5 best Tennessee players in 2014
The Tennessee Volunteers (6-6, 3-5 SEC) clinched their first bowl game appearance since 2010 with a win over Vanderbilt in Week 14. The Vols played over 23 true freshmen and had just four seniors in 2014. Here’s a look at Tennessee’s five best players from the regular season.
1. Derek Barnett, DE, Freshman: Barnett became the first true freshman in school history to start at defensive end in a season opener. The former Brentwood Academy standout set a new freshman record for sacks (10.0) and tackles for loss (20.5). Barnett finished one sack shy of Myles Garrett for the SEC freshman record, though his total may have been more impressive as they all came in SEC games. The former four-star prospect progressed with gained experience and should be even better in 2015.
2. A.J. Johnson, LB, Senior: Despite being suspended two weeks before season’s end, Johnson finished with more than 100 tackles for the third consecutive season. The senior led the SEC in tackles from Week 1 to Week 11, before being surpassed by Kentucky’s Josh Forrest in Week 12 and missing his final two collegiate games. Johnson was on pace to have the best season of his career, which ranks among the top tacklers in Tennessee history.
3. Curt Maggitt, DE/OLB, R-Junior: Maggitt bounced back from two injury plagued seasons in 2014. The hybrid pass rusher led the Vols with 11 sacks and was second in tackles for loss (14.0). After redshirting in 2013, Maggitt has another year of eligibility and should continue his progression if he decides to stay in Knoxville.
4. Jalen Hurd, RB, Freshman: Hurd was considered the “biggest get” in Tennessee’s 2014 recruiting class. Like Barnett, the fellow freshman was the best player on his side of the football. When healthy, Hurd was given the majority of carries out of Tennessee’s backfield. The Hendersonville, Tenn., native led the Vols with 777 yards and three touchdowns on 174 rushing attempts. Hurd added 217 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 33 catches.
5. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, OLB, Sophomore: As a freshman, Jalen Reeves-Maybin was Tennessee’s best special teams players, leading the unit with 11 tackles in 2013. As a sophomore, the former four-star athlete became one of the best starting outside linebackers in the SEC. Reeves-Maybin recorded 88 tackles, 10 for loss, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception. With Johnson’s departure, Reeves-Maybin should lead Tennessee in tackles next season.
Honorable Mention: S Brian Randolph, CB Cameron Sutton, CB Justin Coleman, WR Alton “Pig” Howard, QB Joshua Dobbs