Vols struggle to overcome 2008, 2009 recruiting
Tennessee’s season-ending football loss to Kentucky ranks as one of the worst games in recent school history.
The defeat cost the Vols bowl eligibility and a chance at a winning record. It also left many fans questioning whether second-year coach Derek Dooley was capable of turning around a program that has suffered three losing seasons in the last four years.
The defeat to an opponent UT had beaten 26 consecutive times was generally blamed on uninspired play and questionable game management. In fact, it was a couple of years in the making.
UT’s 2008 and 2009 recruiting classes reflect what Dooley and his staff are up against. The player attrition — resulting, in part, from two head-coaching changes — has been stunning.
So far, the two classes have produced two second-team All-SEC players but no first-teamers. Tennessee fans can at least be grateful a handful of fifth-year seniors from the 2008 class are still available to bolster the 2012 depth chart.
Of the 22 signees in 2009, only eight remain on the team.
E.J. Abrams-Ward — Rated as the No. 1 college prospect in North Carolina, he never played at UT. The four-star wide receiver was redshirted as a freshman, then dismissed for disciplinary reasons.
Carson Anderson — A first-team Alabama all-state offensive lineman, he has played sparingly but still has a year of eligibility remaining.
Preston Bailey — The No. 6 prospect on the News Sentinel’s top-25 list didn’t play in his only year at UT. The offensive lineman left the team after his freshman season.
Ben Bartholomew — The News Sentinel’s No. 12 prospect, he became a starter at fullback in 2011 and will be back as a fifth-year senior.
Willie Bohannon — An honorable mention all-stater from Alabama, he cracked the starting lineup at defensive end in 2011 and will return next season as a fifth-year senior.
Aaron Douglas — One of the top signees in the class, the all-state tight end from Maryville switched to offensive tackle at UT and started as a redshirt freshman. He later transferred to junior college before enrolling at Alabama.
Douglas died of a drug overdose last spring.
Steven Fowlkes — An all-state wide receiver from Georgia, he was moved to the defensive line, where he played sparingly. He was academically ineligible last season but is listed on the UT 2012 roster as a fifth-year senior.
Montori Hughes — A lightly regarded signee from Murfreesboro, he didn’t enroll at UT until 2009. He showed flashes of potential as a starting defensive tackle in 2010 but was criticized by his coaches for a lack of consistency.
He was dismissed from the team last summer.
Austin Johnson — An all-stater from North Carolina, he started out as a fullback under Kiffin before switching to linebacker, where he became UT’s leading tackler last season as a senior. He also led the Vols in interceptions.
Casey Kelly — The Vols lost out on the quarterback signee from Sarasota, Fla., when the right-handed pitcher was taken in the first round of the major league baseball draft by the Boston Red Sox. Kelly was later traded to San Diego in the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox before the 2011 season.
Kelly had an 11-6 record in Class AA last season and is considered one of the Padres’ top pitching prospects.
Herman Lathers — An all-stater from Baton Rouge, La., he started 12 games for the Vols as a sophomore linebacker in 2010 but missed last season with a fractured ankle. If healthy, he could start in 2012 as a fifth-year senior.
Tauren Poole — The former Georgia high school running back led the Vols in rushing the last two seasons. He has been invited to next month’s NFL combine in Indianapolis.
Stephaun Raines — The all-state wide receiver from Dalton, Ga., originally signed with the Vols in 2006 before enrolling at Coffeyville Community College. He played as a backup defensive back in 2009 and 2010 but was dismissed from the team before the 2011 season.
Dallas Thomas — The Baton Rouge recruit likely will start more games than anyone in the class. The Louisiana all-stater has started the last two seasons at offensive tackle and will return in 2012 as a redshirt senior.
Prentiss Waggner — Another Louisiana recruit who has contributed significantly to the Vols. He made second-team All-SEC as a redshirt sophomore in 2010 and has played cornerback, safety and nickel back.
He will return for his third season as a starter in 2012.
Rod Wilks — A two-time all-state wide receiver at Smyrna, he has played both wide receiver and defensive back at UT. He had his most productive season in 2011 with 26 tackles, including two for losses.
The two-time letterman will be a fifth-year senior in 2012.
Gerald Williams — A junior college transfer who originally signed with the Vols in 2005, he switched from linebacker to defense end. He led the team with 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss as a senior in 2010.
Jerod Askew — Rated as the nation’s sixth-best linebacker by one recruiting service, he was redshirted in 2009 and didn’t play in 2010. He was dismissed from the program after the 2010 season.
Bryce Brown — The crown jewel of Kiffin’s class, the consensus high school All-American running back was rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in the country. The Vols got more publicity than yardage out of him.
He rushed for 460 yards as a freshman, then quit the team. He later transferred to Kansas State but quit that program as well.
He has since declared for the 2012 NFL draft.
Mike Edwards — The Ohio cornerback had an impressive preseason camp as a freshman but was dismissed from the team a few months later after his alleged involvement in an attempted armed robbery.
Eric Gordon — An all-state cornerback from Nashville, he started six games in 2010 after being redshirted in 2009. Last season as a backup, he established himself as a playmaker with five tackles for loss and two interceptions, which he returned for 107 yards.
He will be a candidate for the nickel-back position in 2012.
James Green — The wide receiver from Tallahassee, Fla., signed with Tennessee but never enrolled because of an academic issue.
Daniel Hood — The all-stater from Knoxville Catholic started out as an undersized offensive linemen before switching to defense. He bulked up to over 290 pounds and became a valued contributor on UT’s defensive front.
He has two years of eligibility remaining.
Janzen Jackson — The consensus high school All-American defensive back from Lake Charles, La., became a starting safety as a freshman and made second-team All-SEC as a sophomore. Plagued by off-the-field issues, he was dismissed from the team before last season and subsequently transferred to McNeese State.
Like Brown, he has declared for the NFL draft.
Arthur Jeffery — A second-team Florida all-state defensive tackle, he seldom played at UT and will not return for the 2012 season.
Greg King — The Memphis linebacker was the No. 9 prospect on the News Sentinel’s in-state list. He started two games in 2009 but suffered a season-ending knee injury four games into his sophomore year.
He underwent minor knee surgery after last season and will return for his senior season in 2012.
Nigel Mitchell-Thornton — A linebacker from Georgia, he has lettered three seasons. He will be a senior in 2012.
Darren Myles — A consensus top-10 defensive back from Atlanta, he showed promise as a freshman safety but was dismissed from the team before the 2010 season after his second arrest.
Robert Nelson — An all-state linebacker from Georgia, he couldn’t get on the field for the Vols. He was one of six players who left the team before the spring semester.
David Oku — Rated the No. 1 overall all-purpose back by Rivals.com, the Oklahoma running back rushed for 268 yards in two seasons. He quit the team after his sophomore year.
Naz Oliver — A third-team all-state running back in New Jersey, he was redshirted his first year and has been injured the last two seasons.
Converted to defensive back at UT, he has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Kevin Revis — A top-20 in-state prospect, he redshirted in his first season and played in one game in 2010. He transferred to Chattanooga before the 2011 season.
Nu’Keese Richardson — The high school quarterback from Pahokee, Fla., played as a freshman wide receiver before he was dismissed in November for his alleged involvement in an attempted armed robbery.
Zach Rogers — The 2008 Mr. Football for Class 3A at David Lipscomb High School, he has had 14 pass receptions each of the last two seasons. He has one year of eligibility remaining.
JerQuari Schofield — Rated as the No. 11 prospect in South Carolina, he started five games at offensive guard as a redshirt freshman in 2010. He lost his starting job in 2011 and is no longer on the team because of academic issues but still enrolled in school.
Rae Sykes — A junior college transfer, he was a three-time all-stater at Alcoa. He played both defensive end and tackle at UT, where he had eight tackles in 2010.
Marsalis Teague — Tennessee’s No. 4 prospect and 4A Mr. Football, he played quarterback for Henry County High School but moved to wide receiver as a freshman at UT. He will enter the 2012 season with 21 career starts — five as a freshman wide receiver and 16 as a cornerback — the last two seasons.
Marlon Walls — A first-team all-state linebacker from Mississippi, he grew into a defensive lineman in college. Walls played in seven games as a freshman, missed the 2010 season with an Achilles injury but started four games last season. Walls, who had a sack and four tackles for loss, has two years of eligibility remaining.
Toney Williams — Rated as the No. 4 fullback in the 2009 recruiting class, he was an all-state running back in Georgia. He suffered multiple injuries in two seasons at UT, where he carried the ball just five times. He transferred to Ball State before the 2011 season.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.