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'X' Says:A Look Back
Tennessee’s staff should be commended for assembling the 2015 class. Lockdown the state ? check. Meet needs? check. Close strong? check. Create excitement with the fans? Double-check.
I used to look forward to the intrigue of National Signing Day. It was in some ways the feeling of an unexpected 4 or 5 star prospect choosing your school on signing day is kind of like getting that surprise toy at Christmas you really wanted but did not expect. Butch Jones has taken the anxiety out of National Signing Day and now I find myself worried more about the mid-term prospects getting on campus in January as anticipated than I do with who signs in February.
Frankly, the level that Butch Jones has taken recruiting to should be the standard here. Tennessee wants kids not only committed but convicted in their beliefs Tennessee is the right place for them.
Under Jones, Tennessee has done a better than expected job of identifying talent, getting the prospects on campus, committed, and keep them committed until they signed their National letters. Unfortunately, Tennessee simply ran out of space for Kendall Bussey, Pat Allan and Marques Ford. It happens it's business.
The issues with running out of scholarships and blue shirting will have an impact on the 2016 class. Tennessee will not be so quick to take early commitments in this cycle compared to the previous two cycles and if you count 2016 commitments, 2015 blue shirts that count against 2016 numbers and projected scholarships available not many 2016 spots remain. That will change to be sure.
Butch Jones would never admit this but I betcha he would like to have a couple of do-overs in the 2015 class. Would have been nice to have a spot for a Ryan Newsome or a Pat Allan. If that is the only fault one can find with a top five recruiting class, I say job well done.
With respect to the signees, outlasting Ole Miss and LSU respectively for Drew Richmond and Kyle Phillips was impressive. These prospects are the top rated prospects in the state and it was clear both kids were headed elsewhere. Jones never gave up and it paid off. Not giving up on a kid in recruiting is critical in this league. Tennessee has a group of good recruiters on the staff none better than Jones.
Richmond and Phillips are instant impact guys along with Alvin Kamara. and Khalil McKenzie. I expect to see these kids playing on Sunday in the future.
I excited to see how Tennessee uses defensive end/linebacker Darrell Taylor. Taylor is a bit thin but his athleticism is obvious.
Offensively, I will not have to wait long to see how Alvin Kamara is integrated into the offense. Too, the competition for the backup quarterback position will be interesting. If you just look at tape, the backup quarterback may end up being the Jones kid who won't be on campus until June.
DeBord - The Offensive Coordinator
Not saying Butch Jones didn't respect the former Offensive Coordinator but there is no secret they weren’t on the same page most of last season. In terms of recruiting, I don't think Tennessee gained much with the new hire. DeBord is not highly regarded in this area but neither was the guy he is replacing. A positive with DeBord is that he has been around the block and seems comfortable enough with himself to make his boss look at things from a different point of view.
Don't be surprised if DeBord, an ex-offensive line coach, brings a bit more power game to the offense. The offensive philosophy will not change. Tennessee will be an up tempo spread team. However, in short yardage and goal line situations you might see more power game and less finesse.
My biggest concern with the offense the last two seasons has been the quarterback did not fit the system and I could never figure out what our plan was with the passing game. Joshua Dobbs has demonstrated the skill set best served to make this offense productive. The passing game is still an enigma.
There hasn't seemed to be a commitment to make the down the field passing game work plus there were constantly running receivers in and out of the lineup. You can't tell me you have to keep receivers fresh. These kids start working out in January to get ready for the season. I don't buy the kids can't play more than 3 or 4 snaps at a time before you need to change out receivers.
My hope is going forward the new Offensive Coordinator will make more of a commitment to get the ball to kids like North, Malone, and Pearson more frequently and try to keep some continuity going between quarterback and playmakers by keeping them on the field more and off the sidelines.
2016 Recruiting and Junior Day
This wintry weather may deal Tennessee’s first Junior Day of 2016 a whammy.
Therefore, let’s just take a step back and look at some of Tennessee’s top 2016 prospects. Again, the state of Tennessee (mid-state and west Tennessee), Georgia and the mid-Atlantic are places Tennessee looks to make hay in this cycle.
What is becoming to be a theme with recruiting is that once again the state of Tennessee is loaded with football talent. The top instate prospects again appear to be in the mid-state and further west.
Here is list of a few of Tennessee's top targets:
linebacker Daniel Bituli from Nashville Christian; Brentwood Offensive Tackle Bryce Matthews; JoeJuan Williams an athletic defensive back from Nashville Father Ryan; Murfreesboro wide receiver Ikenna Okeke; a bit further west of Nashville Strong side Defensive end Emmitt Gooden from Brownsville; and, Memphis White Haven safety Donte Vaughan are at the top of Tennessee's list. As good as the 2016 in state talent is 2017 is better... Just a little tidbit ton look forward to.
There are plenty of other in state prospects Tennessee that are top level talent plus Tennessee already has offensive tackle Ryan Johnson from the mid-state as well as athlete Dorian Banks from Sevier County committed to the 2016 class.
Tennessee is already positioning itself well with a number of highly rated prospects in the state of Georgia. Tennessee has a huge need in 2016 for wide receivers and Tennessee is a leader now for Georgia talent Mecole Hardman from Elberton Georgia and is battling Georgia, Alabama, and Auburn for Marques Calloway from Warner-Robbins. Tennessee is in the thick of the battle for teammates Nigel Warrior (safety) and Tre Lamar (linebacker) from Westlake High. Another top rated Georgia prospect high on Tennessee early is cornerback Khalil Ladler from Stephenson High.
I mentioned the need for wide receivers. Tennessee has already offered and have at the top of their board the top wide receiver prospects in North Carolina and South Carolina. The prospects I am refrain are Diondre Overton from Greensboro, North Carolina and Larry Collins is a 6'5" 200 lb from Hopkinsville, South Carolina.
I am working on something for next week that chronicles offensive and defensive line targets for 2016. Tennessee has certainly began an assent in talent and depth along the lines of scrimmage but the 2016 class will demonstrate Tennessee's ability to build depth in order to sustain that assent.
In addition to the aforementioned in state offensive line prospects Johnson and Matthews, Tennessee has targeted Woodberry Forest (Virginia) offensive tackle Clark Yarbrough and Byron Nelson High (Texas) tackle/athlete Kellen Deisch as two prospects Tennessee appears to have keen interest in. Deisch is intriguing. He can play all three line positions as can play across the defensive front as well. Too, he has connections to the East Tennessee area and his family is fond of Tennessee. Diesch stands 6'7" 270 and reportedly runs a 4.8 forty. If true, this kind of athleticism should be against the law.
Even though the Junior Day may not be as well attended as anticipated Tennessee will turn right around and have another one next weekend as well.
Catch me with Basilio in the next couple weeks as we record a new recruiting podcast.
Have a great weekend
'X' Says:Everything is pointing toward drew Richmond signing a national letter of intent with tennessee on Wednesday. Hopefully, Alabama doesn't convince the kid to postpone signing and visit Alabama after signing day. That is possible but I think Tennessee closed this one out over the past weekend. What do this mean? Huge momentum for Tennessee. If Richmond signs and minus huge signing day defections, Tennessee finishes with a top five class one would think across all recruiting services. Richmond to Tennessee helps with the 2016 and 2017 prospects in west Tennessee and there are good ones we'll discuss tomorrow.
My assumption is drew Richmond will get every chance to start next season. You don't sign prospects like Richmond to sit. As I wrote last week, if Richmond signs, he is Butch Jones' biggest signing to date. Tennessee was completely out of this one and they overcome so many obstacles in Memphis. Very impressive.
'X' Says: 'If the unsubstantiated rumors have any semblance of truth that Tennessee does indeed have one scholarship left, I have no idea how Butch Jones is going to squeeze any more kids into this class.
I think for now you have to assume at the most Tennessee is working under the auspices they have one to two spots with one may two that are somewhat in flux.
Right now, Tennessee has a small recruiting board but more important than the number of prospects on the board is that each prospect on that board is a prospect you do not turn away.
Tennessee has already encouraged committed prospects to look elsewhere and told kids who privately wanted to commit they simply did not have room. For folks like me that have followed recruiting for years, this is unprecedented.
Of the prospects left. I can't imagine under any circumstance they want to turn any of them away. They may have to.
The small group of remaining targets is not without moving parts.
There is 4 star linebacker Quarte Sapp. Most of the analysts believe Tennessee has lead all others for Quarte Sapp since early in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Sapp is a kid I wouldn't want to play cards with. He has kept his close to the vest and has been difficult to get a feel on whether he was coming to Tennessee or heading elsewhere. I think he has been encouraged to show his cards if you catch my drift.
Sapp has allegedly moved up his announcement date up from next Monday to later today. Let’s see if he follows through. He is down to Tennessee, Michigan State, and Missouri. He hasn't visited Missouri. He has been to Tennessee countless times. There is no way Tennessee doesn't accept Sapp's commitment. I think there may have been some conversations between Tennessee and Sapp suggesting if his interest in playing for Tennessee was genuine he should reserve his spot before the weekend.
Pat Allen the 4 star offensive tackle from the Washington DC area. Allan was an odds on favorite to commit to Tennessee in early January. My understanding is he on different occasions told Tennessee he was Tennessee bound. However, I am not sure he has affirmative enough with his decision to discontinue warming up to the new Georgia offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
Drew Richmond. An introduction of Drew Richmond is unnecessary to any orange-blooded Vol . Richmond has been one of if not Butch Jones' top targets of the 2015 class for over a year. Heck, I remember us chatting about Drew Richmond during Basilio's 2014 signing day Xtravaganza.
I also do not need to recount the high points and low points of the Tennessee-Drew Richmond courtship over the past 12 to 14 months. The important thing are signing day is next Wednesday, Tennessee is getting Richmond's last official visit, Tennessee has all the momentum, and has a legitimate chance to land Richmond on Wednesday much to the disappointment of Ole Miss and Alabama.
Tee MailAs I write..... X is taking a big bite of crow because I felt like the Tennessee had little if any opportunity of landing Drew Richmond because their relationship seem to fracture this fall. If Butch Jones is able to sign Drew Richmond next Wednesday, well... it may go down as his most impressive signing of his first 3 recruiting classes.
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In all honesty, a tip of the cap is warranted for getting Richmond to Tennessee for an official visit on the last visit weekend of the cycle. Impressive. Now, can Tennessee close the deal? The good news is Tennessee has momentum. The bad news . What can Tennessee show him this weekend they haven't showed him during numerous unofficial visits Richmond has taken to campus?
So if Tennessee has two spots left and Sapp takes one what do you do if both Richmond and Allan decide to be Vols? A difficult a decision as this is if it were to happen I remember many a recruiting cycles where Tennessee could best be described as in a scramble mode leading into the last visit weekend. A nice problem to have.
Committed Moving Parts:
Kendall Bussey a running back from Louisiana. My count is Bussey has been publicly and privately committed to four different schools during this recruiting cycle. He is currently committed to Tennessee. He visited Texas A&M a school he flirted with before committing to Tennessee last fall. A&M's persistence has paid off. Bussey will be in Knoxville this weekend. Here is hoping Tennessee locks this one down. The problem is Bussey may leave Knoxville firm to Tennessee and then A&M will call and well you know how these things work. This one may go down to who the kid gets off the telephone with last before he sends his fax in on Wednesday.
Venzell Boulware offensive lineman. Boulware is a vastly underrated offensive lineman that Tennessee has battled Georgia and Ohio State for since he committed to Tennessee last fall. Tennessee withstood an official visit to Ohio State last weekend. For some reason though this one concerns me and will be one I will watch until Sara Mitchell tells us Wednesday morning the Boulware fax is in. Distance is a huge factor with the family and Georgia continues their pursuit.
One last item concerning Georgia's recruiting and how it impacts Tennessee. Georgia would like to sign one more offensive lineman in their 2015 class. They have 4 prospects on their board two of which are Boulware, committed to Tennessee, and the aforementioned Pat Allan. I can't see a scenario where both Boulware and Allan both end up and Georgia. The better view is neither one will and both will be Vols. If you are asking me what I think happens on Wednesday..... I think Boulware winds up at Tennessee. Tennessee moves all its cards to the middle of the table for Drew Richmond and Allan unfortunately probably winds up at Georgia.
'X' Says: 'I could way wrong about this... but I don't think so. Basilio knows better than anyone that yours truly is a conspiracy theorist. So below I will lay out my recruiting conspiracy. Now this is not quite to the level of Art Bell or Pete Carroll. My point is when it comes to the University of Tennessee football operations I don't believe things just happen by chance .
Let me set this up. For those who aren't familiar, Tennessee received a commitment yesterday from 2016 (yes 2016) tight end prospect Devonte Brooks. This is great news! Brooks is a heckuva prospect. Already a RIVALS top 100 2016 prospect, Brooks is one of the top prospects on Tennessee 2016 board regardless of position.
A little bit more on Brooks before I get to my point. Brooks stands 6'5" 220 lbs and is projected to be the #1 prospect in the District of Columbia. All this without playing a down as a junior. He tore his ACL last offseason and didn't play a down. His current rankings are based totally on his performance as a sophomore. Clearly, his pre-injury performance was duly noted by recruiting analysts. If he can get back to his original form, Brooks will be a difference maker in Knoxville.
It has been fairly well known Tennessee has been Brooks' leader for quite a while. But I don't think anyone expect a mid January commitment . So why did Brooks commit .. why now? T wo weeks before 2015 National Signing Day why does a highly rated 2016 prospect decide to publicly commit?
Here is the how and the why ..I think everyone who follows Tennessee football knows by now that Butch Jones is in full control of the football operation. The kids who interact with media (those who are part of the program and those committed and will become part of the program) are ALWAYS on topic. Whatever the message is for the day or the week these kids help the Head coach promote the message. My point is good news just simply doesn't happen by accident. Things are planned and calculated. One Tennessee right?
I have no issue with this and my guess is most fans don't either which brings me around to my conspiracy theory. 4 star commitments for the 2016 recruiting class do not accidentally happen with 2 weeks left in the 2015 recruiting cycle....
Here is why Devonte Brooks' public commitment impacts the 2015 class. Tennessee has a committed prospect in the 2015 class projected as a tight end. He is an instate prospect, a good prospect, who has options with other schools but a prospect who probably needs a redshirt year.
My theory is having Brooks publicly commit sends a message to the 2015 tight end tight end that he is already being recruited over and he may want to explore his options with other schools. The Brooks commitment does a couple of things. It gives the impacted e commitment, 3 official visit weekends to find another school. Next and most important this frees up one more spot in the 2015 class. This is important because I believe Tennessee has received good news from a prospect they were recruiting but weren't planning on being part of the 2015. Simply put, Tennessee needs to make room for a better player.
So which prospect could benefit from the brooks commitment? There are two or three possibilities . I think Tennessee is in great shape with athlete Ryan Newsome from Texas. I may have mentioned this before. Newsome is a football player with world class speed who the recruiting services have seemingly mis evaluated. The kid is rated as a three start prospect with a 5 star offer list. The trick is getting his parents to buy into the distance issue. If it weren't for distance and the fact Tennessee is working with limited space in this class, I think he would already by a VOL.
Another prospect to keep an eye on is Elmore, Alabama defensive end/athlete Prince Tega. Tega has only been playing football for a short period of time. Too, Tega attends a private school so many question the level of competition he has competed against. People do not question his athleticism . Tega, from Nigeria, stands 6'8" 245 lbs and reportedly runs a 4.6 - 4.7 forty. A couple of things make Tega intriguing. He was originally classified as a 2016 prospect but has recently re-classified and will now graduate from his school in May making him a 2015 prospect. Also, he projects at any one of a number of positions across the defensive or offensive fronts. Tennessee has a fighter's chance here. Tennessee is competing with LSU, Auburn, Notre Dame and others. This one will be very interesting to watch.
I will be here more frequently from here on until February 4th as we are officially in crunch time. Might even join Basilio at Calhoun's on National Signing Day....
'X' Says: Just a few quick thoughts on the commitment of Sheriron Jones
Jones, out of Moreno Valley, Ca., is the seventh-ranked quarterback in the 2015 according to the 247 Sports composite rankings.
He’s also the 28th rated player in the state of California.
4 STAR PROSPECT PRETTY MUCH ACROSS THE RECRUITING SERVICES
Not sure he is quite 6’3” 190 but he is a big kid
He is a true dual threat quarterback
Don’t overlook the fact we took one from a SEC East RIVAL… Jones was committed to Florida back (June 2014) and decommitted when McElwain took the Florida job.
What it tells me: Either one , two or more of the following are true.. (remember I’m a black helicopter guy)
Nathan Peterman unlikely to return for another season.
Quentin Dormady’s shoulder issue IS PROBABLY worse than we are being lead to believe.
Tennessee believes early enrollee Jajuan Jennings is probably an everyday down SEC player “quicker” at either Safety or wide receiver as opposed to quarterback. There are staff members who believe Jennings has “Sunday talent” at safety or wide receiver.
Make no doubt about it as good a prospect as Dormady and Jennings are at quarterback….Jones is better....
I remember looking at his film over the summer when he visited Tennessee and saying .. that is the kind of quarterback we need to run this system….
All these freshmen quarterbacks have a learning curve before they could play in the SEC… My opinion is Jones learning curve is less steep than the others because of his skill set and his experience playing quarterback against some really good competition
Lastly…. Is there any doubt most of these commitment announcements are orchestrated?
'X' Says:Isn’t it interesting ….. that on January 7th, less than one month from National Signing Day, the talk is more about what currently committed football prospect will not be a part of the 2015 recruiting class rather than who will be a part of the recruiting class.
Tennessee has 27 public commitments right now January 6th . No doubt the class as it is composed is a top 5 class in the country. With that being said, Tennessee has an opportunity have a better class depending upon how they close out the next month.
Quarte Sapp, a four star linebacker from Georgia;
Sherion Jones, a 4 star dual threat quarterback from California;
Ryan Newsome, inexplicably rated as a three star athlete from Texas;
Bryce Love, a four star running back from North Carolina:
Pat Allan, a four star offensive lineman from the Maryland/Washington DC area.
Those are five really good prospects. Personally, I don’t see how you would turn ANY of the five away. You can make a case that each one is a must add to the class.
Quarte Sapp. He may be the exception to the above. However, you don’t spend months recruiting a prospect only to turn him away at the eleventh hour.
Tennessee has been Sapp’s presumptive leader virtually through the entire recruiting cycle. The only way Quarte Sapp doesn’t wind up being a part of Tennessee’s class is if he decides to attend another school.
Sherion Jones. Tennessee is one snap away from being in real trouble at QB in 2015. There is some question as to whether Nathan Peterman returns for another season. I suspect he does but I think the decision is yet to be made. Behind Peterman you have two incoming freshman Jajuan Jennings and Quentin Dormady.
Dormady’s his health situation (shoulder) is not crystal clear and people aren’t talking. My understanding is that while on campus over winter break he wasn’t cleared to throw. Who knows if he will need additional surgery, and whether he will be cleared for spring ball. Also, is this a chronic issue that will only get better with rest and time?
Worst case is you could go into the 2015 season with only Dobbs as your quarterback who has played a snap of SEC football and having your second team quarterback being a true freshman.
Ryan Newsome: Here is a kid that has world class speed. Tennessee has a number of fast players. Newsome may be faster and he is not just track fast he is football fast. Right now the only other true wide receiver committed is Preston Williams who suffered a major knee injury at the end of his senior season. He will probably be ready for fall practice but will he be 100%? Plus, although he says he is solid to Tennessee, Williams has not closed the door for other schools to recruit him….
I have steadfastly maintained Newsome would be a VOL if there is room.
Bryce Love: Going into the spring Tennessee will have two running backs on the depth chart. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. Kendall Bussey from Louisiana is committed and is solid. However, Bussey has experienced some knee issues. He should be full go this summer but Tennessee will not likely know the full extent of his knee issues until he gets on campus. As we have seen in this spread offense, not only is it hard to make it through a full season with one healthy quarterback, but the system is equally taxing on running backs.
It is imperative that your roster be stocked with three to four running backs that can carry the load at any given time. At times, Tennessee hardly had one healthy running back. Love is another quick/fast/shifty kid who is apparently down to Tennessee and Stanford.
Patrick Allen: Another offensive tackle in this class may be the biggest priority of all. To me, this is the recruitment that will go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth between Tennessee and Georgia until the fax arrives on National Signing Day.
Surely, there is no way Tennessee can bring in back to back classes of 32 prospects or can they?
What complicates this even more is reportedly Ralph David Abernathy IV one of Butch Jones’ players from Cincinnati plans to enroll this week at Tennessee as a fifth year guy with one year of eligibility remaining. He will be on scholarship. Also, at some point Tennessee has to account for walk-on turned scholarship player Devaun Swafford. Do they count against the 25 you can bring in each academic year or the 85 total scholarship limit?
It is never fun in my opinion to see “room being made” if you catch my drift but the next month should be very interesting.
'X' Says: Tennessee received its 26th commitment for the 2015 recruiting class on Wednesday when cornerback Justin Martin from Northeast Oklahoma Junior College went public with his commitment. Provided that he follows through with his public pledge and signs with Tennessee in February, the addition of Justin Martin from Tennessee's perspective is well HUGE. Tennessee recruited him with the intention that he was a good enough player that he will do more than compete for playing time in the secondary next season. Justin Martin will be looked to for valuable contributions.
In short, Martin has been a top 2015 recruiting class priority for Tennessee for over a year. One could argue in a class where you have an overwhelming need for running backs, offensive tackles, defensive ends, Justin Martin, a cornerback, is likely one of the top 5 prospects in Tennessee's 2015 signing class.
For those that aren't aware of Martin, he attended Nashville Overton High School graduating in 2014. Martin primarily played running back at Overton. If Martin's academics would have been in order, he would have as highly recruited as a senior in high school as Jalen Hurd, Josh Malone, or Todd Kelley, JR. He was that good of a running back. Regardless of whether it was 2014 or 2015, Tennessee bested the likes of LSU, Georgia, Ohio State and others for Martin.
Martin will walk onto campus this summer with a ton of expectations placed upon his shoulders. I would urge the Tennessee faithful to pump the brakes just a bit if you expect Martin to walk off the campus of Northeast Oklahoma and onto LP field in Nashville against Bowling Green and be a lock down corner.
Athletically, Martin has the skills no question. He is fast, long and athletic. He stands 6'1" or 6'2" and looks fairly light though profiles list him at 185 lbs. Further, his profile states Martin runs a 4.4 forty. From watching his tape on line, I saw nothing to suggest he doesn't run that fast.
Just remember that he has just about one full year under his belt playing corner back. He didn't get a lot of solid technique work in Junior College. Even though he has the skills and will get an opportunity early, he may have a few growing pains as he learns the finer points of the position.
With the public commitment of Martin, Tennessee now has 26 public commitments. Martin was a big get for Tennessee no mistake about it.
Over the weekend, Tennessee will learn its fate with three of its top remaining targets: defensive ends Kyle Phillips from Nashville and DeAndre Walker from the Atlanta area; and, offensive tackle Pat Allan.
Phillips will choose between Tennessee, LSU and Ole Miss, Walker and Allan between Georgia and Tennessee. I could see Tennessee landing all three, whiffing on all three, or something in between. At this writing, I am not so sure any of the aforementioned prospects know where they want to go .... so how could anyone else know.
If Basilo ask me to choose the one I feel will fall Tennessee's way of the three, I would probably go with Pat Allan. Allan is the top remaining offensive tackle on Tennessee's board and even though he has repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to Georgia. He has seemingly left the door open for Tennessee.
On the other hand, I really don't know where Kyle Phillips ends up choosing to attend college. Placing my cards on the table, I have told Basilo for months that I believed Kyle Phillps would only play football in Knoxville as a member of a visiting SEC team. His family is full of Tennessee fans but as families should do they are allowing him to make his own decision. It seems to me he is looking for reasons not to come to Knoxville instead of reasons to come to Knoxville. I think LSU and Ole Miss may have a slight lead on Tennessee but anything could happen.
My understanding is over the last week he has vacillated between all 3 schools from one time to another. Tennessee has done all they can do here. It is just up to the kid to figure out where he wants to spend the next few years of his life.
My "hope" is he picks Tennessee and on Saturday and he may very well do so.
I expect there to be a bunch of moving parts between now and National Signing Day. What I mean is I expect a few new names to pop up as targets; expect every addition to the commitment list to be met with a corresponding departure of a current commitment; and, you need to watch the roster. For Tennessee to sign upwards of 26 to 28 in 2015, one or two more spots on the 85 man roster need to be... and I hate to use this term.... "freed up".
With respect to the commitment list, any further departures from here through Signing Day will sting. These are necessary however in order to fill some very glaring needs on the current roster.
'X' Says: '34 Days! Can you believe that? 34 Days until signing day!
Here are a few targets that we will be watching in the weeks ahead. Should Tennessee get their fair share, this would represent a terrific close to an already outstanding class.
Quarte Sapp, Linebacker Georgia. 4 star. Miami, Texas A&M, Tennessee … Visiting Tennessee 1.16. Right now, with a gun to my head I would say Tennessee.
Pat Allan , offensive tackle, Reisterstown (Md.) Franklin High School. Committed to Georgia. Georgia lost its Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach. Plus that staff is surrounded by dissension within toward the AD. All of this may have opened the door for Tennessee . Allan is announcing during his All Star Game (Semper-Fi game) .
All signs point to Allan changing his commitment to Tennessee but I don’t feel good about it.
DeAndre Walker, 4 star pass rush type defense end from Georgia….. Expected to choose between Tennessee, Georgia, and Auburn and the Army All American Game.
This kid has already been on campus more than I was during my senior year at Tennessee. Walker was here unofficially 5 or 6 times this summer and fall and official visited Tennessee in December
Much like Sapp, with a gun to my head I would say Tennessee
Bryce Love, 4 star running back from North Carolina….. Speed guy. He is similar to Bussey but Tennessee has no depth behind Hurd and Kamara. Right now, his top two are Stanford and Tennessee. Frankly, Love does not fit Stanford’s style and he does fit Tennessee’s scheme.
Tennessee may have a slight lead for Love who will visit in January but I’m not sold Love does not end up looking at other schools.
Ryan Newsome… speed guy/athlete/wide receiver from Texas. Down to Tennessee, Texas, AND UCLA. Most of the “analyst” types feel like Texas is the team to beat for Newsome. I don’t agree. I think its Tennessee right now .. the only issue is distance and if he can overcome the distance issue with family I think he’ll wind up at Tennessee.
When assistant coaches start moving around here in next couple of weeks there will be more targets come on Tennessee’s board especially at safety/corner.
'X' Says:Darrin Kirkland, JR. picked Tennessee over Texas yesterday but it wasn't without a bit of drama. Tennessee was thought to be Kirkland's leader since his decommitment from Michigan and an official visit to Knoxville. However, Texas got Kirkland's last official visit. After Texas' in home visit last Tuesday and his decision to change his announcement date to yesterday, some thought Texas may have jumped in and supplanted Tennessee as Kirkland's school of choice. That wasn't the case at all. In the end, Kirkland was all Tennessee.
Kirkland's commitment in my opinion allows Tennessee to move Jakob Johnson back to a defensive end where he is better suited. Jakob Johnson is a wonderful athlete who will do good things at Tennessee but he is out of position at middle linebacker.
Johnson's talent is not well utilized trying to get everyone lined up and on top of getting everyone else lined up remembering his own assignments. Me, I think he is best suited to get after the passer off the edge not as a middle linebacker.
The commitment of Darrin Kirkland is a big pickup by Tennessee and fills a huge position of need. As mentioned previously, Kirkland is the #1 rated prospect in Indiana, plays in one of the more competitive classifications within the state, and will also rep for Tennessee in the Army All American Game in January.
Unfortunately, when Darrin Kirkland decommitted from Michigan, it set the wheels in motion that led to Tennessee parting ways with Florida linebacker prospect Cecil Cherry.
Cherry had been committed to Tennessee for the better part of a year if memory serves me correctly. He is a very good prospect and the recruiting services rate Cecil Cherry and Darrin Kirkland similarly. Here, Tennessee saw a chance to grab a better prospect. One they seemingly had rated higher on their board.
This is no disrespect to Cecil Cherry. Recruiting at its essence is a dirty, cutthroat, bottom line business. Tennessee saw an opportunity to better itself at a position of need and they seized the opportunity.
Unfortunately, it wasn't only Tennessee that thought Kirkland was the better prospect. Texas had Kirkland ranked ahead of the aforementioned Cherry as well. Texas kept Cecil Cherry from publicly committing to the Longhorns for over a week until they found out where they stood with Darrin Kirkland. Hours after Kirkland announced for Tennessee, Texas took Cecil Cherry's verbal commitment.
Congratulations to both.
'X' Says: Shaping up to be a huge recruiting week for Tennessee. Important in many respects. Up to three prospects Tennessee has right at the top of the board at their respective positions are tentatively scheduled to make their college decisions public this week. In addition, each one is projected to be an early enrollee. If you have been following along at all, you know that Butch Jones loves to maximize his opportunities to get prospects in at mid term. Well, he has three opportunities right in front of him. Let’s discuss
Tennessee came in second when Kirkland committed to Michigan during the spring. I don't think Tennessee comes in second again. Even though by all accounts, the kid had a great visit to Texas, I think he announces for Tennessee.
It should not go unnoticed that when Tennessee got re-engaged with Darren Kirkland, Tennessee and former Tennessee linebacker commitment Cecil Cherry parted ways. Kirkland is the better prospect and he fits Tennessee's needs at middle linebacker. I believe Tennessee's position that Kirkland is the better prospect between he and Cherry is validated because Texas hasn't stepped up and taken a commitment from Cecil Cherry yet . It is my contention Texas is holding out a glimmer of hope that Darren Kirkland will commit to Texas on Monday. In my opinion they too see Kirkland as a better linebacker prospect than Cherry.
2. Kyle Phillips, Strong Side Defensive End, Nashville Hillsboro. After watching Kyle Phillips the last half of the season, there is little doubt to me he is the best prospect in the state of Tennessee this recruiting cycle. He is athletic, he is raw, he is fast and he is disruptive. Phillips has a lot of physical tools and it is why most every school in the SEC as well as others have pursued him heavily. Two months ago, I gave Tennessee little chance with Phillips. Now, I think it is a tossup as to whether he chooses for Tennessee or LSU.
The last week to ten days things have been trending toward Tennessee. Really tough to get a feel where this kid is headed. He has many in his family wanting him to stay close to home and pick Tennessee. Tennessee got his last official visit. As of last evening Tennessee's staff felt really good about their chances here.
In the end, I think he picks Tennessee but it would not surprise me if he doesn't. My understanding is Phillips will make his decision public this week. Of late, Tennessee has had all the momentum with the prospect and his family.
3. Ugo Amadi. Amadi is a 4 star defensive back from Nashville Overton. Amadi is another prospect that projects as an early enrollee however this has been one odd recruitment. Amadi is an athletic defensive back. Being an early enrollee, he would have an opportunity to contribute early in the defensive backfield or in the return game. He is small but an explosive athlete. Tennessee had the lead for Amadi early in this recruiting cycle. Both parties seem to cool on one another and in steps Ole Miss. Ole Miss makes the kid a priority and Amadi commits to the Rebels.
Tennessee and other schools have never quit recruiting Amadi and he has continued to listen. Over the weekend, Amadi and Ole Miss parted ways. Amadi says it was his decision. Others say Ole Miss staff recruited over him. Not sure who I believe here. Amadi was scheduled to enroll in January but that now seems a bit in limbo and he stated he may wait and take visits in January. Make no mistake about it Tennessee wants Amadi.
I understand Tennessee staff were out Sunday evening after practice to see Amadi in Nashville hoping they could wrap this one up before the dead period begins. Unlike the aforementioned Kirkland and Phillips, Amadi has been very public and open with his recruitment. I could see Amadi picking Tennessee. If he doesn't and opts to keep his recruitment open until January I think it spells bad news for Tennessee.
Does Tennessee have room for all three prospects to enroll in January? Right now, I understand they do. Again, pay no attention to the commitment list. The commitment list right now is blurry at best. With the midterm departures of 4 to 5 freshman, I would expect even more shuffling of the deck chairs in this recruiting class before things calm down in February.
Anyone catch the Tennessee East West All Star game Friday night? I remember when I first started watching this game the talent of maybe one kid a year would stand out to me as a bona fide major college prospect. Now, there seems to be 5 to 6 on each team that appear to have the athleticism to play big time football. I was shocked Friday night to see how much speed and athleticism was on display.
Speaking of the All Star game, I don't question the kids Tennessee recruits or doesn't recruit. These guys have forgotten more than I know about talent evaluation. With that said, anybody catch the kid from Pearl Cohn named Keshawn Vaughan that played in the All Star Game. In fact, I think he was named the game most valuable player. Tennessee has offered but he seems to be down the pecking order on the running back board. That kid has a burst you can't teach. All I can say is whatever school signs this kid is getting a very good running back prospect.
'X' Says:'First let me give a big shout out to Coach Scott Cummings, George Quarles, and David Meske for bringing east Tennessee state High School Championship trophies.
High school coaches, great ones like the three individuals mentioned above, do their jobs for the love of the game with little recognition, and their work goes largely unnoticed. Congratulations to those men, their staff members, and the kids.
Now that Butch Jones’ contract is all but settled and Tennessee is going to a bowl game, let’s talk 2015 recruiting.
Much like last recruiting cycle there are a number of moving parts to filling out Tennessee’s signing class. I think as we go forward with this Head Coach commitment lists will be fluid until mid to late January. Instead of hanging onto kids, this staff looks to be in the mode of continually trying to upgrade positions.
Looking at the Commitment List it would appear Tennessee is all but finished with this class. Nothing could be farther than truth.
I see plenty of changes to the Commitment List coming in the next few weeks …. From Tennessee’s perspective, the changes will be for the betterment of the class. My guess is there are two maybe three departures from the Commitment List that I understand are in the offing are ones many will be disappointed about.
Hope I’m wrong. I don’t think I am though.
Tennessee has a top 5 recruiting class in the works regardless of whatever recruiting service you have a preference for. If this holds, with back to back top 5 recruiting classes, the direction of the program in terms of roster reconstruction is clearly pointed in the right direction. Because Tennessee has some but not all its 2015 recruiting done, the staff has been able to focus efforts on the out years of 2016 and 2017.
The 2016 class is shaping up to be as good or possibly better than the previous 2 recruiting classes. You have to win the state of Tennessee in recruiting first. From where things are headed, I personally like how things are going.
But not all is grand. I do have concerns.
1) I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground here but the most important need in the 2015 class is offensive tackle. Tennessee right now has two offensive tackles on campus. Think about that. Two. Dig a little further and consider one of the two is playing with one a knee that has the ACL shredded and will have no more eligibility after January 2nd. The other one well …. to be honest we don’t know whether he can play in the SEC or not. Early returns are not favorable and we are unlikely to know whether he can play or not until he rolls out onto LP field next September. What is left behind those two guys? Guards attempting to play tackle.
Tennessee does have a one committed player named Jack Jones from the mid-state who will enroll in January. This kid will get every opportunity this spring to beat out a bunch of guards for one of the starting tackle spots. This is where Tennessee is at offensive tackle. Jack Jones, a fine prospect, who isn’t on campus…. may walk onto campus and at worst case is going to be in the two deep at tackle when they put pads on in the spring.
Here is my concern.. where are the other offensive tackles in this class? It appears Tennessee is “all in” for offensive tackle prospect and Georgia commitment Pat Allen. Tennessee is still trying with Allen but chances are he sticks with Georgia. If that happens, what is next? Drew Richmond the offensive tackle from Memphis folks are clamoring over isn’t coming here. Much to the lament of my Memphis friends, I never have and still don’t think Drew Richmond is an answer for Tennessee at offensive tackle anyway. Yes, early enrollee Chance Hall could play offensive tackle and will likely get that shot….. once he is healthy. He is recovering from surgery that ended his senior season and chances are he will miss spring practice. Me, I think Hall is a guard in college anyway.
There are a couple of other offensive tackle names that have popped up on Tennessee’s radar. Sure, one or more of those kids may visit Tennessee but you would think with the playing time available Tennessee would be the team to beat for one of more of those kids. That isn’t the case though.
Something seems odd here that with the playing time available Tennessee isn’t in on more highly regarded offensive tackle prospects.
2) Does anyone other than me think we still have a ways to go at the wide receiver position? Tennessee has recruited well at the wide receiver position. When, healthy Tennessee has plenty of depth . However, I see a group of really good possession receivers. I do not see the athleticism in the group that can turn 5 yard catch an eighty yard play OR stretch the field which will open up the middle of the field for the aforementioned possession guys. Tennessee has Preston Williams, one of the top wide receivers in the Southeast, committed for the 2015 class. I think he is a really good prospect. Is he a burner? I don’t expect it when he is now coming back from major knee surgery that ended his senior season. I still believe Tennessee needs a burner at this position in this class.
By the way, I’m not worried about Josh Malone. Look at Josh Smith’s improvement from his freshman to sophomore year before injury wiped out his season. Too, Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers weren’t near the receivers during their freshman years as they ended up as before they left school. Some kids just mature fast or slower than others. He will be a star here before he leaves Tennessee for the NFL.
The message here … in my opinion….. Tennessee is still is a work in progress at the wide receiver position on the outside.
3) I’m somewhat shocked Tennessee is not scouring the junior colleges for a middle linebacker type that could step in and play next season. Tennessee has a ton of talent waiting in the wings at the linebacker spot but that talent is woefully inexperienced. Dylan Bates and Gavin Bryant will get the first shot at middle linebacker spot next season. Both are wild cards. Bryant is red shirting . Bates is redshirting while recovering from shoulder surgery. Shoulder surgery for a linebacker is not a good thing. For all practical purposes, Tennessee had their middle linebacker for the future committed in Cecil Cherry. It now looks like Cherry and Tennessee have parted ways. If that happens, I, as a Tennessee recruiting fan , would take that as a favorable occurrence. You don’t part ways with a prospect like Cecil Cherry unless you feel like you have or can upgrade at that position. Evidently, Tennessee feels like they are in great shape with Darrin Kirkland Jr. a middle linebacker prospect from Indianapolis, Indiana. Kirkland is the number 1 prospect at any position in the state of Indiana and has long been a Michigan commitment. With all the tomfoolery going on at Michigan he recently decommitted. Tennessee, Ole Miss and Texas look to be his finalist and I believe Kirkland is a January enrollee. If Tennessee replaces Cecil Cherry with this Kirkland kid, that is a job well done by this staff. Kirkland is big, he can run, and is not afraid of contact. All the things you like in a middle linebacker.
Three more things before we close. First, I will have more later in the month and into January as I mentioned above recruiting is far from wrapped up. I know the numbers say differently but there will still be much intrigue you can book it.
Next, Tennessee getting its freshman quarterbacks Quinton Dormandy and Jujuan Jennings on campus in January is critical. Come next fall either one of these kids or both are one to two snaps away from being thrust into the action. Both kids have great skill sets. Jennings is a phenomenal athlete. Dormandy is a better athlete than you think. Really excited about this.
And, this weekend is a huge official visit weekend for Tennessee. Arguably, one of Tennessee’s top remaining targets, Nashville Hillsboro defensive end Kyle Phillips will be taking his official visit. Phillips is an early enrollee, he has played his cards close to the vest, and his recruitment has been a battle pitting LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Tennessee against one another.
Right now, today Tuesday December 9th, I think Phillips picks between Tennessee and LSU. Phillips is a difference making defensive prospect. Is he a difference maker like a Derek Barnett? Who knows. It is clear in watching his film and in person the kid has a chance to be disruptive in the mold of a Barnett like player.
'X' Says:This weekend Tennessee is scheduled to welcome three official visitors to campus.
You should expect this weekend to be the last official weekend of any significance before official visit weekends get ramped up in December. With one more home date after this weekend, the only way I could see official visitors for the Missouri game is if there is no other weekend to get a visitor who is an early enrollee onto campus.
Let me give you the official visit list at this time and then a few comments
Darius Slayton, 6"1" 185 lbs and a three - four star (depending on your service of choice) wide receiver/ corner back from Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross, Georgia. Not sure whether Tennessee is looking at Slayton as a receiver or as a corner. My best guess is Slayton is being recruited as a wide receiver . This is based upon the recent news that Tennessee commitment Preston Williams suffered a season ending knee injury . An injury that is significant enough that he will likely be sidelined well into the 2015 season (see below) . On the other hand, Slayton is a long athlete that looks the part of the type of cornerback is trying to stock their roster with. Slayton, a teammate of Vol commitment Micah Abernathy, has interested from Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn, Florida, Clemson, and others.
Corey Dauphine, 5"11 185 lbs from Port Arthur Memorial High School in Port Arthur, Texas. Dauphine is a three star running back who is "committed" to Texas Tech. He publicly states he is "solid" to Texas Tech but is scheduled to visit Tennessee this weekend, Arkansas next weekend, may visit Florida, and Oklahoma and oh by the way many Texas people believe he winds up when all is said and done at Baylor. Dauphine is an electric looking running back for sure.
Ugo Amadi, 5'9" 175 lbs four star cornerback/athlete from Overton High School in the mid state. Amadi is rated as the 5th best 2015 prospect in the state. Tennessee has ran hot and cold with Amadi.... maybe to their detriment. In the spring, Amadi looked certain to be a VOL. Tennessee seemingly went in another direction, Amadi my guess is sensed this and committed to Ole Miss during the summer. However, Tennessee has continued to aggressively recruit Amadi. That has paid off because of course he will be here this weekend. Tennessee appears to really want Amadi as part of this class. Two things concern me here. First, if Amadi is in who is out? Spots in this class are at a premium. With other corner back/athletes committed who is dropped. Secondly, will Tennessee be able to overcome their spring fling with other similarly skilled athletes like Amadi?
My unsolicited comments.
Wide Receiver. As alluded to above, the injury to commitment Preston Williams is a downer to the 2015 class. Williams is a superb talent at wide receiver and while it is never a sure thing a high school senior will contribute as a true freshman it is highly probable Williams would have played early if healthy. The knee injury he suffered which requires surgery makes his available for next season at best in doubt. Williams will definitely be a part of the 2015 class but with the late season injury may be in line for a redshirt season to heal up. Now, it is my belief Tennessee wants one more wide receiver in the 2015 class . One that can and will play early.
Tennessee will go all in on mid state wide receiver Van Jefferson who is presently committed to Georgia. I would expect Tennessee to get Jefferson onto campus prior to National Signing Day. I would be shocked if Tennessee doesn't wind up in the thick of the chase for Van Jefferson.
Running Back. Tennessee is almost a certainty now to sign three running backs in their 2015 class. Question is who are the three? JUCO prospect Alvin Kamara will sign with Tennessee in December and be on campus in January. The question is who are the other two running backs that will be a part of this class? Tennessee commitment Rocky Reid, a long time commitment, is heading to Athens Georgia this weekend. Can't imagine Tennessee is too happy about this but in all honesty Reid might be better suited for Georgia's offensive scheme than Tennessee's.
To be honest, I will be shocked if the Dauphine kid from Texas visits this weekend. He may but it would be a longshot to think he will leave Texas to play college football.
The names to keep in mind are North Carolina running back Bryce Love and Louisiana running back Kendall Bussey . From my vantage point, the abilities of Kamara, Bussey, and Love are superior fits to Tennessee's offensive scheme when compared to the skills of a prospect like Rocky Reid. That is no disrespect to Reid. He is an excellent prospect but it is what it is.
Defensive Back. It is a good sign Amadi is visiting and he is a talent. Tennessee's best recruiter outside of Jones is Tommie Thigpen who is Tennessee's lead recruiter for the mid state. Coach Jones and Coach Thigpen are equal partners in the pursuit of Amadi. We should know soon about Amadi as he is projected to be an early enrollee.
Lastly, I'm intrigued by a few 2016 prospects that will be visiting this weekend. One in particular is Austin Parker a middle linebacker from Jackson Central Merry in Jackson, Tennessee. Though only a junior in high school, Parker looks like a prototypical college linebacker at 6"1" 235 lbs. I got tipped off to watch his film and it was well worth my time. As mentioned Parker will be on campus this weekend, Georgia, Alabama, and Auburn among others are evaluating Parker. He is sorta kinda under the recruiting radar right now. That will change once his tape gets seen and he begins to camp next year. One thing from the film is that it is hard to evaluate lateral speed and impossible to evaluate the kid's skills versus the competition. What is not hard to evaluate is he seeks out contact and can deliver a blow. I don't know if Tennessee or any other SEC schools will pursue Parker but he certainly passes the eye test.
In advance happy Xgiving
'X' Says:You've said it for years Tony B and I'm really starting to agree with you. 10 years is the max for a football coach at one place ... Happened to Fulmer. Happening to Spurrier. In fact, it happened to Spurrier at Florida too if you think about it.
To me , Spurrier and staff got a bit lazy last recruiting cycle..... at least 1/3 if not more of their 2014 signing class failed to make it to campus for one reason or another mostly academics ... that is just recruiting poor character kids OR his coaches didn't stay engaged enough with the kids to make sure the kids were doing their school work. Sheer laziness borne of a staff that is too comfortable.
Spurrier has a great recruiting class for 2015 but as rumors of him retiring in the next couple of years start popping up some kids will look elsewhere.
'X' Says:Something is going on with Tennessee's running back recruiting. You know me. I'm the black helicopter guy but I am not so sure anything nefarious is going on here.
I honestly think after a year and half of play in the SEC Butch Jones is realizing you need 4 if not more game ready backs to make it through the grind of an SEC season. Quite frankly Tennessee has a ways to go in that regard.
Look at the depth chart. Tennessee started with 5 scholarship running backs.
Jalen Hurd looks to be every bit what we thought he would be and will only get better. Treyvon Paulk a highly touted back from Georgia is no longer part of the team. To be honest, the jury is still out on where Derrell Scott fits in the backfield rotation but it is unfair to completely write him off. Devrin Young is injured and not available and Marlin Lane is doing his best to play through a number of nagging injuries. So after this season we have Jalen Hurd who himself as missed time with injury and Scott and walk ons.
Tennessee has two running backs committed in the 2015 class. Alvin Kamara at Hutchinson Junior College who is arguably the top JUCO running back in this cycle and Rocky Reid a high schooler from North Carolina who committed to Tennessee early and now Wisconsin and Georgia are coming after him hard. No doubt Kamara is a great fit for this offense. The former Alabama running back is putting up some very impressive numbers at Hutchinson. He will be on campus in January and will be expected to contribute early next season. Reid is a bit different type of back. He is a bigger back and will surprise you with his speed. He plays in a very competitive conference in North Carolina and the opposition rarely slow him down.
In addition to the two committed backs, this staff is actively recruiting 4 or 5 other running backs. The kids they are recruiting are not complimentary type backs. These kids are top line difference making types of backs.
Bryce Love and Johnny Frasier both from North Carolina are arguably the top two backs in North Carolina. Love is a dynamic speed guy. Frasier, a Florida State commitment, is a three down back who most analysts believe is one of the top talents in the country.
I don't think Frasier winds up at Florida State but the in state Carolina schools have a slight lead over Tennessee in my opinion. Right now, I think Tennessee is the leader for Love.
The new guy in the running back mix is Kendall Bussey from New Orleans, Louisiana. Bussey is terribly impressive on film. He is small but explosive. He looks like a great fit for this offense because he is effective between the tackles running the ball as well as a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.
Bussey is has 20 to 25 offers and is currently committed to Nebraska. Bussey has a committable offer from Tennessee.
Honestly I am glad I’m not making the call on which running backs are takes and which one Tennessee has to pass on. These guys are all really close and could go either way potentially.
I think Tennessee takes 3 running backs in 2015 because you need them in this league. If it is me and Bussey wants to come lay for you. I personally have award time turning him away. Of course, I would say the same thing about most of the kids mentioned here.
'X' Says:I have only been able to confirm three official visitors for the weekend
If you are a glass half full kind of guy the timing is right for Jacksonville, Florida offensive line prospect William Sweet could not be better. Sweet is a four star prospect and is currently committed to North Carolina. With all the NCAA turmoil there and possible sanctions looming, Sweet is looking around. Sweet has an offensive tackle frame 6'6" isn’t and his profile says he weighs 280 lbs but I’m not sure he weighs that. Sweet is probably a redshirt year away from playing but with only one offensive tackle on campus, Sweet would be a big pick up. Though I am unable to confirm this, I believed Sweet is an early enrollee,. His official visit to Tennessee will be his 4th with only a visit to LSU remaining. Given the opportunity for playing time looming, Tennessee looks to have a good shot with Sweet. The million dollar question is where is this kid on their offensive tackle board compared to Drew Richmond and Pat Allen for instance.
Me, if this kid wants to come to Tennessee, you take him. With Richmond committed to Ole Miss and Allen to Georgia Tennessee has to close with one if not two true offensive tackles. Hey, not only does Tennessee need first line guys at offensive tackle. Tennessee needs depth at offensive tackle as well. Like many, tired of seeing interior lineman struggle trying their best to play in space.
Other official visitors this weekend are Tennessee commitment Darrell Miller from Cedar Texas. Miller is a smaller corner. Miller is an explosive athlete and a great athlete but we keep it real here. With the recent commitment of Micah Abernathy who project at corner and being in the thick of a recruiting battle for JUCO Justin Martin one has to wonder where Miller would fit given the limited spots.
Ryan Newsome another Texas prospect is visiting this weekend as well. Newsome is a slot receiver and a kick returner extraordinaire. He is 5'9" (maybe) and 170 lbs. The kick has set all kinds of track records in the state of Texas plus I lost count the number of punt and kickoffs he has returned for touchdowns. Newsome is rated as a 3 star prospect with a 5 star offer list. I have a hard time thinking Newsome leaves the state of Texas to play college football. Thanks to Zac Azzani Tennessee got one of his 5 official visits. With mid state athlete Vincent Perry committed and a similar type athlete Bryce Love making an unofficial visit to campus this weekend you wonder how big a priority Newsome is.
There will be plenty of unofficial visitors to campus this week including the aforementioned Bryce Love from Wake Forest, North Carolina. Love is the one offensive specialist type Tennessee would take regardless of where the numbers are in the class. He has elite speed. It is important to also note Love is bringing his family over for the unofficial visit. Those in the know say its Tennessee or Stanford for Love's commitment.
It is also reported Drew Richmond may be back in town for another unofficial visit after being here two weeks ago for the UT Chattanooga game. No secret here Richmond likes Tennessee and is virtually guaranteed an opportunity for immediate playing time if he were to decide to come to Knoxville. He is committed to Ole Miss. I don't see that changing. Certainly hope we don't forego an opportunity to land a solid offensive tackle prospect based upon Richmond playing the recruiting game.
This weekend is a much bigger unofficial visit weekend than an official visit weekend.
'X' Says: As the idiom (which I have slightly modified) goes, it is an embarrassment of recruiting riches that will be in Knoxville this weekend. I read somewhere Tennessee Football or maybe Coach Jones himself tweeted upwards of 200 kids on Tennessee’s recruiting radar will be on hand to watch Tennessee and Florida go at it this weekend.
Maybe that is a bit of puffery by Coach Jones then maybe not. He has been spot on and almost flawless with everything he has done recruiting. Regardless whether there are 20 or 100, it is amazing the level of football talent that will be watching this game Saturday inside Neyland stadium.
I was watching an interview this weekend and one of the National Recruiting Guys (don’t remember his name) said that Tennessee yes our Vols are the hottest team on the recruiting trail through the first third of the football season.
I find that interesting on many fronts. I thought Tennessee was the “hot” team last year when Butch Jones reeled in 32 signees. Are we hotter now than a year ago? I have a hard time thinking of Tennessee as being “hot” when Tennessee on paper has 1 possibly 2 spots left in the 2015 class. If this analyst is correct, I expect we may see some do-over’s in the commitment list between now and Signing Day 2015.
So here is what I have and certainly expect more kids to be here. Could you imagine what this list would look like if the game kicked at 7pm instead of noon?
Offensive Tackle Matthew Burrell, Burrell is four star offensive lineman from Woodbridge Virginia. Burrell is emerging as the top remaining offensive line target Tennessee’s board. Burrell is a top 150 prospect in the country. This kid literally could go anywhere he wants to.. Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, you name it… this kid has well over 30 offers. He seems to really like Tennessee. Not sure whether he projects as a tackle or interior lineman . However, he is a talent that you do not turn away. One note he and Tennessee commitment Khalil McKenzie have struck up a nice relationship. McKenzie being here this weekend is no coincidence.
Running Back Johnny Fraser, 5’11” 200 lbs, Princeton , North Carolina. Fraser is a Florida State commitment but I think Tennessee is right in the thick of the battle for Fraser. Tennessee is closer to Princeton, NC and the kid grew up a Tennessee fan. Analysts rank Fraser as one of the top running back prospects in the country. Coupe of services have him rated as a 5 star prospect. Here is yet another opportunity to get into North Carolina and grab arguably the #1 Offensive prospect in their state for 2015.
Defensive Back Mook Reynolds, 6’0” 175 lbs, Greensboro, North Carolina. Reynolds is a long corner Tennessee really likes. Issue here is who is the highest rated corner on Tennessee’s pecking list and how hard does Tennessee push for a commitment.
Defensive Back Micah Abernathy. 6’1” 180 lbs from Norcross, Georgia. Abernathy at different times this cycle has had Tennessee, Georgia or Alabama as the favorite for his services …. Even suggested Ohio State may be in the mix. Get the idea? This kid is an amazing cornerback prospect.
Defensive End (UT Commitment) Darrell Taylor). 6’4” 225 lbs Hopewell, Virginia. My opinion is Darrell Taylor, if he signs with Tennessee, will be the best pass rushing prospect that has walked on the campus in …. Years. He is athletic, fast, explosive, long and a kid that can play multiple positions. Tennessee could put weight on him and he could play defensive end or he could be an outside linebacker type. Tennessee beat out Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Florida, in the end. Taylor could have picked any school in the country to play for.
Defensive End/Linebacker Ricky DeBerry . 6’2” 245 lbs. Richmond, Virginia. DeBerry maybe the top prospect in Virginia for this recruiting cycle. He is an explosive prospect. A top 150 prospect nationally. I think one of the issues with DeBerry is projecting whether he is an end or linebacker at the next level. Tennessee maybe full at defensive end but still one linebacker spot short in this class. I don’t make those kind of decisions. I do know DeBerry is the kind of play making prospect that you find room for in your recruiting class.
Offensive Tackle Patrick Allen. 6’4” 290 lbs, Reisterstown, Maryland. Allen, a four star prospect, is committed to Georgia. He committed to Georgia late in the summer but Tennessee has never quit recruiting him. With Tennessee needing one more tackle in this class, Allen is one of the prospects Tennessee is targeting.
Too many commitments to name individually and I’m sure I will leave one or two out no disrespect intended
Quarterback Quinten Dormady. He and family and already in town
Wide Receiver Preston Williams
Defensive Tackle Shy Tuttle UT Commitment.
Few facts about Tuttle. Last year Tuttle 75 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and played with a torn labrum. As a sophomore Tuttle 100 individual tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. We all talk about Khalil McKenzie being the best high school defensive tackle prospect in the country…. Guys Tuttle isn’t far behind.
Defensive Tackle Khalil McKenzie UT Commitment. See above. Regardless of what ESPN says McKenzie is one of the best defensive tackles in the country.
Defensive Back Stephen Griffin UT Commitment. Griffin committed to Tennessee last spring. Griffin has quietly had an exceptional senior football campaign to date. The Carolina schools and Clemson are going tooth and nail for Griffin. Griffin is likely a safety at Tennessee. He is one I really hope Tennessee can hold on to. Doesn’t hurt that he has a ton of Knoxville connections.
Defensive End Andrew Butcher UT Commitment. Do I need to say anything more about Andrew Butcher? If you have read anything I have written you know I think Butcher maybe the top commitment on Tennessee’s commitment list. If not, he is certainly the most underrated.
Defensive End Dylan Jackson
Offensive lineman Zack Stewart
Defensive End DeAndre Walker. 6’2’” 215 lbs Fairburn Georgia. Walker is another off the edge speed guy. I really hope he winds up as part of this class. I think he is very underrated. Walker has been on campus 3 maybe 4 previous times over the summer. Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, Alabama all are in the hunt for Walker. Tennessee at one time or another has been named his leader during this recruiting cycle. Little tidbit on Walker. He passed up an opportunity to see LSU and Auburn at night and instead he chose to come to Knoxville.
Athlete Vincent Perry – Nashville
Running Back –Keyshawn Vaughn
Linebacker Jerome Baker , 6’2’ 215 LBS, Cleveland Ohio. Baker is the top rated prospect in Ohio by some recruiting services. Baker may wind up at Ohio State but he has given every indication he wants to go out of state to play football. He visited Tennessee once if not twice over the summer before committing to Florida in July. He recently decommitted from Florida. I think Baker is a long shot to wind up at Tennessee but if he wants to come on an unofficial visit you don’t turn him down.
Running Back Rocky Reid UT Commitment. Reid is an interesting one to watch. Tennessee has the 31 JUCO running back in the country Alvin Kamara committed and expect him on campus in January. See above, I maintain Tennessee is a real player for running back Johnny Fraser plus Tennessee has recently offered Keyshawn Vaughan a really nice running back from the mid-state and TCU commitment Corey Dauphine. So where does the leave Reid? With the departure of a backup freshman running back from the team, Tennessee may opt to take three running backs in this class with Reid being one of those or Tennessee may think Reid projects more as a linebacker than a running back. This is one certainly to watch but I do think Tennessee wants Reid as a part of this class.
Defensive Back Mark Fields. Cornerback Cornelius, North Carolina. Fields a South Carolina commitment is a prospect who Tennessee has been flirting with for months. Fields is a top cornerback prospect in North Carolina. He is another that is the caliber of prospect you don’t want to turn away if he is interested in making an unofficial visit. Fields’ father is a former NFL player.
2016 Class Prospects Here This Weekend.
There are too many 2016 prospect to name individually that will attend. Here are a few of the headliners.
Safety Nigel Warrior… Rising star. Maybe best 2016 safety in Georgia
Athlete Mecole Harman. Another high profile Georgia kid
Offensive Lineman Bryce Mathews Nashville Area. Second best offensive tackle prospect in state for 2016. UT commit Ryan Johnson is the best and he will likely be on hand as well
Defensive Tackle Jeremy Darvin, Nashville area watched his film saw him in person and immediately offered.
Defensive Tackle Shug Frazier (Georgia)
Defensive Tackle Boss Tagaloa (California)
Running Back Tavien Feaster (South Carolina)
Running Back Antonio Williams (New London North Carolina)
Running Back Akease Rankin (Charlotte North Carolina)
Quarterback Austin Kendall UT Commitment (North Carolina)
Defensive Back Marquill Osborne UT Commitment (North Carolina)
Not sure if Tennessee leaves the weekend with a commitment or not. If I was watching anyone I might be Safety Nigel Warrior from Georgia.
Glancing over the list…. It should not go unnoticed how many North Carolina AND Virginia kids will be here.
Tennessee thought mid-state prospects Kyle Phillips and Ugo Amadi would opt to visit Knoxville instead of Oxford this weekend. These two do not seem to be trending Tennessee’s way. You don’t like to miss on in state kids you want but as you see above Tennessee does have contingency plans.
No way Tennessee can sign more than 25 this cycle right?...... My understanding is there are between 5 and 10 prospects on the board not committed to Tennessee that are “takes” … Dudes, that means the commitment list could do an about face between now and February.
A win Saturday would help!!!
'X' Says: One of your loyal listeners let me know you and Sinclair were giving it to me pretty good today regarding my comments about Richmond.....
I stand by those comments BRUDDER... and let me add more
The reason I don’t think Richmond committing to Ole Miss is such a big deal right now is
1) He has publicly stated MULTIPLE TIMES he will take all 5 official visits
2) He sounds like a confused kid citing the reason he choose Ole Miss is due to an opportunity for immediate playing time... REALLY has he not paid attention to Tennessee's issues at tackle... He walks on campus next season at Tennessee and his biggest competition to start is another true freshman ... Jack Jones from Murfreesboro
3) In an interview he gave after announcing his commitment, he casually mentioned his dream school was "Ohio State"... That on top of taking all 5 official visits ....bet Hugh Freeze already has a knot in his stomach about Richmond's commitment
4) Richmond talks with Tennessee's staff at least once per week.
5) It is September 9th not February 1st... with a confused kid I would rather be the hunter than the hunted.... Ole Miss will have their hands full holding on to him until National Signing Day (I must qualify this by saying I don’t know if he is an early enrollee or not)
6) My guess if anyone is interested... He likely ends up signing with the last school he visits or more likely the last coach he talks with the morning before he signs
7) And Butch Jones has recently supplanted another staff member and taken over as Richmond's lead recruiter.
There are a couple of kids each recruiting cycle that change their mind a half a dozen or more times before signing. Richmond strikes me as "that guy" in the 2015 recruiting cycle.
Tennessee needs offensive tackles. Butch Jones is in a predicament. Do you hold a spot for Richmond and continue to change his mind? The answer is yes of course you don’t quit recruiting the #1 prospect in the state BUT you better go into year 3 with some answers at offensive tackle in the event Richmond signs with Ole Miss or some other school
With respect to my comments about Memphis kids at Tennessee. Dr. Sinclair is right. I completely with whiffed on Ced Wilson. Dan Williams AND Ced Wilson are two Memphis products that ended up being really good players here. Name another?
I am not going to criticize anything Butch Jones is doing recruiting right now... Regardless of what the recruiting standard is for a team that keeps putting up 5 and 7 seasons Coach Jones and his staff have far and away exceeded expectations on the recruiting trail. I am beyond pleased and I think most Tennessee fans are
However, in the spirit of fairness, given our offensive line issues generally and offensive tackle issues specifically I think it is fair to ask ...
1. what did Missouri see in 2014 mid state offensive tackle prospect Paul Adams that Tennessee didn't? He signed with Missouri last cycle. Tennessee evaluated him but that was about it.
2. How did this staff so badly mis-evaluate Dontavious Blair? Everyone is still hopeful the light bulb will come on for him but he isn’t even in the conversation right now.
3. Right now, the only true tackles on the roster is Coleman Thomas and Blair. Blair is a non-factor. Marquis Pair is a tackle but he hasn’t showed up in 5 years. We have guards playing tackle right now. In this class Tennessee needs MULTIPLE offensive tackles.
The apparent loss of Richmond would not sting as bad if Tennessee had made mid state offensive tackle prospect Alex Givens. It now appears Givens may follow Richmond to Ole Miss. Trying to be fair, there is a trend that is concerning.... Tennessee was a bit slow to pull the trigger on Jashon Robertson and Michael Sawyers last cycle as well as the aforementioned Adams. If James Franklin is still the Coach at Vanderbilt neither Robertson nor Sawyers are wearing orange right now. Givens seems to me to be another our staff has been just a bit slow in pulling the trigger on.
We'll see what happens. All is not lost with Richmond. Tennessee will find a couple more offensive tackles. In closing with Richmond, Tennessee is in a great spot. As I said above, much rather be the hunter than the hunted.
'X' Says:Not worried about Richmond
230 miles from Knoxville to charlotte NC
160 miles from Knoxville to Atlanta
Almost 400 miles from Knoxville to Memphis
I can see why I kid would want to make it easier on his parents ….. Ole Miss is a good school.
Freeze “plays in the gray area” with recruiting.
He learned from one the best in Orgeron.
Other than Dan Williams name a Memphis product that has been great here.
Randy Moore’s pregnant pause yesterday on your show in the first segment when speaking of something else going on with Richmond said plenty….
Tennessee picked up another commitment over the weekend in interior offensive lineman Venzell Boulware from Fairburn, Georgia committed to Tennessee. Boulware stands 6’3” 290 lbs. and projects as a guard. He is 4 star prospect according to RIVALS. Boulware from Fairburn Georgia, former teammate of the Berry brothers, is a top 20 prospect in the state of Georgia.
Tennessee beat out schools like Florida, Ohio State, Auburn, Alabama and about 25 other programs for Boulware’s commitment. Think about that for a second? Tennessee beat out schools like Florida, Ohio State, Auburn, Alabama for Boulware…. That actually feels pretty good to write.
We keep it real here. Most of you are like me I suspect. I listen to Coach Jones’ post practice interviews. I remember a couple of weeks ago Coach Jones was noticeably dejected made a comment something to the effect, we recognize our weaknesses and we are just going to have to recruit our way out those. My guess is one of those deficiencies was the offense line. I say that because Vol Colonel and others who watch practice will tell you Tennessee may practice with 10 maybe 12 offensive lineman who go through drills on a day in and day out basis but only 6 or 7 are these kids are ready to play any meaningful snaps in a football game at this level.
On this offensive line, we have kids that have been in the program for 3 years and in some cases even 5 years yet a true freshman who is less than one week into taking classes in the fall semester is able to come in and elevate himself to first team offensive line… We also have an offensive tackle who was JUCO All American last season that has been competing for 9 months against a former walk- on senior. Yet, the JUCO All American hasn’t been able to beat the former walk on out for the starting spot.
We also have a kid who is a Guard and a pretty good one that is going to start at tackle because of our lack of game ready bodies at the tackle spot.
If Tennessee gets an offensive lineman dinged up, it could spell some real trouble. That is why right now it is so important to get Crowder and Wiseman, both suffering from injury, back to full speed this week.
The cliché is games are won and lost in the SEC in the trenches. It is very likely Tennessee’s success this season will be a function how what kind of consistency and performance the offensive line can give our quarterbacks.
Boulware truly can’t help us this season but he fills a huge need in this class. To be sure, Tennessee doesn’t have but a handful of spots left in the 2015 recruiting class, maybe 3 to 4. Spending one of the remaining spots tells you what they think about Boulware as a prospect as well as what they think about their depth in the offense line.
Getting ready to get it kicked into high gear. Stay tuned. I'll be tracking it here this fall for you.
'X' Says:Tennessee picked up two additions to the 2015 recruiting class over the weekend when Florida defensive end Marques Ford and Texas cornerback Darrell Miller committed to Tennessee.
Unless you follow recruiting closely, you probably don't know much about either one.
Both commitments shore up areas that were lacking in the class. Ford is an athletic off the edge pass rushing defensive end. Ford holds over 30 offers and is ranked as the #14 best weak side defensive end in the 2015 class.
The only reason Ford isn't rated higher is he hasn't attended that many camps therefore the "recruiting analysts" haven't seen that much of him. All that matters is Butch Jones has and they liked him enough to offer him...
Now, Tennessee has to hold onto him for 6 months. I would expect him to get bumped during the next ratings cycle and I don’t expect other schools to back off just because he committed to Tennessee.
Miller is interesting. Miller is a true corner. Corner is a huge hole for this football team and for the 2015 in this recruiting class. Tennessee got tipped off the Miller by 2014 signee Dimarya Mixon. They have been evaluating him and he camped at Tennessee and they liked what they saw in him. Though some may say his offer list is spotty. Miller recently camped at Ohio State and picked up an offer. He also has an offer from Michigan State among other schools. That Michigan State offer tells me a lot about the potential of a prospect like Darrell Miller. .
Those of you that are concerned about the rankings the services have assigned to both kids should stop worrying. That is nonsense in my opinion.
Both fit needs. Tennessee's staff did their evaluations. Staff evaluations trump recruiting service evaluations every day of the week.
'X' Says:Over the next two to three days Tennessee will host a Red Carpet List of prospects for Big Orange Weekend Part Deaux.
It is hard to say anything negative about the direction recruiting is headed . Coming off the public announcement of Kahlil McKenzie last week, (and honestly it is hard to believe recruiting I'm saying this) recruiting may be ready to be turned up yet another notch. This weekend is the last big weekend of the summer recruiting season. Prospects will begin their fall camps over the next week to 10 days and Tennessee is 2 weeks away from kicking off fall camp 118.
It stands to reason Coach Jones will want to wrap up summer recruiting with a BANG.
The limiting factor as I see it is Tennessee has a limited number of spots remaining for 2015 with a bunch of kids that want in.
Here is something interesting to watch. Notice the change in the messaging coming from Tennessee. Early on, reports were Tennessee would sign say to 20 to 22 prospects in 2015. Then, we started hearing reports Tennessee "would sign a full class". Now, what are you hearing? The , trial balloon being floated is they may oversign by a spot or two.
It isn't an accident you are starting to hear this. Tennessee is rolling right now. Recruiting is a dirty business. Our rivals will use anything to put doubt in the mind of a kid or his parents. My opinion is the change in messaging is in direct response to actions our rivals are taking in response to Tennessee's good recruiting fortunes.
Expect 20 to 30 prospects and current Tennessee commitments. Here are a few of the prospects to watch over the weekend
Gibsonton, Florida Defensive End Marques Ford. Ford is intriguing. He has a tremendous offer list. Tennessee is a bit late to the party with Ford but he seems legitimately interested. He will be in Knoxville for the weekend. In any other cycle Ford is a take, I wonder where he ranks on Tennessee's defensive end board right now
South Carolina - Rasool Clemmons. Clemmons has named Tennessee as one of his top schools. Privately, Tennessee leads. Though Tennessee has limited spots remaining in the 2015 class, it is becoming apparent Tennessee needs at least one other pass rushing /off the edge game changing type of defensive end. Is Clemmons the guy? What about Ford? I don't know if Tennessee would take both this weekend but.....
Virginia - Defensive End/Linebacker Darrell Taylor. Taylor is one of the top prospects in Virginia. Taylor has legitimate interest in Tennessee but he doesn’t appear ready to make a decision
Tennessee - Defensive End Kyle Phillips. One of top targets left on Tennessee's board. Ole Miss is a real concern here. I don’t think Phillips is close to making a decision.
Panama City, Florida - weak side defensive end Janarius Robinson will cut short his visit to Florida State's camp this weekend and visit Tennessee. When is the last time you have heard of a big time prospect bolting a program like Florida State to visit Knoxville?
North Carolina - Emmanuel Olenga. I have thought for the longest time .. it was a matter of time before this athletic defensive end would be a Tennessee commitment. Tennessee is his leader but where does Olenga now rank on Tennessee's board? Olenga an athlete who is learning how to play defensive end. He has a huge upside. It is a function of where Olenga fits on Tennessee's defensive line board.
Fairburn, Georgia - Defensive End Linebacker D'Andre Walker ... Walker is a prospect Big Ten and SEC schools are recruiting hard. This will be Walker's fifth trip to Tennessee since March 1st. If he doesn't pull the trigger this weekend, you wonder if Tennessee is keeping him at arm’s length waiting on a decision from another comparable prospect.
Georgia Linebacker Quarte Sapp. Sapp just back from the Opening is down to Tennessee and Miami. Sapp is an outside linebacker and those close say he is at the top of the linebacker board. If his family comes with him which is anticipated, he may be one to watch.
Georgia - Linebacker Montavious Atkinson. Atkinson is an Auburn commitment but if you look at his recent actions it appears Tennessee is his leader. Atkinson is a hybrid who is physical enough to play at the line of scrimmage or athletic enough to play in space.
Will Tennessee offensive line target Drew Richmond , the top offensive prospect remaining on Tennessee's board, make it to campus? Tennessee has lead for the longest time for Richmond but Ohio State and Alabama are making this recruitment interesting. If he shows up, good for Tennessee.
It was my belief Tennessee had narrowed its defensive back targets down to a small group from which it would take two maybe three of the four or five prospects in that group. Well, so much for my belief. Visiting this weekend are at least five defensive backs and none of the visitors are a part of that initial grouping. This brings a whole new dynamic there to defensive back recruiting.
The group includes Texas defensive back prospects Josh Butler and Daniel Miller, as well as Georgia prospects Micah Abernathy and Jeremy McDuffie, and Alabama athlete Jarek Taylor.
Is this a good sign or a bad sign for defensive back recruiting? Not sure. Abernathy meets the profile of the defensive backs Tennessee appears to be targeting He is long athletic, fast, long arms, and explosive. No offensive to the other kids but they are athletic to be sure but a bit smaller.
There is some talk that North Carolina defensive ends Darian Roseboro and Jalen Dalton will be here. Both mention Tennessee are a team each has interest in. However, it would be an upset if either one ends up at Tennessee.
Tennessee legacy - Alvin Harper JR. an athlete defensive back/ wide receiver type is scheduled to be on campus.
In addition to the 2015 prospects, there will be a nice group of 2016 prospects including North Carolina quarterback Austin Kendall.
Speaking of 2016, Brentwood offensive lineman Ryan Johnson is scheduled to been on campus. Over the next few days, Johnson will be making his college decision public. He is down to Tennessee or Ole Miss. Johnson is a 6'6" 275 LBer and a very good prospect. Let’s hope Tennessee' hard work and making Johnson a priority for 2016 pays off.
Have a great weekend!
'X' Says:By the time you read this there will be joy in Big Orange Country. Consensus 5 star and arguably top prospect in the country Kahlil McKenzie will have publicly committed to Tennessee last night on National TV.
McKenzie to Tennessee has been one of the worst kept secrets of recent memory. McKenzie has been privately a VOL for weeks. The waiting as Tom Petty says has been the hardest part. Winning recruiting battles is great to throw in the faces of other fan bases. God only knows over the last few years Tennessee has lost its share of them. Tennessee fans should celebrate today all weekend and into next week. Why not?
Basilio, Sinclair, Beano and Basilio's wonderful callers have pretty much nailed the importance of McKenzie's commitment to the Program. Let's hope the commitment marks the end of the bleeding and puts Tennessee well on the road back to SEC and national football prominence a place the program needs to be. All signs at least point toward a significant upside correction for the Program.
There is little doubt that if Kahlil lives up to the hype he can be a dominant player. A game changer quite possible. A Program changer? I'm not ready to put that on a kid who hasn’t even played one down of his senior high school season yet. Let's give him the benefit of getting a few games under his belt at Tennessee before we put that on his plate.
Here are three things I will leave you with about McKenzie's commitment that haven't been discussed OR if they have I haven't heard them.
We can be honest here. Unless McKenzie just washes out or suffers a career ending injury, he is destined to play at a high level in the NFL. Daddy McKenzie played at a high level in the NFL and is a highly respected NFL front office guy. Daddy McKenzie knows what kind of talent his son has. Do you think Daddy McKenzie is going to let his son spend 3 years at a school playing for coaches that will not develop, push or challenge his son on a daily basis? The commitment says more about what the NFL thinks about Butch Jones and the direction of the program as it does about a former VOL sending his son to play for the alma mater.
I also think McKenzie's commitment is an affirmative endorsement of defensive line coach Steve Stripling. Hey, I will be the first to say it has taken me a bit of time to warm up to Coach Stripling. I thought Coach Jones should have hired a more dynamic recruiter when he took the job. No doubt in my mind Daddy McKenzie is comfortable with his son being coached by Steve Stripling. I don't care if McKenzie is a legacy, Daddy McKenzie is not going to allow his son to be coached by someone who can't develop his son.
Also, think about this. Is it possible that the 2015 opening day starters at defensive tackle for Tennessee haven't put on a collegiate helmet and shoulder pads yet? You have to believe McKenzie is going to be given every opportunity to start next season. He could line up beside a true freshman like Mike Sawyers or maybe DeWayne Hendrix, if Hendrix continues to grow,. Both are on campus but neither has put on the pads yet. OR, how about another 2015 Tennessee JUCO defensive tackle target DJ Jones? Tennessee leads for Jones.
It is hard to argue McKenzie's impact on the 2015 recruiting is class. He is the most decorated recruit Tennessee has received a commitment from since Manning , Shuler, or you name it.
With McKenzie publicly committed, Tennessee is right on the edge of having a top 5, 2015 recruiting class for those that care. Tennessee needs to free up a few spots in the 2015 class so expect some shuffling of the deck over the next few weeks.
And one more thing.... did you check the size of Kahlil" "baby brother" OH MY!
'X' Says:'I love the commitment Tennessee picked up last Thursday afternoon from Virginia lineman Chance Hall. Hall is a 6'4" 290 lb product of Roanoke, Virginia. Hall caught the eye of most college recruiters for his work on the defensive side of the ball. A dominating defensive lineman Hall has only played a handful of games on the offensive line. Virginia Tech, one of his finalists, was solely recruiting Hall to play defense.
Tennessee loved what they saw from his measureables, his feet, his attitude, his intelligence, and that one thing you can’t teach ... a mean you love your offensive lineman to be born with . Hall has it. It has served him well as a defensive tackle... Me, I'm not completely convinced Hall's home at Tennessee is on the offensive line. I think Hall's destination depends more on how many of Tennessee's young defensive lineman get moved to offense between now and next season, how many young defensive ends grow into tackles, attrition along both lines which I expect to occur, and how Tennessee closes down the stretch with the 2015 class.
As a defensive tackle, Hall is rated a 4 star prospect by ESPN and a three star prospect by a couple of the other services. He will probably be re-ranked later this fall when the analysts will pay closer attention to the work he does as an offensive lineman. My expectation is for you star /rating guys Hall will get bumped up a notch.
Hall's recruitment was interesting. Tennessee came from way back in the pack to gain Hall's commitment. For the longest time most thought Hall would stay at home and play for Virginia Tech, then it looked like Vanderbilt was the team to beat, and then Notre Dame was the front runner. Tennessee frankly identified Hall as a lineman they wanted and they just flat out out-recruited the other schools for his commitment.
Another positive about landing Hall is that just sticks one more Tennessee flag in the fertile recruiting area of Virginia. Coleman Thomas last year and now Chance Hall. Tennessee likely isn’t finished in Virginia.
Now all eyes will be on ESPN's big pre-season recruiting event going on this week in Oregon where Tennessee target defensive tackle Khalil McKenzie is scheduled to make his decision.
Now Tennessee sits at 19 commitments and if things fall right later in the week with McKenzie Tennessee will publicly have 4 to 5 spots to play with. As we say every year, do not fall in love with committed prospects and 2015 is no different.
There will be a number of twists and turns that go on with the commitment list between now and February. Frankly, for no other reason other than Tennessee is in on so many good prospects who they will not turn away.
'X' Says:The rumors of X's demise are greatly exaggerated. I may or may not have been banned from Basilio's internetz during the WORLD CUP because of my disdain for the sport. Anyway, that is something Basilio will have to address. Meanwhile, on to real talk about real football.
What a way to get summer kicked off in Big Orange Country! Orange Carpet Saturday and before you can say botta-boom-botta- bing Tennessee received three (3) public commitments.
All three are great pickups. There are stories behind the stories that should not go unnoticed. All three prospects are from the state of Georgia. OUCH; All three have very good offer lists; and, two of the three, Austin Smith and Quay Pico are from one of the powerhouse football programs in the state of Georgia Buford High School. '
If you follow high school football, you have heard of Buford High School. If you don't follow high school football, think of Maryville High School multiplied by 10. Year in and year out Buford High produces SEC level prospects. Their facilities are as good as if not better than may smaller colleges. They have lost 10 games ......... in the past 13 seasons. Championship level program.
The day started when Alvin Kamara declared by the twittergram he was committing to Tennessee. Two recruiting cycles ago if I recall sometimes the cycles run together for me , there wasn't a better running back in the Southeast than Kamara. Kamara signed with Alabama, tweaked a knee but to be honest he and the Head Coach there never really got on the same page. Falling behind led to frustration. Kamara was suspended for Alabama's bowl game. He left and enrolled in Hutchinson Community College. He will be at Tennessee in January.
If Kamara is everything, he looked like in fall camp last year at Alabama, he will be an immediate difference maker for Tennessee next season.
Austin Smith was the second shoe to drop for Tennessee early Saturday afternoon. Smith is a tall, rangy linebacker. He is big enough to grow into a middle linebacker. From his film, his speed off the edge and disruptiveness make him look like an outside backer to me. He is a big time talent and like at Tennessee, Smith was right at the top of the linebacker boards of teams like Florida, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn to name a few. Smith to Tennessee is a bit of a shock in a good way though. My understanding is both Florida and LSU thought they had a very good shot at landing him.
Shortly after the Smith announcement, defensive tackle Quay Picou topped off the day of public commitments for Tennessee. Picou selected Tennessee over 20 plus other schools including Ohio State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss and others. Picou is a disrupter. He plays with good pad leverage and knows how to use his hands at the point of attack. Buford moves him around on the defensive line looking for mismatches. He is strong enough to handle the inside and quick enough to play off the edge. Picou is an excellent pickup.
Consider this on Picou. Tennessee is either thought to be the leader or in the top two for high profile defensive tackles like Khalil McKenzie, Tim Settle, Shy Tuttle, and DJ Jones. Yet, Tennessee took Picou's commitment. Picou was thought to be Ohio State's to lose. I still believe Tennessee takes two more defensive tackles in this class for a total of three AND I believe the two come from the four kids mentioned above. Great start to what looks to be a stellar defensive line haul.
Lest us not forget earlier in the week Tennessee received a commitment from local athlete Jocquez Bruce. Bruce is an athlete that will play and contribute at Tennessee. He'll likely play in the secondary but Bruce will receive opportunities at slot and on special teams.
Tennessee is certainly not done for the summer. Over the next few weeks, a number of high level targets will be making their college decisions public.
This just shows me once again our Head Football Coach gets it.
Get the best prospects in state (Tennessee has a chance to close with as many as 6 more in state prospects this recruiting cycle). Try to get a foothold in a couple of areas in Georgia that produce top level talent year in and year out, and get back into the North Carolina area.
Stay tuned for more....
Defensive Back (3-4)
Justin Martin was a 2014 prospect out of Nashville Overton who had to take a detour to Northeast Oklahoma A&M Junior College. Remember a year ago when the discussion who was the best prospect in the state Jalen Hurd or Josh Malone? If Justin Martin would have had his academics in order this time last year, analysts would have been discussing Martin in the same breath as Malone and Hurd. He is that good of an athlete. Martin is 6"2" 190 lbs and projects at cornerback even though he excelled at running back in college. Coaches think he has lockdown corner ability in the SEC. I think it will be Tennessee or Ole Miss for Martin.
Micah Abernathy 6'1" 185 lbs. Abernathy is the brother of Ralph Abernathy IV the do everything offensive /special teams specialist who played for Butch Jones at Cincinnati. If memory serves, Abernathy IV lettered 4 straight years for Jones at Cincinnati. The younger Abernathy is frankly a better prospect than his older brother and is coveted by most every school in the Southeast currently holding 25 plus offers. Tennessee has a lot going for it with respect to the recruitment of Abernathy.
Tennessee will have to beat the likes of Alabama and Georgia for Abernathy. These are three teams out in front for him at this juncture. Abernathy has the ability to come in and play from day one regardless of the school he chooses.
Rico McGraw. McGraw is a 6' 180 lb safety from Nashville Ensworth High School. McGraw committed to Georgia last season. However, the commitment is far from solid. In fact, I would put Georgia in a group of schools chasing Tennessee and maybe Alabama for McGraw. Like Martin and Abernathy, McGraw is a top priority for Tennessee.
Cameron Ordway. Defensive Back, Pulaski, Tennessee. Tennessee was late to the dance in offering Orrdway a scholarship. Alabama, Georgia, LSU and others frankly beat Tennessee to the draw something I frankly don't understand. Tennessee finally offered and in my opinion it is difficult for me to think he doesn't end up at Tennessee. Ordway is a rangy, corner who could move to safety in college. Florida State, LSU and Ole Miss are the top schools and Tennessee's primary competition for Ordway.
I understand why defensive back remains a top priority with this staff. With the spread offenses that proliferate this conference, 60% or more of defensive snaps are played with 5 or 6 defensive backs on the field.
To be frank, Butch Jones is still try to build the talent, athleticism, and speed in the defensive backfield. The previous regime didnt leave much for Coach Jones and Coach Martinez to work with.
Don't forget Tennessee has a commitment from Florida's Cecil Cherry who is one of if not the top linebacker prospects in the country in 2015.
I believe Georgia linebacker Quarte Sapp ends up at Tennessee. Sapp is a 6'2" 210 lb outside linebacker from Alpharetta High School, Milton, Georgia. Sapp is a former teammate of Tennessee freshman Treyvon Paulk. Tennessee has been solidly a fixture in Sapp's top schools since offering back in July of 2013. You don't hear much nationally about Sapp but he is a plenty good enough prospect and a priority for Tennessee. Miami is chasing Tennessee for Sapp.
The next one is more difficult. Tennessee leads for another one of the top linebackers in the country named Ricky DeBerry from Richmond Virginia. One of the problems with projecting DeBerry as a linebacker is some schools are recruiting him as an outside linebacker while others think he will grow into a defensive end. Tennessee thinks DeBerry has the potential to grow into a Maggitt type prospect coming off the edge. Tennessee is competing with USC, Ohio State, Florida, well... you get the picture for DeBerry. I fully expect DeBerry to visit Tennessee this fall. To be frank, I don't have a good feel for where DeBerry will end up. This one could go either way.
Jaason Lewis, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Tennessee was long thought to be the leader for Lewis. However, in the spring Lewis surprised many by quickly committing to UCLA. I think Lewis wanted a shot at running back which maybe UCLA promised. However, Lewis who stands 6'3" 230 lbs and will get bigger is determining at what position he best fits in college. Tennessee believes Lewis' long term interests are best served on defensive (many others agree with this as well) at linebacker. He is big enough to play at the line of scrimmage and athletic enough to makes plays in space. Lewis holds 30 plus offers. Lewis has a good relationship with the Tennessee staff and Tennessee has continued to recruit Lewis regardless of his commitment to UCLA. Expect Lewis to visit campus in June.
Tennessee really has a chance to make some hay across the defensive line in 2015. For starters, Tennessee already has commitments from two exceptionally talented prospects.
The first is Dylan Jackson from Maryville, Tennessee. Jackson is 6'6" 250 lbs and is continuing to grow. He is one of best prospects to come out of Maryville in years.
Wouldn't be surprised if Jackson physically grows into a defensive tackle or offensive tackle. My guess is Stripling and Mahoney will end up fighting for Jackson in their groups.
Then there is Georgia defensive end Andrew Butcher. As talented as the other prospects committed to Tennessee for 2015 are, Butcher is the best in my opinion. At the high school level Butcher is virtually unblockable from the defensive end position. Im shocked Butcher doesn't have more national recognition than he does. Think of a more athletic Will Overstreet and you have Andrew Butcher. Wanna treat go out to youtube and what his film.
Now what is left on the defensive line.
Tennessee winds up with Kyle Phillips a strong side defensive end from Hillsboro High in Nashville. Phillips stands 6'4" 250 lbs and he has my vote as the top defensive prospect in the state . In terms of priority at a position of need, Phillips is at the tip top of the list along with Kahlil McKenzie. Phillips is rated as a 4 star prospect. He will be able to choose virtually any school in the country to play his college football. Phillips' junior season was cut a bit short with injury. Despite the injury, schools obviously saw enough as Phillips holds offers from most every major school in the country.
Next is defensive tackle. There is a group of about 4 or 5 defensive tackle prospects and from that group I expect Tennessee to sign 2 to 3. The group includes Kahlil McKenzie, Tim Settle, JUCO DJ Jones, Shy Tuttle, and Marlon Gonzalez. Tennessee leads for each of these prospects. Do I think all 5 end up at Tennessee? Obviously no. McKenzie and Jones are the headliners. Settle isn't far behind. Gonzalez intrigues Tennessee because with his frame he could play defensive end and maybe slide inside at defensive tackle situationally.
McKenzie is one of the better defensive line prospects has had an opportunity land in years. Tim Settle is in the same mold as McKenzie. Right now Memorial Day 2014, Tennessee is positioning itself to close with one of the best defensive line hauls that I can remember.
Much will happen between now and Signing Day.
Even without a commitment in the last 6 weeks, Tennessee still holds as a top ten class in 2015. In terms of the 2015 class, I expect a top ten class. If Tennessee gets to a bowl game which I expect, I may want to revise my top ten projection up two to three spots.
'X' Says:My final 15 for 2015 well kinda.....
Never a bad time to talk football recruiting is there? I sense there are pockets of fans becoming a bit uneasy with Tennessee's recruiting for 2015. 2014 spoiled most of us. Seems like there was a commitment every two to three weeks. When compared to 2014, I get it.
While publicly football recruiting has been a bit flat of late, there is plenty of action behind the scenes. Spring evaluations have wound down. Tennessee has two big (I MEAN REALLY BIG) recruiting events scheduled for the month of June. And, what officially starts football season for me,...... freshman report for summer school tomorrow.
Back to the numbers. Tennessee has 11 public commitments to date plus current player Devon Swafford, who was recently awarded a scholarship, counts against the 2015 haul as well. Speaking of the 11 commitments, expect one or two of the current 2015 commitments to wind up going in another direction let’s call it a mutual parting of the ways.
Looking at numbers, 2015 presents a numbers management issues for Butch Jones. With only a dozen or so scholarships being freed up by seniors leaving the program, Coach Jones has publicly stated he intends to sign its full allotment of 25 (well 24 counting Swafford) scholarships in 2015. How he gets from here to there will be interesting to observe.
With that said, assuming Butch Jones works some magic and gets to 25 slots, here is a Memorial Day look at National Signing Day 2015.
Quarterback. (1) Quarterback recruiting seems to be all anyone wants to talk about. Quarterback is certainly important. This class will best be judged on how Tennessee finishes across the line of scrimmage and at defensive back not necessarily by what quarterback is or isn’t' a part of the signing class. First, don't forget about Jauan Jennings a commitment from the mid state. Jennings will get a shot at quarterback. I think he is a dandy.
The good news for Tennessee is Jennings projects to be a much better prospect at positions other than quarterback. Over the next few weeks, I expect the quarterback recruiting dominoes to start falling into place. Tennessee should be in the middle of the run. Most assume Tennessee's top target is Torrance Gibson from Florida. Gibson is a dandy prospect for sure and Tennessee is recruiting him very hard. However, Gibson is in a group of about 4 quarterback targets including Deondre Francois, Sheriron Jones, and Travis Waller. My understanding the first one they feel comfortable that is ready to firmly commit gets the spot.
If Gibson puts off making a decision until January as he says.... I doubt he will be playing at Tennessee. Tennessee would like its quarterback recruiting to be finished over the summer.
Francois and Jones are scheduled to visit soon, Fans should be happy if either one of these kids committed. Francois, Waller, and Jones all have a chance to be very good. My favorite of the group is Francois. The only knock about Francois is he stands only 6"1 to 6'2".
Running Back. (1). Our foes will use the fact that Tennessee returns a lot of youth in the backfield in 2015 to our detriment or at least they will try to. When Marlin Lane leaves after the season, Tennessee will have 3 running backs on scholarship. That isn't enough in the SEC especially considering the injury history of Paulk and Hurd. Think about it. You are a player suspension or a high ankle sprain and one play away from a walk on being in the running back mix.
Rocky Reid, a between the tackles type of running back, is committed for the 2015 class. I don't think Tennessee will stop there.
The prospect at the top of the list is Junior College prospect Alvin Kamara who will be playing this season at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. Kamara, a Norcross Georgia prospect out of high school, was recruited by Tennessee before signing with Alabama out of high school. Either because the depth chart was unkind or he didn't see eye to eye with their staff, Kamara opted to leave BAMA and transfer to Junior College.
Kamara’s freshman season had some bumps and there is some baggage there. Kamara was suspended two times and got buried on BAMA's depth chart. He did not record a single rushing attempt last season and lost some time because of injury.
Kamara is a January enrollee and a difference maker. It will be Tennessee or Georgia for Kamara.
Tennessee is recruiting other running backs as well. The high school prospect I like is Nick Gibson from Pinson, Alabama. Gibson is good enough to play in the SEC and because of numbers likely won’t be recruited hard by Auburn, Alabama or Florida State. Tennessee also will be in the final mix for Michigan standout Mike Weber. I just don't see him coming this far south to play his college football. He and family like Tennessee an awful lot. He has been to campus multiple times but I just don't see it.
Tight End. (1) Right now, Tennessee has all its eggs in the basket of Chris Clark an athletic tight end from Connecticut . Practically every school in the country is recruiting Clark. The positive news with Clark will be on campus this weekend. The bad news is Michigan or Michigan State will be his landing spot.
Keep an eye on Kyle Oliver a wide receiver/athlete from Murfreesboro Oakland. Oliver is an intriguing prospect. He is 6'5" 230 lbs with a frame that will allow him to add 20 to 25 lbs. Tight end is a position where Tennessee has fairly good depth with Wolf, Branisel, Ellis, and Helm returning in 2015 which gives them a luxury of signing a tight end prospect and letting him grow into his body. Oliver fits that bill. Redshirt Oliver and get him in the rotation in 2016.
Wide Receiver. (1) If Tennessee doesn't take another wide receiver in 2015 and holds who they have, wide receiver recruiting will be deemed successful. Current commitment Preston Williams from Lovejoy, Georgia is as good as there is for the class of 2015. Don't be surprised if Williams ends up rated a five star prospect by the end of the football season. Have to admit I'm a Preston Williams sheep. He has a chance to be a very good college football player.
Provided Williams sticks, Tennessee can shoot for the moon if they want another wide receiver. Taking wide receiver number 2 may be a bit tough with the numbers crunch in 2015. Three prospects to watch for that second wide receiver spot. Christian Kirk from Arizona, TJ Rahming from Powder Springs, Georgia, and Jalen McClesky from Covington, Louisiana. Kirk and Rahming are elite. McClesky is a bit under the radar.
All three are speedy, potentially difference making slot receivers who can help in the special teams area as well. Tennessee is in great position right now with Rahming. Kirk is a prospect every school in the country is after. Kirk likes Tennessee a good bit. I always have issue with kids from the west coast coming this far east to play football though and for that reason Kirk is a long shot. You fly over a bunch of schools before you get to Tennessee.
McClesky is interesting. A VOL legacy that I don't think Tennessee has prioritized until the last few weeks. Rahming and Kirk have more notoriety at this point. McClesky may end up being the better player in college.
Don't forget about Jauan Jennings at wide receiver as well. Tennessee believes Jennings is an All SEC performer at receiver or in the defensive backfield.
Offensive Lineman (2) Tennessee is off to a great start having three offensive lineman already committed (In state prospects Zac Stewart, Jack Jones, and Riley Lovingood).
Right now, I think Tennessee is the leader for offensive lineman Drew Richmond from Memphis University School. Richmond stands 6'6" weighs 290 lbs. and most services rate Richmomd the #1 prospect regardless of position in the state. Richmond is the top remaining offensive line target for Tennessee. Alabama wants him. So does Ohio State, Auburn, Georgia, Texas, and most every other major college program. You get the picture. Richmond is an elite prospect and Tennessee must fend off elite programs from coast to coast for this in state prospect.
I also think Tennessee is in good shape with Lexington Virginia's Austin Clark. Clark is about the same size as Richmond and every bit the prospect that Richmond is. Penn State and Ohio State are Tennessee's biggest challenges for Clark at this point. Tennessee's staff has been recruiting Clark longer than any other school and Clark and family are comfortable here. He is announcing soon. To be honest, I thought Clark would already have announced publicly for Tennessee. The delay makes me wonder if either Clark or Tennessee have cooled a bit on one another. I still believe he ends up at Tennessee when it is all said and done.
Two other offensive lineman Tennessee likes are mid state prospect Alex Given and Mesquite, Texas lineman Conner Dyer. Dyer has connections to the Tennessee program.
Defense will be the focus of tomorrow's report right here at tonybasilio.com. Spread the word.
BTW, Congrats to Hunter Reese and Mikelis Libietis for winning the NCAA doubles tennis title! We are all proud of you!
'X' Says:Quarterback. The position everyone has been talking about this spring AND will continue to discuss throughout the spring and summer. Over the last couple of weeks Justin Worley and Riley Ferguson separated themselves from Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman... with Worley holding the slight edge... Within the last 3 practices though Ferguson has really come along and my contacts are saying Ferguson has pulled even if not passed Worley.
My guess is coming out of spring Worley and Ferguson will be bracketed as starters with Dobbs the backup then Peterman. True Riley Ferguson has never taken a snap in a college football game but he truly has the ability to make plays (with his arm and legs) Worley and Dobbs don't have the skills to make. He is of course inexperienced and prone to trying to make a play when one is not there. Those types of decisions are ones that lose you games. Worley has game experiences, knows the offense much better, and with 9 new starters it will be important to make sure that everyone gets lined up correctly.. especially early on.... The knock on Worley is that he still makes mistakes on occasion a senior shouldn't make.
Running Back. Tennessee will likely play up to 5 running backs in various situations this fall. Marlin Lane is the starter. He knows the offense and blocking assignments. Lane is prone to injury which reared its head again this spring with the wrist. Jalen Hurd may take over the starting role by mid season but we shouldn't expect a lot from him early. Sure he has game breaking potential but is learning the offensive and blocking assignments. The first half of spring practice Hurd couldn't be tackled. He hit a bit of a freshman wall during the last half but that is normal. Devrin Young is the clear #3 running back coming out of spring but he is just holding the spot down until incoming freshman Derrell Scott gets here. Derrell Scott is every bit as dynamic as Jalen Hurd. Young and Justus Pickett will both contribute. It is a long season and running back is a tough position to play. All the kids will be needed from time to time. If incoming freshman Treyvon Paulk has recovered from knee surgery he could be in the mix as well.
Wide Receiver. This position has probably been upgraded more since last November than any other position on offense or defense. Marquez North and Jason Croom were virtually unstoppable this spring. Add Vonn Pearson and Josh Malone and you have the makings of one of the best quartets of wide receivers in the league. As dominant as Croom and North have been, Malone may end up being better than either one by the time the season is over. Pearson isn’t far behind. This spring, Pearson has been everything he looked like on his JUCO highlight film.
Others like Jonathan Johnson, Jacob Carter, and Josh Smith will play. I can’t wait to see how Tennessee uses incoming freshman Vic Wharton. Wharton is faster than any wide receiver in the above group and will be a dynamic weapon with the ball in his hands.
Don’t look for Pig Howard to return but that is still a bit up in the air.
Tight End. Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm , both true freshman, are the starters. Barring injury, these kids will see the bulk of the snaps even when returners Brendan Downs and AJ Branisel return from injury. Downs or Branisel didn't participate in spring ball and gave Helms and Wolf ample opportunities. Neither has disappointed. Latroy Lewis was moved to tight end late in spring ball . Depth is a bit of a concern here as there is concern whether Branisel and Downs both will be ready for the fall. However, my opinion is Lewis was moved to try and find a place where he can contribute because it appears he is never going to give them anything at defensive end.
Offensive Line. Five new starters across the front in 2014. The good news is Don Mahoney had all spring to work with these kids. It has been a struggle though. Tennessee expected Dontavious Blair to step right in and take over in the spot vacated by Tiny Richardson. Blair has not adapted well to Butch Jones' pace and has struggled with technique and his conditioning. The good news is he got here at term and has the remainder of April and May and all summer to get into shape. I expect him to be ready to go in August and battle Jacob Gilliam for the left tackle spot. The other starters across the front Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Kyler Kerbyson, and true freshman Coleman Thomas. Sophomore Dylan Wiseman is pushing Kerbyson and Crowder for playing time. What you could see if Blair and Gilliam falter and tackle is moving Kerbyson to tackle (though it isn’t his best position) and inserting Wiseman at guard.
This gets Tennessee's best 5 (Kerbyson, Jackson, Crowder, Wiseman, and Thomas) AND toughest 5 on the field together. Athletically and experience wise these guys aren't as accomplished as the group they replace. However, this group is much tougher and frankly appears to be better run blockers than the last group. Heaven forbid Tennessee has injuries in the offensive line. The backups have a long way to go before they are ready to help out.
One thing before getting started here. At the end of May /beginning of June, Tennessee will welcome 18 incoming freshman (ok 1 is a junior college kid). As many as 15 .... yes that is right 15 of the incoming kids will be playing defense and it isn't hard to believe most of the incoming freshman will immediately be in the two deep.
Defensive Line. Like most VOL fans, this spring I was looking forward to LaTroy Lewis, Daniel O'Brien and Jason Carr taking advantage of the opportunity in front of them. With all the departures from the 2013 defensive line, spring was their opportunity to carve out a roll for themselves in the defensive line rotation in 2014. These players were talked about at different times during the spring however most of the discussions about these kids was in the context of changing positions. You don't need to be Coach Stripling or Coach Jones to be disappointed with this. You didn't hear much about Malik Brown or Jaylen Miller, both promising freshman, but in fairness each was hurt for periods of the spring.
When Tennessee lines up in a 4 -3 look. The first 4 defensive lineman will likely be Corey Vereen and Jordan Williams at end with JUCO Owen Williams and Trevarris Saulsberry at tackles. Saulsberry has the most upside of any defensive lineman. He can’t stay healthy though. Jordan Williams is serviceable but he is a tad too slow for defensive end and a tad too small for defensive tackle.... but he'll play. Owen Williams is going to play but he needs this summer to get in better shape. Dimarya Mixon, a true freshman, improved the most of any defensive lineman from practice 1 to practice 14.
Mixon has a chance to be really good and expect him to play along with the 4 to 5 of the newcomers who will be on campus at the end of May. Newcomers Dewayne Hendrix and Joe Henderson will get immediate looks at defensive end as will Derek Barnett. It would not surprise anyone if defensive tackle Michael Sawyers and Jashon Robertson both jump in front of other tackles who have been here for a couple of years and play significant snaps.
The good news is Tennessee will play with a nickel corner at least 50% of the time. When Tennessee goes to a nickel package, linebacker Curt Maggitt will move to defensive end with Vereen at the other end and Jordan Williams will slide into a tackle position. It is all about speed off the edge and that is why true freshman Jakob Johnson spent the last third of spring practice at defensive end and will likely stay there. Johnson is 6'4" 245lbs and can run. He is raw but he has shown a propensity to be disruptive which is what Tennessee is looking for off the edge
Linebacker. The starters are Curt Maggitt, AJ Johnson, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. As a group, a really good group. On campus right now, there isn’t much behind the starters. Walk on Colton Jumper and Kenny Bynum had their moments this spring. Jumper is a good story and will likely be a fixture on special teams. The good news is signees Dillon Bates, Gavin Bryant and Chris Wetherd will be on campus soon and any one of these three, after they learn the system, are athletic enough to play a lot if not start. Let’s not forget about early enrollees Jakob Johnson and Neiko Creamer. Not sure whether Johnson stays at middle linebacker or grows into a defensive end. Regardless, he has a chance to be a very good player. Creamer too. Creamer is learning how to play at linebacker. There is no doubting his size and athleticism.
Cornerback. I know this sounds like a broken record but Tennessee is razor thin at corner. Never seen a position where a team has whiffed as bad on recruiting corners (well defensive backs in general) as Tennessee has in the last few years. Cam Sutton at one corner and Justin Coleman at nickel corner are solid. True freshman Emmanuel Moseley has been the surprise of the spring and is the starter at the other corner coming out of spring .. but he is raw. Moseley has two things going for him. He is the fastest kid on the team and he is not afraid. He needs to add another 10 to 15 pounds over the summer. Behind this group .... a few good athletes who have had their moments but struggle with consistency. I do think sophomore Malik Foreman will play and can help out. Walk on Michael Williams who spurned spring practice to run track will be in the mix come August. Not sure the staff has much confidence in any other corners right now.
Look for newcomer Rashaan Gaulden to step in at either the corner opposite Sutton or to spell Coleman at nickel corner with Coleman moving back outside if Moseley falters.
Safeties. If Tennessee played tomorrow Brian Randolph and LaDarrell McNeil are your starters. Both have started for multiple years. Randolph is an All SEC type performer. McNeill has struggled with a variety of issues including injuries and busted assignments during his time here. I don't think it is any secret McNeill is going to be in for a fight to fend off anyone of three newcomers for the starting position opposite Randolph. TK Jr., Cortez McDowell, and the aforementioned Gaulden all will have the opportunity to supplant McNeill. Gaulden is assured to play at either corner. TK Jr. is probably the most ready physically ready to play between he and McDowell though again look for both to play. Behind McNeill, Randolph, and the three newcomers.... not much quality depth.
More from 'X'
Tennessee landed its 10th 2015 commitment after the Orange and White when Concord NC running back Rocky Reid verbally committed.
Reid is 6'0" and every bit of 215 lbs. Services, across the board have Reid rated as a three star.
Right now, Reid holds a dozen offers and I would expect schools to discontinue recruiting him just because he is committed to Tennessee.
Reid's strength is running between the tackles. He is deceptively fast and rarely does the first defender he encounters bring him down.
Reid put up some very good numbers last season against very good competition. I love the pickup. Reid will be one of two running backs Tennessee takes this cycle.
'X' Says:'Butch Jones got the week leading up to the Orange and White Game off to a good start. This morning Blackmon High School Athlete Jauan Jennings committed to Tennessee.
Jennings is 6'4" 185 and is a very raw but exceptional athlete. He is a 4 star prospect with loads of potential and in my opinion one of the top five prospects in the state for 2015.
Tennessee beat Auburn and Miss State for Jennings. Both schools were recruiting Jennings as a QB.
Jennings plays quarterback and wants to play quarterback in college. Tennessee is going to give him that shot. He is a better quarterback prospect in my opinion than many give him credit for. Above average arm and better than average speed. Athletically though, he has a chance to be a big time safety in the SEC
I think Tennessee takes Jennings and another at quarterback in this class HOWEVER if Jennings was the only quarterback Tennessee took I would be fine with that.
This Jennings kid is a VERY good prospect. Sure, he is a bit raw as quarterback BUT he is a high school junior, has gotten by for the most part on his athleticism so far, and will only get better as he matures and gets better coaching.
You watch his film and his potential jumps off the screen. He is a lean kid, has an above average arm that will only get stronger as he matures, he is an instinctive runner, he is fast but may be quicker than fast AND plays in a system that is very similar to Tennessee's.
247 has Jennings rated as the top prospect in the state. You know what? I am not so sure that isn’t accurate. Depending on which service you go by Jennings had between 15 and 20 offers. Alabama, Ohio State, and Auburn wanted him as did schools like Vanderbilt, Penn State, Duke, and Georgia Tech. You don’t get into the last 4 schools I mentioned based solely off athleticism.
Tennessee got a good one in Jennings. I don’t think enough people realize just how good a prospect he is. If Jennings was from Blackmon high school in Georgia or Florida as an example I believe he would be a much higher profile and sought after prospect than being from Blackmon High School in middle Tennessee.
He is a great fit for Tennessee.
More to Come:
I would expect another if not two more commitments leading up to or after the O&W Game. I wish I could tell you more but if I did that, I might get found out.
'X' Says:'Saturday wrapped up Tennessee’s third Junior Day of the 2015 recruiting cycle. Yet again an excellent group of 2015 AND 2016 prospects were on campus.
As Basilio and my good friend Dr. Sinclair mentioned last week, Tennessee is simply recruiting a different type of prospect than in past years.
Let’s start with the 2015 committed prospects were on campus: (beginning to sound like a broken record)
Andrew Butcher, Defensive End Georgia*****
Dylan Jackson, Lineman Maryville***
Jack Jones, Lineman Murfreesboro
Zac Stewart Lineman Coalfield
***** I mention Andrew Butcher because I don’t think most Tennessee fans realize what an outstanding prospect Andrew Butcher is. The easy comparison is to former Tennessee great Will Overstreet who was one of my favorites. At this point in their careers Andrew Butcher may be better. Butcher is as good as any defensive end prospect in the Southeast. I don’t know how the 2015 class will turn out but Butcher will likely be the most important commitment/signee in this class.
**** For those not paying attention and think Tennessee might have reached in taking a commitment from Dylan Jackson so early (I am not one of those people) Jackson picked up an offer last week from Alabama.....
One other note, Tennessee has 7 commitments so far in 2015. 5 of the 7 have offers from Alabama.
Quarterbacks @ Jr Day Over Wknd
Nick Tiano, Chattanooga area
Jacob Carter, Florida
Kelley Bryant, South Carolina
Tommy Stevens, Indiana
Cole Kotopka, Illinois
Joe Burrow, Ohio
Jacob Carter from Florida and Kelley Bryant from South Carolina certainly look the part.
None of the above quarterback prospects that visited over the weekend have an offer. I don't expect any of them to receive an offer quite frankly UNTIL Tennessee determines exactly where they stand with their top tier quarterback targets. If memory serves me correctly, none of the 2015 quarterbacks Tennessee has offered a scholarship to have been on campus yet this spring. Given that spring practice has just started, I’m not too worried about the top tier quarterbacks not being on campus yet. For Tennessee to have a bona fide shot with any of them Tennessee needs to get them to campus.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Texas QB Quinten Dormady will be on campus next week.
Tennessee had 2015 legacy prospect Jalen McClesky on campus today. McClesky, son of former Vol JJ, visited all the way from Louisiana. He brought with him 4 star wide receiver prospect Tyron Johnson . Johnson is a Rivals 100 prospect. It is a big deal for this kid to make it to campus. McClesky is an interesting prospect. McClesky is being recruited as an athlete. He is around 5'10" 165 lbs. He runs a 4.4 -4.5 ish forty. He is a well schooled, tremendous route runner. His father obviously spent a great deal of time training him through the years. Impressive.
In state wide receiver Van Jefferson a 4 star wide receiver from Ravenwood High in the mid-state attended junior day, along with in state offensive linemen Alex Givens, and Riley Lovingood attended. Creekside Georgia teammates and offensive lineman Marquell Harrell and Venzell Boulware attended Junior Day. Tennessee is high on the Harrell kid. Both are teammates a Vols to be Evan and Elliott Berry. Both kids are getting a bunch of looks from a number SEC teams.
Personally, I think Alex Givens is a prospect you extend an offer to. Here is the issue. Tennessee has three offensive lineman (well 4 now with the addition of instate center/long snapper Riley Lovingood) committed. Tennessee will likely take two more POSSIBLY three offensive line commitments in this class. Here is the rub. Tennessee is high on the list of many very good offensive lineman prospects like Memphis lineman Drew Richmond, Virginia lineman Austin Clark as two examples. Richmond and Clark are likely the top two offensive line prospects on Tennessee’s board. Givens simply is just on the outside looking in right now.
I know this sounds like a broken record but Tennessee yet again had two very nice running backs on campus. Bryce Love a 4 star running back from the Wake Forest area of North Carolina top 5 prospect in North Carolina in 2015 and ShiKim Coward another all-purpose back from Niceville, Florida visited as well. I continue to be intrigued at the number of not only running back prospects but high caliber running backs prospects Tennessee has gotten to campus so early in this recruiting cycle.... and by the way the running back crop the state of North Carolina for 2015 is as good as any state in the country. Johnny Frasier, Rocky Reid, and Bryce Love , all North Carolina products among others are as good as any triumvirate in the country. Right now, I don’t expect Tennessee to do much on the running back front until two they determine where they stand with the aforementioned Frasier and Michigan Cass Tech prospect Mike Weber who are emerging as the top two running backs on Tennessee’s board.
Defensive lineman Elijah Mitchell (Cincinnati), Sterling Johnson (North Carolina), Tyrell Jacobs (Louisiana) , Russell Ude (Westminster High (Georgia). Ude is an impressive looking prospect on film. With Andrew Butcher committed at the defense end position and Tennessee in seemingly good shape with defensive end prospects Kyle Phillips, and North Carolina defensive end Darrian Roseboro, you wonder if Tennessee will have room for a prospect like Ude who is a take most cycles.
A couple of things stick out this early in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Tennessee has made North Carolina a recruiting priority and the state of Georgia is once again loaded with prospects. Look at some of the prospects from Georgia that were on campus ---- in addition to the prospects I have already named
Georgia Prospects on UT's Campus last weekend
4 star linebacker Roquan Smith. At this point, Tennessee leads for Smith.
Corner/Athlete Micah Abernathy. Maybe at the top of the defensive back board. Most explosive prospect Tennessee is recruiting.
Middle Linebacker Tyler Cooksey a really nice looking inside linebacker prospect that has a Tennessee offer.
Wide Receiver/Safety Kielan Whitner.
Missouri Wide Receiver Alex Ofodile, a similar looking prospect to Josh Malone, made it in. Ofodile is the top prospect in the state of Missouri and a top 100 type prospect nationally.
Look at the caliber of wide receiver prospects on campus today: Van Jefferson, Alex Ofodile, and Tyron Johnson. All three 4 star prospects. Two of the three are top 100 prospects at any position in the country.
Couple of Notes:
The in state long snapper (Riley Lovingood) that committed over the weekend is regarded as one of the best in the country in the 2015 class. Speaks volumes if Tennessee is willing to commit a scholarship to a long snapper. Do you count him as a legacy? His father used to be the Tennessee chaplain.
A couple of quarterback moves this week. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham from Stephensville, Texas. Stidham was a prospect Tennessee really wanted to get on campus. Well doesn’t look like that is going to happen unless Tennessee puts Texas Tech on the schedule as Stidham committed to the Red Raiders. A bit of a blow. Tennessee liked him an awful lot. Would have been a great fit for Tennessee.
Another quarterback note. Florida quarterback Deondre Francois who we told you about last week released a top 4 and Tennessee was in it. The state of Florida is loaded with good quarterbacks in 2015. Florida took two QBs in 2014. Florida already has one QB committed for 2015. I could see Tennessee getting into Florida and picking off a Francois or a Dewayne Lawson from the Tampa area.
'X' Says:First, congratulations to Coach Serrano for the sweep this weekend and the record breaking start! Saturday's win was a confidence builder and will help this team later in the season.
Next, congratulations to Coach Jones, Coach Lawson and the Tennessee Strength and Conditioning staff. Attending junior day is believing. It was first class in every respect.
Now on to Junior Day.
Nice list of 2015 and 2016 prospects in this weekend. Great group.
following 2015 commits were on campus. It is great to get these kids back on campus to help recruit the 2015 and 2016 prospects.
Vic Wharton was on campus as well.
Headliner in my opinion was defensive end from Nashville Kyle Phillips. Phillips may be the best prospect in the state. If he isn't, he is certainly near the top of the list. He is the #1 defensive line prospect on Tennessee's board I do know that. I think Tennessee leads for but Alabama, Florida, Auburn and others won’t go quietly.
Cornerback Mark Fields from Charlotte, NC. Fields is an athletic corner with long arms everyone is the Southeast is after.
Before I get too far into it, we all know quarterback is a huge need in the 2015 class. Two, 2015 quarterback prospects were on campus over the weekend. Tennessee prospect Nick Tiano and Indiana prospect Aaron Banks. Neither of these kids have an offer yet but Tennessee is recruiting both of them. More on quarterbacks below.
At least one 2016 quarterback was on campus Austin Kendall from North Carolina who is beginning to emerge as one of the top 2016 prospects. Early, this Kendall kid likes Tennessee.
Don't fret too much about the quarterback. As spring practice gets under way, quarterbacks higher on Tennessee's board will make their way to campus.
Tennessee had a group of outstanding running back prospects on campus. I don't think Tennessee has the numbers to take more than one running back in 2015 but at least at this early point in the recruiting cycle they are in on so many good ones it may be difficult not to take two.
Taj Griffin, Georgia
Mike Webber, Michigan ***
Nick Gibson, Alabama
Ke'Shawn Vaughan mid-state
Rocky Reid, North Carolina
*** Weber is an interesting prospect. He was on campus over the summer and loved it. Today was his second time back. I still maintain Michigan St or Michigan will be tough to beat for him but Tennessee likes this kid a bunch. Weber is a top ten running back in the country
Wide Receiver TJ Rahming from Georgia a kid that is quickly moving up Tennessee's board was in attendance. Also, Wide Receiver Davonta Jones was on campus.
As you can tell as you go through this list, a high number of Georgia prospects were on campus.
DeAndre Walker, Georgia (Defensive End/Linebacker
Quentez Johnson, Georgia Defensive Tackle
Joshua Alabi, Michigan Defensive Tackle
Quay Picou, Georgia Defensive Tackle
Trevon Hill, Defensive End Virginia
Nathan Gilliam, Knoxville
Andrew Wood, Lebanon
Austin Smith Georgia
Quarte Sapp, Georgia
Montavious Atkinson, Georgia
Tyler Woodley, Georgia
JK Britt, Georgia
Kaylen Stewart, Tennessee
Donta Jones, Georgia
Steve Montac, Georgia
Lorenzo Nunley, Georgia
Kaleb Chalmers, South Carolina
Here are a few 2016 prospects that were on campus in addition to the aforementioned Kendall.
Gabe Angel, Athlete, Tennessee, Ethan Tucky, Linebacker, Ohio; Robert Washington, Running Back, North Carolina; Elijah Deveaux, athlete yet again another kid from North Carolina.
The week that was:
Tennessee offered another 2015 in state prospect Friday. Pulaski defensive back Cam Ordway received an offer. Ordway could play corner or safety in college. Personally, Tennessee waited too long to get this kid an offer. Should have been done weeks ago. Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and the other usual combatants are seriously after Ordway. To be fair though as I said above right now I trust this staff and their evaluations.
Tennessee offered another Georgia standout last week in Cornerback athlete Micah Abernathy from Norcross. Abernathy's brother played for Jones and staff at Cincinnati. Abernathy is as smooth, athletic, and as explosive as any prospect Tennessee offered at corner or athlete. Tennessee will be in this one but Alabama is in this one as well.
Tennessee also offered Georgia running back Mon Denson from LaGrange. Denson is a big bruising between the tackles type of running back, He is a bit under the radar but I trust this staff and their evaluations. So far, Tennessee is Denson's first SEC offer.
Two more quarterbacks are on the board. Since we last spoke, Tennessee has offered Dwayne Lawson from the Tampa area and Brandon WINBUSH from Jersey City, NJ. Both kids are going to be and already are to a large extent highly recruited kids. Both already have SEC offers and both can play. Winbush is a little more polished than Lawson. Lawson is probably a bit more athletic.
Tennessee is having yet another Junior Day next weekend to coincide with their first weekend practice of the spring. Expecting a huge prospect turnout for that event. Next week weather permitting the turnout for Junior Day should be excellent!!!!
Tennessee has 7 commitments as this is published. I still think they will take close to 25. However, I do believe Butch Jones is going to be much more patient with this class compared to last year. Tennessee is way ahead of the curve right now. They have the attention of many high profile kids. We need to let the season play out.
Going to be a fun ride.
Tell a friend
'X' Says:Not a huge group in because of the bad weather in North Carolina and Virginia kept a number of prospects away. The March 1 Junior Day will be heavy on kids from these two states.
Five 2015 commitments were in
Andrew Butcher, Defensive End
Jack Jones, Ofensive Lineman'
Zac Stewart Lineman
Dylan Jackson, Lineman
Jaylon Woods, Athlete
One 2016 commit was in attendance Dorian Banks (Athlete)
Tennessee received a commitment from 2016 Defensive End Emmitt Gooden who is still a sophomore and is already 6'4" 250 pounds. Gooden has a chance to be a really good prospect and the top ranked prospect in the state for 2016.
Here is a list of some of the guys that were in
North Carolina athlete Carl Tucker JR
North Carolina Safety/Athlete Stephen Griffin (scheduled in; haven’t confirmed)
Alabama Linebackers Keaton Anderson (VOL Legacy) and his teammate linebacker Dee Smith
Georgia Wide Receiver Jayson Stanley
Indiana Linebacker Darrin Kirkland
Knoxville Running Back/Athlete Jocquez Bruce
Georgia Linebacker /Fullback Josh Thomas
Brentwood Academy well represented today
(Dawson Knox (ath), Offensive Lineman Jackson Pittman, CJ Sanders (wide receiver), and AAquil Annoor (defensive back)
(GOOD TO SEE TENNESSEE GETTING BACK INTO BRENTWOOD ACADEMY... TOO LONG HAS THIS BEEN A TOUGH PLACE FOR TENNESSEE TO RECRUIT)
Nice running back prospects here:
(Alabama running back prospects Terrelle West, Roland Adams, Bradrick Shaw, and mid-state running back KeShawn Vaughan)
Virginia Offensive Lineman Austin Clark
Alabama Defensive lineman Malik Manciel
In State Defensive Back Cam Ordaway was scheduled to be in.
Speaking of 2016, the following 2016 prospects were in town
The aforementioned Banks and Gooden plus
Offensive Lineman Ryan Johnson; Offensive Lineman Bryce Matthews; Athlete Gabe Angel; and Wide Receiver AJ Morris.
I'm not too much into the 2016 guys but Morris is going to be a national recruit along with Gooden by the time next February rolls around.
Tennessee offered another 2015 quarterback Saturday night. His name is Deondre Franscios (Fran-swa) out of Orlando, Florida.
Really nice looking prospect . He has 12 to 15 offers already. Here's some video on him. Link
Nice looking quarterback.
Tennessee's top four QB prospects for 2015
Torrance Gibson (Florida) Video Link
Jarrett Stidham (Texas) Video Link
Zach Gentry (New Mexico) Video Link
Drew Lock (Missouri) Video Link
I know its early and we should wait until the spring game and even into the summer to start projecting where the top 2015 QBs are headed. Right now, I don’t really know what kind of shot Tennessee has with any of their top four.... Still long way to go.
Listen for our next 'X' cast. I'll be recording with Tony later this week.