The Volunteer program is in flux. The sudden and strange departure of Lane Kiffin after just one year as head coach leaves a lot of questions that must be answered. The talent on the roster is marginal. Eric Berry was the fifth pick of April’s draft. It is possible the first Tennessee player selected in the 2011 event won’t come until the fifth round.
When your top draft eligible prospect is a player that projects as a second tight end in the NFL, it tells you something about the star talent on the roster. But that’s the situation in Tennessee.
NFL scouting services grade Luke Stocker as one of the best senior tight ends in the nation, yet his skills warrant a middle round grade at best. Stocker is a big bodied target that effectively uses his frame to protect the pass and is adequate in all aspects of the game yet really not spectacular. He displays solid strength, speed and hands. While we like Stocker he’s definitely not in the class of the top five tight ends drafted in 2010.
Fullback Kevin Cooper is not rated by scouting services, something we feel is a mistake. Cooper’s not the greatest of athlete but possesses above average fullback speed with the ability to get out front and create space for his ball carrier. He displays terrific blocking vision, squares into opponents and turns defenders from the action. Cooper is also a solid pass catcher out of the backfield and has a special teams mentality.
Linebacker LaMarcus Thompson is a prospect we like. Thompson shows terrific sideline to sideline range, fluid footwork moving in all directions and remains disciplined with assignments. Relatively strong for size, he shows the ability to hold his ground against blocks, even up against opposing offensive linemen.
Defensive end Ben Martin is another athletic prospect that plays with a lot of explosion, is fluid moving in all directions and shows a terrific closing burst. He breaks down well and plays with exceptional leverage, making good use of his hands Martine lacks bulk and is easily controlled at the point of attack by single blocker. He recently went down with an achillies injury during the first day of practice and is likely to miss most, if not all, of the 2010 campaign.
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