Results from 2009 NFL Draft speak volumes about the Volunteers, as it shows good drafts follow good seasons just as surely as good seasons follow good signing classes.
Some will argue that last point saying that UT’s top ranked 2005 class hasn’t produced the results expected four years later, but in truth the final chapter of the Class of 2005 has yet to be written at Tennessee. It is simply too soon to call the Vols last top rated class a bust, but there are mitigating factors that undermined it’s development.
Having one player taken in seven rounds of the NFL Draft sounds like something one would expect from Toledo instead of Tennessee, but it can’t be attributed to the Class of 2005. Here’s the case:
• Attrition hit the 2005 group hard. Two of the three five-star players the Vols signed — LaMarcus Coker and Demetrice Morley — have been thrown off the team. Both were productive when they did play. Coker is the best breakaway threat the Vols have had since Travis Stephens. Morley was the nation’s No. 1 ranked DB. He started the better part of three season spread over four years before his forced departure last winter. Also gone from that group are four-star prospects Raymond Henderson, Slick Shelley and Todd Cox. Henderson was also dismissed from the team, while Shelley transferred to Tulsa and Cox never enrolled at UT. Three-star talents Ricardo Kemp and Malcolm Rawls left Tennessee on their own while Antonio Wardlow was dismissed from the team. That’s eight players from that class that are MIA. Add four-star prospect Andre Mathis, who has failed to break into the defensive rotation in four years, but remains a member of the team and we’re up to nine.
• Four prospects — Demonte Bolden, Josh Briscoe, Lucas Taylor and Adam Myers-White — from that 2005 collection contributed as starters before exhausting their eligibility in 2008. All four of those players have a reasonable chance of be signed as free agents.
• Players projected as starters or key contributors for Tennessee in 2009 includes, count them, 12 prospects from the Class of 2005 that were redshirted — Jonathan Crompton, Austin Rogers, Rico McCoy, Josh McNeil, Montario Hardesty, Gerald Williams, Chris Scott, Wes Brown, Jeff Cottam, Vladimir Richard, Marsalous Johnson and Dan Williams. That’s a lot of experience to have stockpiled and it may result in a big season ahead for the Vols.
• Of the 27 prospects signed by UT in 2005, 18 became SEC starters. That’s a production rate of 66 percent which is as much as any school could reasonably expect over five seasons.
True the 2005 class didn’t get what was expected from some of the high-end prospects, but overall it was a solid class that was diminished by attrition. The real problem in 2008 had more to do with the classes signed in 2006 and 200f8.
The Class of 2006 produced but two players that have started more than one season at Tennessee, Jacques McClendon and Daniel Lincoln. Players like Cody Pope, Jarred Shaw, Chad Cunningham and Luke Stocker project as contributors, if not starters, this season. Nick Stephens is one of two scholarship QBs on the roster, but that’s essentially it. In fact the highest ranked prospect from the Class of 2006, tight end Lee Smith, never suited up for the Vols before being dismissed from the team. Ditto for Blake Garrettson, Dustin Lindsey and Justin Garrett, Ramone Johnston.
Others later dismissed from the squad include Ramone Johnson, Dorian Davis and Darrius Myers. Stephaun Raines went to junior college before re-signing with the Vols in 2008. Brent Vinson went to prep school and re-signed with UT in 2007. D-Line prospects Chase Nelson and Victor Thomas haven’t crack the rotation at their position after three seasons.
Championship seasons are normally created by putting together two or three straight outstanding recruiting classes. The Vols bounced back with the nation’s No. 4 ranked class in 2007, but failed to follow up in 2008. As much as UT needed help on offense last season there wasn’t a single signee to make a significant contribution.
Compare that to the Class of 2007 which made an immediate impact with players like Eric Berry, Lennon Creer, Darius Moore, Nevin McKenzie, Gerald Jones, DeAngelo Willingham, Kevin Cooper and Brent Vinson.
Successful classes like successful Drafts are the result of consistent recruiting. Have one poor recruiting class in the SEC and it will show up eventually. Have two substandard classes and you’ll have a coaching change.