KNOXVILLE – Tennessee begins fall camp on Friday and Nooga.com will be bringing you preview content all week as the Vols prepare for their first season under head coach Butch Jones.
Ranking the scholarship newcomers’ (including those who arrived in the spring) potential for impact in 2013:
1. WR Marquez North
He’s probably the safest bet if you’re looking for a freshman who will find a way to contribute. He might not be a starting wide receiver out of the gates, but coach Butch Jones will find ways to get him on the field and the ball in his hands. He could potentially grow into one of UT’s top targets by the end of the year.
2. QB Joshua Dobbs
The four-star freshman has a lot of work to do to claim the starting QB job, but he seems to have the most upside of the four candidates. He’s smart, moves well and, from the looks of his high school film, has an SEC-caliber arm. He could end up redshirting or only playing limited snaps, but his potential is huge.
3. CB Riyahd Jones
The junior college transfer left spring practice in good position to start at cornerback opposite of Justin Coleman. He’ll face competition this fall, but expect him to be on the field either as a starter or regular contributor.
4. WR Paul Harris
He had a good spring until an injury cut it short. He’s got the size (6-4, 190) and the athleticism to be a starter in the SEC in time. If he gets more consistent and stays healthy, he should see the field in 2013.
5. TE Woody Quinn
He might be the most intriguing prospect this fall. The former college volleyball player has great size (6-6, 260) and showed rare athleticism for his size in his JUCO film. Brendan Downs is the presumptive starter at tight end, but Quinn could be a factor for playing time if he pans out.
6. WR Ryan Jenkins
Sticking with the skill-position theme, Jenkins will come in with a good shot to work his way up in the receiver rotation. He’ll compete with Pig Howard and Devrin Young in the slot and anything could happen at a position that is completely up for grabs.
7. DE Corey Vereen
He was perhaps the surprise newcomer of the spring. The converted linebacker has several veterans in front of him on the depth chart, but with his pass-rushing skills, expect the Vols to find ways to get him on the field.
8. DL Jason Carr
One of UT’s highest-ranked recruits, Carr is listed at 6-5, 285 pounds in UT’s updated media guide. He could play multiple spots on the D-line and could be a starter as soon as 2014. He’s likely too talented to leave on the bench for all of this season.
9. CB Malik Foreman
With just one scholarship corner returning from last year with significant experience (Coleman), all of the newcomers at cornerback will have a chance to earn playing time this year. Foreman, one of the fastest new additions to the roster, should have a chance to see the field if he has a solid fall.
10. QB Riley Ferguson
Every time a question is asked about Dobbs, Jones usually brings up Ferguson’s name as well. Originally recruited by Derek Dooley and his staff, Ferguson stuck with his UT commitment and hopes to surprise the new staff. He’s got a big arm and had offers from the likes of Alabama, LSU and Clemson out of high school, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t compete for the job.
11. DB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
The versatile prospect enrolled early but missed spring practice with an injury. He’s expected to start at safety, but could grow into an outside linebacker or could fit in several spots on offense as well. He could also be a major factor on special teams.
12. CB Cameron Sutton
In a similar vein as Foreman, Sutton might not be the highest-ranked recruit in the class, but he’s walking into a great situation in terms of playing time at corner. It would be surprising if any of the newcomers at cornerback don’t contribute in some way.
13. TE A.J. Branisel
Outside of Downs, there are few certainties at tight end. Quinn has upside, but is unproven. Redshirt freshman Justin Meredith has barely been able to practice due to lingering injuries. Branisel should have a chance to carve a spot somewhere fairly high on the depth chart.
14. WR Josh Smith
At 6-1, 195 pounds, Smith has the versatility to play inside or outside. He caught a ton of passes at Christian Academy of Knoxville and has great hands and good speed. The playing time will be there for any receiver who steps up in camp.
15. WR Johnathon Johnson
Johnson was a late addition to the class after the coaching staff spotted him at Blinn Junior College late this spring. He only had four catches in his lone JUCO season, but the staff liked his potential enough to add him to the class. At 5-9, 175 pounds, he’ll likely compete at slot receiver.
16. OL Austin Sanders
With Tennessee’s loaded and experienced offensive line, there likely won’t be much need for immediate help from the freshmen this season. Sanders could work his way into the two-deep though and should be ready to compete for playing time in 2014.
17. DB Lemond Johnson
He had a quiet spring at safety as an early enrollee. He has several young, talented safeties in front of him at this point, so he’ll likely need to earn his way on the field via special teams.
18. DE Kendal Vickers
Originally a South Carolina commitment, Vickers ended up at UT after some academic complications, but he is cleared to play in 2013. He is best known for his pass rushing, an area UT has struggled in the past few seasons. He’ll have a chance to carve out a niche doing that in 2013.
19. DE Malik Brown
He’ll compete for a spot in the defensive line rotation, but there might be a few too many veterans in front of him to make a big splash this year. He’ll be asked to step up in 2014 and beyond, though.
20. DE Jaylen Miller
He’s in the same spot as Brown, facing an uphill battle for playing time this year, but needed in the very near future.
21. OL Brett Kendrick
Ideally, the Vols would be able to redshirt at least some of the incoming offensive linemen to help build depth for the future. Kendrick has some upside as a future tackle, but the Vols are set there in 2013, barring any major injury outbreak.
22. OL Dylan Wiesman
He projects as a guard – a position UT has three players with starting experience at (Alex Bullard, Zach Fulton and Marcus Jackson). Like the other linemen, he’ll be in better shape to compete for playing time starting next year.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga
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