Byron Moore is one of the Class of 2011 signees that is going to be relied upon heavily to make a serious impact this fall. There is no question that he and Maurice Couch are likely to play serious snaps for the Volunteers. Moore was a JUCO safety who will be asked to make the switch to corner, and his history as a safety at both USC and L.A. Harbor have blessed him with incredible ball skills. Unfortunately, that overall lack of experience at corner has also made him a little bit slow coming out of his backpedal, which he’ll have to address. I did find that he was incredibly underrated as an open field tackler.
Verdict: Moore will be in the rotation at defensive back, and offers some versatility with his ability to play safety or corner. I personally believe he starts at some point during the year.
Lanier is another solid addition from the junior college ranks. He was a high school WR who originally committed to Auburn before failing to qualify. He has solid speed and decent hands, which is a staple of most converted wide receivers. There will undoubtedly be a learning curve as he adjusts to being a full-time defensive back, but in the limited defensive film I’ve seen of Lanier, he appears eager to hit.
Verdict: Lanier is a guy who will have to adjust quickly if he wants to stake a claim in the Vols DB rotation, but his willingness to hit and his speed almost guarantees him the chance to make an impact on special teams.
Justin Coleman was one of the six signees in this class that made it to campus early and he definitely benefited from the month of spring practices. He looked impressive in the spring game, especially considering that he should have been a high school senior. From what I’ve seen he has the best instincts of any DB in this class, including the heralded Byron Moore. His hip fluidity is top of the line and it will likely make him a great cover guy in his time in Knoxville.
Verdict: Coleman was EXTREMELY impressive to me all spring long, and I fully expect him to hold on to a spot in the rotation. I’d even go as far as saying that I like Coleman to be a first-team freshman all-SEC performer.
Martin is one of the larger defensive backs that we signed in this class and he isn’t what most would consider a burner, but boy can he step up in the run game and hit. He possesses solid ball skills but it’s nothing overwhelming. He certainly appears comfortable helping out in the run game, but his overall skills as a defensive back will need to be sculpted by Coach Joseph when he gets to Knoxville. Has a great chance to help early in special teams.
Verdict: It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to the college game, because I was personally underwhelmed by his skill set as a DB. I love the fact that he can hit, but he’ll need to become much more well-rounded to live up to his four-star billing.
Randolph was a guy that a lot of Vol fans thought was underrated by Rivals as a three-star prospect coming out of Georgia, but I think that was a pretty accurate evaluation. Plays a little too high when making open field tackles and he’ll need to work on his man-to-man cover skills because most of his film shows him working exclusively as a drop-back Cover Two safety. However, he does possess impressive capability to change direction on a dime as a former high school running back. I have little doubt that he possesses the skills athletically to be a ball-hawking safety but he will certainly need some fine-tuning as a college defensive back.
Verdict: Randolph has a couple adjustments to make, and that may take a little bit of time. I’m not sure he makes a big impact this fall, but at some point he will.
Geraldo Orta was a longtime Clemson commitment last year before inevitably making the switch and signing with UT. I get the impression that the expectations on “The Hill” are relatively low for Orta, but he just might be the best defensive back we have in this class in terms of playing the ball while it’s in the air. He is definitely going to have to add bulk if he has any chance of helping in the running game, but I think Orta has a chance to be a playmaker at safety.
Verdict: Likely a redshirt candidate for the simple fact that he has to get bigger, but if he does (get bigger) he’ll have a real shot at getting serious playing time in 2012.
It appears that Tino Thomas might be odd man out in the numbers game for the Class of 2011. The Vols signed 28 but we’re only able to enroll 26. Thomas possesses tremendous speed in the open field but he is a bit of a long strider, which isn’t conducive to being very quick in and out of his breaks. He’ll have to work to sure up that footwork wherever he winds up. The real issue with Thomas is that he isn’t likely to ever be a very good tackler. I’d imagine that his best chance to make an impact at the collegiate level will be as a return man.
Verdict: It’s difficult to say if he’ll even be in Knoxville at this point, but if he does I can’t help but think he’ll struggle to avoid a redshirt. His one saving grace will be his value as a return man.