Tennessee's 5 best returning players for 2015
The Tennessee Volunteers finished the 2014 season with a 6-6 (3-5 SEC) record under second-year head coach Butch Jones. The Vols started 11 freshmen from Jones’ top-5 2014 recruiting class.
Tennessee opened the season with 32 freshmen seeing playing time in its Week 1 win against Utah State. The previous record for freshman debuts in Week 1 was 12 in 2010.
The Vols will return the majority of its starting lineup in 2015. Here’s a look at Tennessee’s five best returning players next season.
1. Derek Barnett, DE: Even as a four-star prospect, Barnett exceeded expectations in his first season. The Nashville native became the first player in school history to start at defensive end in a season opener. Barnett managed to set the Tennessee freshman record for tackles for loss (20.5) and sacks (10), finishing in the top-5 in both categories among SEC players.
2. *Curt Maggitt, DE/LB: Maggitt gets an asterisk due to the uncertainty of his return. Should he forego the NFL Draft, the upcoming redshirt senior would make up the conference’s top returning pass rush duo alongside Barnett. Maggitt led the Vols with 11 sacks and had 14 tackles for loss.
3. Jalen Hurd, RB: Hurd was one of the top prospects of the 2014 class and dubbed as a potential savior to the ailing program. The Hendersonville native led Tennessee with 777 rushing yards on 174 carries. With the addition of four-star JUCO transfer Alvin Kamara, Hurd will lead an improved Vols rushing attack in 2015.
4. Joshua Dobbs, QB: Dobbs emerged as the quarterback of the future through the team’s final five games. The sophomore went 3-1 as a starter and provided much-needed mobility to Tennessee’s read-option heavy offense. Dobbs should continue his development as a junior and is expected to be one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks, but must improve his accuracy, which was one of his true flaws in his remarkable stretch.
5. Cameron Sutton, CB: Sutton has started in every game since enrolling at Tennessee in 2013. The sophomore recorded three interceptions and fared well in coverage against the SEC’s top receivers. Sutton will be a veteran presence on a defensive unit that continues to improve.