Agree with all those but think Barnett was the most impressive.
Rarely does a true freshman stack up in raw physical ability considering most linemen we went up against were upperclassmen in their 20's. Don't want to diminish Jamal and Berry but speed was their X factor whereas Barnett needed speed, strength, and finesse.
Can't argue with those already mentioned but one that hasn't been and one who most never heard of was Joe Graham, lineman from somewhere in Middle Tennessee. Injured his knee and never fully recovered but as a freshman he was outstanding.
Except he was a redshirt freshman. Webb and Pickens would be among the best RS freshmen I've ever seen play, but in 88 while the Vols were losing 6 in a row, they didn't play. 89 was their breakout year.
Eric Berry is the best true freshman that I've ever seen play. Trey Smith deserves some consideration and Casey Clausen because we had to have him in 2000 and he delivered. Peyton got benched in the Vanderbilt game and Brandon Stewart won that game and they more or less split time in a number of games. PM is best sophomore, junior and senior.
If I HAD to chose just one it would be Jamal Lewis BUT the interest thing to me reading through those list is just how many injuries hampered so many of these great Vols. Most overcame them to have incredible careers but just the amount of injuries really played a major part in most of these careers. Carl Pickens was very impressive as well. I didn't mention Peyton because I think he performed to the level we all knew he would and just didn't wow me because I expected it from him...probably unfair a bit though. Also, Alan Houston was very advanced as a freshman.
Jamal Lewis could’ve went straight from high school to the NFL, and probably would’ve been the offensive rookie of the year. His freshman year he was probably the best running back in college football.
Before 1972 , freshmen were not alloeed by NCAA to compete on varsity teams. The records I found say "On freshman team , no varsity action" Seems I remember reading about J.V. games but there are no records , and few defensive statistics for even varsity games. Question for old timers. Would their sophmore year be considered like redshirt freshmen today? Did they practice with the varsity or separate? Seems there was exceptions in 1950 and 51 or 51 52 for Korean War?
Assuming this is just football, otherwise Bernard King and no one else is even close.
Peyton really only had half a season. Erik Ainge beat Florida in his 3RD GAME as a Vol. Justin Hunter looked like a Heisman winner in his first few games. Lewis was a beast. Berry was Berry.
But even though he wasn't eligible, I did see Condredge Holloway in a few JV games. He was fantastic, and there is no doubt he would have been the starter if Freshmen had been eligible at the time. So that's who I'm going with.
Yep my Brother went down and watched UT vs Notre Dame JV game. He said Condredge best QB he seen that year in Neyland. No doubt he would have started and was a difference maker, the straw that stirred the drink.