DB Jonathan Hefney

2005 Statistics

Coach: Phillip Fulmer
128-37, 14 years
2005 Record: 5-6
UAB WON 17-10
at Florida LOST 7-16
at Louisiana State WON 30-27 (OT)
at Alabama LOST 3-6
at Notre Dame LOST 21-41
at Kentucky WON 27-8

2005 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2006 Outlook

In the days before spring practice began, Phil Fulmer told the Associated Press that he felt "a sense of anxiety to hurry up and get started and get back on track." He faces perhaps his most pivotal season as the head coach in Knoxville after last year's group, which entered the season with a No. 3 preseason ranking, stumbled to 5-6 and failed to reach a bowl for the first time since 1988, their last losing season prior to ‘05. That led to a revamping of the offensive staff, no contract extension for Fulmer and a disappointing recruiting class. Prized TE Michael Goggans switched his commitment to Auburn at the last minute, and each of the other four major target recruits who announced on Signing Day went elsewhere. Signs of a sinking ship? You bet, but Fulmer has the ability to “coach ‘em up”, and underestimating him would be a mistake for us or any opponent.

Of course, a quick turnaround can do a lot to patch those proverbial leaks in the hull, and this program has as much talent on board as any in the nation. While the D’s front seven will be young, the offense remains the true problem spot. Last year's woeful attack kept the Vols from winning big games, spoiling a fine defensive effort. This was also a team that endured plenty of off-the-field distractions heading into the season, including the arrests of eight players and Fulmer's refusal to appear at SEC media day over his assistance in the NCAA investigation of Alabama. The chemistry never came along, even with so many returning starters.

After two years of shuffling, getting an established leader at QB is the biggest key this fall. If Erik Ainge isn't adapting to new coordinator David Cutcliffe's offense by the end of the spring, while shaking off last year's struggles, it will be time to hand the reigns to redshirt freshman Jonathan Crompton. The running game, typically strong at UT, will remain a force behind Arian Foster, especially as the line gels. Getting Foster, the tight ends and fullbacks more involved in the passing game should help open things up, especially as an underachieving group of WRs realizes its potential in Cutcliffe's scheme.

Fulmer's anxiety will build up to a challenging opener in Knoxville against Cal, which should let him and the rest of the nation know what kind of team this will be. While the early part of the schedule isn't cake, the middle of the slate, which includes trips to Georgia and South Carolina and home dates with Bama and LSU, will be the key to the season. If the offense isn't clicking and the defensive front seven hasn't gelled by then, it could be another tough season in Knoxville, though not as bad as 5-6.

But if all the pistons are firing, and there are plenty of reasons to believe they will be, this team will be in the hunt for an SEC title and a BCS bid come November. What a range of possibilities, huh, but any of them could come true, and that is why we all need to watch this team, closely. Any kind of finish with 10+ wins will be enough to ease the anxiety of Fulmer, and the UT fan base, as the Vols will prove that '05 was a fluke for a program still seemingly headed in the right direction.

Projected 2006 record: 7-5
QB - 4 DL - 3.5
RB - 3.5 LB - 3
WR - 3.5 DB - 4
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Erik Ainge, 145-66-7, 737 yds., 5 TD

Rushing: Arian Foster, 183 att., 879 yds., 5 TD

Receiving: Robert Meachem, 29 rec., 383 yds., 2 TD

Scoring: James Wilhoit, 14-19 FG, 21-21 PAT, 63 pts.

Punting: Britton Colquitt, 59 punts, 41.2 avg.

Kicking: James Wilhoit, 14-19 FG, 21-21 PAT, 63 pts.

Tackles: Jonathan Hefney, 65 tot., 45 solo

Sacks: Justin Harrell, Turk McBride - 2.5 each

Interceptions: Jonathan Hefney, 3 for 63 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Lucas Taylor, 19 ret., 22.5 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Jonathan Hefney, 13 ret., 11.5 avg., 0 TD


QB Erik Ainge
OFFENSE: Rick Clausen-QB, Gerald Riggs-TB, Chris Hannon-WR, C.J. Fayton-WR, Richie Gandy-C, Cody Douglas-OG, Albert Toeaina-OT, Rob Smith-OG (NFL)
DEFENSE: Parys Haralson-DE, Jesse Mahelona-DT, Jason Hall-DE, Omar Gaither-SLB, Kevin Simon-MLB, Jason Mitchell-WLB, Jason Allen-CB

What develops here is the more vital to the Vols' success, or lack thereof, than any other position. All-world talent Erik Ainge – who has not commanded this position yet - entered spring practice having to fight off redshirt freshman Jonathon Crompton to keep the starting gig. There are sophomore slumps, then there's the disastrous season that Ainge endured last fall (45.5 percent completion percentage). His struggles, which forced UT to play the less capable Rick Clausen (now a grad assistant), were the central malfunction that led to their train-wreck of an ‘05 season. David Cutcliffe -- who mentored the Manning brothers, Tee Martin and Heath Shuler -- is back as offensive coordinator/QBs coach. He's promised to use more play-action, different formations and more of a down-the-field passing attack. After two years under (former OC) Randy Sanders, Ainge will have to adjust quickly or be forced to watch Crompton lead the show. From what we've seen, Ainge has the size and big arm to fit in well with a Cutcliffe offense, but his confidence, accuracy and decision-making need work. Crompton is a smaller, slower pocket-passer. He has plenty of fire and ability, though, and figures to be able to adapt a little more smoothly to the new offense. After two years of instability at this position, a leader needs to emerge before the start of fall practice. If it's not Ainge or Crompton, Cutcliffe might be left with walk-on Jim Bob Cooter. That scenario wouldn't be funny for very long, and Ainge not winning the job will hurt the team’s win totals, in the end.

Running Back
Expect more of a commitment to the ground game this season, especially with a potential breakout star in redshirt soph Arian Foster carrying the mail. Foster, who took over for injured Gerald Riggs Jr. in midseason, brings great toughness, vision and poise to the position. Despite a struggling O-line, he ran for triple-digit yardage in each of the last five games and averaged 4.8 yards per carry in proving to be one of the few bright spots on offense. Foster, who is also a decent receiver out of the backfield, missed spring ball to recover from knee and shoulder surgeries. Tough as he is, Foster can't be counted on to carry the ball 40 times per game, as he did in the loss to Vandy. Fortunately for the Vols, there's plenty of talent around to spell him with only a moderate drop-off. Sophs Montario Hardesty and LeMarcus Coker (4.3 speed), both four-star recruits two years ago, are quicker options who bring a nice change of pace from Foster, who is more of a power back. We'll see how Cutcliffe decides to employ fullback Cory Anderson, a 275-pound former DT who gets more catches in the flat (14) than carries out of the backfield (7).

Like the entire offense, this area needs to step up after a disappointing season. That should happen with Robert Meachem, Bret Smith and Jayson Swain leading a deep, experienced group. Look for Cutcliffe to cut down on the number of WRs in the rotation here, which will help these guys establish more of a rhythm. Deep-threat Meachem turned out to be the leading target with 29 catches, but he will now be leaned upon to make big plays. Swain, who finished second in catches, is a reliable go-to target on medium routes who excels at YAC, while Smith is another big receiver with big-play potential who hasn't used it enough. Soph Lucas Taylor, a four-star recruit who made an impact on returns last year, is a small, quick underneath target who will factor in here as well. But expect Meachem and Smith to finally come up with big years under Cutcliffe, who will look to make better use their talent in the deep game.

Tight End
When he's on the field, junior Chris Brown provides strong blocking and a big target. Brown, who was tied for sixth on the team in receptions as a soph, has good speed for his size and could be an X-factor in this scheme by opening up the middle for others. His blocking figures to be a little more a key, though, when Cutcliffe leans on the running game as anticipated. One of the more interesting preseason battles will be the competition between brothers Brad and Jeff Cottam (both around 6-8) to win the No. 2 spot. The winner is sure to get some passes hurled at his long arms.

Offensive Line
There are plenty of reasons for concern here as only one true starter, LT Arron Sears, returns from a group that unexpectedly struggled (80th in rushing offense). The group did allow the fewest sacks in the SEC, though pressure on Ainge and Clausen contributed to 13 INTs, second most in the conference. At any rate, O-line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens was fired and replaced by Matt Luke, who worked under Cutcliffe at Ole Miss. Luke has four other players in C David Ligon, RT Eric Young, RG Ramon Foster and LG Anthony Parker who started a couple games last season. Redshirt freshman Chris Scott, a four-star recruit who slimmed down, will push Young, and incoming freshman Jacques McClendon could step right in at guard. Improvement won't come immediately, but it should come eventually as this unit builds chemistry and finds the right pieces.

A rebuilt offensive line and an uncertain passing game are balanced out by a potentially explosive ground attack. Hmm, if opposing defensive coordinators don't flood the box and blitz like crazy early in the season, they should be fired. The O-line must develop, and an undisputed starting QB has to emerge quickly, so foes need to realize pressure will work until one of the hurlers proves he can beat teams. Until then, Cutcliffe will see the explosive potential of his skill players and adjust his offense to effectively employ their strengths. Even with a revamped front, the running game will get its yards. So the key is getting making opponents respect the pass enough to open up the box and take pressure off the O-line and QB. Again, it goes back to the guy under center. This offense needs more poise and accuracy out of this spot, or else it could be another dark autumn in Knoxville. Ainge has the talent to prevent that, but if he struggles, Crompton fits in nicely enough and appears to have the leadership ability needed to get the job done.


OT Arron Sears


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Erik Ainge-Jr (6-6, 220) Jonathan Crompton-Fr (6-4, 225)
FB Cory Anderson-Sr (6-3, 255) David Holbert-Jr (6-1, 250)
TB Arian Foster-So (6-1, 215) Montario Hardesty-So (6-0, 205)
Ja'Kouri Williams-So (5-10, 190)
WR Jayson Swain-Sr (6-1, 205) Josh Briscoe-So (6-3, 183)
WR Robert Meachem-Jr (6-3, 210) Lucas Taylor-So (5-10, 185)
WR Bret Smith-Sr (6-3, 190) Austin Rogers-So (6-2, 185)
TE Chris Brown-Jr (6-3, 250) Brad Cottam-Jr (6-8, 260)
OT Arron Sears-Sr (6-4, 320) Chris Scott-Fr (6-5, 325)
OG David Ligon-Sr (6-5, 300) Anthony Parker-So (6-3, 305)
C Michael Frogg-Jr (6-4, 300) Josh McNeil-Fr (6-4, 290)
OG Ramon Foster-So (6-6, 325) Malcom Rawls-Fr (6-5, 315)
OT Eric Young-Jr (6-4, 310) Steven Jones-Jr (6-4, 305)
K James Wilhoit-Sr (5-10, 195) ..



Defensive Line
Most of the starting front seven will be new, but defensive coordinator John Chavis believes this group could be even better, which would bode well for the No. 2-ranked rush D in the nation. DEs Jason Hall and Parys Haralson, who combined for 15.5 sacks, are both gone, but experienced backups Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds, along with talented redshirt soph Robert Ayers and five-star Juco recruit Walter Fisher, will bring plenty of speed off the edge to maintain a fearsome pass rush and steady containment. Inside, big run-stopper Justin Harrell is back after opting not to go pro, along with potential playmaker Turk McBride, who is coming off an injury-riddled year. J.T. Map, a starter in '03, returns as a true leader after a two-year Mormon mission. There's enough experience and talent here for an effective rotation that should wear on opposing lines and free up a young group of LBs to make plays.

All three starters graduated here, but there's plenty of young talent to plug into the holes. Jerod Mayo (strong-side) and Rico McCoy (weak-side) are coming off injuries, but both are potential stars. The redshirt soph Mayo, ranked 11th at OLB in the 2004 recruiting class by Rivals.com, showed flashes of brilliance in six games last year before getting hurt. McCoy (4.5 in the 40) was rated fourth at OLB in the nation’s '05 class. This quick, explosive duo should be among the best in the SEC for the next few years as they develop. In the middle, redshirt freshman Andre Mathis will battle senior Marvin Mitchell for the job. Mitchell, who had two starts last year, figures to be the leader here this season, though Mathis, a 2005 blue-chipper out of Erie, Pa., is another breakout star waiting to happen,. Lack of experience could result in a tiny step back, but expect this quick young group to come together quickly to lead another formidable run defense.

Defensive Back
This deep, experienced unit figures to be marginally better via experience. Even with a strong pass rush, the Vols were 54th in pass defense, ranked eighth in the SEC in picks (nine) and allowed opposing QBs to complete nearly 60 percent of their throws. Still, it was an improvement from the previous year, which bodes well for at least a small step up this fall. All four DBs who started the season finale against Kentucky are back, though there could be a couple changes in the lineup. The most likely is redshirt freshman Demetrice Morley, a five-star recruit out of Miami, taking over at strong safety. This is a solid unit in need of a standout player, and Morley has the potential to be that guy. Overall, this unit isn't among the best in the SEC, but it limits big plays and usually gets the job done. It needs to create more turnovers and make more big plays to take the next step.

There's plenty of youth on this side of the ball, especially in the front seven, but that's not necessarily a bad thing considering this program had top-10 recruiting classes in '04 and '05. New stars will emerge here quickly, giving Chavis another vaunted and highly ranked defense. Still, these youngsters have plenty of work to do to match last year's stellar ranks (sixth in total defense, 16th in scoring defense). Expect a little bit of drop off in the early going (especially against the likes of Cal and Florida) before these guys gel. The biggest key here is finding not just solid players, but playmakers. As good as last year's D was, it ranked eighth in the SEC in the red zone, seventh in the conference on third-downs and didn't force enough turnovers (TO-margin -0.64). The new faces here have the potential to improve on any/all of those numbers, which could prove to be the difference between a good defense and a great defense. If the offense can't shake off last year's struggles (lest any Vol’s fan forget their worst year since 1988), that’ll mean the difference between wins and losses.


DT Justin Harrell


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Antonio Reynolds-Jr (6-3, 260) Walter Fisher-So (6-3, 265)
DT Turk McBride-Jr (6-4, 275) Demonte' Bolden-So (6-6, 290)
DT Justin Harrell-Jr (6-4, 300) Matt McGlothlin-Jr (6-0, 290)
DE Robert Ayers-So (6-3, 255) Wes Brown-Fr (6-4, 256)
SLB Ryan Karl-Jr (6-0, 225) Adam Myers-White-So (6-2, 215)
MLB Marvin Mitchell-Sr (6-3, 235) James Turner-Jr (6-0, 234)
WLB Ellix Wilson-So (5-10, 225) Rico McCoy-Fr (6-1, 215)
CB Jonathan Wade-Sr (6-0, 195) Roshaun Fellows-Jr (6-0, 185)
CB Inquoris Johnson-Jr (5-9, 180) Antonio Gaines-Jr (5-9, 185)
SS Antwan Stewart-Sr (6-0, 195) Demetrice Morley-So (6-2, 195)
FS Jonathan Hefney-Jr (5-9, 185) Antonio Wardlow-Fr (6-0, 185)
P Britton Colquit-So (6-3, 198) ..




While the rest of the special teams are a question mark, the outlook is promising here as senior James Wilhoit returns after a promising end to last season. He hit 74 percent of his field goals, including his last eight tries. If the offense doesn't get back on track, he would prove to be essential. He's also a valuable weapon on KOs. His average boot landed inside the 2, helping his team rank second in the SEC and 31st in the nation in coverage.

After a rough freshman campaign, soph Britton Colquitt should start to live up to the family tradition established by his cousin, older brother and father, who rank 1-2-3 in punting at UT. Colquitt showed a big leg at times, averaging 41.2 yards per kick, but consistency was a problem. He sent six punts into the end zone, and coverage ranked 113th in the nation. A year of experience for Colquitt, the program's abundance of athletes and adjustments in the way special teams are being coached (several assistants will share duties) all add up to better results.

Return Game
Despite excellent team speed, the Vols somehow continue to be dismal here. They failed to get a TD on punts or kicks, where they rated 65th and 77th in the nation, respectively. Smallish sophomore speedster Lucas Taylor looked good at times as the primary guy on both last year, but he left the ball on the ground way too often. He's penciled in on kicks, while SS Jonathan Hefney and reserve WR Austin Rogers (each with 4.4 speed) are expected to handle punts.