Tennessee all about youth, but these seniors should be appreciated
The Tennessee Volunteers went 6-6 (3-5 SEC) with the youngest lineup in college football. Tennessee started 11 freshmen from Jones’ top-5 2014 recruiting class. 32 of the 71 players that appeared in the Vols’ season opener were freshmen. The previous record for freshman debuts in Week 1 was 12 in 2010.
But there are several departing seniors that also deserve credit, not only for their contributions this past season, but also for their entire tenures in Knoxville.
The senior quarterback battled injuries throughout his career and 2014 was no exception. Worley’s played through injuries midway through the season, before missing his first start against Alabama in Week 9. Though Dobbs received credit for the Vols’ turnaround that led to bowl eligibility, Worley’s warrior spirit deserves praise from Tennessee fans.
Gilliam was the epitome of a player that gave his all to Tennessee. The Knoxville native and former walk-on earned a scholarship this offseason before being named starting left tackle in the Vols’ opening game. But the senior suffered a torn ACL injury that expected to end his final season. With Tennessee suffering a lack of depth in the trenches, Gilliam willed his way back into the starting lineup, playing in all of the team’s final six games.
Prior to his suspension, A.J. Johnson was the best defensive player in the SEC. He led the conference in tackles for 11 weeks and finished with 101 total tackles. Johnson was the best player on several bad Tennessee teams and was set to play in his first career bowl game this season. In regards to his on-field play, Johnson deserves a large portion of credit for the Vols’ turnaround.