Vols' scholarship roster has 19 seniors, but still plenty of questions entering 2013

When classes start for Tennessee on Wednesday, the rosters will expand and an influx of walk-ons will arrive.

The Vols have one more practice before game week, but training camp will essentially end when professors start their lectures on Wednesday morning.

What will the Vols look like as they embark on the 2013 season?

Two senior reserves — defensive back Naz Oliver and linebacker Channing Fugate — departed this month. Fugate is transferring to Eastern Kentucky in his home state, while coach Butch Jones said he would support Oliver’s efforts to transfer elsewhere if he chooses.

That leaves an estimated 81 scholarship players, four under the NCAA maximum of 85. (The scholarship tally is not official, nor is it always clear who is a walk-on and who has been placed on scholarship).

Oliver was the lone player from New Jersey. Perhaps surprisingly, Fugate was the only Kentuckian. Of the 81 remaining players, nearly 30 percent hail from Tennessee. Georgia (18 players), Florida (14), South Carolina (5), North Carolina (4) and Ohio (4) are also represented.

There are 19 seniors, including about a dozen likely starters, and 20 juniors on the scholarship roster, a respectable total for a program that has endured multiple coaching changes.

Those years don’t always translate into experience.

Thirteen players have played in 30 or more games at UT, while 32 haven’t played in any.

Five players have started 20 or more games; fifty players have started none.

“They’re going to be challenged right off the get-go,” said defensive backs coach Willie Martinez, who will start a true freshman at cornerback. “But if you’re a player, you’ll thrive in the moment. Some of the young guys that have been playing for us through camp have done a nice job. This past Saturday in front of our fans was really good with how they handled it.”

The Vols have experience and numbers along the line. Thirty scholarship players are linemen — 17 on defense and 13 on offense. There are a dozen linebackers, a dozen defensive backs and 11 receivers.

Even without Fugate, five of the linebackers are seniors.

“I’ve got a great room as far as maturity,” said linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen. “They’re really into football. They know when to play and when to get serious.”

After Oliver’s departure, only three players remain from the 2009 class. The 2011 signing class has had the most staying power, with 22 players from that group. The 2012 class has already dwindled to 15.

There is only one consensus five-star player on the roster — offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James. Of the remaining Vols who were ranked, 22 were four-star prospects, 55 had three stars and two were only two stars. (One of those two-star players, linebacker Dontavis Sapp, is likely to start as a senior).

In the 2014 class, Jones and the Vols have commitments from one five-star, 10 four-stars and 12 three-stars and one two-star.

Jones has said he thinks little of the star system once the games begin.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to leadership and your senior class,” Jones said. “I’ve never been a part of a successful football team that didn’t have a strong senior class. The hourglass is turned over for them. They have 12 opportunities left and we’re working for 13 and then 14.”

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

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Comments » 15

CoverOrange writes:

So many numbers, not sure what to make of them. Kinda agree with Butch, once the oblong ball is kicked, it doesn't matter.

Sorry to see Fugate go. Seemed like he had so much promise as a Freshman FB.

Orange_Beach writes:

The biggest question is "Can We Beat Vandy"?

DukeDeLuca2 writes:

What happened to all those beastly defensive backs that Dooley recruited and landed on campus last fall? I thought they were supposed to be the best group of DBs to ever play college football.

SeaBassHauling writes:

The real numbers there that mean anything is the 19 sr. And 20 jrs....This is good for any program and yes there have been coaching changes....But the ones that are starters is one thing...but the ones who get a fresh start with new coaches and schemes will provide well needed starters OR DEPTH...!!! This season rides on Qb play....turnovers....!!! Defense getting off the field...injuries to key player in the back seven on the D...!!! You win on the line of scrimmage and we have good depth on both....With a senior laden FRONTS.....GO VOLS......VFL

hateNCloveTN writes:

in response to Orange_Beach:

The biggest question is "Can We Beat Vandy"?

And the biggest answer is "HELL YES"

VolsFanForLife writes:

in response to Orange_Beach:

The biggest question is "Can We Beat Vandy"?

Dont you remember? We dont give a damn about the old school Vanderbilt cause we are Tennessee!! The one thing that UT always does is beat Vandy!!
Yeah they got us last year but our team will be out for revenge this time around. Go Vols!!!

VolinMC writes:

First time posting on here. To me, the most important numbers are 3rd down conversion percentages. Gotta make them on offense and stop them on defense. Just my .02 cents thrown out there but I think it will be better than it has been and things are looking up.

luvmatersoup writes:

Wholy cow...just saw the schedule for next year! I do think we'll go 6 & 6 this year with a bowl bid (hoping it's a win) but next year....Do think we'll get 8 wins! What's going to be awesome is the year after next (2015). Have no idea what that schedule holds but with Butch's recruiting ability and younger players maturing, I'm think SEC Title! Go Vols!!!!

pcorange writes:

Vandy ain't gonna have a football team if they can't keep their britches up. They'll have to raise money for bail instead of stadium improvements.

antonio14313 writes:

a 2 star player starting at LB. that goes to show that stars really don't matter as much as the actual developement and coaching of that player. that's what key. stars help, but it's not the bottom line.

go vols!


Pompey writes:

in response to hateNCloveTN:

And the biggest answer is "HELL YES"

...if there is not a higher goal than beating Vandy why go through this....?

NINEisgonnabeFINE writes:

in response to Orange_Beach:

The biggest question is "Can We Beat Vandy"?

And THAT is a sad state of a affairs.

thekid98 writes:

Offense and defensive fronts will be key this year with new QB and secondary issues...Run the football---didn't we used to do that well.

pcshowtime writes:

no excuses from butch that is to dooley like.

BolivrBob writes:

How many lettermen?

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