Greeson: Vols going even more with youth

Greeson: Vols going even more with youth

November 2nd, 2010 by Jay Greeson in Sports - College

Call it the Knowshon Moreno theory. Or even the Now-shon approach.

However it's phrased, there is no doubting the youth infusion across the Southeastern Conference.

Three players - Auburn's Michael Dyer, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore and Florida's Trey Burton - shared SEC freshman of the week honors, and each of the three easily could have been considered for bigger honors. Plus, Ole Miss freshman Jeff Scott topped the 100-yard mark in rushing.

In short, every team in the league is forced to look for more and more help from its incoming recruiting classes, and it's not just for the dregs of the league, either.

Auburn, which is ranked in the top three in the polls and No. 2 in the BCS, has inserted Dyer into the starting lineup in everything but name only, and the Tigers have had a bevy of true freshmen in their defensive rotation during their 9-0 start.

South Carolina is a different team with Lattimore on the field.

"The skilled players have come in more ready to play," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said last month. "And Marcus is a special back, we all recognize that."

Special or not, the time is now more than ever, if for no other reason than Moreno, the former Georgia running back who declared for the NFL draft after his redshirt sophomore season. Those lessons have stuck around the league, especially for skilled players.

The influx of youth adds another dimension for teams that are struggling such as Tennessee. Monday's announcement that freshman Tyler Bray will start at quarterback Saturday at Memphis gives the Volunteers - and assuredly the fan base - an emotional lift if for no other reason than the change.

Certainly Matt Simms is not at complete fault for the Vols' woes, but it's common knowledge that the quarterback gets too much credit for his team's success and too much blame for his team's failures. And the Vols' winless October definitely qualifies as the latter.

Change just for change's sake is not a concrete fundamental on which to base a program, but it's not like coach Derek Dooley is looking to fix something that's not broken. These Vols are broken, and if the fixing is going to take time, then let the process start sooner rather than later.

A plethora of Vols youngsters likely will get meaningful offensive plays Saturday. There could be several sets that include as many as eight true freshmen compared to just one senior, and that would be mixtures of first- and second-teamers.

Plus, the timing could hardly be better. Memphis is arguably one of the five worst FBS teams in the country, and the Vols' homestretch will not be as easy as previous years but it's still manageable. This allows Bray and the other youngsters the chance not only to get experience but to get positive, winning experiences.

This, too, is hardly just change for change's sake. Bray made two of the better throws in recent UT history in Saturday's loss against South Carolina.

"I just feel like that's the best thing for our team right now," Dooley said of handing the keys to the freshman.

Dooley's hardly alone in that philosophy.

Contact Jay Greeson at or 423-757-6273.