Second-year stars: Tennessee

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
2:30
PM ET
Coming off a fourth-straight losing season, Tennessee needed an infusion of talent everywhere, and coach Butch Jones delivered with the No. 5-ranked signing class in the country back in February.

The Vols will be forced to play a ton of first-year players in 2014, and the same goes for true sophomores. It's simply where Tennessee is right now as Jones tries to get the program back to respectability.

[+] EnlargeCorey Vereen
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesWith pass-rushers needed in Knoxville, Corey Vereen gets a big chance to make a name for himself this fall.
Tennessee is up next as we continue our second-year stars series.

Class recap: Jones didn't have a lot of time to assemble his first class, but still managed to put together one ranked 29th nationally by ESPN. The top get in the class was Marquez North, ranked by ESPN as the No. 16 receiver in the country. The Vols also landed two ESPN 300 quarterbacks, Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson, although Ferguson decided to leave the program this offseason. They signed six four-star prospects, but only one of those was an interior lineman. They also missed out on signing a marquee running back.

Second-year star: DE Corey Vereen (6-foot-2, 248 pounds)

Recruiting stock: Vereen was a four-star prospect from Winter Garden, Florida, and ranked by ESPN as the No. 21 outside linebacker in the country. He committed to Tennessee in March 2012 when Derek Dooley was still the coach and stuck with the Vols after Jones was hired.

2013 in review: Vereen enrolled early and went through spring practice, quickly emerging as one of Tennessee's better pass-rushers. But he suffered a knee injury in preseason camp that required surgery and didn't make his debut until the fourth game of the season against Florida. He played the remaining nine games and finished with 13 total tackles, including a sack against Georgia.

2014 potential: Anybody who can rush the passer will get a look at defensive end this coming season for the Vols. Vereen has gotten bigger and stronger since arriving on campus last year, and the coaches love his work ethic and approach to the game. Whereas he was more of a situational pass-rusher last season, look for him to grow into an every-down defensive end in 2014 and put up much bigger numbers than he did during his injury-shortened freshman season.

Also watch out for: Cam Sutton is the team's best cornerback and entrenched as a starter. He started all 12 games last season as a true freshman and led the team with nine passes defended. He has the skills and confidence to be one of the better corners the Vols have had in recent years. Jalen Reeves-Maybin exited spring as the starting weakside linebacker and was one of the team's more improved players after moving from safety. The Vols also like Dylan Wiesman at all three of the interior spots on the offensive line. He gives them that utility man in the middle that all teams need. Dobbs, after ending last season as the starter, had a big spring game. He's worked hard on his accuracy and fundamentals and could push senior Justin Worley for the starting job.

Chris Low | email

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