about it at times. Am I to conclude Lathers will not get a redshirt year from last year's injury? I thought that might be possible. There will be some new challenges this year but things are falling into place and only a few weeks to see how it begins.

FWBVol writes:

Thanks guys for staying the course and believing in Tennessee even when some so-called fans haven't believed in you or your coaches. You all really are Vols For Life.

exlineman writes:

What great attitudes , these players have. This can turn into a great turn around for our great program here at Tn.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Go for it. I got my fingers crossed.

BluezVol writes:

The lessons at UT of loyalty; not listening/reacting to gossip and/or idle chatter; working hard and being persistent will pay dividends the rest of their lives. God bless em.

DennisVols writes:

The one thing I see different about this team from any of the past 3 is the leadership from a players stand point. You can talk about injuries, lack of depth, lack experience as being contributors to the struggles UT has gone through but the biggest issue of them all has been a lack of leadership from the players standpoint. In the UK game last year it really showed as this team just quit. Coaching leadership is important but it is the veteran players that make the biggest difference. In an off season when coaches can have limited connection with the players it is that kind of leadership that brings the new young players up to speed on the college game. They encourage the underclass players when there is a trial that a team faces in the midst of a long season comes. These men have weathered the storm and it is that strength that will make a difference on this team.
Keeping it Real
GoVols!!!

oimo2005#352417 writes:

Honest question: Does that mean there are more of Fulmer's recruits on the team than Kiffin's?

Bigger_Al writes:

i supported Coach Majors, supported Coach Fulmer, defended Kiffin, and I support Coach Dooley. It is sad to see the last of the Fulmer guys playing their final season on the Hill. Make some noise, guys!

lomas98 writes:

in response to oimo2005#352417:

Honest question: Does that mean there are more of Fulmer's recruits on the team than Kiffin's?

Sadly, you may be right and is exactly the reason we have struggled the last 2 years. I am not exactly sure if Dooley can lead this team on the field, but I have given him e benefit of the doubt just based on the upperclassman numbers. Hopefully these guys can pass the baton to the younger guys that we have grown accustomed to. Winning will cure all.

AtLannaVol writes:

Wouldn't be sweet if they are part of the turn-around. Maybe 9-3 and win a bowl game. Then if we don't lose the majority of our skill position juniors to the pros, then you gotta bet on us being better than that next year. And these guys lived through the low times. Here's to the seniors! Give 'em hell guys!

ewoodbery writes:

Dallas Thomas actually started 25 games at tackle. He shifted to guard this spring. We'll get that fixed for the print edition, and it should be fixed here soon, too.

-- Evan

rabidvol1998 writes:

It would only be fitting for these guys to turn it around. I remember the first time I heard Herman Lathers (great football name) on the radio, I said "next Al Wilson?". We'll see. GBO

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

Dallas Thomas with 25 starts at guard?..... I must have slept through that. On the other hand, Bartholamew's brother played FB, was a captain, and won a NC at UT. His grandfather played FB, was a captain, and won a NC at UT. God how sweet it would be for him to continue that trend.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to oimo2005#352417:

Honest question: Does that mean there are more of Fulmer's recruits on the team than Kiffin's?

No. There are 5 true seniors (Corey Alexander, Marsalis Teague, JR Carr, Darin Gooch and Zach Rogers) and 5 redshirt juniors (Naz Oliver, Eric Gordon, Greg King, Dan Hood, and Joe Ayres) that I believe are from Kiffin's class. I can't remember if Mychal Rivera was recruited by Kiffin or Dooley.

aj_vol#248433 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

No. There are 5 true seniors (Corey Alexander, Marsalis Teague, JR Carr, Darin Gooch and Zach Rogers) and 5 redshirt juniors (Naz Oliver, Eric Gordon, Greg King, Dan Hood, and Joe Ayres) that I believe are from Kiffin's class. I can't remember if Mychal Rivera was recruited by Kiffin or Dooley.

Alexander, Carr & Ayres were walk ons (not recruited/signed out of HS)

Dooley brought in Gooch from JUCO

Timbo_Slice writes:

Probably the toughest 4 year period on "the hill" of the modern era. Lets hope these guys get rewarded for their efforts in a big time way in year 5! Much respect to each and every one of these individuals...true VFL's!

Timbo_Slice writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Dallas Thomas with 25 starts at guard?..... I must have slept through that. On the other hand, Bartholamew's brother played FB, was a captain, and won a NC at UT. His grandfather played FB, was a captain, and won a NC at UT. God how sweet it would be for him to continue that trend.

Rich, my man, I like the way you think! I heard that story about the Bartholamew's the other day and thought the same thing.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to DennisVols:

The one thing I see different about this team from any of the past 3 is the leadership from a players stand point. You can talk about injuries, lack of depth, lack experience as being contributors to the struggles UT has gone through but the biggest issue of them all has been a lack of leadership from the players standpoint. In the UK game last year it really showed as this team just quit. Coaching leadership is important but it is the veteran players that make the biggest difference. In an off season when coaches can have limited connection with the players it is that kind of leadership that brings the new young players up to speed on the college game. They encourage the underclass players when there is a trial that a team faces in the midst of a long season comes. These men have weathered the storm and it is that strength that will make a difference on this team.
Keeping it Real
GoVols!!!

Dennis! Where you been man? Just avoiding all the off-season trolls, I guess.

There've been a lot of people NOT keeping it real the last few months.

nocleats writes:

Lead by example, go knock people on their Arses!

SummittsCourt writes:

Too bad many of the posters on this website don't have the same class as these players.

Go Vols!

gc_scvol writes:

Thanks Guys. You are truly Vols For Life and deserve to go out with a Winning Season and a Great bowl game. IMO You will be rewarded with both. This is the year of the VOLUNTEER and thanks to young men like you for making that happen.

1bigvolman writes:

Thank you guys! We would love to see you turn this thing around, but I for one, will be a VFL win or lose! GBO!!!

PHAT_VOL writes:

What a great group of MEN!! It gives me a good feeling to be a VOL when we have a group of seniors like this. They weren't five or four star players but young men who came to Tennessee because it is the University of Tennessee. Not for personal exploites but to contribute to the great tradition that is University of Tennessee football and like them I plan to stick around and hold true, through coaching changes win lose or draw. Let the rise back to the top begin.
GO VOLS !!!

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

in response to 1bigvolman:

Thank you guys! We would love to see you turn this thing around, but I for one, will be a VFL win or lose! GBO!!!

What bigvol said!!!

RoadTrip writes:

VFL's - each and every one of them along with the walk-ons that have stayed with it and contributed. Proud of them. Hope they get to enjoy their last season wearing the orange with pride and much success!

TheVolSnake writes:

Just for the fun of it I went though Kiffen’s class #10 Rivals and used their point system and removed all the players that left, the point total may surprise you we ended up with 451 points and I didn’t subtract all the bonuses from the 3 Star players and below.

So what was a top 10 class in reality the class was #60 ranked class, just above Cincinnati.

To top that off the 2008 class was at #35 and only four of these players are to start or have significant playing time this year.

So as you can see the cupboard was bare when Dooley took over.

Here is a site that spells out the situation that Dooley came into.

http://www.rockytoptalk.com/2011/10/3...

From Kiffen's class and what is left and what is gone.

Gone:

Five Stars off team (2): Janzen Jackson, Bryce Brown

Four Stars off team (6): Jerod Askew, , Nu'Keese Richardson, , Darren Myles, David Oku, James Green, , JerQuari Schofield

Three Stars off team (5): Naz Oliver, Mike Edwards, Rae Sykes, Kevin Revis, Nigel Mitchell-Thornton,

Left on team;

Five stars left: None

Four Star Left (3): Eric Gordon, Marlon Walls, Marsalis Teague

Three star Left (6): Robert Nelson, Arthur Jeffery, Greg King, Zach Rogers, Daniel Hood, Toney Williams

lomas98 writes:

in response to TheVolSnake:

Just for the fun of it I went though Kiffen’s class #10 Rivals and used their point system and removed all the players that left, the point total may surprise you we ended up with 451 points and I didn’t subtract all the bonuses from the 3 Star players and below.

So what was a top 10 class in reality the class was #60 ranked class, just above Cincinnati.

To top that off the 2008 class was at #35 and only four of these players are to start or have significant playing time this year.

So as you can see the cupboard was bare when Dooley took over.

Here is a site that spells out the situation that Dooley came into.

http://www.rockytoptalk.com/2011/10/3...

From Kiffen's class and what is left and what is gone.

Gone:

Five Stars off team (2): Janzen Jackson, Bryce Brown

Four Stars off team (6): Jerod Askew, , Nu'Keese Richardson, , Darren Myles, David Oku, James Green, , JerQuari Schofield

Three Stars off team (5): Naz Oliver, Mike Edwards, Rae Sykes, Kevin Revis, Nigel Mitchell-Thornton,

Left on team;

Five stars left: None

Four Star Left (3): Eric Gordon, Marlon Walls, Marsalis Teague

Three star Left (6): Robert Nelson, Arthur Jeffery, Greg King, Zach Rogers, Daniel Hood, Toney Williams

Of the ones you point out that are still on the team, only Eric Gordon has made any impact. He has shown flashes of a good punt returner but had trouble catching the ball. He did win a game last year with the int on vandy. Marsalis Teague has been a disappointment. It was a big deal when he switched from Florida. The only thing he has done to impact a game is catching a td his freshman year when he was playing wr. Point is what players are left from that class are not game changing players that we need. Which is why people need to ease up on dooley just a little bit.

Bigger_Al writes:

SNAKE - Arther Jeffrey, Robert Nelson, and Toney Williams have left.

But, the problem with your 60th rank methodology is that you would have to subtract players for all the NCAA teams to see how it really shook out, because every team loses players.

Jakevol writes:

They've had to grow up fast. All the issues with the leadership at Tn. has made them more prepared for life after football. Change, Change, that's what life is all about. I wish them all the best this year and thanks for hanging around the Hill through all the storms. Seems these guys are not a sunset group but a sunrise group of guys.

rtrchatt writes:

5th yr Srs can be huge on a college roster and Bama has 2 great ones. OL All American Barrett Jones from Tn, and All SEC Safety Robert Lester. The 2008 Bama class is the GREATEST in SEC History, 48 wins in 4 yrs, 2 undefeated regular seasons, 2 BCS Championships and 1 SEC Championship. Roll Tide

hueypilot writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Dallas Thomas with 25 starts at guard?..... I must have slept through that. On the other hand, Bartholamew's brother played FB, was a captain, and won a NC at UT. His grandfather played FB, was a captain, and won a NC at UT. God how sweet it would be for him to continue that trend.

My first Tennessee football game was the opener in 1965 vs. Army. I sat behind a nice older gentleman who, much to his wife's disdain, partook of a couple of splashes from our bottle of Early Times me and my friends had sneaked through the gate. He told us his son played LB for Army, but never mentioned that he had captained one of Neyland's teams and it was only when Will played for the Vols and they noted his dad had played at West Point, that I put the whole Bartholomew family connection together.

TheVolSnake writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

SNAKE - Arther Jeffrey, Robert Nelson, and Toney Williams have left.

But, the problem with your 60th rank methodology is that you would have to subtract players for all the NCAA teams to see how it really shook out, because every team loses players.

As far as my methodology I forgot to add in my statement was I used the assumption that all other teams signed all they recruited. Yes I know they didn't but based of where they would have finished based off points only.

I used the roster I had earlier this year so sorry I missed Arther Jeffrey, Robert Nelson, and Toney Williams leaving. So if we just did a rough subtraction of these three players (90 Points) we would have finished a lower than 60th.

TheVolSnake writes:

We ended up with 451 points Now subtract the 3, 3 stars players I missed (rough estimate 90 points, is really higher) we ended up with 361 points which would have placed us at 62nd place, actually lower points because I didn’t subtract some of the bonus and the last three I subtracted only the minimum points .

I didn’t go team by team and add or subtract other teams players just based on our points and where we would have placed. We started at signing day with 2,037 points and was ranked 10th, just ahead of the 11 the ranked Gators with 2,017 and 12th ranked SC with 1,952.

Big_Orange_Aide writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

5th yr Srs can be huge on a college roster and Bama has 2 great ones. OL All American Barrett Jones from Tn, and All SEC Safety Robert Lester. The 2008 Bama class is the GREATEST in SEC History, 48 wins in 4 yrs, 2 undefeated regular seasons, 2 BCS Championships and 1 SEC Championship. Roll Tide

The Big Orange must be in your head alot; you must see an overall improvement in our team and that's why you keep checking out the website. I have seen the tide rise and fall before so be careful how loudly you boast of your team.

Tenn_Traveler writes:

A great example of "VFL"!

Ayres_Hall writes:

We'll go into this season relying on true Sophs and true Juniors. Still not what you want when LSU, BAMA, and Arky are playing with 3rd year Sophs, 4th year Juniors, and 5th year Seniors.

It matters.

orangevolman writes:

in response to lomas98:

Of the ones you point out that are still on the team, only Eric Gordon has made any impact. He has shown flashes of a good punt returner but had trouble catching the ball. He did win a game last year with the int on vandy. Marsalis Teague has been a disappointment. It was a big deal when he switched from Florida. The only thing he has done to impact a game is catching a td his freshman year when he was playing wr. Point is what players are left from that class are not game changing players that we need. Which is why people need to ease up on dooley just a little bit.

I agree. Thanks to you and the Snake for information and realistic analysis.

It would be great if the Knoxville newspaper would provide more information.

VolzsFan writes:

The list of 44 total that "he man Layne" ran off crippled the program. Many of those committed in 2008 that decommitted went off and are having NFL player type of careers. That class was ranked in the top 5 when Hammy ruined the program for decades to come. Many that where active players that left or run off went on to good careers as well. You do not lose 44 kids and recover anytime soon. Even all the future NFL picks that Lane inherited was not enough to overcome. Of course Lane inherited a team that was favored in 9 games and won 7. That includes a couple of woodshed beat downs.

Everyone, enjoy the change and enjoy the tailgates. That is all that is left.

crappieking writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Too bad many of the posters on this website don't have the same class as these players.

Go Vols!

I agree. Enter you.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to hueypilot:

My first Tennessee football game was the opener in 1965 vs. Army. I sat behind a nice older gentleman who, much to his wife's disdain, partook of a couple of splashes from our bottle of Early Times me and my friends had sneaked through the gate. He told us his son played LB for Army, but never mentioned that he had captained one of Neyland's teams and it was only when Will played for the Vols and they noted his dad had played at West Point, that I put the whole Bartholomew family connection together.

Pretty cool experience there Huey! Not to mention the memories you bring up by mentioning Early Times. When I was young, didn't have much money, a cheap fifth of ET sure would do the trick. Man you just took me down memory lane!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to crappieking:

I agree. Enter you.

nuh uhh! You!

Hoops43 writes:

in response to lomas98:

Of the ones you point out that are still on the team, only Eric Gordon has made any impact. He has shown flashes of a good punt returner but had trouble catching the ball. He did win a game last year with the int on vandy. Marsalis Teague has been a disappointment. It was a big deal when he switched from Florida. The only thing he has done to impact a game is catching a td his freshman year when he was playing wr. Point is what players are left from that class are not game changing players that we need. Which is why people need to ease up on dooley just a little bit.

Hood started at defensive tackle most of the year last season. I would say that constitutes an impact even if he didn't put up eye catching stats.

murrayvol writes:

in response to DennisVols:

The one thing I see different about this team from any of the past 3 is the leadership from a players stand point. You can talk about injuries, lack of depth, lack experience as being contributors to the struggles UT has gone through but the biggest issue of them all has been a lack of leadership from the players standpoint. In the UK game last year it really showed as this team just quit. Coaching leadership is important but it is the veteran players that make the biggest difference. In an off season when coaches can have limited connection with the players it is that kind of leadership that brings the new young players up to speed on the college game. They encourage the underclass players when there is a trial that a team faces in the midst of a long season comes. These men have weathered the storm and it is that strength that will make a difference on this team.
Keeping it Real
GoVols!!!

I sure hope so DV.

Drew2010 writes:

in response to TheVolSnake:

Just for the fun of it I went though Kiffen’s class #10 Rivals and used their point system and removed all the players that left, the point total may surprise you we ended up with 451 points and I didn’t subtract all the bonuses from the 3 Star players and below.

So what was a top 10 class in reality the class was #60 ranked class, just above Cincinnati.

To top that off the 2008 class was at #35 and only four of these players are to start or have significant playing time this year.

So as you can see the cupboard was bare when Dooley took over.

Here is a site that spells out the situation that Dooley came into.

http://www.rockytoptalk.com/2011/10/3...

From Kiffen's class and what is left and what is gone.

Gone:

Five Stars off team (2): Janzen Jackson, Bryce Brown

Four Stars off team (6): Jerod Askew, , Nu'Keese Richardson, , Darren Myles, David Oku, James Green, , JerQuari Schofield

Three Stars off team (5): Naz Oliver, Mike Edwards, Rae Sykes, Kevin Revis, Nigel Mitchell-Thornton,

Left on team;

Five stars left: None

Four Star Left (3): Eric Gordon, Marlon Walls, Marsalis Teague

Three star Left (6): Robert Nelson, Arthur Jeffery, Greg King, Zach Rogers, Daniel Hood, Toney Williams

Excellent post! The trolls can say what they want about dooley but numbers dont lie. He might not win at tennessee (I hope he does), but let the man have the time to get players in here to see. To have the records UT has had sine 08, plus the ncaa lingering over head, hes done a heck of a job recruiting in my opinion. We have to give him and his staff time to groom them into upper classmen to give him a fair verdict

murrayvol writes:

in response to oimo2005#352417:

Honest question: Does that mean there are more of Fulmer's recruits on the team than Kiffin's?

Not absolutely sure but I think you're right.

murrayvol writes:

in response to oimo2005#352417:

Honest question: Does that mean there are more of Fulmer's recruits on the team than Kiffin's?

Spoke too soon. VolSnake cleared things up in the above post.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

I'm so glad Vandy does sit around and make excuses like UT fans. Dooley has never won anywhere, never beaten a Top 50 team in his coaching career and won only once as an underdog in his coaching career. Vandy had three coaches in the same period as UT, had less SEC talent and Franklin never once cried to the media. All he did was watch his senior QB go down and stick in a kid with NO experience and go to a Bowl. Quit making lame excuses. Vandy players didnt run off in droves like UT nor did 7 coaches bolt on the head coach. Keep suporting your 1-9 SEC mark by the end of Sept.

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

in response to DennisVols:

The one thing I see different about this team from any of the past 3 is the leadership from a players stand point. You can talk about injuries, lack of depth, lack experience as being contributors to the struggles UT has gone through but the biggest issue of them all has been a lack of leadership from the players standpoint. In the UK game last year it really showed as this team just quit. Coaching leadership is important but it is the veteran players that make the biggest difference. In an off season when coaches can have limited connection with the players it is that kind of leadership that brings the new young players up to speed on the college game. They encourage the underclass players when there is a trial that a team faces in the midst of a long season comes. These men have weathered the storm and it is that strength that will make a difference on this team.
Keeping it Real
GoVols!!!

I think you're right. Football is a game that can substantially impacted by things that are completely intangible...attitude being chief among them. What I gather from the comments I've read here is that we have a team that has no delusions about where they've been or their current standing. A team like that - properly prepared and properly motivated - is dangerous.

There's a reason they call it "seniority". You've been through the fire. You're older and more experienced. Advantage: fifth-year seniors.

It's your time gentlemen. For most of you, this is your last chance. How do you want to be remembered?

I can't wait to watch you play. Go Vols!

UT4prez writes:

First, no one respond to handicapper. It's the same incorrect info as always so just ignore it. Second, I hope they retell the story of these young men before the KY senior day. They deserve an amazing ovation when that day comes so hopefully they will get that no matter what happens this year. And we all know we're going to have a great year. I am so ready! Bring on the Wolfpack!

MooseandSquirrelVol writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

The list of 44 total that "he man Layne" ran off crippled the program. Many of those committed in 2008 that decommitted went off and are having NFL player type of careers. That class was ranked in the top 5 when Hammy ruined the program for decades to come. Many that where active players that left or run off went on to good careers as well. You do not lose 44 kids and recover anytime soon. Even all the future NFL picks that Lane inherited was not enough to overcome. Of course Lane inherited a team that was favored in 9 games and won 7. That includes a couple of woodshed beat downs.

Everyone, enjoy the change and enjoy the tailgates. That is all that is left.

"Of course Lane inherited a team that was favored in 9 games and won 7. That includes a couple of woodshed beat downs."

Would the team that Lane inherited be the same one that the year before entered the season ranked 3rd in the nation and finished 4th in the division (including a couple woodshed beatdowns)?

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