I believe that it was Alexander Pope who said, "hope springs eternal."
And while I'm sure that most Vol fans don't care much about the content of "An Essay on Man," phrases that mention HOPE and SPRING seem to be right up their alley.
The practical purposes of spring football practice are pretty simple. The coaches and players essentially get a three week refresher course that allows them to brush up on schematics and terminology. And they also get to assess how players have progressed through offseason workouts.
However, for the fans, spring football is anything but practical. It offers the chance to be hypothetical. Who is the next big star? What kind of offenses and defenses will the coaches feature? How good can we be?
It offers an opportunity to hit the reset button and start from scratch, because in the spring anything seems possible.
The seventh string tailback can leapfrog everyone on the depth chart and every team seems to be a title contender.
So in the spirit of spring ball and all the speculation that goes with it, these are my five players poised for a breakout spring.
Willie Bohannon DE
Bohannon has been a key reserve for the Vols the past two seasons. But with the departures of Chris Walker and Gerald Williams, along with the injury to Ben Martin, Bohannon has become the elder statesman for the Vols at defensive end. Bohannon has been an overachiever for the Vols since he signed in '08, but this season the Vols are counting on him for production.
Ja'Wuan James OT
James isn't exactly a hidden gem. He came in last season and started from day one as a true freshman, an incredible feat in the SEC. However, he was raw both physically and mentally. An offseason in a college weight program probably benefited James moreso than any other player on this roster, and this is his chance to show it.
Rajion Neal RB
I'd hate to say now or never for a sophomore, but it's now or never for Neal. The transfer of David Oku has left a gaping need for someone to step up as the second back. It's either gonna be Neal or incoming freshman Marlin Lane (no offense Toney Williams) and Neal has this whole spring to gain a leg up. The kid has talent and I think he'll respond, so he's cracking my list.
Zach Rogers WR
The Vols are looking for people to step up at nearly every position this spring, but one of the more understated needs is WR. Sure the Vols have super sophs Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter, but they have a glaring need in the slot left by the departure of Gerald Jones. I think Zach is the guy to fill that role, and if he is healthy look for him to stake a claim to the slot this spring.
Marsalis Teague DB
This time last year Teague was a WR. It wasn't until the fall that he was switched to DB and he still made an impact at the position just because of his pure athleticism. Marsalis has had a full offseason to learn the nuances of the position now, and Coach Dooley has surely lit a fire under his you-no-what by signing seven DB's. Look for Teague to play with a new energy at DB this spring.