In 1891, the University of Tennessee fielded a football team for their inaugural season. Since then, the program has produced hundreds of household names such as Reggie White, Peyton Manning, Jason Witten, Eric Berry. Over the years, the Vols have produced numerous All-Americans and Heisman candidates. Here is a look at the Top 10 Volunteers over the last decade.
Top 10 Volunteers This Decade
10: Evan Berry (2014 – 2017)
Berry averaged 29.5 yards per kick return as a freshman, ranking second in the SEC. 2015 was a season for the ages as Berry led the nation with a kickoff return average of 38.3 yards, just two yards shy of the NCAA all-time record. He totaled 804 kick return yards which ranked second all-time at Tennessee. As a sophomore, he returned three kicks for touchdowns and ended the season with a pick-six against Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. He ended his career with 1,820 kick return yards, an average of 34.2 yards and four touchdowns.
9: Jauan Jennings (2015 – Present)
Jennings enrolled at Tennessee in 2015 as the third-string quarterback but shortly into spring camp he showed that he was a star with the ball in his hands. Jennings became the first true freshman to start at wide receiver since Marquez North in 2013. He had a solid freshman campaign that was highlighted by a 58-yard touchdown pass to Josh Dobbs against Florida. Jennings enters the 2019 season with 87 receptions, 1,187 yards and 12 total touchdowns. Jennings has also become a fan favorite with his highlight plays including a go-ahead touchdown catch against the Gators in 2016.
8: Ja’Wuan James (2010 – 2013)
As an offensive lineman, it is incredibly difficult to earn a spot on any “all-time” list. However, Ja’Wuan James got off to a great start as he started all 13 games as a true freshman. James helped protect an offense that threw for nearly 3,000 yards and blocked for a 1,000 yard rusher in Tauren Poole. James extended his career start streak as he started all 12 games during his freshman season. The Volunteer offense allowed the third fewest sacks in the SEC and piled up two 500+ yard games in 2011. Thanks to James’ 12 starts as a junior, the explosive Tennessee offense continued as they ranked 20th in total offense and added five more 500+ yard games in 2012. As a senior, James set Tennessee’s all-time start record for a lineman with 49 career starts. The Tennessee offense helped James become a first-round pick in the NFL Draft by rushing for 2,261 yards (most since 2004).
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7: A.J. Johnson (2011 – 2014)
Johnson became the first true freshman linebacker to start a game in Tennessee history and went on to start 10 of the 12 games he played in. The up-and-coming linebacker finished an impressive freshman season with 80 tackles, second in UT history behind Eric Berry’s 86 tackles in 2007. Johnson’s sophomore season went just as his freshman season had as he led the SEC and was fourth in the nation with 138. During the season, Johnson recorded a 21 tackle game against #19 Mississippi St, the most for Tennessee since 1988. As a junior, he finished third in the SEC with 108 tackles. He recorded 101 tackles in 10 games as a senior and finished with 425 for his career, ranking second all-time in program history. He also became the first Tennessee Volunteer to lead his team in tackles for three consecutive seasons.
6: Tyler Bray (2010 – 2012)
Bray went 4-1 as a freshman while throwing for 1,824 yards and 18 touchdowns (both freshman records at Tennessee). One of Bray’s biggest highlights as a freshman came in the second half against Memphis where he threw for over 300 yards and five touchdowns. Bray followed the performance up with another 300+ yards and three touchdowns against Ole Miss. In 2011, Bray sat the Volunteers record for consecutive games with multiple passing touchdowns with 10, breaking Peyton Manning’s record of seven in 1997. Tyler continued to break records in 2012 with 530 yards against Troy and 37 completions against Missouri. Bray declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season. He finished at Tennessee with 540 completions (fifth all-time), 7,444 yards (fourth all-time) and 69 touchdowns (fourth all-time).
5: Cam Sutton (2013 – 2016)
Cam Sutton shot onto the scene as a freshman with 39 tackles, four TFL, one sack, two fumble recoveries, and two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Sutton started all 12 games, a pretty impressive feat considering that many of the starters in the secondary later saw playing time in the NFL. He went on to earn All-SEC honors and an All-Freshman selection by College Football News. Following a breakout season, the Volunteer coaching staff saw that Sutton needed to have more touches throughout games so he was named starting punt returner in 2014. Sutton proved coaches right as he returned a punt 76 yards for his first career return touchdown. Sutton added 37 tackles, three interceptions and 16 pass defenses (3rd most in Tennessee history) to go along with his return stats. Beginning with his junior season, opposing offenses started throwing away from Sutton to avoid turnovers and incomplete passes. However, in 2015, Sutton’s return skills exploded as he racked up nearly 500 return yards and two touchdowns including an 86 yard return against Vanderbilt. Cam broke numerous Tennessee return records in 2015 including punt return yards (467) and led the country in punt return average (18.7). Defensively, Sutton accumulated 51 more tackles, 2 interceptions, 12 pass breakups and 2 forced fumbles. Cam ended his career as the all-time pass breakup leader with 37 and first all-time in career punt return average (16.0).
4: Alvin Kamara (2015 – 2016)
In just two short seasons, Kamara earned himself a place on Tennessee’s all-decade list. As a red-shirt sophomore transfer, Kamara lived up to his hype as the second ranked JuCo prospect in 2015. He ran wild in his first career game against Bowling Green with 144 rushing yards (school record for debut game) and two touchdowns. Kamara totaled 698 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, 291 receiving yards and an additional two receiving touchdowns. Kamara also had a 50-yard punt return against Western Carolina. These video game statistics came while Alvin spent the entire 2015 season as the backup to Jalen Hurd. Kamara followed the performance with a junior season where he was responsible for 1,188 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns. The season was highlighted by an all-time performance against Texas A&M. In the game, Kamara accounted for 312 total yards (a Tennessee record) and three touchdowns. Alvin decided to forgo his senior at Tennessee where he ended with 2,277 total yards and 24 touchdowns.
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3: Jalen Hurd (2014 – 2016)
Despite a controversial ending to his Tennessee career, Jalen Hurd was one of the most prolific players in recent memory. As a 6’4”, 240 lbs. As a freshman, Hurd tore through opposing defenses. He racked up 899 yards and five touchdowns on the ground along with 221 yards and two touchdowns receiving. Hurd recorded five 100-yard games, the most since Jamal Lewis in 1997. During his sophomore season, he ran for 1,288 yards in 12 starts. In doing so, he became the first Tennessee sophomore to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season in program history. During the 2015 season, Hurd also became the first sophomore to reach 2,000 yards in a career. The 2016 season was one that will be remembered for ages for the departure of Tennessee’s prized possession. After seven starts, Hurd left the program and transferred to Baylor from where he would end up getting drafted as a wide receiver.
2: Derek Barnett (2014 – 2016)
Derek Barnett became a household name with Volunteer fans when he recorded 20.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as a true freshman, both freshman records and 5th all-time in Tennessee history. He recorded three sacks in a game (also a freshman record) twice. Barnett was the first true freshman to start on Tennessee’s defensive line in program history. Barnett finished the season leading SEC freshmen in tackles in 72. After a very successful freshman year, opposing teams had no other choice but to double, and sometimes triple, team Barnett. Despite this, he still managed to record another 10 sacks in 2014, giving him 20 through his first two seasons. 2016 was a season for the record books for Barnett. In Tennessee’s Music City Bowl against Nebraska, Barnett recorded his 13th sack of the season. That sack put Derek Barnett atop Tennessee’s all-time sack record passing the legendary Reggie White. The most significant part of the record-breaking career was that Barnett reached the milestone three seasons at Tennessee. Following the bowl performance, Barnett declared for the NFL draft and was selected in the first round.
1: Josh Dobbs (2013 – 2016)
Of our top 10 Volunteers this decade, Joshua Dobbs had one of the slower beginnings to his career. Only starting five games as a true freshman (mostly due to injuries to Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman), he threw for 695 yards, two touchdowns, and six interceptions. His sophomore campaign saw more success. Dobbs started in five of the six games he played in where he went 4-1 as the starter. He also threw for 1,206 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He added another 469 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground (which led the Vols in rushing touchdowns). Dobbs became the first Tennessee quarterback to run for multiple touchdowns in a game since Casey Clausen in 2002. Dobbs biggest sophomore highlight came at South Carolina. The sophomore led Tennessee to a huge comeback victory. He finished the game with 301 passing yards, 166 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He became the first player in Tennessee history to have a 300-100 performance and also broke the single game rushing record for a Tennessee quarterback. That was just the beginning. In 2015, Dobbs threw for 2,291, 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He rushed for 831 yards and 12 more touchdowns (both single season records for UT quarterbacks). In Dobbs first 19 career starts, the Vols offense averaged 34.2 points for game and amassed 424 yards per game. Dobbs ended his career with a record of 23-12 (3-0 in bowls) as the starter at Tennessee. He was responsible for 7,138 passing yards (fifth most in school history), 2,160 rushing yards (most by quarterback in school history) and 87 total touchdowns (2nd in school history behind Peyton Manning).