Tennessee football: Vols top 30 players since 1998 national championship

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12: Eric Berry #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks on against the UCLA Bruins on September 12, 2009 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. UCLA beat Tennessee 19-15. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12: Eric Berry #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks on against the UCLA Bruins on September 12, 2009 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. UCLA beat Tennessee 19-15. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Allsport
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Allsport /

Honorable Mentions

Robert Ayers, DE, 2005-08

Robert Ayers just missed the list as a three-year starter with the Vols. In his final two years, he had seven sacks and 25 and a half tackles for a loss as a major playmaker on Rocky Top. He helped to lead the Vols to the 2007 SEC East Championship. Honestly, it was extremely hard to leave him off this list.

Montario Hardesty, RB, 2005-09

Multiple injuries limited Montario Hardesty for years, but after the departure of Arian Foster in 2008 and the arrival of Lane Kiffin in 2009, he finally got his shot. Hardesty that year rushed for over 1,300 yards and had over 300 receiving yards with 14 total touchdowns. His career success isn’t enough to put him on this list, but that one year deserves a mention.

Albert Haynesworth, DT, 1999-01

Albert Haynesworth was actually the second-best defensive tackle on his own team all three years he played with Tennessee football. But with 66 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss and five sacks, Haynesworth was a freshman All-American and All-SEC as a junior. He helped to anchor the best rush defense maybe of all time in 2001.

Daniel Lincoln, K, 2006-10

Being an All-American should automatically put a guy on the main list. Daniel Lincoln was that in 2007. He certainly earned it, going 21-of-29 on field goals and 52-of-53 on extra points as a freshman, along with the game-tying field goal to beat the South Carolina Gamecocks in overtime and the game-winning field goal to beat the Vanderbilt Commodores en route to winning the SEC East.

However, Lincoln had such a drop-off after that freshman year that we had to knock him off the list. By 2010, he was splitting kicks with Michael Palardy, which is why he’s off the overall list.

Related Story. Top 10 Vols big-game performers in school history. light

Turk McBride, DT, 2003-06

Turk McBride is a classic case of somebody waiting their turn, similar to Montario Hardesty. Both are on here for their senior encore performances. McBride had to sit behind Justin Harrell and Jesse Mahelona for two years before getting to start in 2006.

After Harrell went down for the season, McBride was then the guy. All he did was make All-SEC with 67 tackles, eight and a half tackles for a loss, a sack, a pass deflection and a forced fumble. It launched an NFL career for him.

Will Ofenheusle, OL, 1999-02

The anchor of the offensive line immediately after the national championship era of players, Will Ofenheusle was most notable for what he did in 2000 and 2001. He helped bring along a freshman quarterback in Casey Clausen in 2000. Then, he was the key blocker for Travis Stephens’s record-setting season in 2001. The 2002 year was forgettable, but he had already done enough to deserve respect.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, 2012

Cordarrelle Patterson spent one year with Tennessee football. It was a year in which they went 5-7. But it wasn’t his fault. He was the best offensive player Derek Dooley and Jim Chaney had, catching 46 passes for 776 yards, rushing 25 times for 308 yards, and scoring 10 total touchdowns, including one punt return and one kick return. That’s amazing numbers for a year.

Donté Stallworth, WR, 1999-01

Donté Stallworth was certain to be a star from the moment he was recruited. By 2000, he became a starter and the go-to receiver in the passing game. Stallworth was to be the star of 2001, but he got hurt and missed the early part of the season, allowing Kelley Washington to come along.

However, in his return, he had a memorable explosion to get on this list, catching nine touchdown passes in the final seven regular season games. That, plus three straight 100-yard receiving games and a punt return touchdown put him on this list.

Alex Walls, K, 1999-02

Similar to Daniel Lincoln, Alex Walls is on this list for what he did in one season. We don’t like to do that with kickers, but there’s no denying Walls’ greatness in 2000. He was perfect on extra points and went 18-of-20 on field goals, making his first 14. That included a record five against the Florida Gators and the game-winning field goal to beat the Memphis Tigers.

Dan Williams, DT, 2005-09

Dan Williams was a three-year starter for Tennessee football from 2007 to 2009. For his career, he had 160 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. Williams was one of the fun players to watch in the Lane Kiffin era and helped the Vols win the SEC East in 2007. So yes, he definitely deserves a mention.