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4/14/14:'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.
4/8/14:'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.
3/11/14:'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.
3/3/14:'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
2/17/14:'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.
1/28/14:'X' Says:Butch Jones picked up a gem Monday afternoon when Havelock, North Carolina, speedster Derrell Scott committed to Tennessee. Scott has a ton of what I call "recruiting service cred". He is a composite 4 star prospect across all the recruiting services. ESPN rates Scott as the 109th best prospect in the country and the 11th best running back. As a comparison, ESPN has Jalen Hurd as the 8th best running back prospect in the country. Jalen Hurd was a huge pick up for Butch Jones. Derrell Scott may be every bit as big a pick up.
Scott's commitment is key for a number of reasons. First, after years of being a no-show, Tennessee is making itself a recruiting force once again in the state of North Carolina. Ferguson, Vickers, and North last season. Moseley and Scott this season. Scott will have ever bit of the impact on the 2014 season as North had on the 2013 season.... if not a bigger impact. I like the trend. The football talent in North Carolina in recruiting cycle 2015 is as bountiful as ever. Tennessee has made a couple of kids in North Carolina big time priorities for 2015... but more about those kids next Wednesday during the X-Cast.
Next, Tennessee, straight up, beat South Carolina for a prospect the Gamecocks really wanted. When is the last time, Tennessee could say that? Let's say it again. South Carolina WANTED Derrell Scott and thought they had Scott all but locked up for months. This one will sting in Columbia for a bit. Scott was the #1 running back on South Carolina's board. Anyone who has been following recruiting for a while knows this regardless of bow South Carolina tries to spin it. Huge miss by South Carolina. Huge pick up for Tennessee
Lastly, Tennessee beat the big boys in a prolonged recruiting battle for one of the best prospects in the Carolinas. Tennessee had to overcome not going to a bowl game and had to come from behind and overtake South Carolina ... but they did it. Scott had over 20 offers and could have gone anywhere in the country to play football. Florida wanted him, so did Oregon, Ohio State, Florida State had offered as well as did many other schools
Scott is not just a talented running back he is an elite talent and does not take a backseat to anyone. He runs a little upright from time to time but he will play next year and will be a key offensive contributor barring injury.
Some are probably concerned about how Tennessee will keep two elite running back talents happy next season In Hurd and Scott. That is easy. Scott and Hurd have skill sets which complement each other. Both are dynamic backs to be sure. The speed upgrade these kids bring should be obvious before the first quarter of the Utah State game. Hurd is more of a between the tackles running back while Scott is a nightmare in space for any defense. He is shifty and can change directions on a dime. Scott's profile says he runs a 4.5 forty dash but in watching his film he sure looks faster.
Scott much like Hurd has a chance to score every time the ball is in his hands. The Offensive Coordinator should have fun trying to get these guys on the field at the same time with the other new toys he has to work with. There isn’t much depth at all in the Tennessee backfield. Marlin Lane has been serviceable at best and has a history of injury, and has been in and out of the doghouse. With the graduation of Rajon Neal, there isn’t much experience returning at running back. You should or would expect to see both Scott and Hurd very early next season.
Next Wednesday I will be waiting anxiously and will breathe a sigh of relief when Scott's fax comes across the wire in the UTAD.
1/13/14:'X' Says:The "dead period" ends this week and from mid week until Sunday evening February 2 recruiting becomes a full fledged free for all. Just because Tennessee is sitting on 19 commitments don’t think there won’t be turn over on the commitment list.
14 early enrollees plus 19 prospects committed but unsigned puts Tennessee at 33 spots in this signing class. Holy Houston Nutt!!!!!!! I have written in jest if Butch Jones could sign 40 in this class he would. I didn’t expect him to take me literally though. Honestly, expect Tennessee to sign around 18 more prospects on February 5th giving them a total of 32.
I do agree with most of the recruiting guys I hear on the radio who say there are 3 or 4 current Tennessee commitments that won’t be signing with Tennessee on National Signing Day. And with the events of the weekend, that list may just grow.
Tennessee "presently " has 33 public commitments (well actually 19..... (I count 14 early enrollees plus 19 commitments to get me to 33)). With Neiko Creamer and Dontavius Blair admitted to school and starting class on Monday the 14 early enrollees in unprecedented.
NCAA allows schools 56 per recruiting cycle.
By my count, Tennessee used 36 official visits during the 2013 football season and the month of December leaving them with 20 remaining official visits to give. Of the 19 remaining committed prospects 6 have already taken their official visit to Tennessee (Aaron Medley, Joe Henderson, Cortez McDowell, Dillon Bates, Charles Mosley, Chris Wetherd). That means 13 commitments still have to take their official visits to Tennessee. So those visits are effectively spoken for. That leaves Tennessee with 7 official visits to play with.
Of the 19 committed prospects, there are genuinely 7 commits that haven’t completely shut down their contact with other schools. To be honest, if a committed prospect is talking to another school (or other schools in the class of a couple of committed prospects) 3 weeks away from National Signing Day , it is hard for me to consider that a committed prospect.
There are two possibly three that may be looking around for reasons related to academics. The others ... well it could be a situation where Tennessee may opt to recruit over a committed prospect. Especially one that is talking with other schools.
Here are some things I will be watching once the dead period ends and you should too.
No secret Tennessee wants to add one more running back in this class to go along with Jalen Hurd (recovering from injured shoulder) and Treyvon Paulk (recovering from ACL surgery). No secret at the top of the running back board is North Carolina prospect Derrel Scott. Tennessee's running back board begins and ends right now with Derrel Scott. Majority opinion is Tennessee leads South Carolina for Scott's commitment. The fly in the ointment is Scott, who said he was done with taking visits, is visiting Florida next weekend. Personally, I think it is a two team race for Scott (Tennessee or South Carolina). I think distance from home eliminates Florida in the end. I will be interested to see if and how Tennessee reacts on the heels of Scott's visit to Florida.
Here is what to watch. If........ you start hearing a new running back or two mentioned with Tennessee this late in the recruiting cycle OR if Tennessee uses an official a visit on a running back as soon as next weekend, Tennessee thinks it is in real trouble with respect to landing Scott. If...... Tennessee does nothing. I expect them to move all their cards to the middle of the table on Scott.
The other running back mentioned loosely with Tennessee is Louisiana running back Darrel Williams. LSU recently received a commitment from the #1 running back prospect in the country. I don’t think it changes anything with Williams. I don’t see him taking an official visit to Tennessee. Even if he did, I can’t see him winding up at Tennessee. In state and family pressure too much to overcome here.
The name on the board is Adoree Jackson. I try and take my orange colored glasses off when looking at Jackson's recruitment. Jackson is a game if not program changer. Jackson recently released his top six schools. Tennessee made the list. In my opinion, LSU is the leader for Jackson but I believe Tennessee is not far behind LSU. Tennessee has a ton to sell Jackson...... Day 1 starter at cornerback. Punt and/or kickoff return duties, and 20 to 30 snaps per game on offensive. Jackson will contribute at any school he chooses. At Tennessee he will be an important part of the complete game plan each and every week. Interesting to me that Tennessee is the only school that Jackson has taken both and unofficial and official visit to. We'll see if this is means something or me just looking through my orange-colored glasses.
I think we'll have an idea on Jackson soon. If Tennessee is out of the mix for Jackson, I could see Tennessee using an official visit for another cornerback like Georgia cornerback DJ Smith or Florida cornerback Chris Lammons. Tennessee has kept in touch with both prospects and to be honest it appears to me DJ Smith has just been waiting on the green light from Tennessee to commit.
Florida offensive lineman Benjamin Knox is planning to visit Tennessee the weekend of the 24th. Tennessee has a shot with Knox if they decide to go in that direction. In my opinion, adding a defensive tackle and upgrading athleticism across the board are more important than adding another offensive lineman.
Critical that Tennessee hold onto committed defensive lineman DeWayne Hendrix, Derek Barnett and Joe Henderson. Each have the opportunity to be key contributors this season. No, I haven’t forgot about Cory Thomas or Charles Mosely who are also committed defensive lineman. With Thomas, he is one of those prospects talking to other schools. My opinion only here. I think Thomas winds up signing with another school With Mosely, I like him a lot but I think he may eventually wind up as an offensive lineman.
Tennessee of course missed on Devante Lambert (Auburn) and a couple of other JUCO defensive tackles that opted to sign with other schools. Right now, it appears the majority of the remaining official visits will be allocated toward finding one more true defensive tackle. Ccurrently, three of the remaining official visits have been offered to high school defensive tackles. That is the good news. Bad news each one of these kids is either committed to another school or has another school firmly in the lead for his commitment.
Former Texas commitment Courtney Garrett is scheduled to visit on the 24th. Oklahoma is the leader for Garrett right now and he visits there next weekend. Wisconsin commitment Craig Evans visits the weekend of the 24th . I like Evans who has gone on record saying he would prefer to play college football in the Southeast.
Michael Sawyers is the intriguing one. Sawyers committed to Vanderbilt over Tennessee last summer and with Franklin leaving, Sawyers has reopened things. Tennessee has always stayed in contact with Sawyers and Sawyers maintains relationships with prospects committed to Tennessee. Although nothing is definite, the coaching change at Vanderbilt and the above mentioned connections between Sawyers and Tennessee commitments, lead me to expect that Tennessee will be in the mix for Sawyers going down the stretch. Tennessee is not the only school after Sawyers.
Lastly, where Tennessee sees an opportunity to upgrade the overall athleticism of the class between now and signing day, expect them to try and do so. That being said I would expect Tennessee coaches to visit with Murfreesboro Oakland Safety/Athlete Emmanuel Smith once the dead period over. Smith is another in state prospect who was committed to Vanderbilt and James Franklin. As with Sawyers, Tennessee has kept in contact with Smith even after Smith's commitment to Vanderbilt. Did the Vols see this coming? Nice piece of recruiting. Smith is an incredible athlete who could play safety or could grow into an outside linebacker in college. Regardless of whether James Franklin left Vanderbilt for Penn State, I expected Tennessee to push for Smith's commitment.
I have maintained Tennessee needs a quarterback in this class . Pat Ryan, who I have a ton of respect for stated on the radio, he wasn’t sure Tennessee's quarterback of the future is on campus. That spoke volumes to me.
Does Tennessee have room in the class for a Quarterback? That is the million dollar question around these parts.
No sooner than the ink was dry on James Franklin's Penn State deal did the plum of Vanderbilt's 2014 recruiting class, quarterback KJ Carta Samuels decommitt.
Carta-Samuels is a very good prospect. 4 star prospect from California. 11 rated pro style quarterback in the country... an ESPN 250 rated prospect.
This Carta Samuels is a much better prospect than his brother who was a good but not great QB at Vanderbilt last season.
Understand Tennessee may reach out to him... whether or not anything comes of it remains to be seen
Georgia Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham has accepted a five year deal to become defensive coordinator at Louisville working under Bobby Petrino. Interesting to say the least. Looks from here like a less than lateral move. Perhaps he was pushed out.
If ......... I were recruiting coordinator for a day at UT, I would be reaching out to the Georgia defensive commitments:
JUCO Defensive back Shakenneth Fentang from Hutchinson Junior College; and, Florida defensive end Keyon Brown.
Why not? Those kids are probably in a situation where they are going to re-evaluate their options.
Fentang and Brown are really good prospects. Tennessee has kicked the tires with both of these prospects this summer. Fentang is a cornerback Tennessee had interest in last summer but he opted to pledge to Georgia . Brown is a very good prospect with an excellent offer list.
If Tennessee is looking to add another defensive end to this class Grantham's departure may help Tennessee with highly rated defensive end Andrew Williams. Williams , from McDonough Georgia, is a 4 star , ESPN 250, and a top football prospect in the state of Georgia. Williams has not committed to any school but is still considering Tennessee, Georgia, and Auburn among others. Williams was on campus twice this summer. Family members have been back to campus since.
Maybe nothing comes of this for Tennessee but with three weeks until signing day you are still looking for opportunities to improve your class any way you can.
With the coaching convention going on as I post this here, bet your bottom dollar that the movement of top prospects is far from over. This sets up to be a crazy close to the wire on signing day!!
And stay tuned to Tony's show for a special announcement involving me. We are going to start hearing more from each other real soon.
12/18/13:'X' Says:Today is National Signing Day for Junior College (JUCO) football prospects. There will be limited television coverage .... maybe a snippet or two on ESPN is about all you can expect. The current darlings of the four letter network will get a mention or two I’m sure. While tomorrow certainly doesn’t include the pomp and circumstance that goes along with the National Signing Day occurring on the first Wednesday in February, there will be drama. When young men are making life changing decisions and are being pulled and tugged in different directions, there will drama and a surprise or two mixed in for good measure. Some of the drama may involve Tennessee (more on this later).
In years past the December JUCO signing date has come and gone without as much as a whimper from Tennessee. This year things are different. Today, largely because where Tennessee stands with respect to rebuilding its football program, is a big day.
Not all JUCO prospects are eligible to sign letters of intent. Only those JUCO prospects that are matriculating from Junior College in December to four year institutions in January are eligible to sign.
For instance, Tennessee has one JUCO commitment Chris Weatherd who will not graduate from Junior College until May of 2014. Therefore, he is not eligible to sign a letter of intent today. He would like to and Tennessee would love to accommodate him. With that said, Tennessee must continue to recruit him until the first Wednesday of February and hope to fend off suitors for Weatherd Texas, Texas A&M, Auburn or Oklahoma.
I expect Tennessee to sign four (4) JUCO prospects. Two of the signees are projected to play offense and two will play defense. Schools typically don’t sign and JUCO prospects unless the signee is expected to make an early impact. In Tennessee’s case, each of the signees will be looked to be significant contributors from the day each step on campus.
Here is a brief overview of each signee.
Wide Receiver Lavon Pearson, 6’2” 190 lbs., Feather River Community College, California. Credit to Tennessee’s staff in finding Pearson and getting him committed before other major schools found him. At the end, Tennessee fended off schools like Oregon, Miami and Florida for Pearson’s commitment. Tennessee ‘s experience with JUCO wide receivers has been hit or miss. With that said, Pearson looks like one of the good ones. If you are looking for a treat, watch Pearson’s highlight film on the internet. It isn’t quite as impressive as former Vol now Viking Cordarrelle Patterson but he certainly appears to have the athleticism and pass catching skills to contribute early. Pearson has a bit of Da’Rick Rogers and a bit of the aforementioned Cordarrelle Patterson in his game. Pearson will certainly have every opportunity to compete for early playing time. Given a combination, of player defections, injury, and the overall lack of athleticism the wide receiver group possesses, Pearson looks to be in line for early playing time next season.
Offensive Tackle Donatvious Blair , 6’8” 300 lbs. from Garden City Community College, Kansas. Since the day Dontavious Blair received an offer from Tennessee way back in March, Blair has been the most important prospect on Tennessee’s recruiting board. Thanks to Tommy Thigpen’s longtime relationship with Blair Tennessee built up an early and substantial lead for Blair. In the end, Tennessee bested Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida State and many other programs for Blair. Blair is one of if not the top JUCO offensive lineman in this recruiting cycle.
Tennessee replaces five starters off the offensive line in 2014 and the backups (with the exception of Marcus Jackson) have limited experience. Tennessee doesn’t have enough returning bodies that have the physical attributes to play offensive tackle in the SEC. With that said, the huge void in the projected offensive line is the left tackle position. Blair has the ideal size to step in and take over the left tackle position in 2014. Fortunately, Blair will be on campus in January and will have a full 8 months to train with the strength staff and learn the offense. In my opinion, Blair is the day one starter at left tackle and barring injury has to play his way out of starting against Utah State this upcoming season.
I would be shocked if Blair and Pearson don't start from Day 1.
Defensive Tackle Owen Williams, 6’1” 285 lbs. Butler Community College, Kansas. Williams who is originally from Westside High School in Macon, Georgia, was recruited by members of the Tennessee staff out of high school. Previously committed to Texas Tech, Williams jumped on the opportunity to play in the SEC and closer to home. Tennessee believes Williams may be the steal of the signing class. Tennessee is looking for defensive linemen who are disruptive. Certainly from watching Williams’ film he fits the bill. He is explosive, plays with good technique, and is a load for offensive lineman to move around. With his weightlifting prowess, he is instantly one of the strongest members of the team. Williams was named Conference Defensive MVP recording 50 tackles, 17 tackles for losses, and 7 sacks.
Strong side Defensive End Davonte Lambert, 6’3” 275 lbs. Georgia Military College, Georgia. Tennessee bested Auburn, Florida, Georgia and others for Lambert. Lambert committed to Tennessee in August though Auburn has continued to hang around thanks largely to Rodney Garner’s relationship with Lambert going back to Lambert’s high school career.
It appeared Tennessee had weathered the Auburn overtures until word spread that Lambert and family took an unofficial visit to Auburn for the Iron Bowl. As late as last weekend, Auburn’s staff was in Lambert’s home for a final visit. Some close to the Tennessee program thought Lambert had flipped to Auburn. However, Tennessee’s staff led again by Butch Jones and Tommie Thigpen had the last in-home visit with Lambert and family before the dead period began and appear to have turned Lambert back to Tennessee.
I think it is safe to say there will be no comfort on Tennessee’s side until a signed letter of intent is received from Lambert on Wednesday. As of Tuesday evening, Lambert was a Volunteer. To be honest, when recruiting against Auburn nothing will surprise me.
Lambert to Tennessee’s defense is analogous to the impact Blair could make to Tennessee’s offensive line. Likely the top JUCO strong side defensive end in the 2014 JUCO class, he brings size, speed and another disruptive defender to the 2014 defense. Watching Lambert's film, he is a disrupter player much like Owen Williams. Lambert is versatile enough to move inside to the tackle spot on certain defensive sets. Lambert is a significant upgrade on the defensive line for Tennessee (as is Owen Williams) and another player who will have to play his way out of a starting position on Tennessee defensive line that is if he makes it to Tennessee.
Tennessee wishes one more JUCO defensive tackle would have jumped on board. Too, there was genuine disappointment that JUCO commitment defensive end/linebacker Chris Weatherd needed one more semester of class work in order to graduate from Junior College and be eligible for SEC play this fall. Weatherd can play.
In closing, I do not pay close attention to rankings of high school football prospects. I pay even less attention to JUCO rankings. That said, it is hard to overlook the fact that three Tennessee signees (Blair, Pearson, and Lambert (fingers crossed) are ranked in the top ten JUCO prospects in the country regardless of position. A fourth highly rated JUCO Chris Weatherd is a semester away from Knoxville.
Don't forget Owen Williams either. He may well wind up being the best of the lot.
Tennessee is expecting these signees to be major contributors next season right out of the gate.
Peace on Earth
'X's Projected 2014 UT Depth Chart
QB - Ferguson, Worley or QB not currently on campus. (Not convinced Tennessee is finished looking here). Each off-season, there always seems to be a QB that transfers and is immediately eligible to play. I think Ferguson, though he didn’t play a down last season, is the odds on favorite to be the QB against Utah State.
RB - Jalen Hurd, Marlin Lane, Justus Pickett. Here's hoping Marlin Lane has a positive off season and is part of the running back rotation in 2014. I don’t look for the other running backs on roster last season to be much of a factor going forward. Commitment Treyvon Paulk will likely miss 2014 rehabbing his knee. Key is to sign one more running back in the 2014 recruiting class.
WR1 - Marquez North, LaVon Pearson Jason Croom
WR2 -Josh Malone, LaVon Pearson, Josh Smith
Slot - LaVon Pearson, Vic Wharton, Ryan Jenkins, Pig Howard
With Josh Malone picking Tennessee, done deal. He's starting opposite North. Put it in stone. Pearson , a JUCO who should on campus in January, is a versatile receiver who will play both wide out and in the slot . Wharton is dynamic and like Jenkins will have every opportunity to play early next season. Personally, not sold on Pig Howard as what Tennessee needs in the slot.
TE - Ethan Wolfe, Daniel Helm, Brendan Downs. Wolfe and Helm are January enrollees and should give Tennessee a down field threat from the tight end position they did not have last season. Helm will become a match up problem for defenses over time. Wolfe is a big, physically imposing prospect who should give Tennessee a shot to block off the edge something that was lacking last season. I include Brendan Downs in the rotation only because AJ Branisel may not be ready because of a knee injury suffered a week ago that may keep him out next season. Downs will contribute but the young guys are going to play. I don’t expect much out of Woody Quinn either (hoping I’m wrong here).
LT - Dontavious Blair/Marcus Pair/Austin Sanders
LG - Marcus Jackson/Brent Kendrick/Ray Raulerson
C - Mack Crowder/Dylan Weisman/ Coleman Thomas
RG - Dylan Weisman/Coleman Thomas/
RT - Kyler Kerbyson/Marcus Pair
Some assumptions here. Assuming commitments like Blair, Raulerson and Thomas, all January enrollees, all indeed make it to campus (no reason to expect them not to). Barring injury, I believe the offensive line has a chance to be better than most will think. There isn’t much depth there so I expect freshman like Raulerson or Thomas to get into the rotation. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a defensive lineman make a position move to an interior offensive line position to add depth.
Defensive End - Devote Lambert/Diary Mixon Latroy Lewis/Dewayne Hendrix
Defensive End - Cory Vereen/Jordan Williams/Malik Brown/Jaylen Miller/Diary Mixon
Defensive Tackle - Trevarris Saulsberry/Jason Carr/Kendall Vickers/Derek Barnett/Charles Moseley
Defensive Tackle - Daniel O'Brien/Owen Williams/Greg Clark/Corey Thomas/Charles Moseley
Again making assumptions JUCOs Lambert and Williams do indeed sign with Tennessee. If they do, both will see immediate playing time next season. Tennessee wants at least one more JUCO defensive line to be on campus in January. Tennessee will be young and inexperienced in the defensive line but they will be faster, bigger, and more athletic. Commitments Joe Henderson and Dewayne Hendrix are the future. Hendrix will likely play. Henderson may need a redshirt in order to bulk up.
IF Thomas and Barnett do indeed sign with Tennessee, I would be surprised if one or both play in 2014.
Strong Outside Linebacker - Curt Maggitt/Chris Weatherd/Jakob Johnson
Weakside/ Outside Linebacker - Jaylen Reeves Maybin/Dylan Bates/ Elliot Berry
Middle Linebacker - Justin King, Kenny Bynum/Gavin Bryant
Again making an assumption AJ Johnson leaves early for the NFL. Not saying he is ready just saying that is my assumption right now. Tennessee will be faster and more athletic next season with the return of Maggitt and the addition of Reeves-Maybin, Weatherd and other newcomers. I worry about the middle linebacker spot regardless of whether Johnson returns or not.
Nickel - Justin Coleman. Rashaan Gaulden/Devonne Swafford. My opinion is Coleman is more suited for the nickel position than cornerback though I wonder if he can hold off newcomer Gaulden who I believe will be the steal of this class.
Cornerbacks - Cameron Sutton/Malik Foreman/ DeAndre Payne/Evan Berry
Cornerbacks - Riyadh Jones/Michael Williams/Rashaan Gaulden/Emmanuel Moseley
Look for the 2014 class to add depth and more importantly speed to the defensive back group. Watch out for Gaulden and Moseley. Not sure where Gaulden plays in the secondary but he will be difficult to keep off the field. I believe he's one of the top signees in this class.
Safety - Brian Randolph/ Todd Kelley Jr./ Geraldo Orta
Safety - LaDarrell McNeil/Cortez McDowell/RaShann Gaulden
I would like to see Tennessee sign one more safety in the 2014 class though I don’t know if the numbers will allow it. Tennessee will be in a dogfight to hold onto McDowell until signing day.
Kelley JR, Gaulden, or McDowell will likely be on the field very early at one of the safety positions. I would look for all three to play extensively.
Kick Returners - Devrin Young and Vic Wharton. Matter of time before Wharton takes over as the guy on kick returns.
You can probably tell I'm sold on Gaulden.
I haven’t forgotten about January enrollee Neiko Creamer I just don’t know what position he plays. He is big enough and athletic enough to contribute at a number of spots.
You can expect a dozen or more of the signees to play significantly next season. Conversely, I would expect players that were on the field regularly last season to have lesser roles going forward.
11/18/13:'X' Says:I don't have any inside information on where Josh Malone plans to attend college. I really don't. Not holding out on you here. However, looking at two developments that have occurred recently that I believe is connected to the Josh Malone recruitment, and this one is getting really interesting.
First, last week it became public Malone had signed a financial aid agreement (FAA) with the University of Tennessee. The FAA is currently en vogue now by schools and families with of prospects eligible to be mid-term enrollees. Signing a FAA secures a scholarship for the prospect with the school but it doesn't bind the prospect to actually enroll with the school for which said prospect signed the FAA. Prospects can sign FAAs with more than one school if they choose to based upon my understanding of the rule.
The benefit for the school is once a prospect signs a FAA the school is no longer bound by the NCAA regulations related to contact of prospective student-athletes (ie, allows virtually unlimited contact between prospect and school).
It too was reported the Malone family did not want the fact they wanted to sign FAAs with "finalists" for Malone's services made public. Finalists for Malone "appear" to be Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State.
This is where it gets a bit cloudy. Tennessee is the only school so far Malone has signed the FAA. Word that Malone had signed a FAA with Tennessee allegedly came from sources around the Florida State program. Multiple sources have suggested the information came from Tallahassee though I have no direct knowledge of where the leak came from. hmmmmmmmmmmm....
Did Florida State actually leak the information to the media? If so, I can't imagine violating the families' wishes to keep this information private helps their positioning in the Malone sweepstakes. Or, was the information "leaked" because Florida State feels like they either out of the Malone sweepstakes or clearly swimming upstream against Tennessee and Georgia? I dunno.
Speaking of Georgia. Here is the other part of this story. I have paid a lot of attention to the Malone recruitment. This includes reporting from other schools on Malone's contact with coaches and his visits to said schools. With Georgia, my understanding is Georgia has two wide receivers committed to their 2014 class. Georgia recruiting analysts have been consistent since September that Georgia, because of limited numbers in their 2014 recruiting class, would only pursue another wide receiver if Malone chooses another school. Until Saturday, the only wide receiver prospect left on their board was Josh Malone......
On Saturday, Georgia offered a scholarship to North Gwinnett wide receiver Nate Brown. Brown, a Missouri commitment, is a big receiver (similar in size to Malone but nowhere near the prospect).
This kind of stuff is why conspiracy theorists like me love the game within the game of recruiting. I guess we'll know for sure in early December whether the above events are connected in any way or not.
Something to think about on your Monday.
11/12/13:'X' Says:'Not saying we told you so BUT .....Is there any doubt Butch Jones is far from finished putting his first full recruiting class together? Within hours of a disappointing performance against Auburn, news popped that defensive lineman Dimarya Mixon had publicly committed to Tennessee. Mixon's commitment brought Tennessee to 30 public commitments.... more than any other FBS school.
We spoke of Mixon here last week. Originally signed out of high school by Nebraska. When he failed to qualify academically, Nebraska released Mixon from his scholarship. Mixon has spent the last year getting his academics straight. Tennessee has been recruiting him longer than any other school. With his academics in order, and having a comfort level with the staff..... batta-bing-batta-boom Mixon is a Vol who will enroll come January. Mixon, who stands 6'4" 260 lbs., was being courted by Oklahoma, Boise State, and Auburn. Though I'm not as sold on Mixon as others, he is a solid pick-up.
Keeping with the theme of not slowing down, don't be surprised if one if not two prospects announce their commitments for Tennessee this week.
Cory Thomas is a really nice looking prospect. Thomas stands every bit of 6'6" topping the scales at 275 plus pounds. Thomas is a raw but extraordinarily athletic prospect. Thomas is rated as one of the top 15 prospects in Alabama. Tennessee beat Clemson and Mississippi State for Thomas in the end. Auburn and Alabama are interested in Thomas but this appears to be a situation where a kid that wants to leave the state to play his college football. Tennessee will have to recruit Thomas until he signs his papers in February so this one is far from over.
Look for Brighton, Tennessee, offensive/defensive lineman Charles Mosley to make his college decision public later this week. Link Mosley stands 6'5" and weighs in at 350 -ish pounds. Right now, Mosley appears to be favoring Tennessee over Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama, and Mississippi State. It will be interesting to see what side of the ball Mosley ends up on in college. Some analysts project Mosley as an interior offensive lineman while others project him as a defensive tackle. Mosley would be a big pickup for Tennessee both literally and figuratively. Mosley is a top ten prospect in the state and landing him helps solidify Butch Jones' theme of building a fence around the state. Too, Mosely is a west Tennessee kid. Tennessee needs to be able to go into west Tennessee and pick up a prospect like Mosely especially at a position of need.
If the above comes to fruition, Tennessee could be sitting at 32 commitments by mid-November..... Unbelievable
The reason I continue to say Butch Jones is not slowing down is this recruiting class STILL needs another healthy running back to go with Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk, a play making wide receiver, and at least two more elite talents on defense regardless of position.
No, Tennessee won't oversign. 30 signees is the maximum Tennessee will take. By oversigning, Tennessee would be thumbing its nose at the SEC League Office and the NCAA. No other school has oversigned so there are no precedents established for penalties for a school that oversigns. Tennessee just doesn’t need the sideshow associated with oversigning. I could see Tennessee signing 30 and offering one maybe two kids an opportunity to greyshirt.
I refuse to name any names here but any one of you can look at the commitment list and come up with 5 to 6 committed prospects that, whether its academics or some other factor , will not be Volunteers on National Signing Day. As I have continued to say, in the end, the numbers will work themselves out.
11/5/13:'X' Says:Are you happy with the 2014 recruiting class? Would you be satisfied with this signing class if Tennessee held on to every prospect committed and landed one more between now and National Signing Day?
Butch Jones has 29 public commitments for the 2014 recruiting class. He can max out at 30. As of this writing, Rivals has the class ranked as the second best in the country behind Alabama.
Bless you if you believe every one of the 29 commitments winds up a Volunteer on National Signing Day. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful manner. In reality, there is too much at stake to believe Tennessee isn’t going to part ways with a commitment or two or more. The way Butch Jones has these commitments rolling in Tennessee could be sitting at 30 commitments before you finish reading this.
Under no scenario can I see Tennessee devoting 2 full months to 2015 recruiting without trying to improve the composition of its 2014 class.
Also, I don't think it is a coincidence that Tennessee has landed three more bricks on the heels of two straight bad losses on the road. Butch will need to get momentum ramped up for the program during the dog days of recruiting leading up to National Signing Day.
In 2013, Recruiting is a two way street. You think our rivals have quit recruiting most of the 29 prospects committed to Tennessee? Look at the commitment list. You can't scroll down UT's commitment list and not come up with 5 or 6 prospects Tennessee will have to fight like heck to keep until National Signing Day or guys who are rumored to have grade issues.
Butch Jones can't be left holding an empty scholarship on January 30.
I am certain Butch Jones is a man of integrity. I am also certain Butch Jones knows he has 30 scholarships to give and it is his job to bring in the best 30 prospects he can.
You have seen the body of work on the field through 9 contests. Even with 29 commitments in the boat, you think Tennessee has met its needs? My opinion is Tennessee would still take an elite level playmaker at most every position even at the expense of cutting ties with a current commitment or two.
Further, I am of the opinion there are as many as 3 to 4 prospects on the recruiting board that would start next September against Utah State if Tennessee landed any one of them.
Below are a few of the reasons why I believe Tennessee is far from finished with its 2014 recruiting.
Running Back -Tennessee has two high school running backs committed. Both knocked out of high school competition during their senior seasons with injury. I know Jalen Hurd’s injury is not considered significant but Treyvon Paulk’s (knee) is. With the running back situation the way it is, you really need two healthy running backs in this class. If Paulk can give you some carries next season great but you don’t need to rush him back from the knee injury. As far as running back targets go, Tennessee is actively recruiting Ole Miss commitment JUCO Akeem Judd but Judd flipping to Tennessee would surprise me, high school running back Derrel Scott from North Carolina, Jarvis Stewart from Florida (USF commit) , Darrel Williams from Louisiana (Arizona State commit). These are just a few of the names on the recruiting board. I don’t think Tennessee is finished by any stretch at running back.
Wide Receiver -Tennessee is all in for Josh Malone. I can’t say anything here about Josh Malone that has been said before. Malone is a difference making prospect. Opportunity to play from Day One. Likely a Tennessee – Georgia battle. We’ll know where he is going in a month. Malone is a January enrollee. If Tennessee loses out on the Malone sweepstakes, I can still see them bringing in another wide receiver in the class.
Offensive Linemen -JUCO Offensive Lineman Avery Gennessy visited for the South Carolina game and has Tennessee in his top two schools.
Florida offensive lineman David Sharpe is visiting this weekend. The recruiting services are all over the board on their evaluations of Sharpe anywhere between a 3-star prospect to a 5-star prospect. Gennessy is a day one starter in 2014 if he signs. I don’t believe Sharpe is quite that high in the pecking order plus he is just beginning to take visits. My guess is there is no room at the inn by the time he makes his decision.
Defensive Linemen -This is where it gets problematic. It isn’t a secret that Tennessee wants two more JUCO defensive lineman (preferably tackles) in this class. If you expect Tennessee to be more competitive with the upper echelon of teams in the SEC next season you should hope Tennessee is able sign two and not have to put young guys in the trenches before they are ready. I give you this. Tennessee has a quite a group of JUCO defensive lineman to choose from. JUCOs Jarran Reed and DJ Pettway have already visited; JUCOs Owen Williams, Abu Lamin; and Dimaryva Mixon are all visiting this weekend;
JUCO Calvin Heuterol is tentatively scheduled to visit for the Vanderbilt weekend. Tennessee continues to recruit a couple of high school defensive line prospects very. In fact, Tennessee currently leads for defensive tackle Charles Mosely. Reed and Lamin are likely starters at whatever school they choose to attend. Mixon and Williams are intriguing. Can Tennessee really take three more defensive linemen in this class?
Linebacker -Tennessee has a stable of very good linebackers committed. However, it is easy to see a shakeup at this position between now and February. Tennessee will have to fight and claw all the way to National Signing Day to hold onto a couple of the linebacker prospects committed.
For that reason, Tennessee is actively recruiting a handful of linebackers. One is Illinois linebacker Clifton Garrett. A five-star linebacker who has narrowed his choices to LSU and Tennessee. Also, keep an eye on Florida linebacker Jakob Johnson. This prospect is raw and a bit under the radar. I would expect Johnson to visit campus over the next two to three weeks.
Defensive Back -The one position I thought Tennessee might be finished was in the defensive backfield. However, 5 star defensive back Adoree Jackson is visiting this weekend. While the chances of Jackson picking Tennessee are a long shot, Jackson is a prospect you have to make room for. Much like Malone and a couple of other prospects mentioned above, Jackson is Game 1 starter for you in 2014.
Quarterback -Might as well throw this out there. What if..... there is attrition at the quarterback spot between now and the start of Spring semester? I don't know anything but it could happen. You see what injuries have done to the position through 9 games. You are a snap from playing either a walk-on, a true freshman, or a redshirt freshman whose confidence has to be in question. Tennessee loves Jalen McClendon from North Carolina. McClendon is a big kid who is raw. He is also firmly committed to NC State.
Glad these decisions aren't mine to bear. With the number of really good prospects Tennessee is pursuing I don't think 2014 recruiting is anywhere close to being finished.
Recruiting is a "what have you done for me lately" kind of phenomenon. Tennessee has put together an excellent class. Butch Jones and staff should be commended. Ultimately this class will be judged on how Jones and staff close. "Closing" in the context of recruiting does not simply mean holding on to what you have. Closing means culling the herd and landing 3 to 5 prospects mentioned above that have the potential to start for you next September.
Regardless of whether you are a fan of recruiting over prospects, Butch Jones needs to continue to promote the Tennessee brand. What better way to do so is a strong close to the recruiting class.
10/28/13:'X' Says:After a less than robust effort on Saturday, Tennessee's 2014 recruiting received boost on Sunday with the news four-star strong side defensive end DeWayne Hendrix went public with his commitment. Hendrix attends high school in O'Fallon, Illinois, has a numerous family connections to west Tennessee, and make no mistake about it is a huge pickup for Butch Jones.
Hendrix is a top 100 type prospect and one of the top ten strong side defensive end prospects nationally according to Rivals. In my opinion, Hendrix is one of the top five commitments in Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class. Through eight games, it is apparent one of the critical areas to fix through recruiting is the perimeter defensive. Hendrix is a big piece of that fix. Hendrix combines size (6’5” 255 lbs.) with athleticism. You know who Hendrix reminds me of? He reminds me a defensive lineman Tennessee played against last weekend. Over the past 6 or 7 years Tennessee has targeted defensive ends like Hendrix in recruiting, problem is Tennessee hasn't been able to close the deal with any of them. Those prospects have been going to Florida, Georgia, Auburn, and other schools. Nice to see Tennessee compete and win for potentially difference making defensive lineman again.
Hendrix looks like an SEC defensive lineman who has been in a strength and condition program for a couple of seasons. With the losses to graduation Tennessee will incur after the 2013 season, Hendrix has the opportunity to be in the defensive end rotation next season. You don't recruit a prospect like Hendrix anticipating him to red-shirt. Doubt Hendrix will barring injury.
Hendrix holds over 20 offers from schools like Florida, Ohio State, USC, many SEC and Big 12 schools. At the end, Tennessee bested Florida and USC for Hendrix.
With Hendrix, Tennessee now has 28 public commitments with the ability to sign 30 prospects. Finished recruiting you ask? Tennessee is either leading for or in the discussion for too many difference making prospects for them to be finished. As we have been saying her for weeks there will be plenty of movement on the commitment list before is said and done in February.
You star gazers will love this. Of Tennessee's 28 current commitments, 15 are four -star commitments and 1 (Jalen Hurd) is a five -star commitment (per Rivals).
It isn't hard to anticipate that when the dust settles in February somewhere north of 20 signees will be four and/or five star prospects.
10/17/13:'X' Says:Recruiting Odds & Ends as of October 17th
Based upon public and private commitments and de-commitments, Tennessee has two spots left in the 2014 recruiting class. AND........... this is exactly why you can’t spend one second of your time worrying about names on Tennessee's commitment list or how many prospects Tennessee can sign. Running through the scenarios in mid October will drive you crazy.
Especially when you consider there are somewhere between 25 to 30 prospects on the active recruiting board. That number is fluid. With a successful last half of the season, expect that number to increase.
Based on my inner working knowledge (which are normally pretty spot on and you know it), Tennessee is in the “top two schools (i.e. finalists)” for at least seven uncommitted prospects ..... my instinct tells me Tennessee is in better shape than that for a few of these prospects.
The dynamic of the class is changing before our eyes. The class is becoming what I would refer to as “JUCO-centric”. You “could see” six or more JUCOs in this signing class. Three JUCOs are currently committed, three JUCO lineman are taking their official visit to Tennessee this weekend, and at least six other JUCO prospects have set up visits or are planning to official visit to Tennessee.
Tennessee is expecting the JUCO kids it signs to serve as “plug and play” prospects. Through the Majors and Fulmer tenures, Tennessee’s history with JUCOs has been hot and cold. For Butch Jones’ sake, if 20 percent of your signing class is comprised of JUCO signees, here's hoping each plays a prominent role for you sooner than later. You don't invest as much time and effort in recruiting JUCO prospects unless 1) you can get them enrolled in school; 2) in January 3) and, you expect them to help immediately.
Another tidbit. With this coaching staff, pay no attention to ratings or rankings these services publish. The services have Tennessee commitments offensive lineman Ray Raulerson and defensive back Emmanuel Moseley rated low compared to other prospects at their respective positions. Forget the ratings ….. I can tell you for a fact (because I've heard and seen the staff discuss this) that Tennessee loves both commitments. Raulerson has decent size and good feet for an offensive lineman and yes he probably needs a year as a redshirt. Raulerson has one thing you can’t teach an offensive lineman…. a mean streak.
You watch Moseley’s film. He has all the physical tools you look for in a defensive back, he is one of the best players on a very good North Carolina high school program that regularly produces college football players, and he plays in a competitive football conference. He has just been overlooked for whatever reason by the recruiting services. By the way, both are January enrollees.
Speaking of early enrollees, Tennessee is "on track" to have somewhere between 10 and 12 signees from 2014 (this class) on campus for classes in January and spring practice in March. Take the early enrollees, blend those kids with the close to dozen current players that will likely wind up redshirting, and the football team will look very different in the spring of 2014 compared to the spring of 2013.
Keep in mid lots of factors will impact how this class finishes. 1) Half a season of college football yet to be played; 2) high school seniors will receive their term grades in the next few weeks. Prospects will come on and go off recruiting boards based on these results; and, 3) oh yeah. Coaching turnover. Would expect this off season to be as crazy as or crazier than last off season. Coaching moves will have an impact on commitment lists across the board.
Still believe it is way too early in the season to absolutely say whether a quarterback will be a part of the 2014 signing class.
By the way, love all you guys who follow recruiting. We appreciate the passion....... BUT those of you that call into sports talk shows across the state and ask if Eric Berry will pay for his brothers to attend Tennessee thus freeing up two more spots in the recruiting class............ stop it!
Tennessee picked up two more public commitments to the 2014 recruiting class. The recruiting class which started strong in the spring and sustained that momentum over the summer is now steam rolling toward National Signing Day. On Tuesday, 4 star Junior College offensive tackle Dontavius Blair publicly committed to Tennessee. Following that up on Wednesday, 4 star defensive lineman Derek Barnett from the mid state did the same.
Landing Dontavius Blair is big boy recruiting at its finest ....both literally and figuratively. Blair looks the part (6'7", 310 lbs, with quick feet) of a Sunday offensive tackle, he is a huge piece for the 2014 recruiting class, and Tennessee bested Auburn, Florida State, and Texas A&M for Blair. Tennessee has been either getting beat regularly for prospects by these schools or choosing not to pursue kids these schools were recruiting. Good to see that trend changing.
I made the point weeks ago Blair was the most important recruit left on Tennessee's board. Tennessee likely replaces five starters in the offensive line in 2014. While you have to be encouraged with the development of the lineman projected as starters next season (plus Tennessee's best run blocker Marcus Jackson is redshirting this season), the glaring void in the projected offensive line is the left tackle position. Blair, the #1 or #2 rated JUCO offensive lineman depending on which service you follow, has the ideal size to step in and take over the left tackle position in 2014.
Blair has always liked Tennessee the opportunity to step in and play in 2014 was something the other schools vying for Blair couldn’t overcome. Blair is likely the starting left tackle when he steps of campus this January and will have to play his way out of the starting position. What is so important with Blair is he is an early enrollee meaning he will participate in winter workouts, spring practice and summer workouts.
Derek Barnett projects as a strongside defensive end or more likely a defensive tackle in college. Though Barnett stands 6-4 and weighs 265 lbs. he is an athletic looking 265 pounds and has the frame to add more weight. Just like the Blair commitment is huge for the offense, Barnett's commitment is huge for a defensive line that needs an uptick in athleticism. Tennessee beat it’s in state rival Vanderbilt for Barnett when it looked like family members were going to steer him toward Vanderbilt.
Plus, one of Barnett's best friends is committed to Vanderbilt and has been leading the charge for Vanderbilt daily. Tennessee overcame both of these to land him. Barnett is a top five in state prospect and was recruited by the likes of Ohio State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Georgia, Auburn and the aforementioned Vanderbilt.
Two, 4 star commitments at positions of need in back to back days and the weather is still warm enough that I'm wearing my cargo shorts every day. So, look out Hill!
So where does Tennessee go from here? Still a long way till the first Wednesday in February. 26 public commitments, potential to sign up to 30 kids in 2014, and either leading or in contention for a number of highly touted prospects. You really can’t pay much attention to the commitment list right now. JUCO wide receiver Eric Lauderdale decommitted last week and there will be more to follow.
Tennessee still in contention for prospects like Josh Malone, Elliott and Evan Berry, Dewayne Hendrix, Clifton Garrett, Adoree Jackson, Corey Thomas, Akeem Judd, Derrell Scott and others. Tennessee will not turn away any of these prospects that want to be a VOL.
The next few weeks leading up to National Signing Day should be interesting to follow.
Here is a "tentative" list of official and unofficial visitors this weekend.
Many headliners in this group of visitors including both committed prospects and targets. Tennessee has prospects for recruiting cycle 2017 visiting unofficially this weekend.
The headliners are Station Camp, Tennessee wide receiver Josh Malone; Illinois Defensive End Dwayne Hendrix; and Illinois Linebacker Clifton Garrett. At their respective positions, the three aforementioned prospects are at the top of the recruiting board.
Malone is down to Georgia and Tennessee. The Vols really need to make a good impression on Malone this weekend. Tennessee has a bit of momentum with Hendrix and Hendrix plays a position that is a critical need in the 2014 class. Tennessee is behind LSU right now for Garrett.
Other official visitors include wide receiver Braxton Berrios and running back Derrell Scott both four star prospects from North Carolina. This weekend Tennessee commitments Dillon Bates, Coleman Thomas and Emmanuel Moseley will also be taking their official visits to campus. If I am not mistaken, the committed prospects are each January enrollees.
Unofficial visitors include 2014 commitments Rashann Gaulden, Vic Wharton, Jalen Hurd, DeAndre Payne , Cortez McDowell, and Todd Kelly Jr.; 2015 commitments Andrew Butcher, Jack Jones, and Preston Williams.
I do expect 2014 Georgia defensive end Andrew Williams to be in town as an unofficial visitor. Other unofficial visitors include 2015 quarterback Blake Barnett, linebackers Josh Smith (4 star), Ricky DeBerry (4 star) and Keaton Anderson ( 3 star) and Brant Mitchell, in state defensive backs Ugo Amadi and Cameron Ordway, in state offensive lineman Drew Richmond, and Georgia defensive back Montell Custis.
This is likely to be the biggest recruiting weekend of the season. The weekend would be even a bigger draw if NCAA sanctions keep Tennessee from paying for unofficial visitors' tickets this weekend.
'The counter argument made is the prolific quarterbacks that could step in and play next season are “off the board” (i.e. committed to other schools). My response is I am not certain you need a prolific quarterback to successfully run a spread offense.
The little secret is Tennessee has continued to search for and evaluate quarterbacks throughout this recruiting cycle both high school and JUCO types. So, if Tennessee does take a quarterback, would they go the JUCO route or take a prospect from high school?
Over the summer Tennessee evaluated JUCO Quarterback Turner Baty from City College of San Francisco. Tennessee has moved on from Baty but a JUCO quarterback could be an option. Tennessee has spent a considerable amount of time evaluating 2014 Georgia Military College (GMC) prospects including quarterback Pat Thomas? Thomas is 6’4” 190 pounds with a nice arm. Thomas redshirted in 2012 meaning he could have 3 seasons of eligibility remaining after this season. I don’t know if Thomas is a December graduate or not. If he is, we may hear more about him.
One more JUCO name is Northwest Mississippi Community College (NWMCC) Karsten Miller. Miller attended high school at North Davidson High School in North Carolina. Miller showed enough as a junior to draw interest by throwing for 1,833 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also ran for 301 yards and seven touchdowns. Miller has the prototypical quarterback size (6’4” 200 lbs.) and a strong arm. The first game of his senior season he broke his leg and missed the remainder of the season. Before Miller went down with the injury, some recruiting services had Miller as the Number 1 quarterback in North Carolina before the injury. He signed at UNC-Charlotte, redshirted and ultimately transferred to NWMCC. Miller has an excellent skill set but quarterbacks with broken legs have limited options out of high school. He is fully healed now and is still rounding back into game form after sitting for two full seasons. NWMCC is loaded with talent and Miller will get lots of looks from college recruiters. This is a school and an area where Tennessee Coach Robert Gillespie is well connected.
In terms of high school prospects, I have mentioned before how I think Miami, Florida dual threat quarterback Quentin Flowers would be a nice fit. Also, for those that are convinced Tennessee will not take a quarterback in this class, Tennessee is recruiting North Carolina State quarterback commitment Jalan McClendon as hard as any school is right now. McClendon’s combination of size and athleticism (6’4” 200 lbs.) are a nice fit. Question is can Tennessee get him to back to campus this fall.
Running Back. Akeem Judd, running back Georgia Military College. Over the summer, Judd spurned Tennessee and verbally committed to Ole Miss. Tennessee has not stopped recruiting Judd for a second and Judd will likely take an official visit to Tennessee before signing day. With Tennessee having two highly rated running backs committed for 2014, would they take another? I think the answer is most assuredly yes. Tennessee’s current running back stable can “best be” characterized as serviceable. One serviceable running back graduates this year. The other will be a senior and has a career chocked full of injuries and off the field trouble. Too, the talent drop off between the top two serviceable running backs on Tennessee’s roster and the next man up is well in a word significant. The two high school kids committed to Tennessee are potentially game changers. Do you really want to rush either or both along? What if one gets injured ? Judd can step into the rotation with the younger running backs. Offenses are no longer dominated by one running back. Now, teams regularly rotate 3 to 4 running backs each game depending on situations. Tennessee would rotate more running backs if they could. Watch Judd.
Andrew Williams, Defensive End, McDonough Georgia. First, Williams can play for any school in the Southeast. He is a top 10 defensive end prospect nationally one of the state of Georgia’s best prospects. Though Tennessee was thought to be on the outside looking in, Williams visited Tennessee over the summer. Any defensive end prospect , especially one with Williams’ ability, watching Tennessee through four weeks has to think he can play immediately here. In addition, Tennessee loses 4 defensive ends after the season to graduation. With the only returning perimeter player that has made any sort of noise so far, playing time is there to be had for multiple defensive ends. I believe Tennessee will get one of Williams’ official visits. Again, this kid can go anywhere to play but Butch Jones has gotten Tennessee in the middle of this one.
Tennessee needs another JUCO defensive tackle it can plug and play next season. Publicly your hear Tennessee mentioned with JUCO defensive tackles like Lance McDowell (Fort Scott Community College) and Jarren Reed (East Mississippi Community College) . Plus, as the season wears on, a number of uncommitted JUCO defensive tackle prospects will pop on the board. With that said, don’t count Tennessee out for ASA Junior College and current Kentucky commitment Corey Johnson and Fort Scott Community College and South Carolina commitment Abu Lamin. Earlier in the recruiting cycle, Tennessee was thought to be a factor in both the Johnson and Lamin recruitments. Each however publicly committed to other schools. Both have defensive tackle ready size. Tennessee has not backed off recruiting either prospect. I wouldn’t count Tennessee out for either prospect right now.
So……. the answer to the question of who is the most important recruit left on the board is not quite as easy as it seemed. There is a lot of football to be played and recruiting is just beginning to get ramped up. Stay tuned.
By now everyone knows the tale of the tape.... Moseley is a tall, rangy cornerback prospect from the Greensboro area ....which by the way is traditionally a solid area for high school football. Many of you have by now watched Moseley's video. Moseley looks the part. Fast kid, athletic, nice closing speed, good feet, doesn't appear to shy away from contact. Sure, he hasn't been on the radar of many schools mostly due to the fact he attended very few of camps during the last two years. You can rest assured the events of Tuesday night changed all this under the recruiting radar stuff. Now the fun starts. Holding onto the commitment if the Carolina schools come callin.
Though Moseley didn't camp much, he did make the trip across the mountain to Tennessee's summer camp. What is important to note here is Moseley's athleticism caught the attention of both Terry Fair and Willie Martinez. Tennessee has stayed in touch and now batta bing batta boom Moseley is a VOL.
We all know Tennessee maximum scholarships to give this recruiting cycle is 30, and 24 of those (now 25) already appear to be spoken for. It speaks volumes that Tennessee was willing to take Moseley's commitment in early September.
Moseley's recruitment reminds of of the recruitment of current Alabama freshman Eddie Jackson from 2013. Jackson was a lightly recruited 2 star prospect from Boyd Anderson High School in Florida. Readers that follow recruiting will know the name. Jackson was a defensive back /wide receiver that wasn't highly recruited. Schools knew Jackson was fast, athletic, and not very polished as a receiver or as a defensive back. Tennessee offered Jackson early and for a long time Tennessee was Jackson's leader. As the last season wore along Tennessee's season got worse, the Tennessee staff basically stopped recruiting all but a handful of prospects, and as Jackson started to improve his stock rose. Florida State, LSU, Alabama and others offered Jackson a scholarship. By February, Jackson ended up a highly sought after 4 star prospect who spurned Florida State to sign with Alabama. This is just one example of the hundreds of prospects the recruiting services overlook or mis-evaluate each cycle.
Need a reason why Tennessee wants another cornerback? All you need to do is look at the last four signing classes.
In looking back over the past four years of defensive back recruiting , I would contend Tennessee's defensive back recruiting has been as bad if not worse than recruiting of any other position on the team. Check out the defensive backs signed by Tennessee that are no longer on the team or never made it to Knoxville. You cant make this up... 2009 (Mike Edwards, Darren Myles, JR, Janzen Jackson, and Ny Oliver); 2010 (Dave Clark, Marquez Dixon, Eddrick Lofton, and Ted Meline); 2011 (Izauea Lanier, Pat Martin, Geraldo Orta, and Tino Thomas (Orta and Thomas are on the team but neither is making a significant contribution and have been recruited over); and, 2012 (Deion Bonner and Daniel Gray). Geesh, no wonder Tennessee is down to walk ons and track team guys as backups. This is pathetic. We crown these coaches that evaluate kids and choose to pursue one kid over another as deitys. Lets be honest.... when you look at past recruiting performance, me and Beano could not have done a worse job recruiting defensive backs as the former staffs did.
NEGAVOLS are going to say Tennessee should pursue higher rated corner backs such as prospects like DJ Smith and Adoree Jackson. True, both have been on campus and mention Tennessee regularly when interviewed. Fact is Tennessee has been fighting just to stay in the picture with both of these recruits.... a more succinct way to say this is ... it is an uphill battle just to get a visit from either kid. I think this is just a case of Tennessee trusting in its own evaluation and making a push for a prospect they considered the best corner prospect on the board.
Based on Butch Jones' stints at Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and his short time at Tennessee I am trusting of his evaluation of Emmanuel Moseley. Like every other committed prospect, recruiting is just now starting. Tennessee now needs to hold on to him until signing day.
So with the commitment of Moseley, Tennessee has 5 scholarships left and probably 8 to 10 prospects where they have more than a 50 to 60% chance of signing on National Signing Day. No doubt there will be some reshuffling of the commitment list to come in the next few months.
'For the most part, the current commitments are solid. The ones you have to pay special attention to for various reasons are:
Gavin Bryant, Linebacker from Alabama. Most have been concerned that either Alabama or Auburn may come in at the 11th hour and take Bryant away from Tennessee. It could happen. However, the concern for schools with Bryant is he still has a ways to go academically.
Treyvon Paulk, Running Back from Georgia. Mark this down. Paulk will have a huge senior season. Already highly sought after, schools will continue to ramp up the pressure on him to explore his options. Paulk is a great talent and a different style running back than Jalen Hurd.
The Midwestern kids (tight ends Ethan Wolfe, Daniel Helm, and defensive end Joe Henderson). All three of these kids are really good prospects. All appear solid right now and there is no reason to doubt all three don’t wind up at Tennessee. You know the Midwestern power schools are not going to let these kids go to the SEC without a fight.
'Congrats to my boy Basilio on the new gig..... 99.7 was my favorite radio station before your move. Now there is never a reason to move the dial.
Quick update on defensive line recruiting and specifically where Tennessee stands with a few of its defensive tackle prospects. Big picture things slow down in recruiting in August. Prospects begin focusing on their upcoming season, their teammates, and hopefully making sure their academics are in order. Recruiting never stops especially for college football coaches and recruiting staffs. Lets be honest. August is a huge month for Tennessee with respect to recruiting as Tennessee looks to fortify a defensive line losing a lot of experienced personnel after the 2013 season.
Vol fans are concerned about the defensive tackle recruiting void in the 2014 recruiting class. Me, I am not terribly worried about defensive tackle recruiting …… right now. Ask me the same question on September 1st not August 2nd and you may get a very different response.
Tennessee should not have to wait long to get a status report. At least five of Tennessee’s top defensive tackle targets are scheduled to make their college choice public between now and start of the football season.
If Tennessee whiffs on the targets mentioned below below, there is a cause for concern but all is not lost. September still gives you five months to signing day. When coaching changes start in December , there will be a recruiting class or two that get reshuffled. Tennessee could shake loose a defensive tackle or two if things don't go their way in August. Butch Jones doesn't want to roll this way of course. On the other hand, if a couple of these kids mentioned below pledge for Tennessee, Butch Jones is in enviable position of being able to baby sit current commitments, shoot for the 5 stars difference makers with the few remaining spots in the 2014 class, and focus on the 2015 recruiting class.
Reflecting on the first 8 months of his tenure, it is hard to find fault with any decision Coach Jones has made. As Coach Jones assembled his staff, the concern most long-time Volunteer recruitniks had was if the new staff had enough recruiting horsepower to land difference makers in this league. Well, he certainly has answered the bell so far. Either Butch Jones and his staff are alpha-recruiters or Derek Dooley and his recruiting effort was just abysmal. The answer I suppose is somewhere in between. While recruiting is trending in such a positive manner, Tennessee is still waiting to land his first defensive tackle commitment or signee under Coach Jones. Tennessee didn’t sign a defensive tackle in the 2013 class and of the 24 commitments for 2014 to date exactly “zero” are defensive tackles.
The “glass is half full crew” will counter this by saying…. X in 2013 Tennessee signed four defensive lineman. True.... each of the four defensive line signees played defensive end in high school. Two of the 2013 defensive end signees “will likely” grow into defensive tackles. Can Tennessee can’t expect much help from either one this season? Probably not. Both are learning a new position and it will take time for both to build their bodies up to withstand the rigors of the position in the SEC. A concern would be if either one had to provide depth before they are ready.
Here is a high level list of defensive lineman (ends and tackles) Tennessee is recruiting that are expected to make their decision before the end of August.
Poona Ford, defensive tackle Myrtle Bach, South Carolina. Ford is scheduled to announce next week. The relationship between Ford and Tennessee can best be characterized as on again off again. Tennessee appeared to have the edge for Ford early on. Ford has been on campus multiple times but lately Tennessee has cooled its heels on Ford. The primary reason I believe is Ford may be a bit undersized for a defensive tackle in this league. Honestly, it would shock me if Ford announced for Tennessee next week because he is down the board a few spots. Louisville or Clemson appear more likely. If Ford does announce for Tennessee, that suggests to me Tennessee is going to miss out on a couple of its higher rated defensive tackle targets. My opinion is it is too early in the process for Tennessee to reach for a prospect at such a critical position as defensive tackle.
Chris Williams, defensive tackle, Tyrone, Georgia. Chris Williams who I thought Tennessee had a chance with committed to Ole Miss yesterday. This one is interesting. There was legitimate interest there and Tennessee had momentum with Williams (apparently). In addition to the aforementioned schools, Ohio State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and others who were recruiting Williams. Did Tennessee cool on Williams? I find it hard to think Tennessee passed on Williams.
I'm trusting the coaches with their evaluations with Ford and Williams.
Davonte Lambert, defensive tackle Georgia Military College. Tennessee has a legitimate shot with Davonte Lambert. His decision is important for many reasons. Tennessee needs a JUCO defensive tackle to plug and play in 2014 after Daniel McCullers, Maurice Couch, and Daniel Hood all depart. Other JUCO defensive tackles on Tennessee’s board have chosen other SEC paths – Abu Lamin picked South Carolina, Fadol Brown chose Ole Miss, and Cory Johnson chose Kentucky. Neither of the three gave Tennessee much of a look to be honest. The concern is there aren't many JUCO fallbacks behind Lambert. It is three school race between our Vols, Florida, and Auburn for Lambert. In a spot where a real opportunity exists for a Junior College defensive tackle to walk onto campus and immediately be in the rotation, losing Lambert means Tennessee whiffed on its top four JUCO defensive tackle targets. If this happens, it is basically back to the drawing board for junior college defensive tackles.
Connor Humphreys, defensive end, Portland, Oregon. Once thought to be a longshot, it isn’t far-fetched for Tennessee fans to think Humphreys maypick Tennessee in a couple of weeks. Humphreys and family visited Knoxville and loved it. I think he sees there is an opportunity for early playing time here and there is no bigger stage than the SEC. The question is would Tennessee take his commitment. My response is why wouldn’t Tennessee take Humphreys’ commitment. The question I would have is whether Tennessee is convinced they can hold on to a Humphreys' commitment from August to February with his family ties to Oregon State. Humphreys has offers from schools coast to coast. We’ll see what happens with Humphreys in a couple of weeks. Humphreys is a defensive end in high school but projects as an interior defensive lineman in college.
Derek Barnett, defensive end Nashville, Tennessee. I agree with others. The race for Barnett is likely down to two in state schools (Tennessee and Vanderbilt). Barnett is scheduled to make a decision this month. If he doesn’t and prolongs his recruitment, I don’t think it is necessarily bad news for Tennessee. However, us Tennessee fans can be an impatient bunch. Barnett is a defensive end and is a very athletic looking 260 lbs. Barnett probably ends up a defensive tackle in college. That said, he'll need time to put on weight before he could be expected to help out much which means it should be the 2015 season before he can be a down in and down out contributor. Make no mistake. Barnett is a key piece to the 2014 class.
Regarding other defensive tackle prospects on Tennessee's board, Tennessee has closed the gap on Alabama for the services with Brighton, Tennessee lineman Charles Mosely. Mosely isn't expected to make a decision in August though he is planning to visit Tennessee on Saturday. Getting Mosely on campus for an unofficial visit is a definite momentum builder for Tennessee.
Tennessee has now entered the sweepstakes for highly regarded Elizabethtown, Kentucky, defensive tackle Matt Elam. Tennessee recently extended an offer to Elam and to say Tennessee has ground to make up is understated. This is shaping up to be a Tennessee /Kentucky battle for Elam. Good news is like Mosely, Elam doesn't plan to make a decision anytime soon.
The simple fact is Tennessee is not the clear leader for any true defensive tackle on its board. Tennessee may have a slight lead for Derek Barnett. With the other prospects, their recruitments are too close to call. For Elam, Mosely, and other defensive lineman tackles waiting closer to signing day, Tennessee has work to do.
August is going to be exciting and interesting to watch this team ..... on and off the field . As earlier stated, Tennessee will have a good idea of here it stands with defensive tackles before the first football is kicked off on August 31.
This is a short report because there are not many defensive tackles Tennessee is considered a factor with now. That may change.
GOOD NEWS: Tennessee is in the top three for Dewayne Hendrix who projects as a defensive end in college. Tennessee will battle USC and Florida for Hendrix. Good news is Hendrix has a number of influential people around him who really like Tennessee.
All I can is stay tuned.
Congrats to my boy Basilio.
This weekend officially wraps up Tennessee’s first Foundation Week under Butch Jones. The weekend recruiting event is Tennessee's answer to Florida's Friday Night Lights, Georgia's DAWG night. You get the picture. Wow, what a recruiting week so far for Tennessee. Can the weekend be any better than the week has been? Butch Jones will have to outdo himself but don't be surprised if he does. This weekend Tennessee will host the majority of its 2014 and 2015 committed prospects and members of their families (excluding the JUCO commitments). My guess is you are not reading this to read X giving Butch Jones a pat on the back.
Recruiting guys like me and each and every one of you reading this are certainly glad to see the committed prospects and family members come back to campus one more time before their fall practice gets cranked up.
But let’s be real .....….because Basilio and X keep it real here. You are reading this to find which of the uncommitted prospects visiting this weekend may be bringing a brick with them.
Like always, plans change. Kids are kids but lets get right to it. . Here is a look at a number of 2014 prospects that are may be on campus.
Cornerback/Athlete Adoree Jackson, five star prospect from Gardena, California. This is shocking to me but I continue to be surprised. One of the top cornerback prospects in the country. Top prospect in the state of California. Amazing that Tennessee has apparently made Jackson’s top five schools. It is a feather in Tennessee’s the coonskin cap just to get Jackson here for an unofficial visit. Even with Tennessee running low on spots, Jackson is the type of prospect you find room for.
Linebacker Kevin Mouhon,Norcross, Georgia. Whether Mouhon actually does visit is still a bit up in the air though it looks like he will make it. Tennessee has been the leader for Mouhon since December. Mouhon was one of the first 2014 prospects Butch Jones contacted when he took the Tennessee job. Georgia and Auburn are Tennessee's stiffest competition for Mouhon. We’ll see if Mouhon makes it to campus this weekend. This is one prospect that is trending toward Tennessee. Wouldn't be surprised at all if Mouhon fell to Tennessee in the next few days.
Defensive Back/Athlete Rashaan Gaulden, Nashville, Tennessee. Gaulden’s visit to campus is tentative right now. Tennessee has long been thought to be Gaulden’s leader. I have probably said this in the past. Some think Gaulden may be the best prospect in the state of Tennessee regardless of position for 2014 and that is hefty praise considering the talent produced by the state this cycle. Adding Gaulden would be another much needed secondary piece to go along with current defensive back commitments DeAndre Payne, Todd Kelley JR., Vic Wharton (yes I know he is an athlete), and Cortez McDowell.
Cornerback Quincy Wilson from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Cornerback/Athlete Omar Truitt Washington DC.
Linebacker Richard Yeargin III from Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Athletes Elliott Berry and Evan Berry Fairburn, Georgia. Wonder if the Berry's are bringing bricks this weekend?
Defensive End Cory Thomas from McCalla, Alabama. Thomas has to be considered a priority for Tennessee and it is key that Thomas is visiting. Alabama and Auburn aren't recruiting Thomas hard yet. Alabama has limited spots remaining in their 2014 class and Auburn already has 2, defensive ends committed for 2014. Thomas has offers from the likes of Florida, Clemson, Mississippi State and others. Mississippi State appears to be out in front for Thomas. Tennessee is pursuing Thomas as hard as any school right now. Wouldn't be surprised if Thomas commits to Mississippi State. This recruitment will likely go long into January before Thomas finalizes a decision and Tennessee will be right in the middle of it.
A group of four star prospects from the Glenville, Ohio area including Marshon Lattimore (athlete), defensive back Erick Smith, and offensive lineman Marcelys Jones. Jones is committed to Ohio State and Ohio State has to be considered the favorite currently for Lattimore.
Running Back Sedrick Palmer, McDonough, Georgia
Running Back Caleb Kinlaw, Goose Creek, South Carolina. Kinlaw likes Tennessee. Not sure numbers are going to work out to add another running back in this class.
Athlete Blaise Taylor, Auburn, Alabama
Other possibilities include Florida cornerback Nigel Patton-Bethel and Fort Myers wide receiver Ryeshene Bronson. Longshots to make it in but possible.
Wide receiver Dominique Booth, Independence. Indiana. Booth is interesting. With JUCO wide receiver Eric Lauderdale committing earlier in the week, just how many more receivers will or can Tennessee take? Another factor that needs to be considered is the longer we go into this recruiting cycle it appears Tennessee is nothing but an also ran for in state wide receiver prospect Josh Malone. Setback for Tennessee? A little. Booth may grab that last wide receiver slot in the class provide he is ready to commit.
Offensive lineman Ray Raulerson from Tampa, Florida (Committed see update below)
Offensive lineman Noah Kelleher, Mount Pleasant South Carolina
Offensive lineman Shayne Wilburn, Sequoyah, Tennessee
Offensive lineman Benson Napier, Coalfield, Tennessee
So Raulerson was ready to go public after all. News broke Thursday evening that he committed to Tennessee. Raulerson choose Tennessee over Vanderbilt, Auburn, Mississippi State, Nebraska and a number of other suitors. In total, Raulerson had 20 plus scholarship offers. Nice pickup. In addition to the 20 plus offers, Raulerson recently had a great camp at Georgia. Though he didn't have an offer, Georgia is continuing to show interest. Georgia has limited scholarships available this cycle and has already taken multiple offensive line commits, which is helpful to Tennessee. Rivals rates Raulerson is a top 50 tackle prospect nationally though he will likely play guard at Tennessee.
With the commitment of Raulerson, Tennessee has one spot left for an offensive lineman. Their efforts at this position are now squarely focused on JUCO offensive tackle Dontavious Blair.
As I said above, we keep it real here. Noticeable by their absence from the tentative visitor list are defensive line prospects specifically defensive tackles. Defensive tackle recruiting is the wart on an otherwise outstanding 2014 recruiting class. Look at the numbers. Twenty commitments (excluding Dews) likely more by Sunday, one commitment is a defensive lineman (defensive end), and none (none as in zero) are defensive tackles.
As I have said before, it is hard to list a defensive tackle prospect where Tennessee is clearly and decidedly the leader. Sure there are a number of defensive tackle prospects that have hinted at visiting. To my knowledge, the staff is not certain any of the following will show up.
There are at least five that have been invited. But as of Thursday evening, whether one , two or none show up is still up in the air.
Derek Barnett, Nashville, Tennessee. Tennessee is probably in better shape with Barnett that any other defensive tackle on the board.
Matt Elam,Elizabethtown, Kentucky. This recruitment could be best termed "on again off again". Tennessee is now is "on again" with Elam but I dont expect Elam to visit this weekend.
Poona Ford,Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Tennessee was once thought to be Ford’s favorite. Of late, Tennessee has seemed to slip with Ford a bit. Ford has given mixed signals on his plans for the weekend.
Cory Johnson. ASA Junior College New York. Johnson is a JUCO defensive tackle who has talked about visiting this weekend. Right now honestly, Tennessee is outside Johnson's top five schools.
Thomas Holley,Brooklyn, New York. Holley is rated as the top football prospect in New York and a four star prospect nationally. Holley has over 20 offers including one from Tennessee. Holley has talked about traveling south and visiting Tennessee but Holley actually visiting is a long shot.
Butch Jones has assembled a great class in 7 months. No doubt about it. Hats off to him, the coaching staff, and the unsung heroes in the recruiting department. The concern is obvious however. The only way this class goes from really good to a program changer is to close with at least 3 if not 4 defensive lineman coveted by our competition.
In closing, a number of 2015 uncommitted prospects that will be on campus this weekend including Maryville’s Dylan Jackson mid-state defensive back Ugo Amadi, Ohio linebacker Regan Williams, Atlanta offensive lineman Dallas Warmack, Saginaw athlete Brian Cole and many others. Wouldn’t be a stretch to see a 2015 prospect drop for Tennessee this weekend. Lot more time to focus on 2015 prospects down the road.
Love the pick up of Cortez McDowell. Though there is still a long ways to go until National Signing Day, McDowell may be Butch Jones' most impressive pick up to date. If not, McDowell is certainly one of the top three or four commitments for the 2014 class to date. Regardless of whether McDowell winds up at either safety position or linebacker McDowell is an instant impact type of prospect. From watching film, McDowell certainly is not the type to shy away from contact. Personally, I hope he stays a safety. Tennessee needs a safety that receivers think twice about as they come across the middle to catch a pass.
McDowell is a consensus 4 star prospect across all recruiting services, one of the top 2014 football prospects produced by talent rich Georgia, and a top 250 prospect nationally as rated by RIVALS. With McDowell's commitment, Tennessee now has 8 defensive prospects committed in the 2014 class (counting Wharton as a defensive back and excluding Dews). At least one or more of the recruiting services has each of the defensive commitments rated as a 4 star prospect. Impressive.
Frankly, McDowell's commitment surprises me. Tennessee's staff was even concerned the Auburn influences around McDowell would be hard for Tennessee to overcome. Tennessee had the momentum for McDowell this spring thanks to his prior relationship with Coaches Martinez and Thigpen. Butch Jones and McDowell's connection with current players and commitments put Tennessee way out in front. However, like so many things that happen in recruiting, Tennessee's momentum seemed to wane just as fast as they emerged his early leader. Tennessee relentless pursuit of McDowell paid off Tuesday.
If McDowell does indeed follow through and sign, Tennessee is getting one of Georgia's best. He is legitimately a prospect that a number of SEC schools really want .... and will not quit recruiting.
So, two four-star commitments in the span of 48 hours leading up to the last big recruiting weekend of the summer. It is Tennessee's hope to top off a productive recruiting summer with a bang during the weekend.
I actually did expect a couple of prospects to commit to Tennessee between now and the end of the weekend. Interesting that neither one is named Eric Lauderdale or Cortez McDowell.
Heading into the weekend which prospects are on commitment watch? Check back for a list of prospects visiting Tennessee this weekend and Basilio will give you the prospects to watch.
Short of seeing the product on the football field, all Coach Jones needs to do between now and the end of August is to bring us a few offensive and defensive line commitments.
'You Love Butch Jones Don’t You?
X knows you do. X is trying to remain balanced in my assessment even though it is very hard to find faults with the new staff through 7 months. Off the field, Butch Jones has nailed it. He, his coaches, support staff, and the overworked/underappreciated recruiting staff have shown the extraordinary ability to pay attention to seemingly every detail… and people have noticed. Ex-players are impressed. Donors love him. Prospects are intrigued. Prospects and their parents who visit can’t say enough good things about what is happening here. The fan base is salivating. Heck, I have met him and I’m impressed. Don’t forget his use of social media and video productions in the recruiting model. Second to none.
My lone concern to date has been whether Coach Jones has the recruiting horsepower to land the offensive and defensive lineman needed to catapult Tennessee back to the upper tier of the SEC. People are tired of me writing and rewriting that I suppose. We’ll see. Call me crazy but wouldn't you prefer to see a game plan, what the team looks like coming out of the tunnel after halftime, a play call on 3 and 2 in the fourth quarter, the kicking game, does a Butch Jones team fight or give up when down by 2 scores late in the fourth quarter, how Coach handles adversity, and how the players respond when adversity sits in (and it will)? These sorts of things will give us a better idea of where the Program is.
Even with the above concerns, you have to be impressed particularly with their ability to turn over every stone and kick every tire they can in a search for immediate help. Examples include their pursuit of Michael Dyer (not Butch Jones fault he isn’t on campus), the late signing of 2013 defensive end Kendal Vickers, pursuit of potential defensive line transfers like Faldo Brown and SeVon Pittman, providing a walk on opportunities for former Maryland signee defensive back Michael Williams and former Maryland running back Justus Pickett.
Tennessee fans should be happy with recruiting. Tennessee is hovering right around a top 5 class depending on what service you follow. Right now, a top 5 recruiting class at Tennessee is an exception when to be honest a top 5 recruiting class at Tennessee should be the norm. The 2014 class is not an anomaly. The 2014 class has the makings of a top 5 to top 10 class depending how the season unfolds. Honestly, the 2015 class is beginning to shape up as a better looking class but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Now, back to 2014 recruiting.
Numbers Inside Numbers:
The summer camp season at Tennessee is winding down. I took the time to sit down over the weekend and count the scholarship offers made by Tennessee. I looked at two services and my best count is Butch Jones has handed out approximately 270 scholarship offers to 2014 prospects. Some of the numbers within the numbers are interesting:
By Position. A few stick out. Tennessee has offered 10 quarterbacks, 26 wide receivers, 28 offensive lineman, 42 defensive lineman, 33 linebackers, and 61 defensive backs (35 cornerbacks and the rest safeties).
Imagine that 25% of the Tennessee offers have been extended to cornerback/safeties prospects and this doesn’t count prospects the recruiting services list as “athletes” (prospects that project as either receivers or defensive backs in college). I think offering 60 plus defensive backs half way through a recruiting speaks volumes of where Tennessee believes there is a void of talent; With 42 defensive lineman (16 % of the total) being offered scholarships, it seems counter-intuitive that Tennessee doesn't lead for more defensive lineman; 10 quarterbacks have been offered by Tennessee. 9 of the 10 quarterbacks who have received offers have committed elsewhere. The tenth quarterback prospect with an offer wanted to commit to Tennessee but Tennessee said thanks but no thanks.
By state. Tennessee has offered 53 prospects from Florida (20% of total offers) and 46 prospects from Georgia (17% of total offers). Roughly 40 % of the total offers have been made to prospects in those two states. Appears Tennessee’s road back to prominence in the SEC is going to be paved with bricks from Georgia and Florida.
A couple of other interesting takeaways from the offers. 17 prospects have been offered from the states of North Carolina and South Carolina (combined); 25 offers have been handed out to prospects from the Mid-Atlantic region (Virginia, Maryland and DC areas); and, 12, 2014 in-state prospects have been offered scholarships.
7 months before the 2015 recruiting cycle is officially kicked off Tennessee has already extended 75 offers including 11 offers to in-state prospects.
My Final Fifteen of 2014 Class….. For The Fun Of It
16 prospects have committed to Tennessee. 17 if you count Maryland athlete Jerome Dews which I don't. He will likely greyshirt because the numbers going forward are going to be tough.
All the talk has been Tennessee will sign 29 prospects maybe 30 as a best case scenario. Using these numbers, you should expect another 15 prospects to populate the commitment list between now and National Signing Day. Here is why. I know 17 plus 15 does not equal 29 but one or two things will likely occur. Tennessee will recruit over a committed prospect or one or more of the committed prospects will spurn Tennessee and sign with another school. It is what it is. No offense. Every coach has recruited over a committed prospect and every coach has lost a recruit to another school. Its recruiting at the end of the day.
While putting together an early summer projection about the signing class is fun, there are so many factors that come into play that makes doing this virtually impossible. Here are a couple that could impact Tennessee's class in 2014 in a positive or negative manner.
Wins and Losses - Being competitive and being fun to watch are good. Win games. Beat some foe you aren’t supposed to and those elite prospects you are trying to get on campus will take note. Get to a bowl game this year and you may land a difference maker in an upset on National Signing Day. It happens. Upsetting someone and getting to a bowl game make a difference.
Coaching Changes - Happens every year. One thing inherent in college football is head coaches and assistant coaches move around. So much for kids picking schools over coaches. Coaches forge relationships with kids and parents. Coaches change zip codes and but those relationships stay intact. This is why you see some schools have multiple coaches now involved in recruiting kids not so much one on one recruiting any more. Tennessee needs mitigate any possible damage coaching changes could do to its recruiting momentum. A handful of VOL Assistants have been knocking it out on the recruiting trail. Need to retain those coaches and make other adjustments where necessary. Gone are the days when a couple of hotshot recruiters can carry an entire staff.
Staying after it - This staff already has a reputation of being relentless. Current Vols like JuWuan James, Mac Crowder, Joshua Dobbs, Malik Foreman, Malik Brown, Rajeon Neal, Marlin Lane and others were committed to other schools before committing to and signing with Tennessee. There are a handful of prospects high of Tennessee’s board committed to other schools at this writing . Tennessee is still aggressively pursuing them.
So here are X’s “final “ 15 for 2014 for the fun of it…. but I must make a confession......
There are really only ten spots left. Right or wrong. I am putting the following prospects in the Tennessee column even though none of them have publicly committed.
Linebacker Dillon Bates
Athlete Evan Berry (wide receiver/defensive back)
Athlete Elliott Berry (linebacker)
Defensive back RaShaan Gaulden
Defensive Lineman Derek Barnett
Is it wishful thinking on my part? Maybe. We’ll know on Bates soon but nothing makes me think he won’t end up at Tennessee. The Berry brothers may take their time but I expect both to sign with Tennessee. I think Tennessee leads for Gaulden and has for months. Tennessee has recently surged ahead in the battle for in state lineman Barnett.
Not much room for athletes in the final 10 spots but my projection is TJ Harrell, 6’1” 200 lbs. Tampa, Florida, winds up at Tennessee. Harrell’s recruitment is just beginning to heat up. I like Harrell’s versatility. Harrell could wind up at safety if Tennessee were to miss on other safety prospects on its board, outside linebacker, or at running back.
Very tempted to project Murfreesboro athlete Emmanuel Smith to Tennessee. This may be one where the scholarship numbers mean a very good prospect is the odd man out. Smith is a safety who projects as an outside linebacker in college. Smith is committed to Vandy. However, he has visited Tennessee since his commitment. Plus, he and family have continued to listen to Tennessee.
With Dillon Bates and Elliott Berry joining current linebacker commitments Gavin Bryant and JUCO Chris Wetherd, you have 4 linebackers in the 2014 class. Athlete Emmanuel Smith, projected as a linebacker in college, would make 5 if Tennessee were fortunate enough to land him (I don’t think that happens). Holding Bryant and Wetherd won’t be easy. So linebacker recruiting continues.
Projections at linebacker are tough to do. Plenty of schools are coming after Wetherd. He is big and athletic enough to play outside linebacker or rush end in certain defensive sets.
You hope Bryant rewards Tennessee for having confidence in him to get his grades in order in the event Alabama and Auburn come hard after him. Tennessee has plenty of spots in 2014 to play with. Alabama and Auburn not so much. Advantage Tennessee for Bryant.
My projection is Tennessee holds serve at linebacker. Holding serve means holding onto Bryant and Wetherd along with Bates and the others. Expect Tennessee to make a strong run at landing an immediate impact type linebacker like Kevin Mouhon from Georgia or JeMardre Cobb from California. Both have offers and significant interest in Tennessee. Another somewhat under the radar linebacker prospect is DeShon Cooper from Decatur, Georgia. He camped at Tennessee and made a great impression.
Conspicuous by their absence on this list is in-state linebacker
Patera Wilson from Memphis. He talks of Tennessee but his actions (failure to visit campus this summer) speak otherwise. Wilson would move right into the Cobb/Williams category if Tennessee could make progress with him.
With high school offensive linemen Orlando Brown and Coleman Thomas committed, my projection is Tennessee takes one Junior College Offensive Lineman (a tackle) and one high school lineman (an interior lineman). I also think Tennessee will swing for the fences and try to land an additional difference making offensive lineman. Again, similar to the linebacker position, a difference making offensive lineman would be a take over a quarterback who was not at the top of your target list.
My projection is JUCO tackle Dontavious Blair lands at Tennessee. Blair is one of the top 2014 JUCO offensive lineman, a January enrollee, with a body built for the SEC. No secret here Tennessee has built up a nice lead for Blair. Auburn and Ole Miss are still in the mix for Blair. Ole Miss is a concern though they have recruited well at the position over the past couple of years. Blair is a first game starter at Tennessee next season.
Tennessee has been very selective in its search for high school offensive lineman. Right now, there sights appear to be set on Charles Mosley from Brighton, Tennessee, Nolan Kelleher from Mt. Pleasant South Carolina, or Ray Raulerson from Tampa Florida. Mosley or Kelleher appear to be the top targets. Big, aggressive kids who project as a guards. South Carolina and Virginia Tech are neck and neck with Tennessee for Kelleher. Mosley has Alabama and Tennessee at the top of his list. Raulerson is a new name to Tennessee's list. He may be ready to make a decision before Tennessee is ready to take a commitment.
I don’t think Tennessee is in a hurry to fill the final spot for an offensive lineman.
Cornerbacks and Safeties:
With the projection of TJ Harrell and RaShaan Gaulden to Tennessee, my projection is Tennessee takes 2 more defensive backs.
It is no secret Gaulden is Tennessee’s top defensive back target remaining on the board. Gaulden is a versatile player who seems better suited for safety even though Tennessee appears to favor him at nickel corner. Tennessee expects to know Gaulden’s college plans before football season begins.
Tennessee seems to have moved into a dead heat with a couple of other schools for Florida prospect John Battle. Battle a 6’2” 185 lb. corner/safety from Hallandale, Florida had a fantastic visit to Tennessee. Along with current commitment DeAndre Payne, RaShaan Gaulden and Battle are difference making type defensive backs a critical need in this class.
Tennessee is recruiting a number of very good safety prospects. I would like to project Georgia safety Cortez McDowell as a Tennessee signee. If he attended another high school it would be easy to project McDowell to Tennessee. Too much Auburn pressure at his high school to feel like he would end up at Tennessee.
Tennessee is evaluating a number of JUCO safety /cornerback types. Don't be surprised if Hutchinson Community College Shattle Fenteng eventually receives an offer. Fenteng is originally from the Atlanta area and someone the staff is familiar with. Another prospect is Quintavious Knight from Georgia Military College.
Don't forget Mississippi safety CJ Hampton. Robert Gillespie has gotten Tennessee in the mix for Hampton who may be as good as any safety prospect Tennessee is recruiting.
I’m projecting Evan Berry, Brandon Powell, and Vic Wharton at wide receiver though all three will be used to contribute at multiple positions on offense and possibly defense. Along with commitments Neiko Creamer and Kameel Jackson projected as wide receivers, Tennessee taking more than more two wide receiver commitments doesn’t make sense. The glaring need in Tennessee’s wide receiver corps is an immediate impact receiver having the speed to stretch the field.
Looking at wide receiver targets the prospect at the top of the board is JUCO wide receiver Eric Lauderdale. Lauderdale is 6’2” 190 lb. burner from California. Lauderdale is far and away the #1 wide receiver target though he came back to the pack a bit when it was learned he is no longer a January enrollee. Tennessee is the clear leader for Lauderdale.
If Tennessee takes more than one wide receiver, their primary target is in state prospect Josh Malone. Malone has over 30 offers and is far from a slam dunk to Tennessee. Malone has all the tools and the potential to be a down the field threat but he needs some work. I don’t think he is the type of receiver that can step in as a freshman and make an immediate impact.
The door may not be completely closed on 4 star wide receiver Dominque Booth from Indiana. Booth likes Tennessee and has been on the verge of committing on several occasions. However, Booth may be another prospect where the numbers may not work to his advantage.
With one defensive lineman Joe Henderson committed, Tennessee needs at least three if not four more bodies here. I projected (above) in-state defensive lineman Derek Barnett from Brentwood Academy to land at Tennessee. Another possibility maybe in the form of a transfer. Potential transfers SeVon Pittman (Ohio State) and/or Fadol Brown (Florida International via JUCO) would provide much needed immediate 2014 help. We should know about each next month. Right now I would lean toward feeling better about Pittman winding up at Tennessee than Brown. In addition, at least one additional JUCO defensive lineman is a must. DeVonte Lambert recently visited. I don’t think Tennessee did enough to overtake Florida for Lambert but the immediate playing time available at Tennessee is really pulling at Lambert.
I continue to hear good things about Tennessee and JUCO defensive lineman Carnell Simon from Hutchinson Community College. What Tennessee likes about Simon is a disruptive type of defensive lineman. Simon visited last week. Though he doesn’t have an offer, expect Simon to receive one once Tennessee learns the fate of Pittman, Brown, and Lambert. Simon is originally from Georgia and is again a Hutchison prospect the staff has previously evaluated.
Tennessee has made the top two for defensive tackles Charles Mosley from Brighton, Tennessee, Michael Sawyers from Nashville Ensworth and Poona Ford from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Tennessee would like all the above but would take any one of the above. It is Tennessee/Alabama battle for Mosley, Tennessee/Ole Miss battle for Sawyers, and Tennessee/South Carolina battle for Ford.
The longer Mosley goes without committing to Alabama the better I like Tennessee’s chances with him. Plus, Mosley is versatile. He could play either offensive or defensive in the event Tennessee landed Sawyers or Ford.
Tennessee is locked in an intense battle for strong side defensive end DeWayne Hendrix from Illinois. Hendrix is rated as the 4th best prospect in Illinois. Hendrix is originally from west Tennessee and still has family in that area. He has visited Tennessee on multiple occasions. USC, Florida and other top tier schools are courting Hendrix. Tennessee has more than a punchers chance with Hendrix. They got on him early, got him to campus, and have continued to aggressively recruit him. This recruitment will likely drag on closer to signing day. A Hendrix commitment would certainly be an attention getter on any number of different levels.
In closing, the numbers will not allow Tennessee to sign a quarterback or a third running back in this class. This certainly could change if a scholarship quarterback leaves the program or a committed running back parts way with Tennessee. Tennessee continues to recruit at these positions. If recruiting continues to trend as it is currently, the numbers will allow not allow either one to occur.
My final for fun 15 for 2014 are:
Linebacker Dillon Bates
Athlete Evan Berry (wide receiver/defensive back)
Athlete Elliott Berry (linebacker)
Defensive back RaShaan Gaulden
Defensive Lineman Derek Barnett
Safety TJ Harrell
Linebacker DeShon Cooper
Lineman Charles Mosley
Lineman Dontavious Blair
Defensive Back John Battle
Defensive Back Shatelle Fenteng
Wide Receiver Eric Lauderdale
Defensive Lineman Dewayne Hendrix
Defensive Lineman Michael Sawyers
Wide Receiver Josh Malone
psx:........ Pittman winds up a VOL & he doesn't count against the 2014 scholarship numbers
I told you Friday after the news broke that 2015 linebacker Cecil Cherry committed to Tennessee that commitments probably weren’t over for the weekend. Well, 2014 athlete Brandon Powell was the first to go public on Sunday with his commitment. The good news kept on coming Monday when Jackson, Alabama linebacker Gavin Bryant committed to the VOLS.
Tennessee has been recruiting Bryant hard since the early spring. Bryant visited last week, liked what he saw, and pulled the trigger
Bryant is rated as a three star linebacker by Rivals and the 15th best prospect in Alabama. ESPN, on the other hand, has Bryant rated as a four star prospect and the 11th best inside linebacker in the country.
Bryant is a great pickup. Sure, he has a bit of academic work to do plus recruiting Bryant is far from over. This will be a recruitment to watch because most every school in the SEC, including Alabama and Auburn, wanted this kid. The advantages Tennessee has in keeping Bryant a VOL are that Alabama and Auburn have recruited well at the position and have young depth there, Tennessee has a clear need at linebacker as soon as next September, and Bryant has a great relationship with Coach Thigpen.
In terms of commitments Tennessee still stands at 16 for the class of 2014. While the good news was Bryant committed. Monday, Florida athlete Lawrence Lee
and Tennessee parted ways. In my opinion, this is advantage Tennessee. Lee is a nice prospect but kids that project as athletes are easier to identify and recruit than SEC caliber linebackers. From Bryant’s offer list, as I mentioned above, most of the SEC schools believe this kid is an SEC linebacker.
A sign the recruiting pendulum may be swinging back in Tennessee’s favor? Though coaches can’t comment and media types are reluctant to, it appears Tennessee has passed on a number of very good 2014 prospects that were seemingly ready to pull the trigger publicly for Tennessee in favor of prospects they believe are better fits. Consider the following.
4 star wide receiver Dominique Booth. Kid has 30 offers including Alabama and Tennessee. Tennessee has been Booth’s presumptive leader since early spring. Booth is a nice prospect. A four star prospect and the #1 rated prospect in the state of Indiana. Frankly, I just think Tennessee can sign wide receivers that better fit their scheme than Booth. No offense to Booth. Nice player. Just not a great fit.
4 star athlete Stanton Truitt, from Monroe, Georgia. Truitt is a nice prospect and he too named Tennessee his leader in the spring. Truitt, in my opinion, postponed a public commitment to Tennessee to see what other offers might come his way .... like maybe Georgia the in state school. Tennessee, in my opinion, got a bit tired of the game and moved on …. in favor of Brandon Powell.
4 star athlete/quarterback Kendrick Doss from Florence, Alabama. After David Cornwell spurned Tennessee for Alabama many analysts thought Doss was next in Tennessee's quarterback pecking order. Rumor was Doss would commit publicly to Tennessee last weekend. Not so fast. Doss is a nice prospect but Tennessee wasn’t ready to take his commitment. Doss now appears headed to one of the Mississippi schools again in my opinion. Again, in terms of Tennessee quarterback targets, keep an eye on Florida dual threat quarterback Quentin Flowers.
3 star running back Caleb Kinlaw from Goose Creek, South Carolina. Kinlaw had Tennessee at the top of his list for the longest time. Tennessee has been recruiting Kinlaw for 2 years. Kinlaw was ready to seemingly pull the trigger for Tennessee early in the spring. However, after running backs Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk committed, adding a third running back to the 2014 class so early in the recruiting cycle wasn’t really a huge priority. Whether Tennessee takes a third running back in this class is yet to be determined. Recent commitment Brandon Powell looks like he can take a few snaps at running back and Tennessee may eventually circle back to Kinlaw. My point is, with the Tennessee issues at running back over the past few years, it has been a long time since Tennessee has been in a position to hold off one of the best running backs in the Carolinas committing to you for better prospects.
Remember 4 star prospect safety Cortez McDowell from Locust Grove, Georgia? For the longest time McDowell was thought to be a silent commitment to Tennessee. Yeah, that guy. The rumor gets better. McDowell was going to publicly commit at the Orange & White game. Well, here we are almost to July 4th and still no public commitment from McDowell. What the ! Now, looks like Tennessee is pretty much even with Auburn and Georgia for McDowell. Butch Jones is waiting on McDowell. In fact, with spots as limited as they are in the class, McDowell could become a casualty if he doesn’t do something soon.
Lastly, as I mentioned above, former commitment wide receiver/athlete Lawrence Lee a three start prospect from Florida, is a nice prospect. Missouri has offered Lee. The Florida schools have started showing interest. I believe Lee’s decommitment is just a mutual parting of the ways. Brandon Powell is a better looking athlete and a prospect that can fill multiple roles on the offense.
In closing, the above isn’t intended to besmirch (I think that is a word) any of these kids. All great athletes. Tennessee is simply recruiting at a different level right now than in the past.
Check back and I'll check back in
'Sunday concluded a busy weekend for Butch Jones and staff. Probably the biggest prospect camp of the summer wrapped up Saturday, all but three 2014 verbal commitments were on campus, and Butch Jones handed out offers to 2014, 15, and 16 prospects like giving out candy to trick or treators on Halloween. Let’s be clear. Butch Jones is just not handing out offers because he can. Tennessee has generated so much intrigue and interest in the last 6 months. The quality of the prospects attending these camps is something that has been seen around Tennessee in years (Taken from a staffer who has worked these camps since the Fulmer days)
So let’s re-cap a few things that happened over the weekend good, not so good, and interesting.
The weekend got off to a nice start when 2015, Frostproof, Florida linebacker Cecil Cherry committed to Tennessee. Though only coming into his junior year of high school, the future certainly looks bright for Cherry. There is some nice footage of Cherry on the internet. From watching his highlights, he certainly looks like a difference making linebacker. Cherry, a relative of ex-Vol Tony Thompson, is the type of prospect Tennessee has to land to make the ascent back to the top of the SEC. Cherry, as a junior to be in high school mind you, already holds 30 offers including schools like Florida, Alabama, Ohio State and other premier programs. In 2015, Cherry is likely to be rated as one of the nation’s top linebackers. Other schools will not quit recruiting Cherry.
Sunday brought another bit of good news. The 2014 class received another addition when Deerfield Beach, Florida athlete Brandon Powell shocked a number of schools and recruiting analysts by committing to Tennessee. That is number 16 for the 2014 class. With the commitment of Powell, Tennessee just stepped over the half way point in rounding out the 2014 class as I expect Tennessee to sign 30 prospects. Expect commitments to slow down a bit as Tennessee starts becoming more selective with these final 14 to 15 spots.
Now back to Powell. Though I personally would like to see Coach Jones mix in a defensive tackle or interior offensive lineman commitment with all these athletes, I like Brandon Powell's commitment. Depending on the recruiting service you follow, Powell is either a 3 star or 4 star offer list. Powell has over 25 offers including schools likes Florida State, LSU, Auburn, North Carolina. He is a top 50 prospect in the state of Florida. Nationally, Rivals and ESPN have ranked as a top 25 athlete. Powell will be asked to play a number of roles at Tennessee. He'll play slot receiver, and will line up at running back from time to time. I would expect him to get an early shot as a kick return specialist as well. Powell is a fast kid with shifty feet. Watch his film. Though it is hard to gauge speed of high school kids, from highlights, I didn’t see anyone catch Powell from behind and he always seemed to be creating distance between himself and defenders. All in all a great pick up.
Powell's commitment means Georgia athlete Stephon Truitt, who has long since thought to a "silent commitment" to Tennessee, has part ways with the Vols. I really liked Truitt's skill set but he and Powell are similarly skilled prospects. Powell was ready to be a VOL while Truitt was still shopping. Advantage Powell.
The Not So Good:
In recruiting you never get all you want. Just the way it is. 2014 Tennessee quarterback target David Cornwell verbally committed to Alabama on Friday. Is this a setback? Not really. There are a good number of folks who believed Cornwell was far and away Tennessee's #1 quarterback target. I, for one, did not and still do not fall into that camp. I never thought Cornwell was coming to Tennessee even if he had not committed to Alabama. Plus, he isn’t a great fit for Tennessee's offense either
With Cornwell off the board, does Tennessee take a quarterback in 2014 with limited spots available or not? If you recall, Butch Jones publicly stated he wants 5 quarterbacks on the roster at all times. Taking him at his word, one of the 14 or 15 remaining spots will go to a quarterback. So who? One prospect to keep an eye on is Miami, Florida quarterback Quentin Flowers. Flowers is a three star prospect and thought to be one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in Florida. Pay no attention to his rating. Tennessee and Alabama have offered that is all I need to know. Flowers is a bit raw but his strong arm and athleticism jump off the film.
Tennessee is pursuing 2012 Ohio State signee Se'Von Pittman. Pittman, a strongside defensive end, from Canton, Ohio was ranked 8th nationally at his position out of high school. A 4 star prospect, Pittman signed with Ohio State. I don’t know the story but he redshirted last season due to an injury. The injury coupled with an off the field incident led Pittman to seek and be granted his release from the Buckeyes. You just know Jones and staff know Pittman from their days at Cincinnati and probably recruited him out of high school. That type of connection plus an opportunity to play on a national stage can't hurt. I believe regardless of where Pittman winds up he must sit out one year leaving him with three years to play three. Pittman has either been on campus during the last week or possibly still on campus now. Landing difference making defensive linemen is a spot Tennessee has struggled with over the last few years. The 2014 recruiting cycle is no different to be honest with you. Pittman hasn’t played a down in college but was on track to be a key contributor as a true freshman at Ohio State before he suffered a season ending injury. Sit tight on this one. We'll probably know sooner than later whether Pittman winds up at Tennessee or another destination.
Later this week I will have my pre-July 4th look at the prospects that fill out the final 15 spots in the 2014 class.
Tennessee landed its 14th commitment Thursday in defensive lineman Joe Henderson from Cleveland Shaker Heights High School, Ohio. Henderson is a nice addition to a recruiting class that up until yesterday had been void of defensive lineman. The Henderson commitment represents a good start recruiting wise at a position where a lot of help is needed next season.
Henderson visited campus earlier this month. It hasn’t been a secret Tennessee has been the team to beat since he received the offer. Already holding over twenty offers, Henderson chose Tennessee over Michigan State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan and others. This is a talented kid that committed to Tennessee. I would expect other schools to continue come after Henderson as National Signing Day draws closer.
Henderson's commitment to Tennessee is as much about the relationship he developed with Butch Jones and his staff while they were coaching at Cincinnati as it is about Tennessee and the opportunity to play very early in his career here. Butch Jones and staff have been recruiting Henderson and family for approximately 4 years.
Though Henderson has yet to play a down of football as a high school senior let alone in the SEC, he looks like that athletic, off the edge rush end Tennessee recruiting classes have missed on in the last few recruiting cycles. Landing a commitment from a talented prospect like Henderson this early in the recruiting cycle is huge.
Henderson is just beginning to grow into his frame 6'4" frame. He added 15 pounds to his frame since last season and now weighs in at 225 pounds. He will likely add another 20 to 25 pounds before he gets to Tennessee. On film Henderson is just now scratching the surface. You can’t teach size, speed and athleticism. Henderson has them all. Henderson has an above average initial burst off the line of scrimmage, plays upfield which is something you like to see in a defensive lineman, tends to play a bit out of control at times, needs to works on his technique but his athleticism is obvious. I encourage each one of you to jump on line, watch Henderson's film, make your own decision.
For you star gazers and rankings guys, Henderson is a 3 star recruit on Rivals and a 4 star prospect by 247. Nonetheless, with 14, 2014 commitments some recruiting services have Tennessee's class ranked as the top class in the country. Certainly been a long time since Tennessee had anything related to football to boast about.
More importantly, the month of June and into July will be a productive stretch for Tennessee as it continues to build the 2014 class. I expect Tennessee to be hovering around 20 commitments by the time fall practice begins. They are on the verge of public commitments from a number of their high profile targets.
Football season is days away … for me. For a strange and somewhat bizarre reason, I have always connected the start of the college football with the date the incoming freshmen moving into the dormitories for the first session of summer school.
I have suffered from this affliction for years. The affliction has gotten worse not better. This is a bellwether event for X. More now than ever. The proliferation of incoming freshman being counted on to be major contributors by so many programs these days is greater now than ever. In Tennessee’s case, maybe this year more than previous seasons. True freshmen are going to be counted on to play early and be solid contributors starting with Game 1. When the incoming freshmen join the returning upperclassman for that first lift in the weight room or the first drill of those summer “informal “ practices, the 2013 team starts being melded together.
While I haven’t been in this space in a few weeks, Butch Jones continues to unite the Big Orange faithful. This is a down time in recruiting a natural ebb and flow of the recruiting cycle. Yet, Butch Jones is keeping the VOL brand relevant. He continues to hit home run after home run on the Big Orange Caravan stops and his calculated use of the media during the down time something to behold . Spring practice is a month old. Spring evaluations are winding down. Summer camps are a week away.
Butch Jones gets it though. He is dealing with a passionate and hungry fan base who wants to see the program returned to prominence and more importantly recruiting momentum sustained.
During this slow period right before things really get cranked up (more to follow on this later), Butch Jones is doing his very best to keep the Tennessee brand in the public eye. From a public relations perspective, I don’t see how a Tennessee fan, even if you think Fulmer or Majors should have never been fired, can ask any more of what Butch Jones has given us to date.
I detect though some fans are getting restless. Whispers are the 2014 recruiting momentum everyone was so excited about has stalled. Yeah, Tennessee picked up commitment #13 on Wednesday when in state kicking specialist Aaron Medley publicly committed to Tennessee. Great pickup. After watching the kicking game for years, I don’t see how anyone could say this is not a position of need. With all due respect though, a commitment from a kicking specialist is not going to turn the crank of this fan base.
As will happen in recruiting, Tennessee has taken a hit or two of late. Top in state offensive lineman Alex Bars spurned Tennessee for Notre Dame. Honestly, this isn’t a surprise … still, you hate to lose an in state prospect at a position of need. I don’t think Tennessee’s staff ever felt Bars was going anywhere but Notre Dame. Surprisingly, another in state lineman decided to end the recruiting process. Offensive lineman Paul Adams Christ Presbyterian Academy, verbally committed to Missouri. Adams was an up and coming prospect in the eyes of many college programs including Tennessee. Personally, I really liked Adams as a prospect but Tennessee wanted to see him at camp before they finished their evaluation. Tennessee is still hoping Adams attends camp but the public commitment to Missouri was a bit out of left field. Here is hoping he does camp at Tennessee. While these are setbacks, Tennessee can overcome them.
So what can get recruiting momentum ramped back up? This Tennessee fan base is a knowledgeable one. They now need something more than another wide receiver (except for Josh Malone) or another “athlete” type to commit. What Butch Jones and more important VOL fans need is a slump buster. We need one of Tennessee’s high profile recruiting targets to drop the hammer and publicly their commitment to Tennessee. Butch Jones needs a high profile recruiting target to commit to propel this recruiting class through the summer and into the start of the football season. If this were to happen, I could see Tennessee picking up anywhere between six and eight new commitments between now and September.
So what public commitment would get the fan base juiced up? Here are my thoughts.
1) Dillon Bates. Master of the obvious I know. Bates is the #1 prospect, regardless of position, remaining on Tennessee’s board. Anyone who follows or has followed Tennessee knows who Dillon Bates is and his connection to the Program…….no need to rehash it here. What you should know regardless of what some recruiting analysts (use this term loosely) say Bates is a top #50 prospect in the country. If Bates isn’t the best outside linebacker prospect in the country, he is certainly in the discussion. Another thing about Bates. If Bates commits, you can group him with Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelley, Jr. as first day 2014 starters at Tennessee barring injury. It isn’t a given that Bates winds up at Tennessee, Texas and Alabama are really pushing for Bates and are likely to represent Tennessee’s stiffest competition for the VOL legacy. Nonetheless, Tennessee is in good shape with Bates and family. A Bates commitment would further validate the positive direction this program is heading.
2) David Cornwell. Cornwell is one of the top 2014 quarterback prospects in the country. From Norman, Oklahoma, it is interesting that Cornwell will likely wind up playing college football anywhere but Norman. Cornwell is a big kid with a nice arm. Though he is not the top 2014 on my board, he is the top quarterback on Butch Jones’ board and his board matters more than mine. I tell you what I like about Cornwell. He isn’t scared to compete. The depth chart at Tennessee doesn’t scare him at all. Recruiting analysts say Cornwell is down to two schools (Alabama and Tennessee). These experts further say Cornwell’s decision will likely be made by how he performs at Alabama’s quarterback camp in early June. If he performs well and receives a committable offer from Alabama, these experts say Cornwell will pick Alabama. Maybe. Though in my opinion, Cornwell to Alabama is far from a slam dunk. Tennessee is more than a fall back plan for Cornwell in the event he doesn’t get his Alabama offer. Cornwell has had great visits to Tennessee and is not scared off by the appearance of Tennessee or any other school having a logjam of scholarship quarterbacks already on campus. Georgia and Virginia Tech are in the mix for Cornwell too. A commitment for David Cornwell would be huge for those like me who are unsure if Tennessee has its quarterback of the future on scholarship right now.
3) Rashaan Gaulden. Gaulden is a 4 star, highly regarded defensive back from Independence High School in the Nashville area. Important to note about Gaulden. Tennessee’s evaluation of Gaulden has him rated very high on their board on par with current commitments like Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelley, Jr. Members of Tennessee’s staff believe by the end of the football season Gaulden will be in the conversation as the best 2014 prospect in the state. Gaulden has blossomed into a national prospect. Schools like Miami, Florida State and others are hot on his trail. I continue to be told Tennessee is in good shape here. A commitment from Gaulden would give this class another versatile option in a defensive secondary that is woefully short on athleticism and speed You could project Gaulden as an early contributor in 2014 if he chooses Tennessee.
4) Michael Sawyer, Defensive Tackle. Nashville Ensworth. My criticisms of Butch Jones’ recruiting have been limited. However, here are two of them. First, my primary criticism of Tennessee’s 2014 recruiting class is not one defensive lineman has jumped on board and 2) with Tennessee’s glaring need next season for interior defensive line and a prospect like Sawyer 150 miles away why wait so long to offer him a scholarship?
The reasons why I believe a commitment from Michael Sawyer would get this recruiting class jump started again are 1) a commitment from a prospect like Sawyers would help ease a concern many VOL fans have regarding the ability of this staff to land defensive lineman. 2) Sawyers is a quality in state prospect. Historically, the state of Tennessee hasn’t produced many defensive tackles plus it has been hard for Tennessee to pull quality defensive tackles from other states. Why perform exhaustive recruiting searches in other states when you have an SEC level defensive tackle, a position of need, 150 miles away.; and, 3) a commitment from Sawyers would also pluck a highly regarded prospect, who Vanderbilt would love to have, right out from under their nose.
5) Patera Wilson. Wilson is a 4 star linebacker from the Memphis area. Landing Wilson would be huge for the following reasons. Wilson is coveted by Tennessee as well as schools like Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Ohio State, and LSU. It has been no secret Tennessee has experienced one problem after another recruiting kids in West Tennessee. Much like fending off Alabama for Memphis defensive lineman and now Tennessee signee Jason Carr, landing Wilson would make a statement to the high school coaches in West Tennessee, the rest of the SEC “WHO HAVE HAD THEIR WAY IN MEMPHIS FOR YEARS”, and other rivals that Tennessee is now relevant in Memphis again. I give Butch Jones a fighter’s chance with Patera Wilson. A commitment from Wilson would further validate Butch Jones in west Tennessee. Though many disagree, it is important for Tennessee to be a prominent recruiting force in west Tennessee.
6) Dewayne Hendrix. Hendrix is a 4 –star strong side defensive end from Fallon, Illinois. A commitment from Dewayne Hendrix would be every bit as important as any prospect (one through five) mentioned above. I believe it. Hendrix has offers from the likes of Florida, Ohio State, USC, many other SEC and Big 12 schools. 20 plus offers and counting. The reason Hendrix is huge for the class is for many of the reasons I mentioned for Michael Sawyers plus Hendrix appears physically ready to play in the SEC now. Tennessee loses all its experienced edge rushers and defenders after next season. Barring injury, Hendrix would be in the defensive line rotation early in 2014.
Notes for Folks
1) I didn’t include wide receiver Josh Malone in my slump buster discussion above. The prospects above are likely to make their decisions sooner than later. Malone, a big time target, is not expected to make a decision until well into the fall.
2) Tennessee fans should start coming to grips with the fact that Nashville, Tennessee, is becoming the new Atlanta. There is a reason Butch Jones has assigned 2 VOL assistants to recruit the Nashville area. There is also a reason Butch Jones takes advantage of every media opportunity he can in the mid-state. In terms of growth, Nashville is simply exploding. Over the next few years, Nashville will become a hotbed for future college athletes in all sports not just football. This is good and bad. Good in the respect the athletic opportunities available for kids will only serve to improve the quality of athlete the area produces. Bad from the position that many families moving into the Nashville area likely do not have any allegiance to Tennessee football.
Like Atlanta, expect the football talent in Nashville to get better and better. You already see that. The 2015 crop of football prospects the mid-state is producing already looks deeper and better than the 2014 recruiting class. Though it’s early, the 2016 class may even be better. Like Atlanta, expect college football recruiters to literally camp out in the mid-state in the future. Look for Tennessee to be in a dogfight for each and every high profile prospect the area produces. The flagship university in Georgia doesn’t get every great prospect the Atlanta area produces…. but they get their share. Tennessee , in order to get the program back to relevance, will need to get its fair share of prospects out of the Nashville area this year and in years to come produces…. plus a couple more.
3) Speaking of getting the Tennessee program back to relevance. Here is something that gives me a glimmer of hope. Notice Tennessee is not competing with likes of Conference USA or directional schools for prospects. Tennessee is now regularly banging heads with Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Georgia, Florida State and other like schools for kids. Consider the kicking specialist who just committed to Tennessee. He had offers from Texas A&M and Oklahoma plus Ohio State is on the verge of offering the kid a scholarship. Tennessee seems to be winning a few of the these battles now. As Tennessee fans, we haven’t been used to that in the last few years. All you can ask is for Butch Jones to compete for the best prospects that fit his system and win as many of these battles as he can …
4) Think June is a busy month for Tennessee? Get a look at a few things going on.
a) Football camps begin on June 1 and run periodically through early July. Tennessee has evaluated a number of prospects during this spring. Many of these prospects will be attending a Tennessee camp looking to earn a scholarship.
b) Tennessee defensive back target Cortez McDowell will be visiting. Tennessee has been at the top of McDowell’s list February. Oh there will be more targets on campus, McDowell is huge one.
c) Rumored that Tennessee targets quarterback David Cornwell, defensive lineman DeWayne Hendrix, linebacker Greg MicLisse, outside linebacker/defensive end KeShun Freeman, and wide receiver Demarre Kitt will be announcing their decisions.
d) Possible that Dillon Bates could do the same.
e) Junior College targets offensive lineman Dontavious Blair and Chad Mavety, defensive lineman DeVonte Lambert, and running back Akeem Judd are scheduled to be on campus for visits
5) Speaking of Junior College prospects. Tennessee has been scouring the country for junior college defensive lineman. While two have been offered, I don’t think Tennessee is in very good shape with either. Evaluations of junior college defensive lineman will continue. Prospects like Corey Richardson from Los Angeles Pierce Community College, Thomas Coronado from the College of Fresno (December graduate with three to play two), Rika Lava from the College of San Mateo, and Victor Vernon from Deana Community College are just a sampling of JUCO defensive lineman that will continue to be evaluated. Vernon is intriguing. He is a disruptive type of defensive lineman. Originally from the south (South Carolina) who too is a December graduate with three years to play two).
Going a little third person this morning. I should say right up front X is not a big fan of Rivals and their ratings. Hey, it is the end of May and there is not much going on so why not pour through their updated 100 top 2014 prospects.
In my opinion, services that promote a philosophy of prejudicing their ratings in favor of prospects that participate in their camps versus those that either cant or choose not to is not a service that I take seriously.
Let’s look at the prospects in the top 100 Tennessee is not only recruiting but has a legitimate shot (at least at May 21st) at landing.
First, before I get started, all I will say about this is…..I find it hard to believe there are 5 running backs in America that better prospects than Jalen Hurd. He comes at #19 and would likely be rated higher if he was attending Rivals camp which he hasn’t yet this spring.
The first legitimate target is rated #20 Jalen Tabor a cornerback from Washington DC. Tennessee has a commitment from Tabor’s teammate D’Andre Payne. Tabor recently released his top 8 and Tennessee made his cut.
The #1 wide receiver on Tennessee’s board is Josh Malone #38. Malone, an in state prospect holds over 30 offers, will likely see his stock continue to rise during the summer as he camps and continues to visit schools. His recruitment can still be labeled as wide open . However, Tennessee is right in the middle of it. Malone is an early enrollee too so we’ll know about where Malone is going to school sooner than later.
Jalyn Holmes #48 is one of Tennessee’s top targets at defensive end. Holmes has been receptive to Tennessee so far and has struck up a good relationship with Tommie Thigpen. Key will be getting Holmes back to campus this summer.
Tennessee made linebacker Korie Rogers’ (#52) top three schools. However, Tennessee still has work to do here.
Tennessee likes inside linebacker Clifton Garrett from Joliet, Illinois (#55). Need to get him on campus this summer before I believe Tennessee has a real shot at landing Garrett.
Need I say anything about #59 Dillon Bates. Still find it very hard to imagine there are #58 better high schools prospects across the land than Dillon Bates.
Appears Tennessee is in the top two for #66 rated quarterback David Cornwell from Norman, Oklahoma. I will have more on Cornwell later this week. I think Tennessee is more in the mix with Cornwell than others think.
Tennessee is a finalist from wide receiver #68 Demarre Kitt from Tyrone, Georgia. Josh Malone (#38) is clearly the #1 wide receiver prospect on Tennessee’s board. Kitt’s finalist are Clemson, Tennessee, and Ohio State. I tend to believe Kitt is headed to Clemson or Ohio State not Tennessee.
Tennessee has made runs at Georgia running backs Nick Chubb(370) and Adam Choice (#76). With Tennessee already having Hurd and Treyvon Paulk committed, I think Choice and Chubb will likely end up playing their college football at some other venue.
Tennessee has made a run at Linebacker Nyles Morgan (#83) from Crete , Illinois and Defensive Tackle Thomas Holley (#84) Brooklyn, New York. Both talk favorably about Tennessee but Tennessee needs to get these prospects to campus this summer before I will believe there is legitimate interest. Holley is a very intriguing prospect having only played organized football for really less than one year and already has close to 20 offers from schools all over the country.
Tennessee is battling Mississippi State for in state linebacker Patera Wilson (#85) from Memphis, Tennessee. I think Mississippi State and Tennessee are his top two schools and the key to Tennessee landing Wilson is getting him and family to campus multiple times during the summer and fall.
Prospects like offensive lineman like Isaiah Wynn (#89), Andy Bauer (#95), Jamarco Jones (#97), and Steven Moss (#100) all are prospects Tennessee that have Tennessee offers but I believe it is a long shot for Tennessee to land any of the above.
I purposely didn’t list cornerback Adoree Jackson (#9). Jackson is a talented football and track athlete. He has talked of visiting Tennessee but I don’t see Tennessee being a serious player for Jackson. Two reasons. I don’t see Jackson leaving the west coast plus as an accomplished track athlete he wants to run track in college. Tennessee’s track program is frankly in shambles right now. Tennessee will not be able to land athletes like Jackson until the track program is fixed.
Also, Tennessee is trying to get involved with defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (#34) from Virginia. However, right now, Tennessee is a long shot there.
More to come later this week.
'Later this week (Thursday I believe), Tennessee offensive line target Orlando Brown is expected to announce where he plans to attend college. Brown, from Duluth, Georgia (Peachtree Ridge High School), is a mountain of a kid. Not even 17 years of age yet, this kid stands almost 6'8" and weighs somewhere around 350 to 360 pounds or more. You probably know his name. Brown's father was an NFL lineman also known for his massive girth. You would expect this kid to continue to grow
If you keep up with recruiting, it would be a shock if Brown did not pick Tennessee. First, he loves Tennessee. He has been on campus twice and has struck up a nice relationship with the coaching staff and a number of Tennessee players and commitments from the Atlanta area. Next, he is a smart kid. He knows what Tennessee is losing next season across the offensive line. He also sees there isn’t much behind the guys that are leaving. Tennessee is telling him he will have a chance to come in and compete for a starting position. The kid has good genes and definitely has talent to do so. Whether or not he can get himself in shape will determine how fast he gets on the field. His other two finalists according to the services are Oklahoma and Arkansas... two schools Brown has yet to visit.
This has been an odd recruitment. One which I have followed because I think this kid has a chance to be very good. Early on in December Brown announced 8 or 9 schools he considered his favorites. His initial list included Georgia and Florida. Florida at least early on seemed to be his presumptive leader. Then, in March, he shuffled the deck. His new list included Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Odd because none of the schools in his new list were on his original list.
Personally, I think some schools have not recruited Brown very hard because he is carrying a lot of bad weight. I feel certain many of these schools are concerned whether Brown has the discipline to get the weight off and keep it off. If he does and can, this kid has a chance to be a very good SEC offensive lineman. Brown has an A+ offer list with offers from many of the premier schools across the country.
I think a number of these schools want to see him back away from the table a bit before they get serious about recruiting him. Not Tennessee. Tennessee has been aggressively recruiting Brown. Tennessee sees Brown as a kid that can clear a path as a run blocking right tackle or if he loses 30 to 40 pounds and can keep it off could ultimately replace Antonio Richardson.
Watch his tape and you can see the talent and athleticism this kid possesses. He stonewalls virtually every kid he competes against in these camps. For a kid that has grown this much this fast and as massive as he stands, he has very good footwork. The biggest concern about Brown will remain does he have the discipline to get himself in shape to play in Butch Jones' fast paced offense.
For the star gazers, Brown is a 3 star prospect who has probably eaten himself out of being a 4-star prospect. If he starts getting his body in shape and dominates like expected this summer and fall, he'll likely gain another star. He will also continue to attract attention from the better programs in college football.
'I’m glad Tennessee made his commitment conditional on Jackson getting his academics in order and being able to get in school by January.
I have changed my mind on Jackson. Jackson is exactly what this receiving corps needs. Jackson is a dawg.... a football player. This team needs a few more dawgs and not so many choirboys.
Could be a fairly interesting month of May recruiting wise based upon what I'm hearing and seeing.....
Tennessee finally offered in state defensive tackle Michael Sawyers from Nashville Ensworth. This should have happened weeks if not months ago. Hope Tennessee hasn’t allowed Ole Miss to get out in front too much with Sawyers.
Butch Jones made no secret of the fact that since National Signing Day came and went Tennessee would still be looking to add players to the 2013 class who can contribute next season. The weekend commitment of Jonathan Johnson, a slot receiver/running back/return specialist, from BLINN Community College makes all the sense in the world. The commitment of Johnson is directly related to the coaching staff's disappointment with the wide receiver group during the spring. Specifically, the group lacks speed to compete in the SEC and again the group had trouble catching the ball on a consistent basis. To be honest, I don’t think Butch Jones had any choice but to go out and try to find a kid like Johnson and maybe one more.
Other than a stellar offensive line what does Tennessee have on offense coming out of spring practice? Doesn’t appear there is a SEC tight end on the roster. The best chances of help there this fall are a converted volleyball player (Quinn) and a converted undersized spread option quarterback (King); already mentioned the wide receivers; lack of SEC level running backs on the roster including questions on two players being depended on for depth; and, for an offense that relies on explosive slot receivers who can catch the ball it appears Tennessee has neither.
This commitment confirms to me incoming prospects like Ryan Jenkins, Marquez North and new commitment Jonathan Johnson, if he gets to campus, are all going to be looked to for immediate help. If you like to connect the dots like I do, the commitment of Johnson speaks volumes about the status of running back signee Jabo Lee. Hope I am wrong about Lee.
Jonathan Johnson is speed guy. You can get the ball to in so many different ways on offense plus he is a punt and kickoff return specialist...again just one more thing the 2013 Tennessee team appears to be lacking. He is a small guy so you worry about how many hits his frame can withstand.
According to his high school coach, Johnson was a full academic qualifier out of high school. This would mean if true Johnson's academic hurdle would not be with the NCAA clearinghouse but with Tennessee admissions (which scares me more than the Clearinghouse does) .
Quarterback - (Wide Open). Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson have their noses in the playbook as we speak. Personally, don’t think quarterback of future is on campus yet. Peterman and Worley had 15 practices to separate themselves. All either one did was perform so poorly that talk show hosts have an immediate show topic that will be sure to light up the phones at a moment’s notice during the next 4 months
Running Back - Hill/Neal. Neal will play a role. Until he makes a commitment to run between the tackles (or someone gets hurt), he will never be the clear cut #1. Hill is a tougher runner. If Dyer makes it to campus, it is three man race
Slot - Young/Howard/Jenkins. Need one or two of these three to catch the ball consistently
Wide Receivers - Not sure how to rank this group. Along with quarterback, this group was the most disappointing of the spring. The quarterbacking this spring was bad but the receivers didn’t help out the quarterbacks either.
My top guys are Croom/Blanc/Harris/Dallas/North (in no particular order). Croom showed more playmaking ability than any other receiver. Troubling that Croom seems to be a bit injury prone early in his career at Tennessee. Blanc made huge improvements this spring. Harris will be ok in time. I hope North is as good as advertised.
LT - Tiny
RT - James
C - Stone (Crowder could start and Stone could move to guard)
LG - Jackson (maybe best run blocker on offensive line)
RG - Fulton (will be pushed by Bullard and Stone as Crowder continues to emerge at center)
Backups - Alex Bullard. Mac Crowder, and Kyler Kerbyson are all capable backups. Bullard is first back up off the bench but Crowder and Kerbyson are growing into good SEC lineman. Others have a ways to go
Tight End - Justin King (One of best offensive performers of spring), Woody Quinn, and walk on Alex Ellis (deserves it)
Defensive Ends - (Walls and Miller). You will see a lot of rotation at defensive end. Walls lacks speed and Miller has been a disappointment. Smith makes a big play now and then but if the light comes on could be a difference maker. Where is Jordan Williams? About to get recruited over. The young guys are where the explosive plays on the defensive line will come from. Can’t wait to see LaTroy Lewis and Corey Vereen. Jaylen Miller's forte in high school was rushing the passer. Malik Brown is a speed edge/type rusher. Both will get a chance.
Defensive Tackles - McCullers needs to drop another 15 to 20 pounds. As much as I question Coach Stripling's recruiting ability, I think he has connected with McCullers and I look for him to have a good season. Mo Couch and Daniel Hood are both capable and need to play to their ability. Tennessee has some depth here .Daniel O'Brien (had a good spring), Tevaris Saulsberry, and incoming freshman Jason Carr all will play.
Outside - Three good ones. Curt Maggitt, Brent Brewer and Dontavious Sapp. These kids must stay healthy. Not much experience or play making ability behind them. I couldn’t tell you who would be first off the bunch in the event of an injury. My thought is out of necessity Jalen Reeves-Maybin may have to play closer to the line of scrimmage his first year in the program. Speaking of injury. We should hope Curt Maggitt's rehab is going well.
Inside - AJ Johnson. Hoping Channing Fugate can provide some help for depth purposes.
Bad news at linebacker. No help coming in June either. Vereen was the only linebacker signed and he has been moved to defensive end.
I think Riyadh Jones and Justin Coleman will be in the mix to start. Incoming freshman Malik Foreman and Cameron Sutton will get every opportunity. Daniel Gray will be in the mix for playing time too. Gray has a chance to be really good. He has all the tools. The light just needs to come on Daniel Gray.
I do like the safeties. Byron Moore, Brian Randolph, LaDarrell McNeill are very capable safeties. I wish each was a half step faster. Hopefully, they will play faster in a more player friendly defensive scheme compared to last season. All three will play plenty of snaps. Lemond Johnson and Jalen Reeves-Maybin have no choice but to get themselves ready to play.
I just can’t see many incoming defensive players redshirting unless there are injuries.
Butch Jones is going to cap off an encouraging start to his tenure at Tennessee with just an outstanding group of 2014, 2015, and 2016 prospects planning on attending the Orange & White Game.
Of course, you lead off by most of not all the current 2014 commitments and even 2015 commitment Zack Stewart will be on hand.
I have to say impressed that a number of key defensive line targets are planning to be on campus. Prospects like in state prospect Derek Barnett (who I have written about previously), Dewayne Hendrix, KeShun Freeman (one to watch this weekend), Deontre Anderson (from Mississippi) defensive tackles Ricky Walker (Virginia) and Poona Ford (South Carolina) is also scheduled to be in town. Here is hoping that in state defensive tackle prospect Michael Sawyers make the trip down I-40 from Nashville to Knoxville. Kid is a player.
Others scheduled to be in town include a number of really nice looking athlete type prospects including Alabama prospect Tevin Madison, Georgia athlete Terry Googer, Georgia athlete Myron Burton, Georgia athlete extraordinaire Stanton Truitt (another one to watch).
Others coming include Georgia defensive backs Nick Glass (believe it when I see it), Cortez McDowell, DJ Smith, Wesley Green ; at least two really nice offensive lineman Orlando Brown and Christian Taylor. I would look for a number of in state lineman to be on campus as well. Brown and Taylor are notable
Speaking of in state I would expect mid-state standout Rashaun Gaulden to be on campus (Tennessee appears to be in good position with Gaulden), west Tennessee athlete Nick McLilly; and west Tennessee linebacker Trey Moore
Also, David Cornwell who appears to be Tennessee #1 quarterback target plans on being on campus Sunday. Think Alabama will be hard to overcome but it is a positive that Cornwell is coming in for an unofficial on Sunday.
Some other notables include South Carolina running back Caleb Kinlaw, and Florida linebacker Greg Miclisse. I think Tennessee leads for both of these kids. Miclisse may be the one closer to pulling the trigger than Kinlaw.
Bunch of 2015 kids will be here as well including new commitment Zach Stewart, Knoxville product Brandt Mitchell, Lenoir City athlete Jaylond Woods; mid-state kids like CJ Sanders and Jonathan Johnson as well.
The class of 2016 will be represented as well including Knoxville’s Daryl Middleton
Expect a few commitments out of this group this weekend
People seem to believe wide receiver targets Demarre Kitt or Dominque Booth are close to or may be ready to commit to Tennessee. Some have suggested one or both could go public at or shortly after the Orange & White game. I don’t see it. Here is why.
Kitt and Booth are great wide receiver prospects. Make no mistake about it though, Josh Malone, from the mid state, is the #1 wide receiver target on Tennessee's board. Malone is an elite talent who has the potential to be one of the best to ever go through Tennessee .. if he ends up at Tennessee. That is not my opinion. This comes from someone close to it.
Tennessee will refrain from taking a taking a commitment from any other wide receiver until Josh Malone makes his decision either to commit to Tennessee or go in a different direction. I get it Tennessee needs more than 1 down the field threat. Tennessee doesn’t want to give its competition for Malone anything that can be used against them or put them at a recruiting disadvantage in its pursuit of Malone. He is that good of a prospect.
With Kitt, I personally don’t think he signs with Tennessee. I think he is having fun with the process and loves the attention. Hey, he is a wide receiver what do you expect. Booth is a great prospect. If I'm Tennessee, I would have a tough time holding Booth at bay if he was ready to commit. Malone has a chance to be a very special player.
Now, if a slot receiver/athlete type is ready to pull the trigger like a Stanton Truitt or Miles Autry (both from Georgia) and both elite prospects in their own right then , you take them. Truitt and Autry are being recruited for different roles than Malone. Neither one of these prospects making a public commitment to Tennessee hurts you with Malone.
Guess you could call me “that guy”. I am usually “that guy” who, during slow recruiting times, tells everyone be patient it is only April there is a loooooong way to go until National Signing Day. But now X is “that guy” for another reason. I come to you to try and temper expectations.
Tennessee fans have every right to be excited with Butch Jones. It has been said here time and time again. Even though he can’t win or lose a game now, Jones has the current players, fan base, and prospects excited about Tennessee football.
Heck I am as excited about the future as the next VOL. I am also excited because if the former regime were still in place recruiting would absolutely be a dumpster fire (sorry just can’t help myself).
Hey, I get the excitement. 8 commitments, 6 skill position players, 3 of which are VOL legacies (who can really play by the way) kids, and the commitments are highly rated prospects (high 3 and 4 star rated prospects). Depending on the service you follow, Tennessee has a top 5 recruiting class right now. Tennessee fans should expect more good news soon ... as in the two next two weeks. Don't be surprised if another 4 prospects go public with their commitment to Tennessee by the Orange & White Game.
Honestly, I can see most of the current commitments getting bumped a star (from 3 to 4 or 4 to 5) by one or more of the recruiting services before all is said and done. This is all good......
With all these receivers and backs committed, Tennessee would be in great shape for a skills competition and herein lies X’s rub. SEC games are won and lost by being faster, bigger, tougher, and deeper at the line of scrimmage than the opponent. So, I have to be “that guy” who tries to get everyone to reset their VOL gage. Excited yes but I need to see more. Butch Jones will get me to pay more attention to the 2014 recruiting cycle when I start seeing offensive and defensive lineman jump on board. Heck, right now, I would take seeing more than a couple show real, legitimate interest in Tennessee.
Tennessee has one offensive lineman is committed and a tight end (who personally to me looks like a better offensive tackle than tight end). Tennessee needs more of these.
Since the staff was finalized, I openly questioned whether Butch Jones assembled a staff with enough recruiting horsepower to win the big recruiting battles for SEC caliber prospects especially offensive and defensive lineman. There is nothing in the past that indicates the position coaches primarily responsible for recruiting these two positions are up to it.
In fairness, the only sample size we have is the month of January 2013. It is unfair to draw a conclusion based upon a small samples size even though I have. The result in January suggests reason for concern. I have seen very little to date that gives me a level of comfort offensive and defensive line difference makers are lining up to come to Tennessee.
Tennessee is in great shape with a number of prospects. The prospects that favor Tennessee are skewed toward the specialist’s positions. Some balance is all I'm looking for.
Tennessee has scholarship athletes that can play on both sides of the line of scrimmage this upcoming season. The "physical cliff" for Tennessee comes after the last down is played in 2013. Forgive me if my count is wrong but you'll get the idea. Tennessee will lose its top 6 offensive lineman to graduation (or the NFL draft) and 6 or more along the defensive line.
Butch Jones doesn’t want to build a program this way. However, out of necessity, Tennessee will be very active in the JUCO ranks this recruiting cycle. No choice but to go grab JUCOs than can get into school January 2014 and get on the field in September of 2014. Tennessee's history recruiting JUCOs has been mixed at best.
Butch Jones sees it and fans will see it soon enough. This team, at seemingly every position, needs an overhaul. If memory serves, Tennessee can sign 30 or 31 prospects in 2014 provided 6 or more commitments can enroll in school come January 2014.
I bet if you ask Butch Jones he would tell you privately he would sign 41 this recruiting cycle if he could.
Back to our lone offensive line commitment. Give credit where credit is due. Coleman Thomas is a good one. To me, Coleman Thomas is analogous to Alabama signing Barrett Jones. I think Thomas has a chance to be that good and before his career is over. During his career, Thomas may wind up being a big time contributor at more than one position on the offensive line.
You came here looking for news about offensive and defensive line recruiting, So, let's hit it. It is good year for in state lineman. Tennessee needs to take advantage of that. Tennessee is well positioned with a few and is evaluating a few more in state kids. Plus, Tennessee has invited a number of in state lineman an opportunity to earn scholarships at summer camps.
Alex Bars. Nashville. Bars is likely the #1 high school offensive line target remaining on Tennessee’s board. Bars is one of top prospects in the state of Tennessee. Make no secret about it, he has the build and intangibles to step in and play fairly early in his college career. I have already written that Bars has ties to Big Ten schools and is a Notre Dame legacy. Even before Butch Jones walked on campus, Bars had visited Tennessee and liked what he saw. He was on campus again this spring and was even more impressed. Tennessee wants Bars and Butch Jones has made it known he is a priority. I don’t know if Tennessee can overcome Bars' connection to Notre Dame.
With respect to other in state offensive linemen, I do think there are a at least three (probably more) that have a shot at playing at the SEC level. Prospects that fall into this category are Matthew Pyke (Andersonville); Bruno Reagan (Clarksville); and, Paul Adams (Nashville). Reagan and Adams are intriguing. Reagan because he is flying under the radar but the kid knows how to play low and can play either offensive or defensive line. Adams because he is long, athletic, and right now because of basketball he is skinny. Adams is a two sport star in high school and because of basketball has a tough time keeping weight on. This staff is allegedly full of good evaluators. Let’s see what happens when Adams get to camp this summer.
Dontavious Blair. Speaking of JUCOs, Blair is a junior college offensive tackle who is at the tip top of Tennessee’s list. Blair is large (6’8” 300 plus), athletic, on target to graduate in December, from Anniston, Alabama, and has a long time relationship with Assistant Coach Tommie Thigpen. Tennessee is in good shape here. Alabama is in it with Blair as is Ole Miss. Blair is an offensive lineman who I think Tennessee has a decent shot with.
Speaking of JUCO offensive lineman, Tennessee has offered JUCO offensive lineman Chad Mavety. No question that Blair is their Number 1 JUCO target. Here are a few JUCO offensive lineman Tennessee is "evaluating" but have not offered. Avery Gennesy(East Mississippi);DeAndre Herron (Iowa Western); and Justin Scott(Pierce Community College).
I know people say Tennessee is in good shape with Duluth, Georgia offensive lineman Orlando Brown. Brown is coveted by every school in the Southeast. To Jones’ credit, he has gotten Brown to visit campus during a Junior Day. Nothing I am hearing about Brown's recruitment leads me to believe Tennessee can beat out Georgia or Alabama for Brown.
Same with DeMatha, Maryland offensive lineman Brock Ruble. Ruble has upwards of 20 offers including one from Tennessee. If Ruble gets to Tennessee for the spring game and he gets back to campus during the summer, I will like Tennessee chances a little better.
Tennessee is in a bit better shape with defensive lineman. Let’s run through a few names.
Derek Barnett, Brentwood Academy, Brentwood. Barnett is one of the highest rated prospects in the state and has already established himself as a national recruit. Tennessee has promised Barnett an opportunity either tight end or defensive end if he were to choose Tennessee. Just my opinion but Barnett has a chance to be a moneymaker as a defensive end beyond his college days. Barnett's recruitment has a long way to go. Initially, it appeared to be a Tennessee/Vanderbilt battle for Barnett. Then, LSU offered and Ohio State is in there as well. Tennessee appears to be right in the thick of Barnett's recruitment but there is a long way to go. Barnett is a big-time talent.
Petera Wilson, Memphis White Station. Wilson is one of the top 2014 prospects in the Memphis area. Wilson is a linebacker in high school and is being recruited as one by most schools. Although not an expert, Wilson appears to me to be a prospect that may grow out of a linebacker body and into a college defensive end when introduced to a college level strength and conditioning program. There are a number of Tennessee influences around Wilson influences LSU, Ohio State, and Alabama are going to be formidable for Tennessee to overcome.
Michael Sawyer. Sawyer, from Nashville Ensworth, is the best defensive tackle prospect in the state for 2014. Frankly, it is puzzling based on Tennessee's need for defensive lineman why he doesn’t have an offer. Been lead to believe that will change soon. I have said this before for a high school defensive tackle Sawyer plays with excellent technique and has very good use of his hands in shedding blocks. He could teach a couple of current Tennessee tackles a few things about playing low and shedding blocks.
Dewayne Hendrix. Technically, Hendrix is not an instate prospect. He goes to high school in O’Fallon, Illinois, (he moved there from the Memphis area during childhood). Hendrix has family still in Tennessee. Hendrix, a strong side end, is right atop Tennessee’s defensive end board with Derek Barnett. With Hendrix, there are people who cover recruiting who believe Tennessee leads with Hendrix. Tennessee did offer early. Since the Tennessee offer, Hendrix begin to attract attention from schools all across the country. I hesitate to say Tennessee is the leader here but Tennessee will have a good shot with Hendrix.
Now here are a few defensive line prospects from outside the area. I try to only list kids where Tennessee has some semblance of a shot right now.
Poona Ford, Defensive tackle, Myrtle Beach, SC. Mixed reports here. Some say Tennessee. Some say South Carolina. Here is the deal. The days of Tennessee going into South Carolina on a regular basis are in the rear view mirror. I am saying South Carolina until I see something that changes my tune. Haven’t seen that yet.
Chris Williams, Defensive tackle, Sandy Creek, Georgia. Tennessee likes Williams. he has an offer and has already been on campus. Tennessee expects Williams back over the summer. Tennessee is no better than third in the Chris Williams sweepstakes trailing the likes of Ole Miss, Ohio State and Georgia when they get serious about recruiting this kid.
Tennessee is recruiting a number of other defensive tackles like Daniel Cage and Enoch Jones from the Midwest. Butch Jones' relationship with these prospects go back to his days at Cincinnati. You don’t know how serious either prospect is about Tennessee until they make it to campus. Travonte Valentine is a defensive tackle from Florida who says he is interested. I would like to have a nickel for every south Florida prospect that loves Tennessee and actually winds up visiting. If he is worth his salt, one of the big three schools in Florida will be the landing spot for Valentine. There is also a defensive tackle in South Carolina Tennessee is evaluating but has offered named Naquez Pringle.
With respect to defensive ends, I do believe North Carolina defensive end Lorenzo Featherstone likes Tennessee. and will be back on campus for additional visits Featherstone was on campus last weekend and loved his visit. Featherstone is an athletic freak but physically he needs to add a lot of weight to be ready to fend off defensive tackles game in and game out in the SEC.
Defensive end, Keshaun Freeman from Hogansville, Georgia. Freeman is a weak side end who Tennessee has a great chance to land. Interest in Freeman has steadily increased as Freeman has recently picked up offers from Miami and Stanford. Other SEC schools are evaluating Freeman. Here’s hoping Freeman makes it in for the Orange & White game. If he makes his decision soon, Tennessee could be in a good spot.
It would be huge for Tennessee if Norfolk defensive end Jalyn Holmes makes its it down I-81 for the O&W game like many anticipate. Holmes is a national recruit and has offers from everywhere. Tennessee is making a concerted effort to target this recruiting rich area lead by Tommie Thigpen. Right now, Holmes seems to have a legitimate interest.
As I said, expect Tennessee to go hard after JUCO defensive lineman. One offer is already out to a JUCO defensive tackle Davonte Lambert from Georgia Military College. Though not offered yet but being evaluated are Antonio Guy from College of the Canyons (originally from South Carolina); Xavier Dampeer from Copiah-Lincoln; and, Victor Vernon from DeAnza. The focus with the JUCO prospects is one prospects that can be reasonably expected to graduate in December and be on campus in January.
Tennessee has offered prospects like crazy. Offers have leveled off of late. Once spring practice ends and spring evaluation begins, get ready for another run of offers. Tennessee is off to a great start in recruiting but when you peel back the onion there is still plenty of work to do.
Butch Jones got his tight end. 3 star tight end Ethan Wolf committed to Tennessee earlier Wednesday. Wolf is a 6'6" 240 lbs tight end/defensive end from Minster, Ohio. Simply put, regardless of what anyone says, Tennessee got their guy. They love him and Wolf is the #1 tight end on Tennessee's board.
Wolf plays tight end and defensive end in high school. At Tennessee, Wolf is all tight end all the way. He is a downfield threat who probably won’t run away from anyone but has good hands is a tough kid to bring down by one tackler.
Wolf has over 20 offers. Arkansas, Michigan State and Nebraska were Tennessee's main competitors for Wolf. The bigger schools such as Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State haven’t pulled the trigger with offers. I still feel Tennessee will have to recruit this kid hard until he shows up for school in January or signs his LOI in February 2014.
Butch Jones has a history of making tight ends an integral part of the offense. They obviously love what they see in Wolf. As I mentioned, Wolf is still growing and he'll likely receive attention from of the larger BIG -12 schools and probably SEC schools as we get through the summer and into the football season. I still expect Tennessee to take one more tight end in this class in addition to Ethan Wolf.
Tomorrow I return with a huge report for your eyes only.
Dear X: What's up with Josh Malone and Charles Mosley. They seem to be the 2 big time in state recruits who don't have the Vols as a leader.
Austin, thanks for checking in. This is how I will answer your question.
1) Josh Malone. Personally, I believe Josh Malone is one of the state's top two football prospects (the other is Rashaun Gaulden). If you have watched any of the practices or scrimmages, the first thing that jumps out at you is that Tennessee doesn't have a wide receiver on campus right now who can stretch the field. The big play receiver is just not there. Josh Malone is the type of big play, down the field Tennessee's offense requires in order to make this offense click. Tennessee covets Josh Malone and is making him a priority. However, Malone continues to receive interest and offers from schools all over the country. If my count is correct, Malone is over 30 offers now. Malone is not going to be in a hurry to make a decision. I think Tennessee will be involved but I don't think it is anywhere near a lock for Malone to choose Tennessee like many believe. I will be honest with you. If Malone was on campus as a scholarship player right now, it would be hard to keep him off the field.
2) Charles Mosley. Lineman on both sides of the ball are a priority in 2014. Mosley is a prospect that can play either. Alabama is recruiting Mosley as an offensive lineman. Tennessee is recruiting Mosley as a defensive lineman. Alabama was way ahead of Tennessee in identifying Mosley as a prospect and was the first school to offer Mosley. Tennessee to their credit has made up ground. In the end, it is tough for me to see Tennessee beating out Alabama for Mosley unless two things happen. First, if for some reason, Mosley wants to commit to Alabama and Alabama asks him to slow his recruitment down (Alabama could do this if they believe there is a chance for them to land a prospect at the same position rated higher on their board) and/or, 2) Tennessee wins a few games they aren't suppose to. Signs that Butch Jones gets is turning things around sooner than later plus the lure of immediate playing time may be too much to overcome.
Working on a report for tomorrow or Friday.
Tennessee will host another large group of visitors this weekend. Here are a few of the headliners.
The headline visitor this weekend is Quarterback Drew Barker from Hebron, Kentucky. Barker is the #1 prospect in the state of Kentucky for 2014 and one of the top quarterback prospects in the country. Barker will be on campus Friday and will take in practice Saturday. Barker can go anywhere in the country to play football next season. Tennessee is right in the middle of this recruitment. You have to like where you stand with a prospect when they come in a stay for a weekend.
Daniel Helm tight end prospect from Chatham, Illinois is also expected on campus. Helm is 6'4" 220 lbs. I really like Helm as a down the field pass catching tight end. Michigan and UCLA will be tough to beat for Helm. Helm has a nice looking offer list.
Offensive/defensive lineman Bruno Reagan from Clarksville, Tennessee. Reagan is 6'4" 280 lbs. and growing. Reagan intrigues me. He is receiving lots of interest from schools but doesn’t have many offers to show for it. He can play guard or defensive tackle both huge positions of need for Tennessee. Will be interested to see if he leaves with an offer or whether the staff will want to see him at camp before they decide to offer.
Another interior offensive lineman Matthew Pyke from Andersonville will be on campus as well. You have to like Butch Jones going after these in state lineman
Safety/athlete Darius West from Lima, Ohio will also be in town. Love West's film. In my opinion, West looks like a high school defensive back that will grow into a college outside linebacker. He is fast, has a knack for the football, and plays for a good football program in Lima I think it is a stretch to think he winds up signing with Tennessee but you never know.
Wide receiver Dominique Booth from Indianapolis, Indiana will be on campus. Booth is the #1 prospect in Indiana at any position, a top 200 prospect in the country, and a consensus 4 star prospect across the board by all the recruiting services. Booth will be worth watching between now and the Orange & White game. Tennessee has been thought to be Booth's leader. Tennessee also seems to be in great shape with two other of the very best wide receiver prospects in the country I in Demarre Kitt (who was on campus earlier in the week and will be back for the Orange & White Game) and in state prospect Josh Malone who now holds something like 30 offers. Alabama offered Booth a scholarship earlier in the week.
'No question about it Butch Jones had a great junior day last Saturday. So far, each junior day Tennessee has put on since Butch Jones arrived on campus has been a success. The junior day last weekend was a success in every respect.
I don’t know if you remember but when the former regime would have these events you would always hear about one of two prospects and their families that made long drives to Knoxville and didn’t get to spend any time with the Head Coach or their position coach regardless of how many prospects were on campus. You don’t hear that nonsense with a Butch Jones event.
What I take from the weekend is the majority of prospects came away excited about Tennessee and the direction of the program. From people I have spoken with, it sounds like many Tennessee fans came away from the weekend disappointed.
Long ways until Signing Day. Regardless of what kind of start Butch Jones is off to (and let’s be honest it is good one), whether this is a good or great recruiting class will hinge on what happens on Saturdays during the fall. That, as they say, is just the way it is.
Outside of the obvious 3 in state prospects that have committed (Wharton, TK Jr., and Hurd), the most important commitment in this class to date is Coleman Thomas the offensive lineman from Virginia. Here to tell you this prospect is already being courted by everyone. For Tennessee, the recruiting of Coleman Thomas is not over because he committed to Tennessee….. it is only just beginning. Alabama wants him. So does LSU, Ohio State, Florida State and a dozen other schools and it is only March.
Wait until this kid is seen during spring evaluations and then at summer camps. I’m interested to see how Coach Jones and Coach Mahoney fair in a 9 month 24/7 recruiting battle to keep this kid.
Speak of fair, I understand Terry Fair is doing a fantastic job behind the scenes. Terry is limited to an on campus role of course but he is proving to be a very valuable resource in a number of ways. Just thought I would throw that out there.
Again, no question, Butch Jones is off to a great start recruiting. The hot start to recruiting for the 2014 class has gotten the attention of prospects, rivals, recruiting analysts all over the country, sportswriters, and more importantly a fan base who needed something to feel good about.
As I have told you before, Coach Jones will start getting my attention with respect to recruiting when he starts sprinkling in commitments from more offensive lineman, defensive ends, defensive tackles, and linebackers. Butch Jones success here will be measured more by how well he recruits these positions than it will be by how many in state prospects he signs.
Nice blog Wednesday from the VOL Colonel. However, disagree with him regarding the recruiting ability of the “some” of the coaching staff. Honestly, the jury is still out on whether a handful of coaches of Butch Jones’ staff can recruit at a level necessary to compete at a high level in the SEC. You know the coaches I have the concerns about. It's not necessary to rehash that here. There is no empirical evidence to suggest they can’t recruit at a SEC level but there is no empirical evidence to suggest they can either.
In fact, if you look at a snapshot of one month (January 2013), fair or unfair, I think it is a legitimate position to take that the jury is still out on both line coaches at a minimum. Two of the three offensive lineman signed are local kids that would have signed with Tennessee regardless of who the coach is and the other kid is from the Cincinnati area and had a preexisting relationship with Butch Jones and the staff.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt at best, the offensive line coach held onto what we had.
With respect to defensive line coach … much the same. Jason Carr was recruited by Coach Jones and Coach Elder, Malik Brown is here because of Coach Azzani, and Jaleyn Miller had been recruited for a couple of years by the now departed Jay Graham.
So, you can tell I'm not completely on board with Butch Jones' recruiting.... yet. (I think we need to settle down and see how he does recruiting linemen and linebackers).
Here is what I am on board with. Butch Jones is all over the in state 2015 and 2016 prospects. Jones has already offered about a half dozen in state prospects for 2015 most of whom will be national recruits this time next year.
Plus, I really like what he did getting an offer out to the Middleton kid over at Knoxville Powell High School. Great move offering the odds on top prospect in the state for 2016.
All I can say is this is quite an impressive run of junior days these last few weeks.
A few quick comments. X's version of News and Notes if you will.
Tennessee is hot on the recruiting circuit now no doubts about it. Not only with 2014 prospects but you should note a number of 2015 and even a couple of 2016 prospects will be on campus this weekend.
Darryl Middleton from Knoxville Powell, projected to be the #1 prospect in the state in 2016, will likely be making his second visit to campus in a short period of time.
The anticipation or expectation is Tennessee will walk away from the weekend with a commitment of two. Me? Here is what I hope for: defensive tackle prospects like Nashville Ensworth's Michael Sawyers and Elizabethtown, Kentucky's Matt Elam walk away not only impressed but with scholarship offers in hand; offensive tackle prospects like Peachtree, Georgia's Orlando Brown and JUCO Dontavious Blair , who have offers, come away from Saturday impressed too; Virginia defensive end Jalyn Holmes finds his way to campus; and, Washington DC Cornerback Jalen Tabor shows up with teammate D'Andre Payne.
Our list will change. The difference between this and the last say two or three years is Tennessee fans became programmed to expect prospects to say they were coming then not show. Now, you should expect more prospects show up than plus a bunch more as well.
Tennessee (Knoxville Powell) Darryl Middleton
Tennessee - Defensive Back Rico McGraw (one to watch)
Tennessee Offensive Lineman - Drew Richmond
Tennessee Linebacker/Athlete Josh Smith
Tennessee Linebacker - Cornelius Watson
Georgia Defensive End - Andrew Butcher
Tennessee Offensive Lineman - Drew Richmond
Tennessee Linebacker/Athlete Josh Smith
Tennessee Linebacker - Cornelius Watson
Georgia Defensive End - Andrew Butcher
Tennessee commitment Jalen Hurd
Tennessee commitment Todd Kelly, JR
Tennessee commitment Vic Wharton
Alabama Linebacker Deshaun Davis
Oklahoma Quarterback David Cornwell (Top 100 prospect)
Ohio Tight End/Defensive End Ethan Wolfe
Kentucky Defensive Tackle Matt Elam
Tennessee (Ensworth) Defensive tackle Michael Sawyers
Tennessee (Humboldt) Defensive End Keeyan James
Tennessee (Station Camp)Wide Receiver Josh Malone (Top 100 prospect)
Tennessee (Ensworth) linebacker /athlete D'Andre Ferby
Tennessee (East Hamilton) Tight End Bailey Lenoir
Tennessee (Giles County) Wide Receiver/Athlete Kenton Baker
Tennessee (White Station)Linebacker Patera Wilson
Tennessee (Oakland) Safety/Athlete Emmanual Smith
Tennessee (Montgomery Bell Academy) Offensive/Defensive Tackle Alex Bars
Tennessee (Independence) Defensive Back Rashaan Gaulden
Junior College Offensive Lineman Dontavius Blair (Top 10 2014 JUCO prospect)
Maryland Offensive Lineman Steven Moss
Georgia Wide Receiver Demarre Kitt
Georgia Wide Receiver Rashad Canty
Georgia Athlete Myles Autry
Georgia Defensive Tackle Kayton Samuels
Georgia Linebacker/Athlete Terry Googer
Georgia Running Back Sedrick Palmer
Georgia Linebacker Bradley Chubb
Georgia Offensive Tackle Orlando Brown
Georgia Defensive End Andrew Williams (Top 100 prospect)
Georgia Linebacker Kevin Mouhon
Georgia Linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (Top 250 prospect)
Georgia Safety Nick Glass (Top 250 prospect)
Georgia Safety Cortez McDowell (Top 250 prospect)
Georgia Wide Receiver Emmanuel Beal
Virginia Defensive End Jalyn Holmes (x-favorite for those who care)
Washington DC Defensive Back D'Andre Payne (Top 250 prospect)
Tennessee commitment Todd Kelly, JR
Tennessee commitment Vic Wharton
Alabama Linebacker Deshaun Davis
Oklahoma Quarterback David Cornwell (Top 100 prospect)
Ohio Tight End/Defensive End Ethan Wolfe
Kentucky Defensive Tackle Matt Elam
Tennessee (Ensworth) Defensive tackle Michael Sawyers
Tennessee (Humboldt) Defensive End Keeyan James
Tennessee (Station Camp)Wide Receiver Josh Malone (Top 100 prospect)
Tennessee (Ensworth) linebacker /athlete D'Andre Ferby
Tennessee (East Hamilton) Tight End Bailey Lenoir
Tennessee (Giles County) Wide Receiver/Athlete Kenton Baker
Tennessee (White Station)Linebacker Patera Wilson
Tennessee (Oakland) Safety/Athlete Emmanual Smith
Tennessee (Montgomery Bell Academy) Offensive/Defensive Tackle Alex Bars
Tennessee (Independence) Defensive Back Rashaan Gaulden
Junior College Offensive Lineman Dontavius Blair (Top 10 2014 JUCO prospect)
Maryland Offensive Lineman Steven Moss
Georgia Wide Receiver Demarre Kitt
Georgia Wide Receiver Rashad Canty
Georgia Athlete Myles Autry
Georgia Defensive Tackle Kayton Samuels
Georgia Linebacker/Athlete Terry Googer
Georgia Running Back Sedrick Palmer
Georgia Linebacker Bradley Chubb
Georgia Offensive Tackle Orlando Brown
Georgia Defensive End Andrew Williams (Top 100 prospect)
Georgia Linebacker Kevin Mouhon
Georgia Linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (Top 250 prospect)
Georgia Safety Nick Glass (Top 250 prospect)
Georgia Safety Cortez McDowell (Top 250 prospect)
Georgia Wide Receiver Emmanuel Beal
Virginia Defensive End Jalyn Holmes (x-favorite for those who care)
Washington DC Defensive Back D'Andre Payne (Top 250 prospect)
'This is the way it works around here. X doesn't even get twenty-four hours to reflect on Todd Kelly Jr.'s commitment before another Vol young-one (Neiko Creamer) verbally commits. ....... Not only that .... I don't even get a chance to finish calling and gloating to my inner circle, who teeter on that part of the fan base I call the Nega-Vols, giving them all well deserved "I told you so" before Basilio interrupts my pleasure with all this "who's next" nonsense.
Before X answers the "who's next" question, lets reset what happened during the past 24 hours regarding Todd Kelly Jr. and Neiko Creamer. I was cautiously optimistic Jr. would wind up at Tennessee. I, like others, expected his recruitment to go well into the football season if not into January. Tennessee got a great kid, fantastic athlete, better football player, and a leader in training in Kelly Jr. Todd Kelly Sr. confirmed yesterday afternoon on Nashville radio what X told you yesterday morning. Tennessee had virtually no shot with Jr. if the former Head Coach was still in place.
Neiko Creamer is an intriguing commitment. Creamer is being projected as a hybrid receiver/tight end in college. I believe personally he is going to continue to grow and grow out of a wide receiver's body. Not at all a bad thing actually. Creamer was hurt much of his junior season. Finding film on Creamer is tough. If you can find his film, Creamer looks more impressive as a defensive end/outside linebacker type than a wide receiver.... in my opinion. Nonetheless, good athlete and great to get him on board.
Tennessee fans have reason to be excited about the Kelly Jr. , Neiko Creamer, and Coleman Thomas commitments. I get why there is so much excitement about Kelly, Jr. and Creamer but don't sleep on Coleman Thomas. Thomas is one heck of a prospect. Look folks, X is fortunate to have a couple of really good sources that are right more than they are wrong when it comes to recruiting and things going on inside the program. I can tell you neither of my contacts expected what transpired over the last 3 days to happen. X would love to take Butch Jones to Vegas with him right now. All Coach Jones has done in 4 months on the job is play winning hand after winning hand.
Keep things in perspective folks. Sure, three commitments in three days is great news for a beat down program in need of good news at every turn and a few big wins this fall. Everyone should realize Coach Jones still has a ton of heavy lifting to do on the recruiting trail.
Let’s focus on the impact of the commitment of Kelly Jr. First, this was a shot heard around the SEC. You think Volunteer coaches and fans were surprised? I don't think any other school in the SEC saw this one falling to Tennessee so soon. Kelly Jr. is not only well known among the in-state prospects but remember all these high profile football prospects throughout the Southeast have been competing against each other in camps since their freshman year in high school, they've be-friended one another, and all of them regularly communicate via social media regularly. In short, these kids and sometimes their families become tight. Remember good players want to play with good players
In - state, Kelly Jr. is well connected with a number of high profile 2014 Tennessee targets especially in the all important mid-state area. Names you know like Jalen Hurd and Josh Malone (both top 100 prospects), Emmanuel and Josh Smith, and Rashaun Gaulden to name just a few. Most of these mid state kids plan on being on campus either this weekend or a weekend leading up to the Orange & White game. Tennessee was in good shape with a couple of these prospects before the Kelly Jr. commitment. Certainly, Jr's commitment helps with those kids. Everyone is of course interested in Jalen Hurd one of the top prospects in the country for 2014. Tennessee started closing the gap on Florida and Ohio State had opened with Hurd once Butch Jones took the job. At a minimum ......., Kelly Jr's commitment pulls Tennessee even with these two schools. Hurd will be in Knoxville this weekend. The Smith brothers and possibly Josh Malone will be in also. Let’s just say Coach Jones keeps dialing up winning hands in the mid-state and 3 or 4 or more of those kids mentioned above wind up at Tennessee. Wonder what that guy in Nashville starts thinking to himself? That guy has had at least two years of access to those kids without any semblance of a threat from Tennessee and ........ He also had a head start with Malik Foreman and Kelly Jr. too.
Does the Kelly Jr. commitment mean one or more of those kids commits to Tennessee sooner than later? Possible. What I have learned following recruiting for years is 2 + 2 does not always equal 4 in recruiting.
Kelly Jr. is well connected with the Elliott and Evan Berry , he spent time last weekend with Dillon Bates, and there are a handful of 2014 prospects in the Atlanta area Kelly Jr. has camped with and competed against that Tennessee is recruiting.
Remember what I said yesterday and restated it above. Something worth remembering. Good players want to play with good players. Kelly Jr. has already let it be known he is going to be recruiting prospects to join him at Tennessee. If Coach Jones gives Kelly Jr. a list of names to start contacting, I hope the list has a bunch of offensive and defensive lineman on it.
'Man what a shot in the arm for a Tennessee football program! Just a great weekend. Spring practice kicks off, over 60 high school prospects in attendance, as well as 30 former Tennessee Vols, and Tennessee legend Coach Majors. And, the big news..... Tennessee walked away from the weekend with two (2) verbal commitments for the 2014 class. Both are huge for the Program.
Let’s work ourselves backwards. Sunday evening Knoxville Webb standout and Vol legacy prospect Todd Kelly, Jr. verbally committed to Tennessee. Saturday evening I had been told things had turned in a positive direction for Tennessee with Kelly Jr. However, I was surprised a commitment happened this quickly. I will say this because not many others will and we keep it real here. Very likely Todd Kelly JR. Winds up playing his college football somewhere else in the SEC if Coach Dooley was still running the show. Now about Kelly Jr. Kelly Jr.'s commitment. This is really important for Tennessee ion so many levels. Kelly Jr. is a nationally recognized prospect. He is currently rated as a 4 star prospect, a top 50ish prospect nationally, and nationally he is one of the top 2 or 3 safety prospects. He is an amazing athlete and just a very good football player. If Butch Jones ever needed anything, it was to get a commitment early in the cycle from a nationally recognized prospect. You can’t win or lose football games right now. Every school in the country would love to have Todd Kelly Jr. Check his offer list. He has somewhere between 35 and 45 offers. Kelly Jr's commitment is important because it gives Coach Jones credibility with other highly rated prospects both in state and around the region. It is the old adage. Good players want to play with good players.
Depending upon the 2014 recruiting list you read, Kelly Jr. is either the top rated or one of the top two in-state prospects for 2014. More importantly, Kelly Jr. is well connected and has a very good relationship with many of the top rated in-state prospects as those kids have grown up competing together. Nothing like adding another recruiter who just happens to be one of the top prospects in the country.
On Saturday, Virginia offensive line prospect Coleman Thomas committed to Tennessee after he and his family watched practice. I mentioned Thomas last week in my article so I will spare you all his measurements etc. again. Simply put. Getting a commitment from an offensive line prospect like Thomas, who has a chance to be on the regions best by the end of next season, is huge. Give both Butch Jones and Don Mahoney credit here. Tennessee needs five or six offensive lineman in this class and Thomas is one they identified early as a must get. Two reasons Tennessee loves Thomas are his athleticism and his versatility. As I mentioned, Thomas is an amazing athlete. Thomas' football prowess has him a wanted man by many SEC and ACC schools. Thomas will also receive interest from colleges interested in him for his basketball skills as well. What you have to like about Thomas is his ability to play any of the offensive line positions. He seems open to playing any position so that gives Tennessee much need flexibility as it looks to recruit additional offensive lineman for this class. Tennessee beat out Auburn, West Virginia and other schools for Thomas. Another reason the commitment of Thomas is key is hopefully it gets Tennessee's name recognized with prospects in Virginia. Virginia is another state loaded with high school football talent in 2014.
Tennessee has certainly lost its share of football games in the last few years and lost out on a number of high school prospects that grew up as Tennessee fans. Hopefully, the commitment of Todd Kelly Jr. , and the commitments that will now follow , is a sign this Program is now headed back to where it rightfully belongs.
'Though it seems like National Signing Day 2013 came and went months ago, it has only been one month since Butch Jones wrapped up his first signing class as head coach of your Tennessee Volunteers. 2013 is in the rear view mirror now and we are already in the thick of the 2014 recruiting cycle. Reading early storylines, Tennessee's 2014 recruiting outlook theme seems to be a) the in state talent and AA) the legacy kids. In some order, that is what everyone seems eager to discuss.
While Tennessee needs to sign its fair share of in state prospects and yes it would be great for all the legacy kids to sign with Tennessee that is only a part of it. You can certainly start building a recruiting class with in state and legacy prospects but there is so much more work to be done in surrounding states like North Carolina, Georgia, down into Florida and the Midwest. Success in these states and regions will too provide a barometer to measure the success or lack thereof for the 2014 recruiting class. Another key to this 2014 signing class is signing kids who can get in school in January. Tennessee is losing key players at key positions after the 2013 season. Whether it is high school or junior college kids, they need to get as many SEC caliber kids in school, through a spring practice, and get them as prepared for the 2014 season as possible.
I have to say Tennessee appears to be off to a nice start. It is apparent this new staff has put a significant amount of time into evaluating 2014 prospects, getting offers out, and trying to establish relationships with prospects, parents, and coaches.
By my count, Tennessee has already offered 165, 2014 prospects scholarships. Appears at least early on Tennessee is targeting some very familiar and fertile recruiting areas. Approximately 20 % of the total scholarships offered have been to prospects in Georgia (33 by my last count) and to prospects in Florida (32 by may last count). So 40% of Tennessee’s offers to date have been made to prospects in two states. By comparison, Tennessee has offered 10 in state prospects scholarships. I expect the number of offers extended to in state kids to increase as we move into spring evaluations.
I found this next number very interesting. Think Tennessee believes it lacks playmakers in the secondary? Of the 165 offers, 45 (roughly 30%) have been made to prospects that project to play cornerback or safety.
With all that said, here are a few prospects you will hear more about over the next few weeks. Not saying Tennessee leads with any of these prospects. It should be noted that Tennessee has positioned itself fairly well with each of these prospects one month into this recruiting cycle. Expect most if not all of these prospects to be on campus during the spring.
Dillon Bates, Linebacker 6’3” 220 lbs., Ponte Verde Beach, Florida. Most of you would have made me turn in my VOL card if I didn’t have Dillon Bates at the top of this list. Bates a legacy kid. Many believe (including me) he is a must get in this class. Regardless of his bloodlines, all you need to do is turn on Bates’ film. In all my time of doing this, Dillon Bates maybe the best looking linebacker prospect I have seen on film. Just my opinion but he is athletic, he is fast, he is instinctive, and it is apparent he has been well coached. I am not the only person that thinks this either. Bates already has over 35 scholarship offers and counting. Bates is a top 100 national prospect and will likely be rated a 5 star prospect by the time football season rolls around. At the linebacker position, Tennessee needs Bates and 3 or 4 other signees at the linebacker position with similar skills at Bates. Bates plans to be on campus multiple times this spring including this weekend.
Dominque Booth, Wide Receiver, 6’1” 195 lbs., Indianapolis, Indiana. Booth is one of the top prospects in the state of Indiana in 2014. He is rated as a 4 star prospect and a Rivals 200 prospect nationally. Booth began developing a relationship with Butch Jones over a year ago while Jones was at Cincinnati and that relationship has carried over to Tennessee. Tennessee will likely sign three wide receivers in 2014. In state prospect Vic Wharton, who is already committed, is being recruited as a slot receiver and has one of those three spots. Another in state prospect wide receiver Josh Malone is right at the top of the recruiting board along with Dominque Booth. Booth shows good hands and looks more like a possession receiver than a stretch the field receiver. Booth is down to three schools Missouri, Tennessee, and Michigan and will likely make a decision this spring.
Coleman Thomas, Offensive Lineman, 6’6” 295 lbs., Ft. Chiswell, Virginia. Thomas is rated as the 5th best center prospect in the nation. The early battle for Coleman Thomas is shaping up as a two team race between Tennessee and West Virginia. I think the recruitment of Thomas will be interesting to watch. In my opinion, this is a bellwether recruit for Don Mahoney. Mahoney is one staff member some have openly wondered whether he can recruit to a level necessary in the SEC. I don’t know what recruiting territory Coach Mahoney has been assigned. I do know Mahoney is the lead recruiter for Coleman Thomas and he seems to have Tennessee off to a good start. Thomas is what you want in an offensive lineman. He is athletic, quick feet, and a frame that should easily allow him to add weight. He is listed at 295 pounds. In watching his film, he looks lean at 295 pounds … probably because he is a very accomplished high school basketball player. Thomas has half-dozen offers now. Once he starts camping this spring and summer, that number to significantly increase. Thomas has already attended one junior day and is expected to be in town this weekend.
Dewayne Hendrix, Defensive End, 6’5” 240 lbs., O’Fallon, Illinois. Hendrix is right at the top of Tennessee’s defensive end board. He is a physically mature prospect and already holds over 20 scholarship offers. Love his film. Hendrix shows the ability to shed blocks and track down ball carriers. He also shows a good burst off the line of scrimmage. RIVALS has Hendrix rated as a top 250 prospect nationally and has rated him as 4 star prospect. Hendrix has ties to Tennessee, has already been to campus for a junior day, and left with a Tennessee offer.
Deshaun Watson, Dual Threat Quarterback 6’4” 195 lbs., Gainesville, Georgia. So, the Butch Jones “model” is to roll with 5 quarterbacks on the roster. Right now, Tennessee has 4 scholarship quarterbacks with a walk on quarterback scheduled to enroll with the scholarship guys in June. My guess is things will work themselves out over the next few months and going into the 2013 season and Tennessee will be down a quarterback or two meaning Tennessee will be out actively quarterback recruiting again this fall. One of the top guys on their list is 5 star prospect and current Clemson commitment DeShaun Watson as a top target. Watson looks to be a perfect fit for this power spread offensive being installed this spring. I put no stock in the fact Watson is committed to Clemson right now. How many prospects commit to Clemson early then wind up parting ways with them later on in the recruiting cycle?
Kevin Mouhon, Linebacker, 6’2” 220 lbs., Norcross, Georgia. Really like Kevin Mouhon as a linebacker prospect. Watch shows up on film as a linebacker who has a knack for showing up around the football. Mouhon is another prospect who plays with surprisingly good fundamentals for a high school linebacker. Butch Jones has a relationship with Mouhon and his family. Jones coached Mouhon’s brother at Cincinnati plus Tennessee was the first school to offer Mouhon a scholarship. A couple of checkmarks in the positive column for Tennessee never hurt plus it is almost a certainty 3 or 4 incoming linebackers will be looked for contributions next season. Mouhon is a 4 star prospect. Auburn and Georgia will be tough competition for Tennessee.
Rissean Broussard, Defensive Tackle, 6’2” 280 lbs., Hinds Community College, Mississippi. Listing a prospect on Tennessee’s board from a Mississippi junior college is normally wasted space. However, with Robert Gillespie on board, I give Tennessee a punchers chance here. Remember Rissean Broussard? As a high school senior, Broussard verbally committed to Tennessee. Academic difficulties sent Broussard to Junior College. He has made the most of his time in Junior College. Broussard is ranked as the #1 Junior College defensive tackle in the country and a top five overall JUCO prospect for 2014. If you have followed recruiting at all you know it is difficult for a Mississippi Junior College player to go anywhere other than State or Ole Miss if one of those wants the kid…….. Gillespie has pulled kids out of Mississippi in the past plus Tennessee provides opportunity next season for at least one JUCO defensive tackle to step in and play.
Chad Mavety, Offensive Tackle, 6’6” 320 lbs., Nassau Community College. Mavety is one of the top if not the top rated Junior College offensive tackle in the country for 2014. Mavety is no secret to college recruiters as he already holds approximately 20 offers including an offer from Tennessee. We all know Tennessee loses 5 of its top 6 offensive lineman after next season. Mavety is a perfect fit for one of the two tackle spots that will come open in December plus he is a December graduate which gives him an entire off season to get ready to step in and start in 2014.
Dontavius Blair, Offensive Tackle, 6’7” 300 lbs., Garden City Community College. (See Chad Mavety) Basically, everything mentioned about Mavety applies to Blair. Blair may not be as highly rated as Mavety but he too is planning to be a December graduate. What helps Tennessee here is Blair is originally from Alabama and he has an existing relationship with Coach Tommie Thigpen. Not certain Tennessee invests two scholarships on JUCO offensive lineman but I certainly believe Mavety and Blair are right at the top of Tennessee’s list. On tape Blair, looks every bit the prospect Maverty is.
DJ Smith, Defensive Back (Corner) 6’0” 180 lbs., Marietta, Georgia. As mentioned above, found it interesting Tennessee has offered scholarships to so many cornerbacks and safeties so early in 2014. Tells me the staff doesn’t think there are enough SEC level playmakers at those positions on campus. Smith, at the early stages of his career, looks to be a difference maker. Smith is a highly regarded cornerback prospect who visited Tennessee in February and left with Tennessee firmly in the mix and the hunt for his services. In 2014, Smith is rated as a top ten prospect in the state of Georgia. RIVALS has Smith rated as a 4 star prospect and a top 100 prospect nationally.
Cortez McDowell, Defensive Back (Safety) 6’3” 200 lbs., Locust Grove, Georgia. Tennessee loses two safeties after the 2013 season and in my opinion safety is one of the positions where an upgrade in athleticism is necessary. It is clear one of the top targets on Tennessee’s board is local product Todd Kelly, JR. However, Georgia prospect Cortez McDowell is a safety prospect you shouldn’t sleep on. McDowell is another of Georgia’s best prospects. RIVALS has McDowell rated as a 4 star prospect and a top 150 prospect nationally. Watching his film. McDowell is fast, athletic , and raw. Early on, you have to like where Tennessee stands with McDowell right now. Georgia will be tough to beat for McDowell but Tennessee will be able to sell playing time next season. Not sure Georgia can after they signed 9 defensive backs in its 2013 class. Tennessee signed 3 defensive backs if you assume Foreman gets his first shot on offense plus Tennessee loses four defensive backs to graduation. Difficult for Georgia to sell playing time in 2014 while Tennessee can show McDowell the depth chart.
Lorenzo Featherstone, Defensive End, 6’7” 220 lbs., Greensboro, North Carolina. Featherstone is highest rated defensive prospect at any position in the state of North Carolina for 2014. RIVALS has Featherstone rated as a 4 star prospect and a top 100 prospect at any position in the country. Expect for Featherstone to be even more highly rated after he makes the camp circuit this spring. Featherstone is athletic and needs to add some serious weight to his frame but Featherstone is that pass rush type of defensive end Tennessee covets. The loss of Jay Graham could hurt a little here but Tommie Thigpen will ably step in a pick up the lead role in recruiting Featherstone. North Carolina is one of those states Tennessee needs to make some hay in. Football prospects tend to leave North Carolina in droves to play college football. Landing a prospect like Featherstone would further solidify Tennessee’s foothold in North Carolina.
Greg Miclisse, Outside Linebacker, 6’1” 230 lbs., Palm Bay, Florida. Tennessee is losing five linebackers (if you count Brewer as a linebacker) to graduation after next season. It could get worse. Remember under Justin Wilcox Tennessee ran a 4 -3 base defense, Curt Maggitt and AJ Johnson each had very good true freshman seasons playing in a 4-3 scheme. One can infer that with Tennessee moving back to a 4-3 scheme Maggitt and Johnson will have better seasons that each had last season barring injury. Both may have decisions to make after this season. Under that scenario, every linebacker who signs with Tennessee in February will have more than a legitimate opportunity to play in 2014. Miclisse has over 20 offers including one from Tennessee and he has Tennessee as one of the top schools for his services. Really like on film. He is fast and a big hitter. Early on Tennessee is in really good shape with Miclisse.
Germaine Pratt, Defensive Back (Safety) 6’3” 190 lbs., High Point, NC. Pratt is rated as the eight best prospect in North Carolina for 2014 and is another highly rated North Carolina prospect who has legitimate interest in Tennessee. Pratt is a 4 star prospect and is a top 150 prospect in Rivals’ early rankings. From watching his film, Pratt is raw but his athleticism is obvious. He likes Tennessee, has been on campus for a junior day, and expect him back again this spring.
Jamarco Jones, Offensive tackle 6’5” 285 lbs., Chicago, Illinois. You sense a recurring theme throughout this article. Tennessee is going to be able to legitimately offer most every prospect they sign in 2014 and opportunity to play early. All a prospect needs to do is look at the depth chart. One needs to go no farther than the offensive line depth chart where Tennessee could lose most 4 (maybe 5) starters or a key back up offensive lineman after the 2013 season. Yes, there are capable backups not enough of them. This situation provides opportunity for an elite offensive lineman or two to play very early next season. Jones is one of those prospects that would have a chance to step in and play right away. Jones is a top 100 prospect nationally and over thirty schools are hot on his heels at current. Jones needs to get a little bigger but his film shows athleticism and aggression two things hard to teach.
Nick Chubb, Running Back, 5’11” 215 lbs., Cedartown, Georgia. A number of Vol fans, including many who read this, will think the 2014 recruiting class will be a failure if a certain mid-state running back is not a part of it. A recruiting class is not made by whether one kid does or doesn’t sign with you. If you watch Nick Chubb's film, you can’t come away not being impressed by the instinctive running and athleticism. Much like every other cycle, Georgia is loaded again with high profile running back prospects. Chubb is right at the top of that group. Tennessee loves the mid-state kid but Nick Chubb is right at the very top of the running back board. One of the first calls new running backs coach Robert Gillespie made when he signed on at Tennessee was to Nick Chubb. Chubb may very well fit the new power spread scheme as well as any running back on Tennessee’s board. Another running back to watch is Goose Creek, South Carolina's Caleb Kinlaw.
Jalen Tabor , Defensive Back (Corner) 6’0” 180 lbs., Washington DC. Tennessee has been high on Jalen Tabor’s list of favorite schools going back to the Derek Dooley days. At one time, Tennessee was thought to be the favorite for Tabor. Tennessee suffered a bit of a setback during the coaching change over but Tabor still has Tennessee up at the top of his list. Talk about a difference making cornerback. Tabor has excellent ball skills, is instinctive, and has excellent recovery speed. Tabor is everything you look for in a cornerback. Get this, as a junior corner, the receivers Tabor covered during the season caught zero passes against him. Tabor may be the top rated corner in all the country.
Enoch Smith, Defensive Tackle, 6’3” 270 lbs., Chicago, Illinois. Defensive tackle is another position where graduation will provide immediate opportunity for a signee or two to play early in 2014. Tennessee loses two possible draft picks from the interior defensive line and there isn’t much depth in reserve to step in and hold that position down. Smith is a prospect Butch Jones and staff have developed a relationship with going back to their days at Cincinnati. He received a Tennessee offer in February.
The Berry’s (Evan and Elliot). While Evan or Elliott may not be quite the prospect their brother Eric was at this time in their high school careers, both kids are SEC caliber prospects. Elliott is a bit bigger physically than his brother Evan, is rated as a better prospect. Elliott is likely an end linebacker in college. Evan is smaller and quicker and is being recruited by Tennessee and other schools as a cornerback. We should be straight here. Tennessee is not in a position recruit prospects legacy or not if that can help them win. As mentioned, the Berry kids may not be quite what their brother was at this point in their development but both these kids are very good prospects than can play in the SEC.
Since Sunday, I have fielded call after call about Knoxville Fulton running back and 2014 prospect Daryl Rollins. Rollins was already on my radar (see last post) before Sunday. Rollins competed in the Atlanta Regional Combine last weekend and out of 1700 participants he posted the fastest 40 and shuttle times of any kid there and posted one of the top SPARQ ratings of anyone who competed in the event. He was laser timed at 4.41 in the forty which equates to something like a 4.3 hand timed. Fast by any measure.
So the question becomes is Rollins an SEC level player and does Tennessee have interest? With Rollins the pluses are he is equally as dangerous in the return game as he is running the ball, he rarely goes down on first contact, you never see him get caught from behind, and, in addition to being fast, he has exceptionally quick feet. The concerns are he is slightly built, he runs behind a huge offensive line that was physically more dominant than the competition, rarely got hit until he was at the second level of the defense, and just how tough is the completion he played against week in and week out. I haven’t seen much on him playing defense. Understand Rollins will likely play both ways seeing time a safety as well as running back.
Rollins is definitely on Tennessee’s radar.. again even before his performance over the weekend he was on the board. Running a 4.3 forty obviously got the attention of Tennessee and other SEC schools. Fulton is loaded with athletes that can play college football at a high level so Rollins will get a bunch of closer looks. He’ll compete in camps this spring and summer and we'll know more. Look at Tennessee’s offer list, Tennessee is recruiting a handful of prospects that are similar in size and position as Rollins though I’m not sure how many can lay down a 4.3 forty though. When you consider Tennessee may take up to 31 or 32 prospects in the 2014 class, a change of pace running back, and a kid that could immediately contribute in the return game, or in the secondary.... one would think you could find a place......
'Since Sunday, I have fielded call after call about Knoxville Fulton running back and 2014 prospect Daryl Rollins. Rollins was already on my radar (see last post) before Sunday. Rollins competed in the Atlanta Regional Combine last weekend and out of 1700 participants he posted the fastest 40 and shuttle times of any kid there and posted one of the top SPARQ ratings of anyone who competed in the event. He was laser timed at 4.41 in the forty which equates to something like a 4.3 hand timed. Fast by any measure.
So the question becomes is Rollins an SEC level player and does Tennessee have interest? With Rollins the pluses are he is equally as dangerous in the return game as he is running the ball, he rarely goes down on first contact, you never see him get caught from behind, and, in addition to being fast, he has exceptionally quick feet. The concerns are he is slightly built, he runs behind a huge offensive line that was physically more dominant than the competition, rarely got hit until he was at the second level of the defense, and just how tough is the completion he played against week in and week out. I haven’t seen much on him playing defense. Understand Rollins will likely play both ways seeing time a safety as well as running back.
Rollins is definitely on Tennessee’s radar.. Again even before his performance over the weekend he was on the board. Running a 4.3 forty obviously got the attention of Tennessee and other SEC schools. Fulton is loaded with athletes that can play college football at a high level so Rollins will get a bunch of closer looks. He’ll compete in camps this spring and summer and we'll know more. Look at Tennessee’s offer list, Tennessee is recruiting a handful of prospects that are similar in size and position as Rollins though I’m not sure how many can lay down a 4.3 forty though. When you consider Tennessee may take up to 31 or 32 prospects in the 2014 class, a change of pace running back, and a kid that could immediately contribute in the return game, or in the secondary.... one would think you could find a place...... '
'That didn’t take long did it? The honeymoon appears to be over now that it is official that Jay Graham is leaving Tennessee for Florida State. Butch Jones' first critical moment in his short tenure as head coach.
Honestly, I can’t say that I'm surprised. Basilio nailed it yesterday. Florida State has made multiple runs at Graham as have a couple of professional teams. This time, well, the timing was right for Jay to be making the move. ... .
Tennessee fans can’t thank him enough for what he did to hold the 2013 recruiting class together. When most every coach on the last staff quit recruiting in late October, Graham didn’t. He kept Tennessee relevant with a number of kids including four that signed with Tennessee (North, Jenkins, Lee, and Miller). Recruiting though is a results based business and let’s face it Jay couldn’t close the deal on a high profile running back. Enough blame to spread around on why Tennessee couldn’t land one but at different times during the last recruiting cycle 4 very good running backs told Graham and Tennessee they were coming to Tennessee. Graham and Tennessee couldn’t seal the deal though. Fans were beginning to openly question just how effective a recruiter Jay was. The recruiting landscape for 2014 wasn’t going to get any easier for Graham or Tennessee for that matter either.
During the best of times, Tennessee is a tough school to recruit to. Ask Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron about recruiting to Tennessee. Both hot shot recruiters in their own right openly talked about how tough it was to recruit here. Can you imagine what it is like trying to recruit here coming off back to back 5 and 7 seasons?
My guess is Butch Jones has gotten a taste of that the last 2 months. That is why he has to nail it with Jay Graham's replacement.
Tennessee doesn’t need a guy the staff coached with at a directional school in Michigan or at Cincinnati. Butch Jones needs a guy who has experience mixing it up on the recruiting trail with Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and all the other SEC schools; a guy who can counter all the nonsense and doubt an Urban Meyer puts in a kid's head about the direction of the Tennessee program 24 hours before signing day; a guy kids can look up to; ........ What Butch Jones needs is a recruiter who can close the deal with these kids on signing day.
Butch Jones knows the deal. Tennessee fans believe Jones can turn this program around sooner than later. Though he can’t say this publicly, he has placed the bar very high for this next recruiting class. Coach Thigpen is an elite recruiter. No question about it. These are 3 or 4 other coaches on staff that are good recruiters and a couple of coaches I have real concerns about what level of interest they have for recruiting. Jones and Thigpen can’t do it all recruiting wise. The stakes are high. This hire will tell a lot about the direction things this program is headed. You can say a lot about the fan base but this is an educated fan base that knows football and follows recruiting passionately. The fans will know a lot with this but more importantly so are a bunch of 17 and 18 year old kids.'
Skill position prospects get all the pop but games are won and lost are in the trenches. The talent in state for 2014 is not quite as star studded as it is for skill position prospects. Nonetheless, there are a number of very good offensive and defensive lineman, and linebackers. Oh, I threw in a few quarterbacks and kicking specialists to top this first look ahead off.
Let me make a few observations before we dive in. There are three prospects discussed below that are already national recruits (Patera Wilson, Derek Barnett, and Alex Bars); there is another group of prospects that “may“ become national recruits or at a minimum coveted by the upper level SEC Teams depending upon how each develops over the summer and performs this fall; and, there are another group of prospects that recruited by a number of big schools largely dependent on how a prospect fits a certain offensive or defensive scheme.
This is sounding like a broken record but the former staff did little if anything to help Butch Jones out with most these prospects, However, Coach Jones and Mark Elder are known commodities to most of the prospects because of the relationships they began building with many of them at Cincinnati.
With respect to the offensive and defensive lineman, it will be interesting to watch the prospects Tennessee targets. They have their system and recruit to it. I will be interested to see which kids fit this system.... and I will also be interested to watch if they have the recruiting ability to close the deal with these kids. Guess I’m saying … show me.
Much like my dear friend Beano, I believe Tennessee is a better team when the majority of its offensive lineman are Tennessee kids.
Lot of good football players on this list. Tennessee has some work to do.
Derek Barnett, 6’4” 260 lbs Nashville (Brentwood Academy). Defensive End/Tight End. Some longtime observers of state high school football believe Barnett will wind up as the top prospect in the state by the end of the 2013 season. Barnett is a two way player and will be recruited by some schools as a tight end and others as a defensive end. Tennessee is off to a good start with Barnett. Historically, Brentwood Academy is a school in the mid-state Tennessee has had very little success in recruiting going back to the Fulmer days. Barnett is going to be a national recruit. Expect Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, USC, and others to chase Barnett. Barnett is a prospect Jones and Elder did work with while at Cincinnati.
Alex Bars, 6’6” 290 lbs Nashville (Montgomery Bell Academy). Offensive Line). Some believe Bars is the top offensive line prospect in the state in this recruiting cycle. With that said he is a heck of a defensive tackle prospect too. Bars has two older brothers both of which are on Big 12 rosters and a father who played at Notre Dame. I don’t know how much all this matters. Alex Bars seems to be the type of kid who wants to do his own thing. True, Tennessee did not give Bars’ brothers much of a look. However, neither did other SEC teams. Bars likes Tennessee and has been on campus a number of times. What Tennessee legitimately has to offer Bars that not many other schools can offer next season is immediate playing time either side of the ball. Bars will be a tough pull but I’m not as pessimistic about this recruitment as others seem to be.
Charles Mosely, 6’6” 360 lbs Brighton (Brighton High School). Defensive Tackle. Hard to project what kind of player Mosely can be in college because he is so much bigger than anyone he plays against now. You have to consider Mosely a fairly athletic prospect or his size as he plays basketball as well as football. Mosely is already on many a school’s radar. Alabama has already offered a scholarship here. Mosely is expected to be on campus this weekend for junior day. I would expect him to leave campus with a Tennessee offer.
Michael Sawyers 6’3” 300 lbs Nashville (Ensworth). Defensive Tackle. Sawyers is a prospect you will hear more about in the coming months. He has good size, he is athletic and for a high school defensive tackle plays with very good technique. Sawyers is already receiving interest from Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Once Sawyers gets evaluated by more schools this spring and makes the camp circuit, more schools will be recruiting this prospect.
Akeem Copperwood, 6’7” 315 lbs Knoxville (Fulton) Offensive Tackle. Copperwood technically is not a VOL legacy but he is the next best thing. Anyone who has been around the program for any amount of time over the last 6 or 7 years has watched this kid grow up. Knowing a number of coaches on the Fulton staff, what they will tell you is Copperwood is just now realizing how good he has a chance to be. They will also tell you they have seen him become more serious about getting stronger, working on technique, and losing weight each and every year he has been in their program. He is just now becoming comfortable in his frame and you can see how much his footwork has improved over the last couple of seasons. Key with Copperwood is does he have the aggressiveness to play offensive line in the SEC. It will be key to see how he perform this spring and summer at camp. Already been to Tennessee’s first junior day.
Paul Adams 6’6” 250 lbs Nashville (Christ Presbyterian Academy) Offense Tackle. Adams is a very athletic prospect. He is a bit undersized for a tackle at 250 lbs. However, he plays basketball and once he focuses on football, the weight will stay on his frame. Adams is getting ready to be become a highly recruited football player. Tennessee is off to a good start with Adams. While at Cincinnati, Jones was the first school to offer Adams a scholarship. Once Coach Jones took the Tennessee job, Adams was one of their first 2014 contacts. I would expect Tennessee to be a fairly significant factor in Adams’ recruitment.
Bruno Reagan, 6’4” 290 lbs Clarksville (Clarksville). Defensive Tackle. One of my favorites, Reagan is a prospect a lot of schools are just beginning to evaluate. The 2013 season will be only his third in organized football. His background up until then had been as a wrestler and a martial arts aficionado. As a junior, Reagan recorded 66 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, and 12 sacks. I really like lineman who have experience with wrestling. Teaches them low man wins and teaches them about leverage. He knows to use his hands to ward off blockers as well. plays low and uses his hands well. I do know Tennessee likes Reagan and is evaluating him. Schools like Tennessee, Missouri, Louisville, and South Florida are interested.
Austin Barrett, 6’3” 285 lbs defensive lineman and Caleb Yates 6'4" 280 lbs (Offensive Lineman) Murfreesboro (Oakland). Yet another mid-state school that is loaded with 2014 and 2015 prospects. Barrett is already getting looks from ACC schools like Louisville and Florida State as well as a number of SEC schools. Yates, like Barrett, will see his value in the eyes of college recruiters spike once spring evaluations get here and college recruiters can watch these kids practice and work out.
Michael Scates 6’4” 290 lbs Knoxville (Fulton). Interior offensive lineman. Scates doesn’t receive as much notoriety some of his teammates like Akeem Copperwood and has yet to receive as much recruiting attention but that is getting ready to change. Fulton has at least 6 players on its 2013 squad that will get looks from major colleges ensuring that plenty of colleges will be by to check out Scates. Scates is projected as a guard in college.
Matt Pyke, 6’3” 300 lbs Clinton (Anderson County) Offensive Line. Pyke is one of, if not the best, interior offensive line prospect in East Tennessee. Pyke is already on the radar for many of the mid-level SEC teams including Tennessee. Expect interest from other schools only to increase over the next few months. Pyke is an aggressive guard/center prospect who reminds me a bit of former VOL Spencer Riley. Pyke is also an accomplished long snapper as well. Tennessee is already in contact.
Joe Irby 6’5” 300 lbs Nashville (Franklin Road Academy). Offensive/Defensive Lineman. Irby is an intriguing prospect. Irby plays both ways (offense and defense) and is athletic enough and versatile enough to play most every position across both lines. Difficult to tell how he projects in college because he is just bigger than most opponents he played against in the tape I watched. Irby stock will rise or fall based upon his maturation and performance in camps this spring and summer.
Kyle Naes 6’4” 270 lbs Memphis (Memphis University School). Offensive Lineman. Naes is a prospect that is a bit under the radar at MUS. His recruiting hasn’t really taken off yet. MUS is simply loaded in 2013 having as many as 6 or more prospects including Naes that will be highly recruited by many major colleges this fall.
Patera Wilson, 6'3" 220 lbs. Memphis (White Station). Linebacker. While most say in state prospects like Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly JR are the most important prospects to Butch Jones. I submit to you that Patera Wilson is every bit as important. Let’s keep it real here. Tennessee came up a couple of linebackers short in its 2013 class, there is a possibility current linebackers AJ Johnson and Curt Maggitt may be gone to the league after next season. Honestly, behind Maggitt and Johnson, there isn’t much depth either. Watch Wilson's film and there is a reason every school in the SEC including the likes of Florida State and Ohio State are after him. This is a talented prospect with a real opportunity to walk onto campus next season at Tennessee and be in the mix to start. I would expect Tennessee to sign 4 to 5 linebackers in the 2014 class and each one will have a real chance to play early. Wilson and new VOL Jason Carr were teammates last season and that can't hurt. Early on, Wilson likes Tennessee but I wouldn’t call Tennessee his leader. I will say Tennessee will be right in the middle his recruitment. Right now, Wilson is expected to be on campus a number of times this spring.
Two of the best linebackers in the state for 2014 line up on the same defense. Trey Moore ( 6'2" 220 lbs ) and James Prather (6’4” 225 lbs ) both with Memphis University School. No wonder Tennessee wants to regain a foothold in Memphis. In state early rankings have both prospects as top twenty prospects in the state. Both are very different prospects. Prather has a big frame. Once he grows into it, Prather could easily wind up playing with his hand in the dirt. Moore has more of a traditional build for a linebacker. He has nice size and appears to have good instincts for a linebacker. It is early in the process though both are already receiving SEC interest.
2014 is a good year in state for quarterbacks. I can’t do justice to all of them but here are three quarterback prospects to keep an eye on. A.J. Long (Friendship Christian Academy Lebanon). Long a dual threat quarterback already has offers from ARIZONA and UCLA among others. Long may well wind up at another position in college as he appears to be quite the athlete from watching his film. Austin Herink (Cleveland), Tennessee has already visited with Herink. Herink is a lefty with a nice release and a very good arm. Think Tennessee wants to see him in game competition and evaluate him further. Devin Smith (Grace Christian –Knoxville). Smith right in Tennessee's backyard may wind up being the best of the in state quarterbacks. Smith is a big rangy prospect with a strong arm. he is an accurate passer and can throw very well while on the run. Smith has a chance to be a national recruit by the time he makes the camp circuit the summer.
Place Kicking Specialists
First time for everything in this column. Couple of in state kicking specialists you will hear about. First, Baylor High School’s Rafael Gaglianone who may have been the best kicking specialist in the state as a junior. One service already has Gaglianone rated as a top 10 kicker nationally. Another top place kicker is Gary Wunderlich at Memphis University School. Again, staff has built some nice relationships with 2014 prospects from their time at Cincinnati. Wunderlich is a prospect already on Tennessee’s board.
Next we’ll peek into the states Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas and look at a few of the top Tennessee targets.
Here is a look at a few of the prospects tentatively scheduled to be on campus Saturday for Tennessee’s 2nd Junior Day of the 2014 recruiting cycle. Keep in mind that 16 and 17 year old kids do change their minds so this list will most certainly change.
This Junior Day is a star gazers dream and I am pandering to the star gazers with this list. Some of the highest rated prospects from Tennessee and border states along with Florida will be on campus.
By this roster of kids scheduled to be on campus Butch Jones was trying to fill out the 2013 signing class but had one eye on 2014 and beyond.
Running Back Jalen Hurd (24/7 list Hurd as a 5 star. Rivals has Hurd as a top 50 prospect)...
Safety Todd Kelley JR (24/7 lists Kelly as a 4 star. Rivals has Kelly as a top 60 prospect)....
Wide Receiver Josh Malone JR (24/7 lists Malone as a 4 star. Rivals has Malone as a top 100 prospect)
Corner back DJ Smith (Georgia) (24/7 lists Smith as a 4 star. Rivals has Smith as just outside the top 100 prospects in the country)
Linebacker Kevin Mouhon (Georgia) (Both Rivals and 24/7 list Mouhon as a 4 star prospect). Tennessee was the first to offer.
Safety/Athlete Emmanuel Smith (Murfreesboro). Not yet rated. Tennessee was the first to offer.
Linebacker Josh Smith (Murfreesboro) 2015 prospect.
Lineman Charles Mosley. Tennessee kid with Alabama offer.
Offensive Lineman Coleman Thomas (Virginia) Just received Tennessee offer.
Quarterback Drew Barker (Kentucky). Rivals has Barker rated as a 4 star prospect.
Running Back Caleb Kinlaw (South Carolina). TN out early as leader here.
Linebacker Trey Tomlin (Georgia). One of my favorites. 24/7 rates Tomlin as a 4 star prospect.
Evan and Elliott Berry (VOL Legacies)
Defensive End Lorenzo Carter (Georgia) One of the best in the country. Consensus 5 star prospect.
Athlete Nikia Cathey Tennessee
Running Back Racean Thomas (Alabama) Consensus 4 star prospect
Running Back/Athlete Treyvon Paulk (Georgia)
Running Back Nick Chubb (Georgia) Consensus 4 star prospect
Wide Receiver Blaise Taylor (Alabama) Son of former Tennessee coach Trooper Taylor (Gosh, I’m getting old)
Safety Cortez McDowell (Georgia)
Athlete Myles Autry (Georgia) Consensus 4 star prospect
Linebacker Bryson Allen- Williams (Georgia) Consensus 4 star prospect
Offensive/Defensive Lineman Zach Stuart (Tennessee) 2015 prospect
Linebacker Greg Miclisse (Florida) ... Miclisse is a good one.
Also, VOL signees Jabo Lee, Marquez North, and Ryan Jenkins are scheduled to be on campus. Probably will see another local signee or two on campus as well.
Enjoy your weekend
I must admit during the Coach Dooley regime I never once listened to VOL Calls. Heard Coach Jones was going to be on VOLCalls Monday evening so I thought I would listen. Right now, 'X' is smellin what Coach Jones is a cookin. I'm feeling it. Anyway, for the Dyer to UT doubters Coach Jones did nothing to put the Michael Dyer talk to rest Monday night. In fact, he added more intrigue. When asked point blank if Tennessee was done with 2013 recruiting and now focused solely on 2014 recruiting, Coach Jones said emphatically no. Paraphrasing now..... Jones said something to the effect of we are still out there looking for a couple of prospects that can help us win championships. Dyer is a championship level back..... ask Oregon.
Whether the Dyer things works out for Tennessee, I don’t know. I am confident the Dyer and Tennessee talk is more than just an internet rumor. This thing is moving down the track. Coach Jones did nothing at all to refute it Monday night on VolCalls.
First look at the 2014 in state crop of prospects. The focus here is on defensive backs, running backs, receivers, tight ends, and "athletes".
A couple of observations.
Looking across the state, the talent pool in this recruiting cycle is amazing. The talented players aren’t just in one geographic area of the state either. College recruiters are going to spending just as much time in west Tennessee as east Tennessee. Mid-state area is absolutely loaded this cycle with football prospects.
In an odd way, Tennessee is fortunately off to a decent start in 2014. The commitment of Vic Wharton helps. However, while at Cincinnati, Coach Jones and staff especially Mark Elder did a lot of groundwork in Tennessee with 2014 prospects. They have relationships in place with top level prospects the former staff never paid much attention to.
The above was my last criticism of the former staff. Time to put that to bed.
The prospects below are not in any particular order or ranking:
Todd Kelly, Jr. 6'1" 190 lbs. Knoxville (Webb High School). (Safety) VOL legacy. TK shouldn’t be a new name to anyone who has followed Tennessee football or recruiting. Arguably the top prospect in state at any position in 2014. Some recruiting services believe Kelly JR may be the best defense back in the country in 2014. Kelly already has offers from everywhere. Tennessee will have its hands full keeping Kelly JR in Knoxville. Ohio State, Alabama, Florida, Stanford, and many other schools have Kelley JR at the top of their recruiting boards. Tennessee has a much better shot now with Kelly with Coach Jones in charge instead of the last guy (couldn’t help myself... promise that is that last dig at the former staff).
Isaiah McDaniel 5'10" 175 lbs, Knoxville (Bearden) Athlete. McDaniel, son of former VOL Terry McDaniel, may be a bit under the radar and I’m not sure why. You watch his highlights and even game film McDaniels is always making plays. He may undersized but he runs a 4.4 forty and has a 36" plus vertical leap. McDaniel will likely be recruited as a cornerback (he has really good ball skills as a corner). Watching his film though, he looks like a college prospect as a wide receiver.
Jalen Hurd, 6'3" 215 lbs Hendersonville,(Beech). Hurd has already been anointed as the best running back in the state for 2014. With good reason. Hurd was one of the best prospects in the state as a junior. Hurd is big, powerful and fast. With Tennessee's need at running back, all eyes will be on Hurd's recruitment. Hurd may be one of the best running backs in the country but actually may be a better athlete than running back. Some believe Hurd could grow out of a running back body and may wind up at another position in college. Tennessee is involved here along with schools from coast to coast including Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame and Florida.
Vic Wharton, 6'0" 170 lbs, Nashville (Independence). Another Tennessee legacy Wharton was Butch Jones' first 2014 commitment. My concern with Wharton is because he is an early commitment people may discount just how good a pickup he is for Tennessee. Wharton is an all everything player at Independence High excelling at running back, receiver, kick return specialist, and corner back. Wharton may be a better basketball player than football player but his ticket to major college athletics is football. Wharton is a definite top 5 /top 10 prospect type in the state. For you star gazers, Wharton will likely be a consensus 4 star prospect.
Rashauun Gaulden, 6'1" 175 lbs Nashville, (Independence). Teammate of Vic Wharton, Gaulden is another phenomenal in state talent. Gaulden is likely a cornerback in college. I like this kid because he has good ball skills, is long and fast. Already has offers from SEC schools and other including an offer from Tennessee. Gaulden is a top 10 in state prospect.
Josh Malone, 6'3" 215 lbs Gallatin (Station Camp). Butch Jones says he wants 12 wide receivers on scholarship. Right now Tennessee has 9 and a couple of those wide receivers are likely to make position changes this spring. What does this mean? 2014 is likely to be another cycle Tennessee goes heavy on wide receivers. Without doubt Josh Malone is at the top of the wide receiver board. Malone is likely the top wide receiver prospect and a top 5 prospect in the state. When rankings come out Malone will join Kelly, JR and Hurd as one of the top prospects at their position in the country. Malone already has 25 plus offers from schools across the country. Malone has always liked Tennessee. We'll see if Tennessee can close the deal here.
Emmanuel Smith, 6'2" 195 lbs Murfreesboro (Oakland) safety/athlete. Commend Coach Jones for being ahead of the curve. Tennessee was the first school to extend Emmanuel Smith a scholarship offer. Smith already is a top 15 to 20 prospect but once more schools evaluate him and he completes the camp circuit this spring and summer he will no longer be a secret. You can see what a good athlete Smith watching his film though he is very raw technique wise. If he keeps growing it is easy to see Smith as an outside linebacker in college. He'll be a top 10 prospect in the state by the fall. Will be on campus this weekend. Would be nice to wrap this one up early.
Bailey Lenior, 6'3" 225 lbs Chattanooga (East Hamilton). Lenior's father Patrick played at Tennessee in the late 80s. Doesn’t matter whether Lenior is a legacy kid or not, his skills are impressive enough that Lenoir is being courted by a number of SEC schools. Lenoir is the best 2014 prospect in the Chattanooga area and is already being evaluated by the Tennessee staff.
Cornelius Sturghill, 5'11" 170 lbs Memphis (Melrose). Sturghill is another top 10 prospect in Tennessee who was on campus for the February 2nd Junior Day. Sturghill is likely a slot receiver or corner in college as well as a kick returner. During their time at Cincinnati, Butch Jones and Mark Elder developed a nice relationship with Sturghill. No doubt Sturghill is a top Tennessee target in the western part of the state.
Davin Perry 6'1"170 lbs Memphis (Memphis University School) wide receiver. Perry is one of west Tennessee's best. He'll easily be a top 20 prospect in the state when the rankings are updated later this spring. Already receiving a ton of interest from the SEC schools.
DJ Jones, 6'0" 185 Cleveland. This is name many won’t be too familiar with unless you follow Chattanooga area high school football. Jones is a nice athlete who can play on both sides of the ball and is the primary receiver of one of the area’s top 2014 quarterbacks Austin Herink who will be scouted by many major colleges between now and the end of the high school football season. Largely ignored by the recruiting services so far, I don’t need one of those services to tell me Jones can play.. it is easy to see when you watch his film.
Jalen Manning, 5'10" 185 lbs, Carthage (Smith County). Running Back. All the talk about in state running backs with be about another Jalen (Hurd). Jalen Manning is no slouch. In terms of frame, Manning looks ready to play in the SEC now. He is really put together and looks like a true between the tackles kind of runner. Mississippi State has shown him the most interest early. Tennessee is evaluating Manning. Top end speed is the only concern with Manning.
Andy Eddins 6'4" 225 lbs Knoxville (Grace Christian) Athlete. Eddins has a chance to be a major college prospect by the end of the 2013 football season. He is a big kid, has good ball skills, and fast and athletic. Eddins projects as either a tight end or defensive end in college. Eddins does not have any offers but expect that to change once he hits the camp circuit this spring/summer. Chance to be one of the area’s best.
Darryl Rollins, 5'8" 165 lbs Knoxville (Fulton). Rollins is included for much the same reason DJ Jones is included. Rollins is an undersized running back with speed and quickness. Watching his film a pattern emerges. Rollins is never brought down on first contact and he doesn’t get tackled from behind. Nice qualities for a running back to have. Rollins will camp and wind up on a number of recruiting boards. He plays on a high school team that includes a hand full of major college prospects and will get a ton of look by college recruiters this fall including Tennessee.
Mariko Odom, 5'8" 160 lbs, Nashville (Riverdale). Athlete. After a junior year that included rushing for 900 plus yards, 400 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, 67 tackles and three interceptions on defense , college coaches have worn a path out to Riverdale to check on Odom. Tennessee began showing interest last fall. Ohio State and Nebraska are others that are showing interest.
D'Anthony Ferby 6'1" 210 lbs, Nashville (Ensworth). Running Back. Ferby is one of the better prospects in the mid state. Ferby is a very good running back prospect but his future college destination is likely at the linebacker position. Tennessee hasn’t offered but is evaluating.
Nikia Cathey, 5'9" 175 lbs, Memphis (Westwood). Athlete. If Tennessee wants to get involved with Cathey, they have a heck of a hill to climb. Cathey committed to Mississippi State last October. As a junior, Cathey racked up 3,000 all-purpose yards and scored 18 touchdowns. Cathey has been clocked at 4.31 in the forty.
Dejuan McQuarters 5'10" 170 lbs, Memphis (Melrose) 24/7 rates McQuarters as the 19th best prospect in the state for 2014. At 19, McQuarters may be a bit under the radar. He is a prospect who runs a 4.3 forty, has off the chart measureables and has the ability to score from any place on the football field. Tennessee has already has a relationship established with McQuarters from their time at Cincinnati.
Even though local kids like Xavier Hawkins and Penny Smith (Knox Fulton), JaJuan Stinson (Knox Central), and VOL legacy Cedric Wilson JR (Memphis White Station) weren’t mentioned in detail, you will certainly hear more about them in the weeks and months to come.
Tennessee should have a big signing class right now. Currently projected to be able to take 30 prospects.
Kelly JR., Hurd, and Malone are all consensus top 100 prospects in the nation.
Tennessee won’t sign them all. Have to get their fair share though.
Not necessarily kid mentioned above but expect 3 to 5 commitments by the time spring practice rolls around.
Skill position kids get all the hype. Linemen are where games are won and lost. Later this week a look at in state linemen you will be sure to hear more about.
Over the next few days, I will post something on in state linemen, linebackers and quarterbacks to keep an eye on.
Till next time
'Here are some of my takeaways from National Signing Day.
First look at some positives.
Tennessee rolls out back to back 5 and 7 seasons, fires a Head Coach in November, hires a new one in December and with 31 days to recruit the new Head Coach brings in a top 20..ish recruiting class. Yes people are disappointed Tennessee didn’t close better but consider this. We all saw what Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss did yesterday. Freeze's first year on the job , coming off the Houston Nutt debacle, Ole Miss signed the 40th rated class in the country according to Rivals. What a difference getting your kids to believe and winning makes.
You don’t get points for finishing second in recruiting and Tennessee finished second in a number of battles. Two of these came down to Tuesday evening and another one came down to Wednesday morning. Tennessee thought it had at least two more kids that were going to be a part of the class that ended up staying with their initial commitments.
Definite upgrade in speed in the secondary. Need to build on this in 2014.
Added three big bodied, athletic defensive lineman.
Nice group of wide receivers.
Tennessee signed two kids from North Carolina (including the Number 1 prospect that state) and two kids from South Carolina. Two states Tennessee hasn’t had much success in recruiting during the last few years.
Tennessee signed a trio of excellent prospects from Georgia. Joshua Dodds and Cameron Sutton are both steals. Ryan Jenkins is a signee people aren’t talking about. Not sure why. He will be a very good player at Tennessee.
After listening to and watching Coach Jones address the media, I feel like Tennessee has the guy who can get things going in the right is headed direction.
Now the not so positive.
Fans aren’t the only ones shocked at how poor the relationships were between Tennessee, high school coaches and prospects around the region. While Coach Jones has been out recruiting he has been forced to spend an equal amount of time mending fences and rebuilding bridges. Jones realized this early on here. In fact, on more than one occasion apologies were extended from UT to high school officials regarding how poorly their kids had been treated/ignored, in terms of recruiting, by Tennessee in the past.
Never one to say I told you so but I saw this coming in early January. Too big of a hill to climb unless you waste scholarships on bodies and not kids that can play in the SEC. Yes, Tennessee had the ability to sign 27 kids but it was almost impossible to do so. Coach Jones inherited a commitment list that had a number of prospects that either didn’t fit his system, couldn’t play in the SEC, had academic issues or all the above.
I counted 11 kids committed to Tennessee at one time or another that ended up signing elsewhere. What compounded the problem were NCAA sanctions and visits used up last fall left Coach Jones was 34 official visits to use in January. The combination of the above left Jones with a razor thin margin for error.
I thought one statement Coach Jones made at his presser was telling and I'm paraphrasing here..... recruiting in the SEC is not only day to day but hour to hour. I don't think this took Butch Jones by surprise but I do wonder how his assistants experiencing their first taste of SEC recruiting handled it.
Coach Jones is a coach who believes in his system. He reinforced that again during his media opportunities. He brought coaches with him who he was familiar with and knew his system. Fans have to be patient with this approach. He knows the stakes are high. If he sees an adjustment needs to be made to beef up recruiting horsepower, no doubt he will do so.
Games in the SEC are won and lost along the line of scrimmage and frankly yesterday today most every team in the SEC got better at those positions than Tennessee. Now Tennessee signed a couple of nice prospects on both sides of the ball but the other schools loaded up along the fronts.
Tennessee has been void of playmakers on the defensive line for the last couple of years. After the 2013 season, many of the kids off the defensive line that was not very good frankly last season will be gone. The three signees are a start but not enough.
It is even more concerning to look at the offensive line. . Sure, next season the offensive line should be the best in the SEC. After next season, look at the depth chart. Tennessee is losing it top 6 or 7 offensive lineman after next year and the back ups are not very experienced.
Who knows how the three offensive lineman signed will pan out. Certainly one or two if not all three of the kids will be forced to play in 2014 season. is it realistic to expect each one to be ready then? Not really.
Last recruiting cycle when we should have signed 2 or 3 offensive lineman we signed none.
Makes about as much sense as the former staff not having a running backs coach for a couple of years. Go figure.
Recruiting never stops. Junior day this weekend
I will have a 2014 look next week