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How Butch Jones Has Fared with Five-Star Talent

2015 Class

Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

Tennessee’s 2015 class had six different players with a five-star ranking by at least one recruiting service. Kahlil McKenzie, Kyle Phillips, Drew Richmond, Preston Williams, Shy Tuttle, and Alvin Kamara were all considered five-star talents by at least one recruiting service during the 2015 recruiting cycle. And this class is filled hits, misses, and some mystery still.

The one obvious hit is Alvin Kamara. Even though Kamara was still underutilized while at Tennessee, his production on the field spoke for itself when he touched the ball. The former five-star junior college prospect averaged 6.96 yards per touch on his 210 carries and 74 receptions in his two years at Tennessee. Kamara scored 32 total touchdowns with the Vols (16 rushing, 7 receiving, 1 punt return) and broke the school’s record for most yards from scrimmage when he totaled 288 yards against Texas A&M.

Everyone else, however, has either been a miss or is still to be determined.

Preston Williams is the obvious miss of the group. The former five-star receiver announced the week of the Alabama game that he was transferring out of the program after a lackluster start to his sophomore season. Williams finished his Vol career with just 16 catches for 247 yards and two touchdowns in seven career games.

Shy Tuttle has been impressive when healthy, but unfortunately for him he’s been injured more often than healthy. Tuttle has suffered season-ending injuries in both his seasons as Tennessee so far, and he’s only played in 13 of a possible 26 games. But during those 13 games, Tuttle has flashed his potential when not hampered by nagging injuries.

Tuttle’s teammate and fellow defensive tackle, Kahlil McKenzie, has also been hampered by injuries. Even before his season-ending injury this year, however, McKenzie was failing to live up to the hype so far early in his career. McKenzie played in all 13 games of 2015 as a freshman and started to find his stride as the season progressed. But some of that momentum stalled in his sophomore season, and then a torn pectoral during the Alabama game sidelined him the rest of the season.

When Kyle Phillps came in before the 2015 season, he was exclusively at defensive end. But Jones and the staff decided to move Phillips inside to defensive tackle this season, and Phillips’ production decreased initially. Phillips saw more playing time as injuries occurred, and his play increased. But Phillips has still yet to live up to his five-star billing heading into a pivotal junior season in 2017.

Drew Richmond was one of the most lauded players in the 2015 class, and he’s made some of the smallest contributions thus far. Richmond redshirted the 2015 season and appeared in line to be the full-time starter at tackle on the offensive line in 2016. But that wasn’t to be the case. Richmond ended up riding the bench for a stretch during the middle of the season, but he would come back and start against Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. Richmond’s career got off to a rocky start, but his play picked up near the end of his redshirt freshman campaign.

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