Spring practice has yet to begin, and Tennessee’s first game is still six months away. But it’s never too early to start looking at next season, and the incoming freshmen that could make an impact in 2013.
Marquez North WR
Marquez North is probably the most obvious choice for this list. North was the biggest signing in Butch Jones’ inaugural recruiting class. The Vols lost their top four receiving threats from this past season in wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter, and Zach Rogers. They also lost tight end Mychal Rivera. North, at least from a physical standpoint, looks like he can slide right into the void left by Patterson and Hunter. He’s 6’4″ and runs a 4.41 40. He has all the tools to be a game changing wide receiver, and should see the field early and often in Jones’ offense. Tennessee returns Pig Howard and Vincent Dallas, both guys who project well in the type of offense that Jones plans to run, but North is the one that has the true potential to be a star receiver on Rocky Top.
Josh Smith WR
The Knoxville native was overlooked by many on signing day. Smith was offered by Butch Jones previously, when Jones was at Cincinnati, so the two are familiar with each other. Smith could end up being the favorite target of whoever wins the quarterback battle. At 6’1″ Smith possesses good height, but more importantly he’s a terrific pass catcher. He may not end up being the fastest guy on the field, but he’s extremely reliable, something just as important. Smith is the type of guy you can always expect to be in the right place, especially when a play breaks down. He’s got plenty of competition in front of him, but we believe he has the talent to be a factor in 2013.
Jaylen Miller DE
The South Carolina native was one of the first players offered by the new staff at Tennessee. Miller is a tremendous pass rusher, he had 27 sacks in his senior season at Gaffney High School. The Vols weren’t very good at pressuring the quarterback last season, and Miller should get plenty of chances early. He’ll have to prove he belongs on the field, but with hard work he should be playing plenty this fall. Miller is 6’2″, 260 lbs, so size shouldn’t be an issue during his freshmen season in Knoxville. The four star defensive end can definitely make an impact on the defensive side of the ball in 2013.
Jason Carr DT
Carr is another freshmen that will add depth to the Vol’s defensive line. Carr, from Memphis, TN, was one of the bigger signings in Butch Jones’ first recruiting class. As a 6’6″, 270 lb defensive end, Carr is likely to develop into a defensive tackle. If he plans on seeing the field early, he will need to work on his pass rushing skills, but he has the ability to be a star in this league. With all the flipping that happens on signing day, the fact that Tennessee retained Carr, was a victory in itself. Carr had impressive offers from Alabama, Florida, and Ole Miss. Coach Jones was able to keep Carr in state, something he has stressed as important. Carr will definitely be an anchor on the defensive line, and that could start as early as this season.
Josh Dobbs QB
Earlier this month we projected Nathan Peterman to be the starting quarterback for Tennessee this fall. We still stand by the prediction, but that’s all it is, a prediction. Predicting a starting quarterback from a group of guys that have barely seen the field, is a little like playing the lottery. Dobbs was one of the bigger success stories for Tennessee on signing day. Dobbs had been committed to Arizona State, but the Alpharetta, GA native decided to remain closer to home. Dobbs fits Butch Jones’ offense perfectly, he has a big arm, but can make plays outside of the pocket, and is highly intelligent. There will be a stiff competition for the starting quarterback job. Dobbs is very capable of winning the job, but like we said these competitions are nearly impossible to predict. If he doesn’t win the starting job outright, I would expect him to redshirt this season.