I told you Friday after the news broke that 2015 linebacker Cecil Cherry committed to Tennessee that commitments probably werenít over for the weekend. Well, 2014 athlete Brandon Powell was the first to go public on Sunday with his commitment. The good news kept on coming Monday when Jackson, Alabama linebacker Gavin Bryant committed to the VOLS.
Tennessee has been recruiting Bryant hard since the early spring. Bryant visited last week, liked what he saw, and pulled the trigger
Bryant is rated as a three star linebacker by Rivals and the 15th best prospect in Alabama. ESPN, on the other hand, has Bryant rated as a four star prospect and the 11th best inside linebacker in the country.
Bryant is a great pickup. Sure, he has a bit of academic work to do plus recruiting Bryant is far from over. This will be a recruitment to watch because most every school in the SEC, including Alabama and Auburn, wanted this kid. The advantages Tennessee has in keeping Bryant a VOL are that Alabama and Auburn have recruited well at the position and have young depth there, Tennessee has a clear need at linebacker as soon as next September, and Bryant has a great relationship with Coach Thigpen.
In terms of commitments Tennessee still stands at 16 for the class of 2014. While the good news was Bryant committed. Monday, Florida athlete Lawrence Lee
and Tennessee parted ways. In my opinion, this is advantage Tennessee. Lee is a nice prospect but kids that project as athletes are easier to identify and recruit than SEC caliber linebackers. From Bryantís offer list, as I mentioned above, most of the SEC schools believe this kid is an SEC linebacker.
A sign the recruiting pendulum may be swinging back in Tennesseeís favor? Though coaches canít comment and media types are reluctant to, it appears Tennessee has passed on a number of very good 2014 prospects that were seemingly ready to pull the trigger publicly for Tennessee in favor of prospects they believe are better fits. Consider the following.
4 star wide receiver Dominique Booth. Kid has 30 offers including Alabama and Tennessee. Tennessee has been Boothís presumptive leader since early spring. Booth is a nice prospect. A four star prospect and the #1 rated prospect in the state of Indiana. Frankly, I just think Tennessee can sign wide receivers that better fit their scheme than Booth. No offense to Booth. Nice player. Just not a great fit.
4 star athlete Stanton Truitt, from Monroe, Georgia. Truitt is a nice prospect and he too named Tennessee his leader in the spring. Truitt, in my opinion, postponed a public commitment to Tennessee to see what other offers might come his way .... like maybe Georgia the in state school. Tennessee, in my opinion, got a bit tired of the game and moved on Ö. in favor of Brandon Powell.
4 star athlete/quarterback Kendrick Doss from Florence, Alabama. After David Cornwell spurned Tennessee for Alabama many analysts thought Doss was next in Tennessee's quarterback pecking order. Rumor was Doss would commit publicly to Tennessee last weekend. Not so fast. Doss is a nice prospect but Tennessee wasnít ready to take his commitment. Doss now appears headed to one of the Mississippi schools again in my opinion. Again, in terms of Tennessee quarterback targets, keep an eye on Florida dual threat quarterback Quentin Flowers.
3 star running back Caleb Kinlaw from Goose Creek, South Carolina. Kinlaw had Tennessee at the top of his list for the longest time. Tennessee has been recruiting Kinlaw for 2 years. Kinlaw was ready to seemingly pull the trigger for Tennessee early in the spring. However, after running backs Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk committed, adding a third running back to the 2014 class so early in the recruiting cycle wasnít really a huge priority. Whether Tennessee takes a third running back in this class is yet to be determined. Recent commitment Brandon Powell looks like he can take a few snaps at running back and Tennessee may eventually circle back to Kinlaw. My point is, with the Tennessee issues at running back over the past few years, it has been a long time since Tennessee has been in a position to hold off one of the best running backs in the Carolinas committing to you for better prospects.
Remember 4 star prospect safety Cortez McDowell from Locust Grove, Georgia? For the longest time McDowell was thought to be a silent commitment to Tennessee. Yeah, that guy. The rumor gets better. McDowell was going to publicly commit at the Orange & White game. Well, here we are almost to July 4th and still no public commitment from McDowell. What the ! Now, looks like Tennessee is pretty much even with Auburn and Georgia for McDowell. Butch Jones is waiting on McDowell. In fact, with spots as limited as they are in the class, McDowell could become a casualty if he doesnít do something soon.
Lastly, as I mentioned above, former commitment wide receiver/athlete Lawrence Lee a three start prospect from Florida, is a nice prospect. Missouri has offered Lee. The Florida schools have started showing interest. I believe Leeís decommitment is just a mutual parting of the ways. Brandon Powell is a better looking athlete and a prospect that can fill multiple roles on the offense.
In closing, the above isnít intended to besmirch (I think that is a word) any of these kids. All great athletes. Tennessee is simply recruiting at a different level right now than in the past.
Check back and I'll check back in
'Sunday concluded a busy weekend for Butch Jones and staff. Probably the biggest prospect camp of the summer wrapped up Saturday, all but three 2014 verbal commitments were on campus, and Butch Jones handed out offers to 2014, 15, and 16 prospects like giving out candy to trick or treators on Halloween. Letís be clear. Butch Jones is just not handing out offers because he can. Tennessee has generated so much intrigue and interest in the last 6 months. The quality of the prospects attending these camps is something that has been seen around Tennessee in years (Taken from a staffer who has worked these camps since the Fulmer days)
So letís re-cap a few things that happened over the weekend good, not so good, and interesting.
The weekend got off to a nice start when 2015, Frostproof, Florida linebacker Cecil Cherry committed to Tennessee.
Though only coming into his junior year of high school, the future certainly looks bright for Cherry. There is some nice footage of Cherry on the internet. From watching his highlights, he certainly looks like a difference making linebacker. Cherry, a relative of ex-Vol Tony Thompson, is the type of prospect Tennessee has to land to make the ascent back to the top of the SEC. Cherry, as a junior to be in high school mind you, already holds 30 offers including schools like Florida, Alabama, Ohio State and other premier programs. In 2015, Cherry is likely to be rated as one of the nationís top linebackers. Other schools will not quit recruiting Cherry.
Sunday brought another bit of good news. The 2014 class received another addition when Deerfield Beach, Florida athlete Brandon Powell shocked a number of schools and recruiting analysts by committing to Tennessee
. That is number 16 for the 2014 class. With the commitment of Powell, Tennessee just stepped over the half way point in rounding out the 2014 class as I expect Tennessee to sign 30 prospects
. Expect commitments to slow down a bit as Tennessee starts becoming more selective with these final 14 to 15 spots.
Now back to Powell. Though I personally would like to see Coach Jones mix in a defensive tackle or interior offensive lineman commitment with all these athletes, I like Brandon Powell's commitment.
Depending on the recruiting service you follow, Powell is either a 3 star or 4 star offer list. Powell has over 25 offers including schools likes Florida State, LSU, Auburn, North Carolina. He is a top 50 prospect in the state of Florida. Nationally, Rivals and ESPN have ranked as a top 25 athlete.
Powell will be asked to play a number of roles at Tennessee. He'll play slot receiver, and will line up at running back from time to time. I would expect him to get an early shot as a kick return specialist as well. Powell is a fast kid with shifty feet. Watch his film.
Though it is hard to gauge speed of high school kids, from highlights, I didnít see anyone catch Powell from behind and he always seemed to be creating distance between himself and defenders. All in all a great pick up.
Powell's commitment means Georgia athlete Stephon Truitt, who has long since thought to a "silent commitment" to Tennessee, has part ways with the Vols. I really liked Truitt's skill set but he and Powell are similarly skilled prospects. Powell was ready to be a VOL while Truitt was still shopping. Advantage Powell.
The Not So Good:
In recruiting you never get all you want. Just the way it is. 2014 Tennessee quarterback target David Cornwell verbally committed to Alabama on Friday. Is this a setback? Not really. There are a good number of folks who believed Cornwell was far and away Tennessee's #1 quarterback target. I, for one, did not and still do not fall into that camp. I never thought Cornwell was coming to Tennessee even if he had not committed to Alabama. Plus, he isnít a great fit for Tennessee's offense either
With Cornwell off the board, does Tennessee take a quarterback in 2014 with limited spots available or not? If you recall, Butch Jones publicly stated he wants 5 quarterbacks on the roster at all times. Taking him at his word, one of the 14 or 15 remaining spots will go to a quarterback. So who? One prospect to keep an eye on is Miami, Florida quarterback Quentin Flowers. Flowers is a three star prospect and thought to be one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in Florida. Pay no attention to his rating. Tennessee and Alabama have offered that is all I need to know.
Flowers is a bit raw but his strong arm and athleticism jump off the film.
Tennessee is pursuing 2012 Ohio State signee Se'Von Pittman. Pittman, a strongside defensive end, from Canton, Ohio was ranked 8th nationally at his position out of high school. A 4 star prospect, Pittman signed with Ohio State. I donít know the story but he redshirted last season due to an injury. The injury coupled with an off the field incident led Pittman to seek and be granted his release from the Buckeyes. You just know Jones and staff know Pittman from their days at Cincinnati and probably recruited him out of high school. That type of connection plus an opportunity to play on a national stage can't hurt.
I believe regardless of where Pittman winds up he must sit out one year leaving him with three years to play three. Pittman has either been on campus during the last week or possibly still on campus now. Landing difference making defensive linemen is a spot Tennessee has struggled with over the last few years. The 2014 recruiting cycle is no different to be honest with you. Pittman hasnít played a down in college but was on track to be a key contributor as a true freshman at Ohio State before he suffered a season ending injury. Sit tight on this one. We'll probably know sooner than later whether Pittman winds up at Tennessee or another destination.
Later this week I will have my pre-July 4th look at the prospects that fill out the final 15 spots in the 2014 class.
Tennessee landed its 14th commitment Thursday in defensive lineman Joe Henderson from Cleveland Shaker Heights High School, Ohio. Henderson is a nice addition to a recruiting class that up until yesterday had been void of defensive lineman. The Henderson commitment represents a good start recruiting wise at a position where a lot of help is needed next season.
Henderson visited campus earlier this month. It hasnít been a secret Tennessee has been the team to beat since he received the offer. Already holding over twenty offers, Henderson chose Tennessee over Michigan State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan and others. This is a talented kid that committed to Tennessee. I would expect other schools to continue come after Henderson as National Signing Day draws closer.
Henderson's commitment to Tennessee is as much about the relationship he developed with Butch Jones and his staff while they were coaching at Cincinnati as it is about Tennessee and the opportunity to play very early in his career here. Butch Jones and staff have been recruiting Henderson and family for approximately 4 years.
Though Henderson has yet to play a down of football as a high school senior let alone in the SEC, he looks like that athletic, off the edge rush end Tennessee recruiting classes have missed on in the last few recruiting cycles. Landing a commitment from a talented prospect like Henderson this early in the recruiting cycle is huge.
Henderson is just beginning to grow into his frame 6'4" frame. He added 15 pounds to his frame since last season and now weighs in at 225 pounds. He will likely add another 20 to 25 pounds before he gets to Tennessee. On film Henderson is just now scratching the surface. You canít teach size, speed and athleticism. Henderson has them all. Henderson has an above average initial burst off the line of scrimmage, plays upfield which is something you like to see in a defensive lineman, tends to play a bit out of control at times, needs to works on his technique but his athleticism is obvious. I encourage each one of you to jump on line, watch Henderson's film, make your own decision.
For you star gazers and rankings guys, Henderson is a 3 star recruit on Rivals and a 4 star prospect by 247. Nonetheless, with 14, 2014 commitments some recruiting services have Tennessee's class ranked as the top class in the country. Certainly been a long time since Tennessee had anything related to football to boast about.
More importantly, the month of June and into July will be a productive stretch for Tennessee as it continues to build the 2014 class. I expect Tennessee to be hovering around 20 commitments by the time fall practice begins. They are on the verge of public commitments from a number of their high profile targets.