Co-written by Cody McClure
This week on Rocky Topics, Cody McClure and Nathan Odom discuss which early enrollee will make the biggest impact for Tennessee this fall.
ODOM: In my mind, Alvin Kamara has the best chance to step in and make an immediate impact on the field this fall. Kamara is already number two on the depth chart simply because the Vols don’t have another solid running back right now. However, I would make this argument even if Tennessee had four or five backs. There’s a reason Kamara was the No. 1 JUCO running back in the nation this year- he’s electric. He turns negative yardage plays into first downs and short runs into touchdowns. He has the elusiveness and speed to be a perfect compliment to Jalen Hurd in the Vols’ 2015 backfield.
MCCLURE: It is hard to argue against Kamara. But I will anyway. For me, Kyle Phillips comes to mind as a player that could have the biggest impact this fall. Tennessee already has two very good defensive ends returning from last year in Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt. They combined for 21 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss. It is going to be hard for a true freshman to play on that level. However, Maggitt has an undeniable ability to rush the passer from off the edge. He is more of a hybrid player, which could make him capable of filling in some at outside linebacker. That could leave a spot for Phillips to make an immediate impact on the opposite side of Barnett. He certainly has the skill set and will benefit from being with the team throughout the offseason. At the very least, Phillips will add quality depth on the defensive line.
ODOM: I do agree that Phillips will make an impact, but Kamara will make a bigger one. In the zone-read/gap-scheme offense that Tennessee runs, an elite running back can turn a good offense into a great one. Jalen Hurd was able to show a little of what that could be last year but was hindered by a less-than-great offensive line. Kamara is just as talented as Hurd, so with an improved offensive line, Kamara will be one of Tennessee’s most explosive playmakers this year. Kamara wears No. 6, but it will be the six on the field, not his jersey, that he’s remembered for.
MCCLURE: Tennessee is going to have a one-back offense. Meaning, of course, one back on the field at a time. Kamara will get plenty of carries, but Hurd is the workhorse. If he stays healthy, this could be a 1,000+ yard season for him. Kamara will be a solid relief for Hurd, but he will not make as big of an impact as Phillips. In the right situation, Phillips could actually start for the Vols. Also, it is much easier for a defensive end to play immediately. Players on offense typically have a lot more to learn scheme-wise, and Kamara will have to adjust to running against SEC-level defenses.
Edited by Maggie Jones