Reggie White didn’t make this list despite being a solid player for Tennessee football at defensive line as a true freshman in 1980. However, the guy who would break his career sacks record in just three years, Derek Barnett, showed early on he would do that.
One of the members of that 2014 recruiting class who actually worked out, Barnett immediately made a splash for the Vols. Butch Jones, Jon Jancek and Steve Stripling inserted him into the startling lineup early on, and he didn’t disappoint.
In his first four games, Barnett racked up 19 tackles and had three tackles for a loss. Then he exploded in a heartbreaking loss to the Florida Gators with two tackles for a loss and a sack. Four tackles for a loss and three sacks against the Ole Miss Rebels two weeks later was another impressive moment.
But similar to Joshua Dobbs, Barnett had his coming out party against the South Carolina Gamecocks, racking up three sacks in a come-from-behind win. He then had two sacks against the Kentucky Wildcats and one against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Barnett became a Freshman All-American and finished with 71 total tackles, 47 of which were solo, and 10 sacks along with over 20 tackles for a loss. Those insane numbers were just a taste of what was to come.