New Vols That Surprised In 2015

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Nov 29, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; General view of the Tennessee Volunteers band prior to the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Vols had some newcomers this season that surprised fans with their play.

This season went down as another positive brick in the process that is rebuilding Tennessee Football. The Vols finished the regular season with a respectable 8-4 season. Tennessee finished last season at 6-6 in the regular season schedule before destroying Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl. Iowa, by the way, was 30 seconds away from being in the College Football Playoff this season, but lost to Michigan State yesterday in the closing seconds. Iowa finished 12-1 on the year.

So progress is being made. 8-4 is much more comfortable than 6-6. Is it where Tennessee’s Butch Jones and fans want? No, but you must crawl before you walk correct?

Tennessee had to be upgraded in every facet other than facilities when Coach Jones took over. The player cupboard was basically bare. With all due respect to the players that took the field in Jones’ first year, most were not SEC ready.

I think back to that time of Derek Dooley and shudder. If you want to know just how bad of a job that man did recruiting look no further than two Juniors that may possibly come out of Collegiate Football and enter into the NFL Draft that were local Tennessee kids that wanted to play at Tennessee. Dooley didn’t recruit either. They will both be high first round picks. One could go in the top three picks.

Jalen Ramsey of Florida State and Vonn Bell of Ohio State would be at Tennessee right now if Coach Jones would have been at the helm earlier. There is no doubt in my mind. These two guys are have been difference makers at their respective Colleges. Both have won National Championships, so good for them. But to think that these two future stars in the NFL were waiting on Dooley to call makes a Tennessee fan wonder what Mike Hamilton was thinking. It is all water under the Gay Street Bridge now though.

So Jones gets in and changes things on the field with recruiting. It is what makes a difference. The best players play the best football. Simple. Look at Alabama. Saban has no magic playbook or magic strategy. It is getting the biggest, strongest, fastest, most highly skilled athletes on your team. That is it.

Want to run the ball? Recruit a great back and a great big, strong offensive line. Simple. Want to throw the ball? Get the fastest, most physically gifted receivers in the land and throw it up to them. Doesn’t matter what coverage the defense is in. In college, the best athlete just goes up over the other to catch the ball. Simple.

You can talk schemes and play calling from your couch or your seat in the stands, but if your team is bigger, stronger and faster you are going to win in college. If you aren’t, you are going to lose.

So this season the talent is beginning to show at Tennessee. We knew that Jalen Hurd would have a great season. He is that elite athlete you must have to win. We knew Josh Dobbs would have a good season. We knew that Derek Barnett would have a good season. We knew Cam Sutton would have a good season. We knew Jalen Reeves Maybin would have a great season. These guys are the types of players it takes.

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Some of the veterans on the team surprised this season as well. LaTroy Lewis was solid. Owen Williams was a big factor on the defensive line. Kendall Vickers and Corey Vereen were outstanding as well. These guys made the difference between 8-4 and 6-6.

Now the new guys that Jones has brought in will have to take it to the next level. The next few pages are some of the youngsters that played better than expected. There are many more that lived up to their billing, but these guys played a little better than I thought.