To no one’s surprise, Tennessee’s freshmen were a major part of the team’s lineup in 2014. The Vols signed a top-5 recruiting class and lacked depth at several positions, allowing first-year players to take on starting roles.

During this past season, Tennessee started 11 freshmen from its 2014 recruiting class. Of the Vols’ 71 players that appeared in the season opener, 32 were freshmen. The previous record for freshman debuts in Week 1 was 12 in 2010.

Tennessee’s freshman class was headlined by several top prospects, ch the most talked about player was running back Jalen Hurd. The Hendersonville, Tenn., native was a multiple-time Tennessee state champion and a five-star prospect.

After missing the majority of his senior seasons with a shoulder injury, Hurd enrolled early to compete for the Vols’ starting running back job. In Week 1, the freshman split carries with senior Marlin Lane.

From Week 2 on, Hurd saw the majority of carries, leading Tennessee with 777 yards and three touchdowns on 174 carries. The freshman also added 33 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

Hurd’s absence was felt during the Vols’ final game against Vanderbilt. Despite capturing the win, Tennessee was held to just 45 rushing yards, including Hurd’s 21 on five carries.

The Vols best defensive player was also a freshman. Derek Barnett became the true freshman in school history to start at defensive end in an opening game.

He went on to lead the team in tackles for loss (20.5) and was one sack shy of redshirt junior Curt Maggitt for the team lead (10)., setting the freshman school record in both categories. Barnett also set the school record for sacks in a game by a freshman (3.0) in games against Ole Miss and South Carolina, including an overtime sack that put the Gamecocks out of field goal range.

Both Hurd and Barnett will play major roles in Tennessee’s rebuilding process. The two players entered with raw talent and developed into SEC standouts with gained experience. Should the Vols continue their success on the recruiting trail, the team will have a talented lineup built around both players and establish themselves as a contender.