You are viewing 'X's current reports.
Click here to view 'X's reports for the 2012 class.
Click here to view 'X's reports for the 2012 class.
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
I think I have never seen so many highs and lows in recruiting as I have this recruiting cycle.
I think Tennessee leads right now for Quarterback Joshua Dobbs, Defensive Lineman Jaylen Miller, and Safety Vonn Bell.
I think if QB Joshua Dobbs signs with Tennessee he is the steal of the recruiting season in the Southeast.
I think if Dillon South Carolina running Jabo Lee back signs with Tennessee on Wednesday AND can qualify academically we got ourselves a nice running back. Lee was a highly recruited running back last summer but many schools backed away because of academics. Tennessee must think they can get him in school...
I think Tennessee is the bridesmaid for defensive end Davin Bellamy and running back Jonathan Ford.
I think all the other prospects on Tennessee's board are toss ups and could go either way today or tomorrow.
I think the Tyler Boyd recruitment will be interesting to watch over the next day or so. I don’t believe it is a given he signs with Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
anything can happen between now and tomorrow!
I think I will not be very productive today and I will keep Basilio up on everything Wednesday. So, listen in and you'll get it as it comes across my desk.
Q: ‘Coach Jones made a point, at his introduction, to remind everyone that neither Nick Saban nor Les Miles had ever coached in the SEC before ascending their throne at LSU (some of these younger folks don’t remember Saban took LSU to the top before the Tide). For that matter, CBJ could have included (Sub) Urban (Oscar) Meyer (Wiener) in his statement. So, after National Signing Day, can your loyal readers persuade you to compare and contrast Coach Jones’ first recruiting class to the first SEC recruiting classes of the above listed National Championship coaches? Thanks Mike’
X: I can do that. It will take a bit of time to compile the information but I will get to it. After signing day, my first new piece will be a look at 2014 kids Tennessee is targeting (with particular emphasis on the in state kids... and there will be a number of them). I have been working this 2014 piece for some time and hope to roll it out by the Wednesday after signing day.
Q: ‘A lot of people have started to question Jay Graham's ability to get a big time running back even though he got Lattimore to come to S. Carolina. I think a better benchmark for his recruiting ability will be his ability to get in-state recruit Jalen Hurd to come to Tennessee. I think most scouts have him as a top 5 RB. What do you think X? Robert in Nashville.
X: I think the criticism of Jay Graham is hogwash. Listen, the South Carolina situation and the Tennessee situation Jay walked into were completely different. What Jay Graham did last year with what he inherited (one running that is better suited as a slot guy and two others that are not every down SEC backs) is incredible. With elite running backs that Tennessee was focused on, the coaching instability, lack of wins last season, an offensive coordinator who seemed to have ADD with the running game, and coaching change have all worked against Tennessee in the recruitment of their top running back targets.
I haven’t spent a ton of time looking at tape on 2014 prospects. I did watch Jalen Hurd in the state playoffs last year and was impressed. Looks to be easily the top back if not the top prospect in the state in 2014. I have the same question about Jalen Hurd as I did about Derrick Henry. When will he stop growing and is there a chance he may grow out of a running backs body. Hurd and a running back from Georgia named Treyon Paulk are at the top of the 2014 running back board for Tennessee. The former Head Coach at Tennessee did help get Tennessee off to a good start with Hurd for what it is worth. Tennessee already trying to catch up here. The good news is Tennessee is hosting a Junior Day this weekend and I expect Jalen Hurd to be in attendance.
Q: 'X: Do you know anything about the DL/OL from Brighton, TN. Charles Mosley is a 6'6 350 player from Brighton, TN. I do not think that Dooley even looked his way. Nick Saban was in town on January 30th to recruit Charles.
X: In state for 2014 there are a large number of big bodied kids that are going to be on the radar of many SEC teams. Almost unprecedented for the state of Tennessee. There will be a number of major battles for kids like Mosely. I checked this afternoon and Mosley is definitely on Tennessee's radar.
Q: ‘Not a question but a comment about Jordan Wilkins for X. I have a child who attends Saint Benedict and yes, Jordan had an ugly injury. Jordan is recovered and playing in games for the school basketball team without any indication of the injury. I have watched him for 4 years, and he is a talent. Word around school is that Jordan had a horrible meeting with Coach Dooley this past summer. Big surprise there.
George U, Memphis’
X: George, great question. Or should I say great comment? It will be interesting to see what Jordan Wilkins weekend plans are. I am even more intrigued about where Wilkins signs on Wednesday. Lots of shoes could drop depending on what Wilkins does. If he signs with Ole Miss, he would be the 5th running back in their class. If this happens, does that push an Ole Miss running back commitment like Peyton Barber to Tennessee? Maybe. If Wilkins signs with Ole Miss and Ford signs with Auburn, Barber to Tennessee is possible. Also, think about this and this is my personal preference....I hope Tennessee official visits Wilkins this weekend. In state kid with an SEC frame. Whether his ultimate position is running back or a spot on defense this couldn’t hurt you recruiting the city of Memphis.
Q: ‘Love what you’re doing X! I have a question for the 2014 class. Any guys that UT is currently sitting pretty with that have the potential to become 5 star players? Thanks! Eric’
X: Wow, it is too early to know how the services will rate these kids. The obvious 5 star possibilities are in state prospects Todd Kelley, JR from Knox Webb and previously mentioned Jalen Hurd. There is a wide receiver in Georgia named Demarrie Kitt who is very good and probably has a chance to be that type of player. Here is a 2014 kid to watch to could really climb up the ratings chart by next fall. Murfreesboro safety Emmanuel Smith.
Q: ‘In your opinion, who is the most important “get” for UT at this point? Both from a perception perspective and immediate impact perspective?
X: I will answer the question in two parts. The first important "get" is not discussed much. I think it was critical for Butch Jones and Mark Elder to solidify the commitment of Jason Carr to Tennessee. The class could have been in trouble but they fixed it. Carr will play next year too.
From here on out, I really think Vonn Bell is a crucial get. Admitted long time Tennessee fan. Bell will provide an immediate upgrade. Carl Lawson is key too. Both are first day starters if they sign with Tennessee in my opinion.
Q: ‘There is a running back from Memphis a 4 * decommit from auburn what status any chance butch will work magic? Thanks Jason.’
X: You are referring to Jordan Wilkins my friend. See my note about Jordan Wilkins. I’m with you brother. I think Wilkins is a prospect Tennessee needs to get on campus this weekend.
Q: Rod Crayton is an uncommitted 4* Defensive Tackle from Alabama. He has been named the best D-Lineman in Alabama (any classification) for each of the past two years. Academically he is already NCAA qualified. He
has completely overcome a disability (part of foot is missing) to become one of the most feared DTs around, and one who manhandles anyone put in front of him, no matter how big/strong or how good they are, 5*s included.
Rod bench presses over 500 lbs (restricted by coaches from going higher) and leg presses over 1000 lbs. His stats are all world and he is very much a quality kid. With our needs, why are we not all over Crayton??
X: I am not an evaluator and certainly don’t profess to know the intimate details of defensive schemes. In my opinion, I think Crayton, a very good prospect, is a better fit for a 3 - 4 defensive scheme than the 4 -3 that is going to be installed this spring. If you recall, the previous staff had quite a bit of interest in Crayton. I think Crayton has been in contact with Coach Thigpen but I don’t see much happening to be truthful with you.
See below for more 'X' from today!!!
Less than a week until another National Signing Day is in the books. At this point, I feel conflicted. The Marquez North news Wednesday evening was huge. However, unlike many recruiting guys, I am tempering my expectations for Wednesday (National Signing Day). I’m skeptical but at the same time impressed by what Butch Jones and staff have done in such a short time. Key thing to remember for here on out. It is no longer public commitments (what kids say) anymore it is all about where kids sign on Wednesday (what they do).
Regardless of how things turn out for Tennessee on Wednesday, all Tennessee fans should take a minute, breathe a sigh of relief, and look forward to better days. Wednesday is not a referendum on Butch Jones … good or bad. Wednesday simply closes out one of the worst stretches in Tennessee football history and simultaneously usher in a new beginning . Hopefully, any remains of the Derek Dooley era can be washed down the drain on Wednesday. As Tennessee fans, we can say good bye to the mismanagement and arrogance that seemed to permeate the program for the last three years and hello to a staff that actually seems like they embrace being Volunteers.
This is the worst part of every recruiting cycle for me. I am not into making predictions (I did think North would pick Tennessee but I figured he would wait till Signing Day). The few that know me and have access ask hourly to "predict" the close and I simply can’t do it. Making predictions on where 17 and 18 year old kids are going to go to school. Good luck with that.
This recruiting cycle is the hardest handicap because Tennessee is competing again with Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Auburn, Ohio State and their likes again
One last huge official visit weekend. Publicly, I think Tennessee will host anywhere from 3 to 5 official visitors. Right now, EJ Levenberry, Malik Brown, and Tyler Boyd are scheduled. Two more are tentative and I think there may be a surprise tossed in.
I actually think Tennessee would like to bring in a couple more visitors I just don’t think they have the official visits to hand out..... more on this below. I think much like the clandestine Trey Johnson visit last weekend another prospect or two may have been ushered on and off campus without the media catching wind of it.
This is the final official visit weekend of the 2013 cycle but recruiting never stops. Tennessee is holding its first Junior Day for the 2014 recruiting cycle on Saturday.
The Big Orange Big Board & My Thoughts.
Joshua Dobbs, Alpharetta, Georgia. Committed to Arizona State. Officially visited Tennessee the weekend of January 25. This staff is not comfortable with only having 3 scholarship quarterbacks (Worley, Peterman , and commitment Riley Ferguson). An injury and transfer or something else could leave you one snap away from having one healthy scholarship quarterback. Academics and distance are in play with Dobbs and for that reason I believe he elects to stay closer to home. Question is will Clemson make a late run here. I have to be honest. I don’t feel as comfortable about Dobbs selecting Tennessee as I did a couple of days ago.
Running Back (?)
The running back board looks like it is only one prospect deep but there may be more…..
Jonathan Ford, New Hopewell, Alabama. Ford has emerged as one of the top running back prospects in the Southeast. When speaking of Ford and I have gone on record of saying this before. Once Butch Jones accepted the Tennessee job, Ford went from just another running back on the board to the top of the list. Tennessee is in a fierce battle with Auburn and Florida State for Ford. I think the odds on favorite is Auburn but Auburn has one running back in this class in school and another just about ready to take another running back commitment. Ford loved his visit to Tennessee. Auburn's staff did their in home visit earlier in the week and Ford, an in state prospect, did not commit to the in state school. Would have been easy for an instate kid to commit to the in state school either during the official visit or the in home visit… but Ford didn’t. Something tells me Ford may be the one on signing day that turns to Tennessee but I don’t feel confident in this one at all.
Other possible running back options. There are discussions that Tennessee could bring in Jordan Wilkins from Memphis for an official visit this weekend. As of Thursday evening I can’t say that will happen. Wilkins and Tennessee have had an odd relationship. However, Where Wilkins ends up signing may start a series of moves that lands Tennessee a running back.
If Wilkins signs with Ole Miss that makes 5 running backs in their class. Does Peyton Barber who had interest in Tennessee but committed to Ole Miss start to look around? Too, if Jonathan Ford chooses Auburn on Wednesday, it doesn’t necessarily mean Tennessee strikes out at the running back position…. Follow me here….. For the most part recruiting is speculation until prospects are signed, sealed and delivered on Signing Day. X is a self-proclaimed black helicopter type of guy but normally that does not skew my analysis of recruiting. However, I am throwing this out there mainly because I think it is conceivable and people closer to recruiting than I will not comment on this. I sense a running back committed to another school was on campus in January for a visit and the visit has been kept quiet. That doesn’t mean the prospect signs with Tennessee on Wednesday. This simply means I think there are plans in place in case Jonathan Ford picks Auburn.
Concerned Tennessee could come up a little short here
Christian Morris Memphis, Tennessee. Morris’ recruitment has been odd to say the least. Morris is a UCLA commitment. Appeared Tennessee had some momentum with Morris a few weeks ago that momentum seems to have disappeared. The longer these in state prospects go and don’t commit to the in state program the better the chance the prospect is headed to the out of state program. I say Morris stays with his UCLA commitment.
Chongo Kondolo, Dallas, Texas, by way of Fresno Community College. Another prospect who blew up on the recruiting trail after visiting Tennessee. Kondolo has received offers from Florida State and Nebraska along with previous offers from schools like Utah State and a couple other WAC type schools. Another prospect I don’t have a feel for. The people around Tennessee feel good about landing Chondolo. I think he ends up at Utah State.
There are three or four names out there of possible offensive line prospects that may official visit to Tennessee this weekend. Nothing has been nailed down yet and probably won’t be until Friday.
Marquez North, Charlotte, North Carolina. The declarative #1 prospect on Tennessee’s offensive board. This is a Tennessee – North Carolina battle. For the reasons I say Morris is going to stick with his UCLA commitment, I think North picks Tennessee. In state prospect postponing the decision until the last possible time to minimize in state /peer pressure for himself and family. Think the SEC wins out here. North is likely a Day 1 starter at Tennessee next season barring injury. Update. Wednesday evening VOL!
Tyler Boyd, Clairton, Pennsylvania. Boyd stood up at the US Army All American game and selected Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is close to home and a safe selection. Boyd however is intrigued by the SEC and the different ways Tennessee would like to use him in their offense. I have thought and still think Boyd is a long shot but playing in the SEC is a factor here. Boyd and family are scheduled for an official visit this weekend. It really doesn’t matter whether Boyd himself comes. If his family joins him then I give Tennessee a chance here.
Jaylen Miller, defensive end Gaffney, South Carolina. Miller visited Tennessee last summer, took an official visit earlier this month, and was back on campus unofficially last weekend with family members. Miller loves Tennessee but has not publicly committed to Tennessee. Tennessee has got to like their chances here but let’s see where he signs on Wednesday.
Carl Lawson, Alpharetta, Georgia. This is a three team race for the #2 rated prospect in the country. Tennessee, Clemson, and Auburn. I can see reasons why he would pick Tennessee or Clemson. I am having a hard time finding a reason why he would pick Auburn.. which likely means Lawson will choose Auburn on Signing Day. Whether Lawson ends up at Tennessee or not, Tennessee has done virtually everything it can to land this prospect who would contribute immediately when he arrived on campus.
Davin Bellamy, defensive end, Chamblee, Georgia. I see this coming down to Georgia or Tennessee for Bellamy. I think the real issue is whether Bellamy feels like Georgia is being forthright with prospects on the status of their defensive coordinator Todd Grantham who is rumored to be ready to jump to the NFL. Tennessee doesn’t have a pass rush end like Bellamy on campus and Bellamy would likely be in line to play very early here. Another prospect I really don’t have a feel for. My gut says Georgia.
Malik Brown defensive end, West Palm Beach, Florida. Brown is confirmed to be on campus with family this weekend. Brown is committed to Syracuse but has been looking around since Doug Marrone bolted upper New York for the NFL. Brown is a big bodied athletic prospect who can run. He needs to add weight but if he wants to come he is the type of prospect you don’t turn away. Tennessee needs bodies here and Brown is a good one.
EJ Levenberry , Woodridge, Virginia. 4 star prospect. Army All American. Tennessee was Levenberry’s leader before Sal Sunseri showed up at Tennessee as the Defensive Coordinator. Sunseri didn’t appreciate Levenberry’s skill set as much as he did ex-Tennessee linebacker commitments Dominic Zanca, Colton Goeas, and Zach Barnes…… this of course rubbed the Levenberry party the wrong way. Levenberry spurned Tennessee and committed to FSU. Now, low and behold Coach Sunseri shows up at FSU as their defensive end coach. You can’t think the family is comfortable with an unproven defensive coordinator and Sunseri being on staff at FSU…
Jonathan Walton, Daphne, Alabama. Most of the paid recruiting analysts believe Tennessee is completely out of this recruitment. I am not convinced of that. If you are looking for a possible signing day surprise it may be Walton to Tennessee.
Trey Johnson Lawrenceville, Georgia. Johnson committed to Ohio State during the US Army All American Game. Tennessee has never stopped recruiting Johnson. Coach Thigpen has a strong relationship with Johnson and Johnson’s family. I don’t know if that is enough to flip Johnson to Tennessee but the Ohio State folks are sweating this one. Could be another signing day surprise.
Skai Moore, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Moore decommitted from Rutgers in early January and now appears SEC bound. Moore has visited South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and is tentatively scheduled Tennessee this weekend. Let’s see if it happens. Tennessee may have some connections here. Coach Martinez previously coached Moore's brother and I understand Moore has family in or around the Atlanta area.
Really would be nice to have at least two of the four linebackers mentioned.
Vonn Bell Rossville, Georgia. There is not much I can say here that even the most novice recruitniks don’t know about Vonn Bell. 5 star prospect. Admittedly grew up a Tennessee fan. Would have committed to Tennessee a year ago if the former staff would have handled Bell’s recruitment in a competent manner. The former staff left Coach Jones a huge mountain to climb. To Jones’ credit, he has made Bell a priority and made up a ton of ground. Many signals point to Tennessee being the favorite and I know Tennessee feels optimistic. However, they know this one will come down to Wednesday morning.
A couple of thoughts in closing. It is very likely most of what I have included will change by Monday. I see Tennessee closing a little better with defensive prospects than I do offensive prospects.
Q: ‘Are the Vols looking at Michael Dyer? Despite his history, it seems a probability since we need a running back and Thigpen is on staff.
Some coaches tell the recruits not to announce until signing day to ease in state pressure after announcing- is this the case with any of these recruits?
Terry Fair is a sharp guy - has he had any impact in Vol recruiting?
X: ‘The #1 running back on the board is J. Ford.. It’s 6 days before signing day and I think Ford is Auburn bound. UT hasn’t scheduled any running backs to visit this weekend. I believe there must be another running back out there that has fallen through the cracks. If Ford chooses Auburn, and their isn’t an ace up Jones sleeve, expect UT to continue to scour the country to find somebody to bring in here. Rest assured that Ford is UT’s #1 target. In fact the Vols want him more than they wanted Green.
On Terry Fair. He can’t recruit off campus. He can only impact things on campus. They’ve only had one db on campus (Vonn Bell) since he’s gotten here. You would certainly think that a guy like Fair could impact a young man like Bell with his wealth of knowledge. Word from the recruiting office on campus is that Terry Fair is a rising star and that it’s been said more than once that he coaches just like he played.’
Q: ‘How good is the relationship between Carl Lawson and Rodney
Garner? I think this could be the most critical factor
in Lawson's decision on signing day. I just want to
know if Carl Lawson has started to warm up to Garner,
and whether he could solidify his Auburn commitment or
not. Appreciate it. Andrew’
X: ‘Relationship between the two is better than it was. When Garner was DL coach @ GA & recruiting coordinator, GA never offered Lawson. It got back to Lawson that Garner thought he was overrated. Well, Garner has been able to shift blame to Todd Grantham (DC @ UGA). Lawson’s family seems to be buying this a little bit. If Lawson doesn’t come to UT it will be hard to fault UT from my vantage point. They have pulled out all the stops for him. In my opinion Lawson is not an Auburn commitment as has been reported. It’s a three team race between Clemson, Auburn and Tennessee in no particular order.’
Q: ‘What do you attribute the fact that Ole Miss is having
such a good year in recruiting? Is Tennessee finally poised
to have a breakout year next year in recruiting? We
have better facilities, a better record (for what it
is) the last several years and a much larger stadium
and student body. Proximity does help them in some
markets, but we should draw well from Ohio, Va., NC,
and SC. Are we doing things the right way? I'm impressed
with Coach Jones. Thanks Allen’
X: ‘On Ole Miss. They had a winning season, went to a bowl game and have a coach with a James Franklin type of attitude. And Freeze has a young, aggressive staff. They don’t take no for an answer on the recruiting trail. They’ve had a great haul. Hats off to them. I could see Tennessee enjoying a similar type class next year but winning and getting to a bowl game would almost have to factor in there. And I’m impressed with Coach Jones too. It’s hard to recruit to Tennessee and it doesn’t help that they’ve lost 7 games in the past two years. With the UC guys and Thigpen, UT should be solid recruiting in Mid Atlantic and Mid West. Thigpen should help in North Carolina, Alabama and the mid state of Tennessee. IMO this staff needs two or three more Tommy Thigpens.’
Q: ‘Thanks Tone. Love the show and writing you from all the way in Milwaukee. I have a question for X. Been hearing a lot of buzz lately about Charlie High possibly walking on at UT. He looks kinda small but his stats are outta this world! Do you think he can cut it in the SEC and even more, make an impact for the Big Orange?
Thanks. Korrey in Milwaukee’
X: ‘Um. That’s a good question. If you’re talking specifically about UT, they have Riley Ferguson from NC committed and they are trying to get another QB (Joshua Dobbs, Alpharetta, GA). If Dobbs chooses another school maybe Charlie High is given an opportunity as a preferred walk on at UT. Is he an SEC caliber QB? I didn’t think Conner Shaw was an SEC caliber QB. Hope this helps.’
Q: ‘If we don’t get Jonathan Ford what are we going to do at
running back? I know we want and need two in this class
and it seems like we may not get one unless its
somebody marginal. Keyante Green, Grayson, Kemp? How
are we not in it for Jordan Wilkins or Shane Tucker.
Inexplicable to me that we don’t have elite backs
beating down our door. Thanks Jake’
X: ‘I think you raise a great question and several great points. I think they want two RB’s in this class and it’s possible they don’t get any. They put all their chips on Green and they could’ve had Turman who is now heading to UGA. And Derrick Henry is another guy they finished second for and here we are. On Green, Grayson or Kemp, I don’t see it. Grayson was hurt during his senior year and Kemp got tired of waiting on Tennessee. There’s Aregeros Turner from Copley, Ohio. There was some talk about Shane Tucker from Memphis. Jordan Wilkins? Never a fit there plus he had a bad injury this past season as well.’
Q: ‘Any chance that Jones is trying to hold back commits in order to make as much noise on NSD as possible? Great stuff. Thanks for doing this. Jim’
X: ‘Thank you Jim. Great question. It would make some sense but I don’t think so. I think UT is in a dog fight for each and every one of these kids. Some may have told UT coaches privately that they’re coming but don’t want to go public because heat will be turned up on them. For instance North out NC is getting heavy heat to stay in state. If he went public for UT today all hell would break loose on him and the pressure would become immense. So, in other words the prospects may be doing this but I don’t think Butch Jones is orchestrating this behind closed doors. The dynamics of this are such that there a lot of moving parts. Very interesting final 6 days in front of us here.’
Q: ‘Tony and 'X',
Big fan of the show Tony, and I absolutely cannot get enough of the insight 'X' offers into the world of College Football Recruiting.
Questions for 'X':
Has UT continued to recruit RB/ATH Tarean Folston?
Who do you see out of UT's current class now that could come in and surprise people?
Davante Bourque was a guy last year who decommitted late and ended up signing with UT; who are some guy this year that fit that similar profile? (who UT has continued to recruit and still has a shot at despite being committed elsewhere)
It seems that UT has had a problem as of lately of attracting marquee talent along the defensive-line, why?
Appreciate the work gentlemen, and I will continue to be a loyal listener and reader.
X: ‘If you go back and look at any of my updates during the fall, I stated Folston was as good as any running back on Tennessee's board. The former staff had Folston for the taking but much like they chose to do on AJ Turman put their chips on landing Derrick Green or Derrick Henry. As good as Folston is as a running back, Folston maybe a better defensive back prospect than running back prospect. Would have loved to seen him at Tennessee.’
Q: ‘Who do you see out of UT's current class now that could come in and surprise people?’
X: ‘This is based on the prospects committed today. I will stand by my statement that Cameron Sutton will the surprise of the class. Really athletic and undervalued by the recruiting services.’
Q: ‘Davante Bourque was a guy last year who decommitted late and ended up signing with UT; who are some guy this year that fit that similar profile? (who UT has continued to recruit and still has a shot at despite being committed elsewhere)’
X: ‘There are two or three kids Tennessee is continuing to recruit that are committed to other schools. If Wide Receiver Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh commitment) or defensive end Malik Brown (Syracuse commitment) take an official visit to Tennessee this weekend as currently planned , then anything is possible. Same with FSU linebacker commitment EJ Levenberry. Levenberry is scheduled to visit this weekend as well. Hopefully we can turn all three of these kids and they all turn out better than Borque did.’
Q: ‘It seems that UT has had a problem as of lately of attracting marquee talent along the defensive-line, why?’
X: ‘My opinion is there has been no continuity in the coaching of that position over the last 3 or 4 years plus the changes in scheme have hurt. It comes down to recruiting to be frank. Tennessee has been get beat too often for difference making defensive lineman. Hoping Coach Jones changes that. Huge priority in 2014.’
The first one of Tennessee’s big recruiting targets either goes into the Tennessee commitment column or falls off the big board Saturday. Richmond, Virginia running back Derrick Green is set to make his college choice public Saturday afternoon. Green, the Number 1 running back prospect in the country according to most of the recruiting services, is down to two schools: Tennessee or Michigan. "Insiders" that say they know what school Green will choose Saturday are guessing. In my opinion, this one is close and too close to call.
Some background here. Last fall, Green was Tennessee’s to lose.... and they may have. Green and family had a great official visit to Tennessee. The dismal season and coaching situation completely changed the dynamic of Green’s recruitment and gave Michigan an opportunity to vault ahead of Tennessee for Green’s commitment. Michigan has seemingly been the declarative leader for Green since it was clear the Dooley regime was over at Tennessee.
When Butch Jones was hired, most (including me) gave Tennessee little or no shot with Green. Color me as one that was surprised Green did not publicly announce for Michigan during the US Army All-American High School All Star Game earlier this month.
However, Butch Jones made a calculated decision to burn his in home visit with Green and family very early in the recruiting cycle almost unheard of unless a prospect is enrolling in January and Green is not. His decision paid off if nothing else the visit got Tennessee back into the hunt and the mix for Green. The visit seemed to allay concerns of Green and family. Over the last 6 weeks, give Tennessee credit, they have really closed hard on Green and whatever lead Michigan had for Green has all but evaporated. Does that mean Green steps up to the podium Saturday and picks Tennessee? Who knows. I am convinced now Michigan is nowhere near the lock for Green as they seemed to be 6 weeks ago.
Sorry folks I really don’t have a feel for where this kid is going. I do think Green has led both schools to believe he will announce for them on Saturday. I also have a feeling neither school has any idea right now who he will choose on Saturday.
There are plenty of reasons Green would choose Tennessee. He has a 3 plus year relationship with Jay Graham going back to when Jay was with South Carolina. Graham is going nowhere and would be his position coach for his career at Tennessee. Green’s family is fond of Knoxville and even fonder of Jay Graham. Certain family members have a preference for Tennessee … but are letting the kid make his own decision. Butch Jones has made a great impression on Green and the family. Butch Jones' offense is running back friendly and puts running backs in the NFL drafts and of course it is the SEC. At Tennessee and not to be overlooked, Green will have more than ample opportunity for significant early playing time. You also wonder if distance plays are part in the decision at all. Knoxville is 2 ½ hours closer to his parents’ home than Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Given all the above factors, most of the Recruiting analysts believe Green picks Michigan. Michigan is the safe and a logical choice. Even with these seemingly huge liabilities to overcome (dismal 2012 season, coaching change, new offensive scheme, new faces etc.) I give Tennessee a punchers chance here because of the reasons I mentioned above and the opportunity for immediate playing time on the biggest college football stage there is. A commitment from Green could be just the catalyst Tennessee needs to finish off this recruiting class in grand style.
Weather permitting Tennessee is expected to host 5 possibly 6 official visitors this weekend. Maybe not a huge number of visitors but each fills a different need for this class.
Maurice Swain, 6'6' 300 lb defensive lineman from LaGrange, Georgia. Tennessee needs another interior defensive lineman in this class. Swain fits the bill. Swain probably needs to rework his body a bit but his quick feet and athleticism are obvious from his tape.
Joshua Dobbs, 6'3" 185 lbs quarterback, Alpharetta, Georgia. Seems Tennessee really wants to sign two quarterbacks in this class. Understandable with Bray leaving and only two scholarship quarterbacks on campus now. Dobbs is committed to Arizona State but the Tennessee depth chart is much more appealing than ASU's at this point. Dobbs is athletic and a very good talent. Seems Dobbs is somewhat of a late bloomer and his skills have gone largely unnoticed by southeastern schools. Dobbs would be an excellent pickup.
Tyler Boyd, 6'1' 185 lb athlete Clairton, PA. Boyd a US Army All American is committed to Pittsburgh. Boyd is being recruited by Tennessee as a wide receiver but this kid could help in any number of roles for Tennessee. Though committed to Pittsburgh, Tennessee has worked hard to secure an official visit from Boyd and the lure of playing in the SEC has Boyd intrigued. Landing Boyd would be huge.
EJ Levenberry, 6'3' 225 LBS Woodridge, VA. Levenberry is another US Army All-American. Levenberry is a Florida State commitment but Tennessee is right in the thick of this recruitment. Most know the story and it probably doesn’t bear repeating but I’m always one for a good story.
Levenberry would have easily been a part of Tennessee's 2013 class but Tennessee's former Defensive Coordinator didn’t think Levenberry fit as well in a 3 - 4 defensive scheme. Tennessee's former defensive coordinator is now of the defensive staff at Florida State and the family is none too comfortable with that. You also can’t think the family is enamored with FSU hiring an unproven defensive coordinator. If Levenberry visits, this one will go to Signing Day. Tommie Thigpen has gotten Tennessee right in the middle of this one.
The headliner of the weekend is Vonn Bell a 6'1" 185 lb defensive back from Ridgeland, Georgia. Bell is one of the top prospects in the Southeast and has the skills to change the dynamic of a woeful Tennessee secondary if he were to decide to play at Tennessee. Bell looks like a cant miss prospect. Sure he is a 5 star prospect a US Army All American. Forget that. Watch his film. Bell just looks more athletic and frankly better than any other player on the field. Alabama is the team to beat here but Bell has always been a Tennessee fan. You just wonder if Tennessee has had the opportunity to undo many of the mistakes the former staff made in recruiting Bell. Alabama did not want Bell making this official visit to Tennessee. They thought Bell would have been theirs weeks ago but that didn’t happen. Tennessee has really closed hard with Bell. We'll see if it is enough.
Don’t be surprised, weather permitting, if a couple of Tennessee commitments return to campus on their own dime to help host the official visitors this weekend.
If these five prospects make it to campus this weekend, this will leave Tennessee 5 official visits to give for the last official visit weekend of this recruiting cycle.
As we suggested yesterday, the visitor list could expand for the weekend. In addition to the visitors we noted yesterday, you can add two and possibly three more official visitors to the list. They are:
Peyton Barber, running back. Alpharetta, Georgia. Barber is an Ole Miss commitment but is taking all his official visits and will likely sign at a school other than Ole Miss on signing day. Tennessee has a couple of running backs ranked ahead of Barber on their board. I contend if Barber hadn’t suffered a fairly major injury during his junior season that forced him to miss game time he would likely be one of the most sought after backs in the Southeast. Tennessee is quickly coming up on at a time where they have to close on one of these top running backs on their board.
Shelton Gibson. wide receiver Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Gibson, who recently committed to West Virginia, confirms to me that Tennessee is far from finished recruiting at the wide receiver talent. Long since thought to be headed to Ohio State, Gibson and the Buckeyes have recently parted ways.
I think Gibson committed to West Virginia as a reaction to parting ways with Ohio State and to reserve a spot in a class. Jones and Company have known and been recruiting Gibson since their days at Cincinnati, He is a dynamic athlete.
Gibson is a US Army All American. . Rumors of academic issues have followed Gibson around. Here is the real interesting twist. Given the academic environment at Tennessee and the limited number of official visits Tennessee has, one would have to think Tennessee believes they can get Gibson in school academically if he wants to come to Tennessee.
The third possible visitor is Jason Smith from Mobile, Alabama. X mistakenly referred to Mr. Smith as Trey instead of Jason in my Thursday report.
This kid is a heck of an athlete. A 4 star prospect Smith spurned Alabama for an opportunity to compete for the quarterback spot at Auburn. Earlier in the week, Auburn accepted a committed from its second quarterback of their class. Smith is now exploring other options. If Smith makes it to Knoxville, the inference is he has been promised his first opportunity at Tennessee at quarterback. X likes Smith's game. Thursday evening Smith isn’t 100% confirmed but things are looking like he will be on campus.
Tennessee is thinking they may get another visitor in town this weekend.... we'll see.
This is a long weekend remember
Ok.... well here you go.....With 3 weeks remaining until National Signing Day, the teeth gnashing and nights of uneasy sleep are upon us. Though part of me is envious of the guys sitting in Tennessee's recruiting office, I wouldn’t want to be in charge of how the last few but important official visits are distributed. This is going to be a real trick as we head toward the finish line. I will explain.
First things first. Every official visit weekend is important. The weekend in front of us is chocked full of committed prospects and three or four key uncommitted on prospects high on Tennessee's recruiting board. Next, looking forward to the weekend of January 25th. Tennessee is tentatively going to host 3 to 5 of the top prospects ion the eastern seaboard for official visits. Don't know how Tennessee will close but you have to be impressed with the way this staff has attacked recruiting.
If things weren't tough enough, Tennessee is dealing with another obstacle this recruiting cycle that can't be overlooked. Tennessee is dealing with a limited number of official visits to hand out. Because of NCAA sanctions and visits used up during the season by the former staff, Tennessee is a bit hamstrung with respect to official visits.
By my records (and I may be off a visit or two but you'll see the dilemma), Tennessee had 33 official visits to give going into last weekend when 9 official visitors were hosted. That leaves 24 official visits to give over the next three recruiting weekends.
24 visits for 3 recruiting weekends… what is the big deal X? The big deal is based upon the commitment list you still have 8 maybe 9 committed prospects yet to take their official visit. The decommitment of Chauntez Jackson yesterday freed up one official visit. With this development, it appears Tennessee has a maximum of 15 official visits to give and anywhere from 8 to 10 spots to fill in the recruiting class. Now are you beginning to see the dilemma? Bottomline, Butch Jones certainly has a balancing act to perform over the next 3 recruiting weekends.
Good news from last recruiting weekend is Tennessee was able to walk away with one new commitment. JUCO tight end Woody Quinn, who physically appears to be ready for SEC play, committed shortly after his official visit. It also appears With the addition of Quinn and the subtraction of Jackson, Tennessee sits with 18 commitments. Honestly, 1 maybe 2 of the 18 commitments still appear a bit shaky. Tennessee could have as few as 8 or as many as 11 spots to fill if they want to get to 27 signees which is the maximum they can sign in this cycle. I don't think they quite get to 27 in this class for what its worth.
The following is one dude's opinion on how the official visits might be distributed by position plus my opinion on who Tennessee looks good with and maybe not so much with others. I will lay it out simply..... 15 official visits to give, 8 to 10 spots to fill, and the dilemma …. 25 to 30 prospects remaining on your board.
Quarterback. With Riley Ferguson committed but Tyler Bray declaring early for the NFL, is Tennessee poised to take another quarterback in this class? By all appearances, the answer is yes. Quarterback/athlete Jonathan Franklin visited last weekend. A Florida State commitment, many think Franklin is better suited for a slot receiver or defensive back role in college. Franklin’s visit to Tennessee went better than expected but it is still a long shot for Franklin to leave Florida.
There are up to 3 quarterback prospects remaining on the board. Joshua Dobbs a dual threat quarterback from the Atlanta area holding a Tennessee offer. Dobbs is committed to Arizona. If he decides to visit over the next couple of weeks, Tennessee would likely take him. The other possibilities are Auburn commitment Trey Smith. Trey Smith is a heck of a prospect. Smith could play receiver or defensive back but wants an opportunity at quarterback. If things fall through with Franklin, Dobbs and Smith, don't be surprised if former Cincinnati commitment Kyle Kempt ends up as part of the class. Just saying. The odds on favorite for now is Dobbs but anything can happen.
Running Back. A position of need and a position where you would like to take two commitments …. yet you have no public commitments with 3 weeks to go....Good news is Tennessee made the finals for the #1 running back in the country (Derrick Green) and you just hosted a very underrated running back prospect in Jonathan Ford who had a very good official visit to Tennessee last weekend. Ford has clearly vaulted to the top of the running back board when Butch Jones took over. The dilemma is where do you think you stand with Green and with Ford then how many additional visits can you spend on running back prospects given other needs? There are a number of very good running back prospects remaining on the board: Florida running back Matt Dayes; Ole Miss commitment Peyton Barber; Florida product JoJo Kemp; Aregeros Turner, Marquez Grayson; and don’t rule out Georgia commitment AJ Turman. Tennessee is continuing to secure an official visit from Georgia running back Alvin Kamara but that appears to be a longshot. I like the Dayes kid from Florida but the staff doesn't seem as high on Dayes as others do. Barber is a longshot. Turner is likely to visit next weekend but he is not a between the tackles running back. Kemp is still a longshot to visit. I could see Tennessee using up to two maybe 3 official visits on running backs if things get dicey here.
Wide Receiver. With three wide receivers committed, a couple of athletes committed that could play wide receiver and in the top two for arguably one of the best wide receiver prospects in the country in Marquez North, Tennessee is still recruiting wide receivers. I once believed if North were to make a decision and pick Tennessee this week, Tennessee would be done at wide receiver… that is not the case. US Army All American wide receiver Tyler Boyd, committed to Pittsburgh, is scheduled to official visit the weekend of January 25th. Tennessee has the momentum with Boyd and that is what becomes important leading up to National Signing Day. No mistake though North is at the top of the wide receiver board.
Offensive Line. This one is tricky. Though offensive line commitment Dan Skipper says he is still committed, there is a growing faction of Tennessee folks that aren't so sure he will be a VOL on National Signing Day. The best thing that could have happened to Tennessee was to walk away from the January 11th weekend with commitments from two offensive lineman who visited ( Christian Morris and Chongo Kondolo). However, neither publicly committed to Tennessee.
Don't be surprised if Tennessee keeps shopping here. The two offensive lineman to watch are Georgia prospects Devondre Seymour and Maurice Swain. Georgia leads for Seymour but Georgia has one more offensive line slot left with a prospect or two ahead of Seymour on their board. If Georgia doesn’t have room for Seymour AND if Tennessee thinks it is going to whiff one either Skipper or Morris, watch Seymour . .Swain (6’6” 300 lbs) from LaGrange, Georgia, is a little more versatile prospect that could play offensive or defensive tackle. Swain is being courted by a number of SEC schools and has long been interested in Tennessee. Swain was recruited by the former Tennessee staff. If Swain visits, my guess is Kondolo is not a part of this class.
Tight End. With the commitment of Quinn and the decommitment of Chauntez Jackson, Tennessee appears to be finished at the tight end position. Tennessee's second tight end commitment of the class AJ Branisel is scheduled to visit this weekend. With Jackson nit visiting you pick up one official visit.
So, assuming the "net" number of official visits projected to be used for the offensive over the next three weeks is 6 based upon the above (1 at QB; 3 (max) at RB; 1 at WR; 2 (max) OL; and (-1) at tight end.) Tennessee has 9 official visits to use for the defense.
Let’s look at the defensive board assuming you have nine official visits to give.
Defensive Back. Tennessee has five defensive back/athletes committed in this class. I thought Tennessee was done recruiting defensive backs except for the pursuit of Von Bell until Tennessee commitment Cameron Sutton started taking visits. I don’t think Sutton was asked to look around and I think his visit to Auburn surprised Tennessee. Sutton is visiting this weekend and if Tennessee can't solidify Sutton's commitment this weekend, look for Tenenssee to turn its attention to Jahmere Irvin-Stills from Maryland who has a relationship with Willie Martinez and Tommy Thigpen. Sutton is an underrated prospect. You want Sutton to leave Knoxville solidly committed to Tennessee.
Back to Bell. I really believe the only other defensive back Tennessee is pursuing is Vonn Bell.If Bell visits, every indication is he intends to visit Tennessee during the weekend of January 25th, anything can happen. Coach Jones, Willie Martinez, and the other Tennessee staff members have made up a ton of ground for Tennessee over the last 6 weeks and have made things interesting. Is it enough? I don't know. We know Bell has long liked Tennessee and Alabama is trying like heck to talk him out of making the visit to Tennessee. Bell is a difference maker.
Linebacker. Definite position of need. Two weeks ago linebacker more than any other position seemed to be a position Tennessee could come up short on National Signing Day. Now, well things have started trending in a more positive direction. One linebacker is committed and enrolled in school (Corey Vereen) but Tennessee needs more here. Linebacker prospects Jermaine Grace and Jonathan Walton visited last weekend. I don’t think Grace leaves the state of Florida and Walton, from Alabama, still has an official visit scheduled for Auburn. However, there are three to four linebacker prospects remaining on Tennessee’s board. I could see Tennessee using up to three official visits on the following linebacker prospects if they want to visit.
Skai Moore a linebacker from South Florida and EJ Levenberry (FSU commitment) are both scheduled to visit the weekend of the 25th. Alabama linebacker prospect Zack Cunningham who has Tennessee in his top three is still trying to line up a visit to Tennessee.
Levenberry intrigues me. He has been on again/off again with Tennessee. 12 months ago I would have bet anyone EJ Levenberry would have easily been a part of Tennessee's 2013 class. Then, Sal Sunseri and the 3-4 defense rolled into Knoxville. You can’t think the family is comfortable now that Sunseri is at FSU and an FSU hired an unproven defensive coordinator. Remember when Sal Sunseri was at Tennessee he passed on Levenberry. If Levenberry visits, this one will go to Signing Day. Tommie Thigpen has gotten Tennessee right in the middle of this one. Levenberry is another prospect Tennessee has some momentum with right now.
Skai Moore is an inside linebacker who recently decommitted from Rutgers. He is visiting Tennessee the weekend of the 25th. Moore is a definite prospect you would take but Arkansas concerns me here with Moore. Lets see if Moore visits Arkanasas.
Defensive Linemen. Huge priority. Bigger than linebacker in my opinion with so many defensive lineman leaving the program after next season and the recent departures of Darrington Sentimore, Trent Taylor and Omari Phillips, more than a couple of these kids will be looked to as early contributors next season. This is where the official visits get tricky.
There are four defensive lineman on the board. Three are visiting this weekend and one next weekend. Each one is a prospect you definitely spend an official visit on. The headliner is Carl Lawson from Alpharetta, Georgia. Reading any of my previous reports you know I think Lawson is a difference making type of player and the top prospect on Tennessee’s board. Lawson has been a Tennessee priority, with both staffs, since last summer. Tennessee is in just as good a shape as they can be given what has happened between last summer and now.
Another weekend visitor is Davin Bellamy, a FSU commitment. His recruitment has been all over the place. One day he loves FSU, the next Tenenssee, and on and on. He is the caliber of prospect you take a chance with. Jaylen Miller from South Carolina is another defensive line prospect scheduled to visit this weekend. Miller would already be a Tennessee Vol if I had anything to do with it. He is a solid defensive end prospect that can rush the passer. Lawson and Miller would give Tennessee two defense pass rush ends where they really don't have one on campus right now. Back to Miller, Tennessee has a certain degree of momentum with him right now.
Interestingly, Tennessee remains in the hunt and mix for South Florida defensive tackle Keith Bryant. Most analysts have Bryant staying in Florida going to Miami or FSU but Bryant appears to have legitimate interest in Tennessee. Bryant is scheduled to visit January 25th. Tough pull for sure but don't discount Tennessee here
So on defensive you have 2 possible official visits to use for defensive backs, 3 for linebackers, and 4 for defensive lineman and there is how your remaining 15 official visits could be used..... my opinion of course. Regardless, there is little margin for error.
What Tennessee hopes is to solidify Cameron Sutton's commitment this weekend and get good news from a couple of kids they are waiting on. This could free up an official visit or two that can be used for the last visit weekend of the recruiting cycle if they need them.
Weekend of January 18th. Huge recruiting weekend including top targets like Carl Lawson, Davin Bellamy, and Jaylen Miller scheduled to be on campus. Look for committed prospects including Josh Smith, Brett Kendrick, Austin Sanders, Cameron Sutton, Ryan Jenkins, Dylan Weisman, and AJ Branisel, to be on campus as well. As always, don't be surprised if another visitor or two show up one campus.
Weather appears as if it will cooperate. Beautiful weekend forecast.
Initially, the official visit weekend of January 11th was expected to be Tennessee's biggest of the 2013 recruiting season. Things change and change quickly with recruiting though. While every official visit weekend and every official visitor are important, whether the 2013 recruiting class is a good or very good will likely hinge on the weekend of January 18th.
Let’s not look too far ahead however and discount the importance of this upcoming weekend. Six to ten official visitors will be on campus. It is a very diverse group featuring a couple of committed prospects, a couple of prospects who Tennessee would love to see leave on Sunday as Volunteers, and a couple prospects Tennessee is playing catch-up with. Let’s go.
Official Visitors Committed to Tennessee
Defensive Lineman Jason Carr, Memphis, Tennessee. Carr has been committed to Tennessee for nine months. He has stayed committed but the lack of success and the new coaching staff has provided opportunity for other schools to nip at Tennessee's heels. Carr fills a huge position of need in this class and will likely contribute next season if he remains a VOL. Tennessee would love to solidify Carr's commitment this weekend. Ole Miss and Alabama are involved here. Make no mistake about how important Carr is to this class.
Quarterback Riley Ferguson, Matthews, North Carolina. Riley Ferguson is an excellent quarterback prospect from a state that has blessed Tennessee in the past with many excellent football players. Ferguson has an excellent arm, is mobile, comes from a high school winning program, and, from this untrained eye, looks to be a nice fit for Tennessee's new offensive scheme. A long time Tennessee fan, Ferguson has remained solid to Tennessee fending off interest from LSU, Alabama, Louisville, and others. Ferguson led his Butler High team to the state finals last season. Though other schools have called, Ferguson has continued to remain strong in his commitment to Tennessee.
Official Visitors Committed to Other Schools
Jonathan Ford, running back, New Hope Alabama. Ford has been committed to Vanderbilt for some time. If Ford makes it to campus (and I don’t have any reason right now to believe he will not), you have to think a coaching staff in the mid state is fit to be tied. Let me get my obligatory I can’t believe Tennessee's former staff didn’t show more interest in Ford statement inserted here. Ford has liked Tennessee has for some time. Vanderbilt has been recruiting Ford as an athlete/defensive back. Tennessee is recruiting Ford as a running back. When Coach Jones was hired, Jonathan Ford got bumped to the top tier of the running back board (not the top running back but in the top 3 to 4) . In my opinion, Ford is not taking a recruiting trip to Tennessee just to take a trip. Too much at stake. If things go well this weekend, Ford could wind up being one of the two running backs Tennessee takes in this class.
Jonathan Franklin, athlete, Plantation, Florida. Franklin, a quarterback in high school, is being recruited by Tennessee as an athlete and why not. Franklin has amazing speed (sub 4.4) and could wind up as a corner or receiver in college. Whatever side of the ball, Franklin will likely contribute in the return game early. Franklin has been committed to Florida State. However, the Florida State coaching staff is in a state of flux and they don’t currently have an Offensive Coordinator and their new defensive coordinator has never installed a defensive scheme or coordinated a defense beyond high school. Franklin isn’t sure how he will use and is looking around. Franklin would be a tough prospect to pry from Florida State. With the limited official visits Tennessee has the cycle, you have to believe the Tennessee staff feels as if they have a chance here.
Christian Morris, offensive lineman Memphis, Tennessee. Morris, committed to UCLA, has long been interested in Tennessee. Morris and the former staff just never hit it off. Not sure he was a great fit for their scheme. With a new staff here is new opportunity however. Morris is a 4 star prospect and an Army All American who gave a good accounting of himself last weekend against the best high school defensive lineman in the country. Morris will be one to watch coming out of this weekend
Uncommitted Official Visitors
Jermaine Grace, linebacker Miramar, Florida. Grace is an athletic outside linebacker and a prospect Tennessee covets. The good news is Tennessee has made Grace's top two schools and Grace really likes Tennessee. What I'm trying to get my hands around is whether Tennessee would be ready to take a commitment from Grace if he wanted to commit. Miami seems to be the clear leader here so my concern is likely unwarranted. Miramar is an area in Florida that sends a lot of prospects to Miami. Many have thought Miami has been Grace's leader for some time though he has yet to commit to them. Grace likes Tennessee and getting him campus is huge. Linebacker is another huge position of need in this class.
Tennessee has dipped into the California Junior Colleges for these next two prospects.
Congo Condole, offensive lineman from Fresno Community College, Fresno, California. Condole is a prospect seeing his stock rising as we draw near National Signing Day. Kondolo is a big kid at 6'4"290 lbs and if he were to pull the trigger this weekend Kondolo would help fill an important need in this class. Barring injuries to returning starters, Kondolo would likely redshirt next season, and be ready to step in and play in 2014.
Woody Quinn. Tight End. Santa Ana Community College, California. Quinn may be the most intriguing prospect on the board. Quinn is a 6'-6", 260-pound tight end prospect who initially attended Pepperdine University to play volleyball. Last year was his first season of playing college football and he performed well enough to attraction the attention of many schools including Tennessee. Last season he caught 15 passes averaging 15 yards plus per reception. He showed enough on tape that Tennessee and a number of others schools have offered him. Tennessee loves his athleticism. With what the Butch Jones offense did with tight ends at Cincinnati, I can’t argue with their interest in Quinn. Tennessee doesn’t have any proven depth returning at tight end for the 2013 season. Quinn would fill another important area of need in this class.
But there is more....
Don’t be surprised if another official visitor shows up on campus this weekend.
One month ago today Butch Jones was hired as Tennessee's Head Football Coach. As you are reading this Monday morning January 7th, I remember what I was doing exactly one month ago. When I got the word Coach Jones accepted the offer, I immediately printed off a copy of Cincinnati's 2013 commitment list and proceeded to watch the tape of every Bearcat commitment on that list. I know sounds odd but that is just how I roll when it becomes recruiting time. Actually, the reasons I did this were Butch Jones has a very good reputation as a recruiter and I wanted to see what kind of athletes Coach Jones and his staff attracted to Cincinnati. Also, I wanted to check for my own purposes which Cincinnati commitments might eventually end up as Tennessee commitments.
After a couple hours of film watching, I came away with 3 Cincinnati commitments I could see at Tennessee and one I had mixed feelings about (I will get to him later). The one prospect on Cincinnati's commitment list that jumped off the computer screen was Rasheen Jones a 6'3" athletic linebacker from Cincinnati. On film, Jones looks better than any linebacker on Tennessee's commitment list. However, my understanding is Jones may have academic issues and that is likely the reason you don’t hear Jones mentioned with Tennessee.
The two other Cincinnati commitments I thought had a chance of winding up a Tennessee both committed last week. Dylan Weismann an interior offensive lineman from Cincinnati, Ohio, committed to Tennessee Friday evening. Weismann is 6'4" 280 lbs. and fills a huge position of need in the 2013 signing class. I hate to be critical of the former staff but their failure to sign any offensive lineman in the 2012 class has really placed Coach Jones in a difficult recruiting situation with one month to go until National Signing Day. Consider there is a real chance Tennessee loses 6 to 8 of its top offensive lineman after next season. Tennessee must sign 4 to 6 offensive lineman in this class to have any semblance of depth heading into the 2014 season. I have no training in evaluating high school football prospects at any position just what I have picked up over time. Projecting how high school offensive line prospects will fare at the college level is probably the hardest of all positions for even the best evaluator’s prospects. So take the following for what it is worth. In my opinion, Weismann has good size for an interior lineman, has quick feet, finishes off blocks fairly well, and is aggressive. Tennessee believes he fits their scheme and that works for me. Some pretty good schools think he is a good prospect too. He was scheduled to visit Ohio State this weekend and Michigan before signing day. He has canceled to visits and is a VOL.
Earlier in the week, tight end prospect AJ Branisel from South Euclid, Ohio, publicly committed to Tennessee. Branisel is an interesting prospect. He is a big rangy kid standing ever bit of 6'4" and weighs between 225 to 230 lbs. In high school, Branisel played in an offense that moved him around using him as a tight end, slot or wide receiver from time to time to take advantage of his athleticism. Certainly Branisel needs to gain weight to play down in and down out tight end in the SEC. If you have watched how Cincinnati uses tight ends in their offense and see the athleticism this kid has you have to like the combination. I do know Branisel is a tight end prospect the former staff was very high on. In fact, the former staff had offered both Branisel and Weismann before their departure.
Running Back Note
Tennessee continues to be mixing it up when it comes to recruiting running backs. First, Tennessee is certainly not out of the running for its #1 running back target Derrick Green. In fact, it is possible Green and family take an unofficial visit to Tennessee between now and National Signing Day. The reason you continue to recruit running backs is you must have a backup plan though and it is becoming clear Tennessee wants to running backs in this class.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a number of running backs Tennessee was evaluating. I mentioned Peyton Barber, an Ole Miss commitment, who may in fact visit Tennessee this weekend. Another running back prospect I mentioned was Matt Dayes. Dayes may be one you want to watch over the next couple of weeks. Dayes, from West Cypress, Florida, suffers from the same problem Tennessee commitment Malik Foreman, a three star prospect, suffers from.. only in reverse. Remember last week when I said if Malik Foreman played high school football in Florida, Georgia, or Texas he would likely be rated as a 4-star prospect. Well, Dayes suffers from that fact he matured late in his high school career and is just another very good running back people don't know that much about in a state filled with very good running backs. Dayes was recently named Player of the Year in the highest football classification in the state of Florida. Dayes improved as the season went on finishing with over 1700 yards rushing and 20 plus touchdowns. Tennessee has recently picked up the intensity in their recruitment of Dayes. In my opinion, Dayes is the next best legitimate option behind Derrick Green on Tennessee's board.
Also, remember I noted in the opening there was another Cincinnati commitment I was intrigued by? That prospect is Aregeros Turner a running back from Copley, Ohio. Turner is listed at 5'11" 175 lbs but he doesn’t look that big on film. His film looked good; however, I have seen better film on other Tennessee running back targets. I do know the new staff has been in contact with Turner since he decommitted from Cincinnati. Turner maybe a fall back option if other all purpose backs higher on the running board are no longer options. Again, for what it is worth, the former staff was very high on Turner and Running Backs coach Jay Graham has a relationship with Turner predating the arrival of Butch Jones at Tennessee.
HUGE recruiting weekend staring Tennessee in the face. Eight to twelve athletes will be on campus this weekend. First good news of the week is the weather does appear it will cooperate. Looks like a nice and somewhat warm weekend coming up. Basilio will have a list of official visitors for you right here before the week’s end.
Before the dead period , Tennessee's recruiting class had fallen to a ranking of 45th or 46th in the country. Over the last week to ten days, Tennessee moved up to right around 30th. Tennessee still has eight to ten spots to fill in the class with some of its biggest targets still out there.
For those who look at average star rating per commitment, Tennessee's class is rated right about 20th in the country.
Keep this in perspective friends. We have a month to go before National Signing Day.
So much for this being the "dead period" in football recruiting. Butch Jones and little more than half a staff continue to be putting in the recruiting work. Most recently, Coach Jones picked up another 2013 football commitment over the weekend when Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett athlete Malik Foreman (5'10' 180) de-committed from Vanderbilt and committed to Tennessee.
Check out Foreman's senior season statistics. He rushed for almost 1,400 yards, scored 17 touchdowns, and hauled in 14 passes for close to 300 yards. Four of those passes were caught for touchdowns.
Foreman was pressed into late season duty as a quarterback. All he did was throw for 700 yards and nine touchdown passes. On defense Foreman was credited with 32 tackles, five tackles for losses, seven forced fumbles, eight passes broken up, and six interceptions. He did this playing in arguably the toughest football classification on the state of Tennessee. Recruited as an athlete, it will be interesting to see where Tennessee gives him his first shot. Undoubtedly, Foreman will have a chance to contribute early in the punt/kick-off return game.
This is a nice pick up. Here are a few reasons.
Coach Jones said he wanted to prioritize in state recruiting and early on he is keeping his word. The commitment of Foreman sends a message to both in state prospects and high school coaches. This is important because going forward in the state of Tennessee the classes of 2014 and 2015 are simply loaded with very good high school football talent;
Foreman, a life long Tennessee fan, had been committed Vanderbilt. The former staff literally ignored this prospect. Coach Jones flipped Foreman to Tennessee in two weeks time;
Foreman possesses something you can’t teach... speed. Recall my initial Butch Jones era recruiting blog. Remember me saying one of my contacts cited the new staff, in watching film of last years team, noted how the team lacked speed on both sides of the ball. Jones first three 2013 commitments have one thing in common each one can flat out run.
Foreman may only be rated a mid to high three star prospect but I agree with something Dr. Sinclair mentioned on his Saturday show regarding Malik Foreman. I'm paraphrasing here but if Foreman is playing high school football in Florida, Texas, or Georgia with his skills, he is easily rated as a four star prospect.
Two things contributed to Foreman's rating. He lives in an area that historically doesn't produce many high level college football prospects and has been overlooked by many recruiting services. Plus, Foreman, didn't hit the spring/summer camp circuit hard like a number of kids do.
One article note Foreman was timed in a track meet at 10.6 in the 100 meters. Pretty fast in my opinion. In watching his film, my eyes tell me the kid has a burst, another gear if you will, and he has closing speed. Again, things you can recruit but cannot teach.
In addition to Vanderbilt, Clemson and Virginia Tech were chasing Foreman.
Also, Tennessee has offered Foreman's teammate Devaun Swafford the opportunity to accept a grey shirt and enroll next January as part of the 2014 class. Swafford was a two player at Dobyns-Bennett. As a running back, Swafford gained over 1,300 yards and scored 29 touchdowns. He caught 18 passes for f300 yards and scored four touchdowns. Defensively, Swafford recorded 25 tackles, 3 behind the line of scrimmage. Swafford recorded 5 interceptions. In one word, Swafford is a baller.
Physically, Swafford stands 5'11 to 6'0" and weighs around 175 to 180. He needs some work in the weight room but certainly appears to have a frame that will allow him to add 20 to 30 pounds. Swafford too is being recruited as an athlete. Good football player but he doesn’t possess near the speed Foreman does.
Go watch his film, Swafford runs with good vision and balance. Not sure what kind of speed he has or if he is fast enough for the SEC. Swafford will have a chance at slot WR or possibly safety.
So lets reset watch Coach Jones has done in 23 days on the job. Keep in mind he is still putting his staff together and his recruiting coordinator will not be in town until January.
1) Secured a commitment from athlete/safety Lemond Johnson, a former Auburn commitment, who will enroll in January and compete for playing time in the secondary.
2) Secured a commitment and signed JUCO cornerback Riyadh Jones. Jones too will enroll in January. Jones was headed to Georgia. However, Georgia appeared to drop the ball a bit on Jones' recruitment when their recruiting coordinator left for Auburn. Tennessee seized the opportunity. Jones will have a chance to compete and play early.
3) Obtained a commitment form 2014 in state prospect Vic Wharton from the Nashville area. Wharton, a four star prospect, holding offers from SEC and ACC schools is a 2014 top ten prospect in the state.
4) Flipped Vanderbilt commitment Malik Foreman to Tennessee.
The next five weeks leading up to National Signing Day can best be described as big boy recruiting. To get things headed back in the right direction and to make up ground with the schools Tennessee is trying to catch Tennessee is going to have to close with difference makers on both sides of the ball.
We'll be right here to cover it
'RECRUITING NOTES AND MUSINGS FOR THE DEAD PERIOD
Well, if you are fortunate enough to be reading this Friday morning, I think we can assume the Mayan Calendar is incorrect and there may be a 2013 National Signing Day after all. Guess I should start getting my Christmas shopping done since the world isn't ending.....
Honestly, the Dead Period couldn't come at a worse time. After weeks of utter frustration and dead air related to recruiting, Butch Jones and his staff have given us a glimpse of what the month of January is going to look like. Coach Jones has thrown us a juicy, meaty bone. It certainly should be interesting during the month of January. Coach Jones and staff certainly do not appear to be afraid to mix it up .... and I like it.
Unfortunately though we are now in the Dead Period and recruiting has slowed down or so it seems. With that said, here are a few pieces and parts to ponder while you enjoy the holidays.
In recruiting, you always look for an angle. Here is one. Former Tennessee Defensive Coordinator Sal Sunseri is headed to Florida State to coach defensive ends for now. Surprised he got a job so fast? You probably aren't the only one. Here is the angle.
Florida State has two prospects committed (defensive end Dalvin Bellamy and linebacker EJ Levenberry) that each had very high interest in Tennessee back in the spring. For some reason, Tennessee’s former staff never had much interest in either prospect.
In the UT recruiting office it's said that a certain former defensive coach didn’t believe either prospect really fit a defensive scheme that gave up over 400 yard per game last season…..I will let you figure out which former Tennessee defensive coach I am referring to. Tennessee is already making a serious run at Bellamy and are trying to get involved with Levenberry. Interesting to see what happens here. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Florida State is introducing a new defensive coordinator whose previous experience as a coordinator was at a high school in Alabama. in fairness he was the defensive back coach at BAMA, Still, no experience coordinating defense at any college level. AND... FSU will likely lose its current linebackers coach after their bowl game as well.
More Angles....... Assistant coaches Tommy Thigpen and Willie Martinez are good position coaches but each has a reputation as being a lights out recruiter. Both certainly have their work cut out for themselves in trying to salvage this recruiting class for Tennessee. Auburn was well on its way to a top 10 recruiting class before their staff was blown up after the season ended. Their collective ability to live up to the recruiting press clippings may be difference between Tennessee having a top 25 recruiting class and a top 15 recruiting class. Coach Jones announced yesterday Coach Thigpen would coach linebackers not cornerbacks. Having two hotshot recruiter coaching different levels of the defense is huge in my opinion. Tennessee needs players at every level.
Scholarships. How many scholarships does Tennessee have to give in 2013? Assuming Hunter, Bray, and CP all declare for the NFL, I count approximately 16 scholarships available. I believe there were 2 possibly 3 walk-ons the previous staff awarded scholarships for last academic year. Also, with any coaching change, you can reasonably expect 4 to 6 existing scholarship players to seek greener pastures. The above is a lengthy and probably boring way to say I expect Tennessee to sign between 20 and 25 prospects in the 2013 class.
Mid Term Enrollees. Right now, I count 4. It doesn't appear JUCO commitment DeVondre Campbell, once projected as a mid-term enrollee, will end up at Tennessee. Word is academics and the coaching change appear to be the reasons.
Also, it is no better than 50/50 JUCO defensive tackle Ben Bradley makes it to Tennessee in January either. Step back and think about it a second . Every Tennessee coach both prospects had any relationship with was replaced. This is one of the tough realities about coaching changes. Neither prospect has signed with another team yet. Bradley, in my opinion, would be a bigger loss than Campbell if in fact he chooses to go elsewhere. There are a number of mixed opinions especially at Tennessee as to what type of player Campbell would be against SEC linemen.
Back to the mid termers. Really like the four kids enrolling in January. Linebacker Corey Vereen from Florida (a top 50 type player from the state of Florida is an underrated prospect who will have a chance to jump right into the rotation);
Wide receiver Paul Harris from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Tennessee beat the likes of USC, Oregon, Michigan, and Ohio State for Harris.
Athlete Jalen Reeves-Maybin from Clarksville, Tennessee. Maybin, a four star prospect, maybe the best football player in the class. Maybin has a chance to contribute at any number of positions.
Safety Lemond Johnson from Cooper City, Florida. Johnson brings speed to the Tennessee secondary. Johnson will get an opportunity very early in his career at Tennessee.
Riyadh Jones Announces Today:
Tennessee is being mentioned with a Junior College corner back named Riyadh Jones. Jones is interesting. Signed with Kentucky out of high school. Never made it because of academics. Ended up at Georgia Southern and then at junior college, Jones is announcing today and hasn't been on Tennessee's campus since high school. Tennessee is in his top three. Willie Martinez was recruiting Jones to Auburn, Not holding my breath here but stranger things have happened.
Running backs. Anyone who follows recruiting knows Tennessee is one of two finalists for the services of 5 star running back Derrick Green. Tennessee has much to offer Green or any other running back. Tennessee is returning all but one of its top 8 offensive linemen, will be breaking in a new quarterback and will likely rely on the run to a large extent next season, and Tennessee does not have an elite running back on campus. What happens if Green chooses Michigan not Tennessee? It wouldn’t be good news if Green choose Michigan but the good news is Tennessee is heavily involved with a number of other running backs.
If you recall back during the football season, we introduced you right here to a running back prospect named Peyton Barber from Alpharetta, Georgia. Barber would be a household name in the Southeast if not for suffering an ankle injury which cost him much of his junior season. Fully recovered, Barber had an excellent senior season. Barber committed to Ole Miss in July but has recently opened up his recruitment. Barber has connections to Knoxville and the University of Tennessee; don’t forget running back Tarean Folston from Cocoa, Florida. I love this prospects' film. Folston’s film looks as good as any running back Tennessee has offered.
More @ Running Back:
Jonathan Ford from New Hope, Alabama, is a running back the new staff made a point to contact immediately after hitting the road last week. Ford is another prospect that has always liked Tennessee. For some reason the former staff just never warmed up to Ford. Though Ford is committed to Vanderbilt, look for him to visit Tennessee.
Jo Jo Kemp a 5’10” 190 lb. change of pace type back from Deland, Florida. I’m thinking Kemp is one to watch with Tennessee. Kemp simply seems to be a good fit for what Tennessee will now look to do on offense.
I would also look for Tennessee to make another run at Georgia running back commitment AJ Turman. Turman loves Tennessee and appeared to be all set announce for Tennessee during the season. Once the meltdown occurred about mid season, Turman decided to look elsewhere. He ended up committing to Georgia. Problem is Georgia has a backlog at running back… not so much at Tennessee.
RB Alvin Kamara from Norcross, Georgia. Kamara's relationship with Tennessee has been on again -off again. Kamara is just as effective catching the ball and running between the tackles. His skill set is a nice fit in the new offensive. I do expect Kamara to take one of his five official visits to Tennessee.
I expect Tennessee to take 2 running backs in this class. Possibly 3 if Green chooses Michigan over Tennessee.
One of my wish is that Tennessee can sign a couple of true running backs in this recruiting class. I would love to see what Jay Graham can do with true running backs. What Jay Graham did in one year with two kids, who tried hard, but are not what I consider true between the tackle running backs, was amazing.
Speed, speed, speed. As mentioned last week (and this is no secret to any VOL fan who tried to watch Tennessee's defense last season), the Tennessee defense lacks speed. The coaching staff knows this, believes the secondary needs a complete infusion of speed, and is making speed a priority in this class.
Tennessee is off to a good start with the commitment of Lemond Johnson who is enrolling at mid-term. Tennessee has a commitment from Georgia defensive back Cameron Sutton that is as underrated a prospect as you will see. I have been touting Sutton as a prospect schools missed on since he committed to Tennessee last summer. Talking of speed, the new staff will place a premium on speed over size at the corner and safety position.
Look for Tennessee to visit any number of defensive back/athlete types in January. These prospects may not be the highest rated kids (sorry star gazers) but these will be fast kids (4.3/4.4 40 type speed). A couple to watch are Jahmere Irvin-Stills . Stills, a corner back, committed to Auburn but decommitted once the Auburn staff was fired a few weeks ago. Irvin-Stills holds over 20 offers including many SEC offers. Watch Tennessee here;
Jaleel Hytche a speedy corner from Cincinnati. Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt have a bit of a head start on Tennessee but he does have a relationship with the many of the staff members Butch Jones brought with him from Cincinnati. Hytche has 4.3/4.4 40 type speed;
Malik Foreman, Athlete from Kingsport, Tennessee. Foreman is a 4.3/4.4 athlete who has seen his stock continue to rise as his career progressed. Foreman is committed to Vanderbilt but Tennessee’s new staff is hoping to get involved in Foreman’s recruitment.
I would also expect Tennessee to turn up the heat on Alabama cornerback prospect and current Auburn commitment Kamryn Melton. Melton is an Auburn commitment that doesn't have a relationship with the new Auburn staff . Melton does have a relationship with Willie Martinez and Tommy Thigpen. Melton has a Tennessee offer.
I would also watch a number of Florida kids at safety including Miami cornerback Lamar Robbins. Robbins is a smooth, athletic 6'2" corner prospect that holds over 20 offers. Robbins is one of the top cornerback prospects in South Florida. With Tennessee's need in the defensive back end, I would expect push for a visit.
Another speedy Florida corner Tennessee is involved with is Eddie Jackson from Lauderdale Lakes. Jackson's speed is just sick (4.2/4.3 forty). The former staff recruited Jackson as a defensive back. Jackson is a good enough prospect to project as a wide receiver in college as well. Tennessee will have its hands full as LSU and Florida State are interested in Jackson.
More Angles...... The new staff has an abundance of contacts and experience recruiting in Florida especially in South Florida. I would suggest to you this staff will lean on what they know best and that is recruit the heck out of Florida once the Dead period ends. My guess is the composition of the 2013 recruiting class will likely include a heavy flavor of Florida speed.
That is it. See you in January when things really get cranked up.
Merry Christmas to all!
X O X O X O'
Well, X is back and he feels like he has his life back. Frankly, the last 5 to 6 weeks of the football season were not fun. I think most everyone had inkling about what was going on inside the football complex knew the third year of the Derek Dooley tenure would not end well. Unfortunately, recruiting was not existent during the last half of the season. I understand only three or four of Tennessee's former staff assistants put forth any effort into recruiting during this time and during the transition. That is unfortunate.
So, after 16 or so days of twists and turns, Dave Hart got his man. Say what you want about the process but 'X' likes the hire. Tennessee now has a coach that wants to be here, is engaged with the fan base and lettermen, and has assembled a staff that isn't afraid to mix it up on the recruiting trail.
From a recruiting standpoint, you hoped the search would end quickly so any possible recruiting damage could be minimized. I am cautiously optimistic Tennessee will be able to hold on to many of its key 2013 commitments.
In nine days Coach Jones and staff have already began to change the culture. It is most notable early on in recruiting. Say what you want about Coach Jones not having experience recruiting on a stage like the SEC, they don't appear to be recruiting scared. My first impressions are this bunch is certainly not afraid to stir things up on the recruiting trail.
Coach Jones and staff have seemingly been everywhere over the past nine days. Their efforts appear to be focused in-state, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Ohio for now.
A couple of things are obvious early on. Recruitniks and other concerned UT fans who questioned a number of the commitments taken by the former staff are being proved correct. A third of the commitments taken by the former staff don't have the physical skills to compete in the SEC. Also, Coach Jones and staff are not going to be afraid to stir it up on the recruiting trail.
Within the first week of his tenure, Tennessee is already making runs at kids committed to schools like Nebraska, Auburn, Georgia, Florida State, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt to name a few.
What is unfortunate is the new staff having to re-recruit kids who were dying to commit to Tennessee back in the spring or summer. For whatever the reason, the former leadership just never paid many of these kids much attention. Most of these kids have moved on. It will be very interesting to see if Tennessee can flip any of these kids back to the Vols.
I know it is easy to take shots from behind a keyboard but it is what it is. With the exception of 3 maybe 4 coaches, the effort put forth recruiting by the former staff was not up to SEC standards.
Coach Jones and his staff from Cincinnati have a very good reputation among west and middle Tennessee high school coaches. I like what he is doing with respect to focusing on 2013 prospects he is also taking time to stop in and see key 2014 Tennessee targets as well. I am unsure how much this will help him close out the 2013 class but going forward this is huge. The high school talent in Tennessee continues to get better each and every year. 2014 is an excellent year in state for high school football players.
Two things Coach Jones did right off the bat that got my attention in a positive way. First, within a couple of days of taking the job, Coach Jones offered a scholarship to Vol legacy Ryan Jenkins. Jenkins, the son of former Vol Lee Jenkins, is a wide receiver from Georgia committed to Clemson. Jenkins, a phenomenal athlete, must not have fit Coach Dooley's scheme but Coach Jones wasted no time in letting Jenkins know he is wanted at Tennessee. Next, Coach Jones offered 2014 Vol Legacy Neiko Creamer. Creamer, the son of former Vol Andre Creamer, is a wide receiver prospect being courted by colleges all over the country.
Just a bit of commentary here. Coach Jones has been on the job nine days and has interacted with the fans more than the former coach did in the 3 years. That is all he can do now. He can't win any games for 9 months. Coach Jones knew when he accepted the job the tasks in front of him were large. I understand from my contacts he and staff have already received a big dose of reality. After watching film of last year’s team, I understand they were shocked over how void the team is of speed, how poor fundamentally the defense was, and how the conditioning of the team seemed to digress as the season wore on.
The good news again as I understand the staff sees plenty of pieces and parts they can build upon.
Before we go any further, we should congratulate Tennessee and Coach Jones on landing his first commitment. Last evening, Cooper City, Florida athlete Lemond Johnson committed to Tennessee. Johnson will get his first shot at Tennessee as a safety. Johnson was an Auburn commitment the new Auburn staff did not have a scholarship available for Johnson to enroll in January. Recruited by former Auburn now Tennessee safety coach Willie Martinez, Johnson fills a position of need in this class plus he possesses very good speed. Johnson is rated as a three star prospect. However, I believe offer lists are more indicative of a prospects ability than his recruiting service ranking. Johnson had over twenty-five offers from the likes of Auburn, LSU, Vanderbilt, Miami and others. Johnson is a nice pickup who has an opportunity to contribute early. Again, Johnson will be enrolling in January. Always love the mid termers.
On to recruiting...... The best recruiting news this week other than the Lemond Johnson commitment is Tennessee has parted ways with three of the four linebacker commitments taken by the former staff.
The only "take" at the linebacker position is Corey Vereen from Florida who is a very good and much underrated prospect. Vereen remains solid to Tennessee and will be enrolling in January.
No offense to the kids that were cut loose but anyone who follows this recruiting stuff thought each of these commitments was questionable. Taking commitments from these type of prospects doesn't get Tennessee any closer to competing with Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. I don't expect these three to be the last commitments to fall by the wayside either. You know which commitments I'm talking about. Head scratchers for sure. Also, a couple of commitments have academic issues which will cause further changes to the commitment list. Hey, this is not bad news. People seem to believe all is lost with this recruiting class. I beg to differ. While the new staff does face an uphill battle, you have to compete for players that give you a chance to compete in this league. That is exactly what Coach Jones and the new staff are doing.
Let’s talk about a few of the prospects Tennessee has at the top of its recruiting board. The names below aren't new names and the information is not newsworthy. Rather, being that 7 or 8 weeks have passed since an update was provided, I believe a reset of a few top targets is in order before we move ahead.
Derrick Green a five star running back from Richmond, Virginia. There are recruiting services that tout Green as the Number 1 running back in the country. Jay Graham has an excellent relationship with Green. It is up to Coach Jones and the offensive staff to build a relationship with Green over the next few weeks. Tennessee is in the top two for Green with Michigan. Green has the potential to be a program changing back in my opinion.
Marquez North a four star wide receiver from Charlotte, North Carolina. I am one of Marquez North's biggest fans. What an opportunity for a gifted wide receiver prospect like North to step in and play next season. Vincent Dallas and Pig Howard represent just about all that returns at wide receiver for Tennessee next season. These two combined for a total of 24 catches all season. Tennessee is in good shape with North in my opinion. It now looks like its Tennessee or Clemson for North. Credit Jay Graham for keeping Tennessee in the thick of this recruitment.
Carl Lawson a five star defensive end prospect from Alpharetta, Georgia. Lawson committed to Auburn last spring but Lawson is one of the prospects Tennessee never quit recruiting. The NCAA mess hovering over the Auburn program and the firing of the entire Auburn staff have changed the dynamic of Lawson's recruitment. It doesn't hurt that Tennessee hired Lawson's lead recruiter from Auburn Tommy Thigpen. This will be a recruitment worthy of watching leading up to National Signing Day. Lawson is a gifted athlete would likely start at Tennessee from Day One. Signing Lawson would be a huge statement for Coach Jones.
Davin Bellamy a three or four star defensive end prospect, depending on the service you follow, from Chamblee Georgia. I will be honest. I can’t figure out why the former staff didn't make Bellamy a bigger priority. Bellamy is a prospect who had Tennessee as one of his leaders last spring. I know at least one former staff member who thought Bellamy could commit to Tennessee after the 2012 spring game. For whatever reason, Tennessee wasn't ready to take Bellamy's commitment in the spring and Bellamy winds up committing to Florida State. Now, Bellamy is a top target of the new Tennessee staff. Expect Bellamy to visit Tennessee in January and expect the new staff to put on the full court press for this prospect. Bellamy says he is solid to Florida State but plans to visit Tennessee. We'll see.
Christian Morris a four star offensive lineman (tackle) from Memphis. Morris is an enigma. Morris, a four star prospect, an Army All American, and an in state prospect who loves Tennessee. Seemed like last spring and into the summer Morris was waiting for Tennessee to take his commitment. For whatever reason, Morris and the previous staff just never got on the same page. In the spirit of fairness, Tennessee had a couple of offensive line prospects they liked better than Morris. Dan Skipper an offensive tackle and currently a Tennessee commitment has no connection to the new staff and likely ends up elsewhere. Top Tennessee offensive line target Reeve Koehler too doesn't have any connections to the new staff and has all but eliminated Tennessee from consideration. Morris has already been in touch with new offensive line coach David Mahoney. If Tennessee decides Morris fits their scheme, I could easily see Morris ending up at Tennessee.
Vonn Bell a five star defensive back from the Chattanooga area. The former staff did Coach Jones no favors with Vonn Bell. A year ago all Tennessee had to do was offer this kid and pay attention to him and he would have been a Vol. Tennessee inexplicably was late doing both. Right now, Tennessee is fighting an uphill battle for Bell. Give Tennessee credit, they have let him know what a priority he is for this recruiting class. Maybe too late though but Bell did grow up a Tennessee fan.
My point with resetting the half dozen kids at the top of Tennessee's recruiting board is this. Tennessee is ranked around 30th nationally in recruiting. If Tennessee closes with 2 or 3 of the six prospects mentioned above which is very possible, Tennessee's recruiting fortunes look much different than they do right now. You land 3 or 4 of the kids mentioned above, keeps the commitments you want to, and fill out the remainder of the class and a top 10 to 15 class is certainly possible.
I will have another recruiting update later this week. Topics covered in the next update will include
1. What prospects committed to Cincinnati may follow Coach Jones to Tennessee?
2. With the renewed emphasis of the state of Tennessee, are there any in state prospects the new staff may target?
3. Other than Derrick Green, what other running backs is Tennessee recruiting? Will Tennessee take two running backs in the 2013 class? Are running back prospects like Georgia prospects Peyton Barber and Alvin Kamara; Florida prospects Lorenzo Woodley, Matt Dayes, and Tarean Folston; or, Alabama prospect Jonathan Ford still in the mix.
4. Speed, speed, speed. Highlight a number of skill position and defensive backs the new staff is targeting.
5. Who are the Tennessee commitments planning to enroll at mid term?
I will have some great stuff for you. I'm currently compiling this for you and trying to cull over what is embargoed information and what I can release.
All for now. Glad to be back. I feel like a brand new 'X' with this brand new staff!
This coaching change will recharge recruiting.
You have seen a number of Tennessee's commitments taking visits but only the Miles kid from Texas has actually decommitted.
I think the reason you haven’t seen more kids de-commit from Tennessee is what they are being told by the remaining coaches on the staff.....
Let’s just cut to the chase. Coach Dooley was a fair recruiter. However, there were certainly a number of prospects for whatever reason he (and/or his staff) never connected with.
No reason to go back and rehash all that but there are a number of kids contributing at other SEC schools right now that you just wonder what went wrong in their recruitment . In many respects, the kids were Tennessee's to lose during the recruiting process .... and they lost most of them.
Regardless of who the new coach is I think you will see a number of prospects committed to or leaning toward other schools give Tennessee a fair look.
I have said this for years and I will keep banging on it whomever the new coach is. He has to hire a staff that can go into Georgia and the Carolinas and get their fair share of kids.
We were starting to make inroads in the Carolinas with Graham and Pittman. Retaining those two coaches on the staff would be key because just like Tennessee in recruiting year 2014 the Carolinas are loaded Tennessee has really been struggling in Georgia. That is why Jay Graham took over recruiting responsibility for a portion of Georgia earlier this year.
Happy Turkey Day
'Some of Coach Dooley's most recent recruiting efforts are comical. Coach Dooley offered scholarships last week to two Florida kids.
One is a corner back Eddie Jackson who is a 2 star prospect. This kid has offers from powerhouses like Florida Atlantic, SMU, Hawaii, and Utah State.
It gets better. Dooley also offered his teammate who is a safety named Jason McDonald. McDonald is also a 2 star. McDonald is really a sleeper. Tennessee is his very first offer. Maybe these guys are a package deal. LOL!
Both these kids came to Tennessee's camp last summer and competed and looked like pretty fair athletes but neither stood out. It's doubtful whether they are SEC type players.
Tennessee also offered a scholarship to a linebacker named Zac Cunningham from Alabama. Cunningham is a tall kid with a skinny build (6'3" or 6'4" and maybe 200 lbs). This kid might end up being a good player, he has pretty good film but the kid is so far away physically from being able to play in the SEC, why bother? Here's the kicker... Cunningham has offers from Samford, Troy, South Alabama, UT-Chattanooga (I can’t believe it), and UAB.
Wow.. Tennessee is now competing with UT-C for players.
Bottom line. You don’t offer these kinds of kids unless you are desperate or you don’t feel very good about where you stand with prospects rated higher on your board.
This is headed toward disaster.'
Part 2 from today
'To date, Tennessee has 17 commitments. Looking at the Rivals ratings, 6 of the commitments a 4-star, 10 are 3-star, and 1 is a two star commitment. I have heard VOL fans calling into talk shows saying Tennessee’s recruiting class is ranked 11th in the SEC. In all fairness, Rivals has Tennessee current recruiting class rated 21st in the country and 9th in the SEC. At #9 in the SEC, Tennessee is ranked ahead of Ole Miss (22nd), Missouri (26th), Mississippi State (28th), Arkansas (39th), and Kentucky (58th).
Regardless of how you slice it at Tennessee a ranking of 9th in the conference in overall recruiting rankings whether it's November or February isn’t going to get it done.
Again, trying to be fair here, Tennessee has a good group of what I would call “core” 2013 commitments. The Tennessee kids committed to the Vols are solid prospects. Austin Sanders is an excellent offense line prospect; Jason Carr has a chance to be really good as a defensive end; Jalen Reeves-Maybin is a very good football player and will play a ton of football at Tennessee; Josh Smith grows on me every time I watch him play; and, Brett Kendrick will need a couple of years to develop into an SEC lineman. (For the record, I am not considering former Lenoir City Wide Receiver Camion Patrick a commitment to Tennessee right now. His situation is still somewhat up in the air.)
Other commitments I consider part of a good core group are: Paul Harris, wide receiver from Maryland, a prospect that chose Tennessee over Southern California; safety Kameron Miles from Texas is an Army All American who like fellow Texan LaDarrell McNeil will have a chance to play early at Tennessee; JUCO defensive tackle Ben Bradley a big, athletic body who will be looked to for an early contribution in 2013; and, athlete Cameron Sutton from Georgia is probably the steal of the class so far in my opinion. Sutton is a superb athlete.
Now, you know how I roll when evaluating recruits. One of the first things I look at is a recruit’s offer list. That is where I have concerns.
Of Tennessee's 17 commitments, guess how many hold offers from Alabama? If you guessed zero you would be correct. Camion Patrick’s (who is not a part of this evaluation) Rivals profile shows an offer from Alabama though I doubt that it is committable. Alabama has tried to get involved with Tennessee commitment Austin Sanders but Sanders will have none of it.
Tennessee has three commitments from the state of Florida. Dominic Zanca has offers from Tennessee and Air Force; JUCO DeVondre Campbell has only the offer from Tennessee (in fairness Hutchinson Community College has a policy that once a kid commits to a school that pretty shut that kids recruiting down; and , Corey Vereen a linebacker from Florida picked Tennessee over Clemson, South Florida, and Florida State). One theme here. None of the three have an offer from Florida.
These two talking points pretty much sum things up in a nutshell for Coach Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee . Can recruit with them … you can’t beat them.
The highest profile commitment on Tennessee's commitment list is safety Kameron Miles from Texas. Miles hold close to 30 offers, is an Army All-American but doesn’t have an offer from Texas.
Two Tennessee commitments have offers from LSU: Jason Carr and Quarterback commitment Riley Ferguson.
Tennessee has three commitments from the state of Georgia (including JUCO defensive lineman Ben Bradley). Bradley holds an offer from Georgia; Zach Barnes from Grayson chose Tennessee over Furman, Indiana, and Southern Mississippi; and, Cameron Sutton has a nice offer list but no offer from Georgia . Georgia and a bunch of other schools have missed on their evaluations of Tennessee commitment Cameron Sutton from Jonesboro, Georgia. He’ll play at Tennessee.
Tennessee has a tight end prospect committed from Inglewood, California Chauntez Jackson. Jackson doesn’t have an offer from USC or UCLA. Jackson chose Tennessee over schools including Oregon State and Colorado.
Offensive line commitment Dan Skipper from Colorado has a fairly nice offer list. Skipper chose Tennessee over Missouri, Washington, Arizona State, Northwestern, among other schools.
Linebacker commitment Colton Goeas from Hawaii chose Tennessee over a group of schools Kansas, UCLA, and Oregon State.
You can twist numbers and recruiting information any way you wish to suit your agenda. I don’t have an agenda. True, you can say this does not paint Tennessee's recruiting class in a positive light. Counter point is. Coach Dooley's seat has been hot since December 2011. He has not received a vote of confidence from the Tennessee Administration, Tennessee has lost 5 of its 8 games and has looked really bad at times in doing so. I am surprised Tennessee has as many committed prospects as it does which has required the staff to be more diligent in their evaluations.
I love the core group of kids committed to Tennessee but at Tennessee you just have got to do better. You have to battle win and lose a few recruiting battles against the likes of Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida if you are going to compete for SEC Championships. Right now, Tennessee is losing these battles or simply choosing look elsewhere for prospects.
I never thought I would be saying this Coach Fulmer in his hay day demonstrated that you can recruit well here. Lane Kiffin did the same in a short time and was on his way to getting the kids he wanted out of Florida and Georgia before he left.
Its BAMA week. While there is doom and gloom all about, 'X' is here to tell you things are movin' and shakin' the in Recruiting Office. Read a bit further. You will understand why.
BAMA weekend is huge in many respects. A VOL legend is being honored. Tons of former players will be on hand and remember too NFL teams like Kansas City and Denver have open dates. Wonder if a couple of VOL legends make their respective ways to Knoxville?
Getting back to recruiting, This is a big visit weekend for Tennessee. Probably the last big recruiting weekend of the regular season. Tennessee has one (1) official visitor (a big one though) confirmed and a virtual Who’s Who of 2013 prospects will be on campus as unofficial visitors.
Equally impressive is there will be a huge contingent of 2014 football prospects on hand as well. You can look at any southern football venue this weekend and you will not find a more impressive group of 2014 prospects anywhere like you will in Knoxville.
Yes, it is a huge game and the game has so many storylines For Tennessee. And yes, this is stating the obvious but BAMA weekend is a “huge” recruiting weekend.
While it is a given things can change, here is a list of prospects that will be on campus this weekend
Marquez North, Wide Receiver, Mallard Creek High School, Charlotte, North Carolina. North, one of the South’s top wide receiver prospects, appears to be the lone official visitor at this point. Some recruiting services rank North as the #1 football prospect in North Carolina. Watching North’s tape, he will remind you of an ex-VOL receiver wearing the Purple and Gold 100 miles west of Neyland Stadium. He runs nice routes and it is apparent from the tape he is just better than everyone he plays against at the high school level. North can go anywhere he wants to play college football. He has already visited Florida and Virginia Tech. Clemson and Georgia will be tough to beat for his services. North is the best wide receiver on Tennessee's board. With that said, Tennessee’s staff believes they are in very good shape with North.
One last thing here. 4-star running back prospect David Williams was scheduled to official visit this weekend but the official visit was postponed. I try not to read too much into kids and visits being rescheduled or postponed. Being I am a black helicopter type of guy, this may be a sign that Tennessee is feeling good about where they stand with the running backs at the top of their board.
Now here is the list of unofficial visitors. There will surely be more prospects than mentioned below. Some kids committed to other schools will likely show up I have been told.
2013 Class. These are the prospects that have told the Tennessee staff they’ll be on hand Saturday. As always, the names are always subject to change.
Defensive Back Vonn Bell (Chattanooga, TN) and Outside Linebacker Carl Lawson Milton High School, Alpharetta, GA (Committed to Auburn). At their respective positions, Bell and Lawson are the top two prospects on Tennessee’s recruiting board. To anyone who follows this recruiting stuff, this is not a secret. With respect to Lawson, I will be interested to see if his teammate and Tennessee running back target Peyton Barber makes it in as well.
Naim Mustafaa, Linebacker (6’4” 235 lbs.), Alpharetta High School, Alpharetta, Georgia. Mustafaa’s recruitment bears watching over the next few weeks. In the spring, most felt Mustafaa was close to publicly committing to Tennessee. That day came and went. Ultimately, Mustafaa committed to Georgia. Tennessee has never let off the gas in terms of recruiting Mustafaa. Though he remains committed to Georgia, there are some that believe Tennessee has all the momentum in this recruitment right now. Mustafaa is being recruited as a linebacker. Even though Tennessee has five linebackers committed for its 2013 class as we speak, don’t be surprised if Tennessee tries to take 2 maybe 3 additional linebacker commitments in this class.
Brendan Langley, Cornerback (6’1” 185 lbs.) Kell High School, Marietta, Georgia. Langley, much like Mustafaa, looked to be headed toward publicly committing to Tennessee earlier this year. Langley ended up committing to South Carolina with Tennessee finishing a close second. Tennessee’s staff has continued to recruit to Langley without fail. Langley is a bigger, athletic corner the type Tennessee feels its needs for the 3-4 defense. Some question whether Langley possess the speed to play corner in the SEC and may be better suited as a safety. Regardless of whether Langley is committed or not, I expect him to take all his visits. This recruitment is a long way from being finished.
Cornerback Marquez White (Dothan, Alabama). Committed to Florida State.
Defensive Tackle Montravius Adams. Adams is one of the best players at any position in the South. You have to hand it to Tennessee. They have been relentless in their pursuit of the top talent in the Southeast.
Offensive/Defensive Lineman Brandon Walters (6'8"320 lbs) Howard High School,Chattanooga, TN. It won’t be hard to miss Brandon. He stands 6’8” 320 lbs. Not certain whether Walters is being recruited as an offensive or defensive lineman. He plays both ways for his high school team. Walters has impressed the staff with his athleticism and this been invited in for the game.
Alvin Kamara (5”10” 185 lbs.). Norcross, Georgia. Kamara is still my favorite running back on Tennessee’s board though I think he is headed elsewhere to play his college football. Kamara is quick, powerful, and fast. Kamara is a between the tackles runner but is just as big a threat catching the ball as he is running the ball. Good sign though to get him on campus.
AJ Turman (6’0” 205 lbs.) Boone High School Orlando, Florida. Turman has made Neyland Stadium a frequent stop this fall. Turman was here for an unofficial visit for the Florida game and is likely going to be in for the BAMA game as well. As a running back, Turman is a top 30 prospect in the state of Florida. Turman could easily be part of the 2013 class as one of the two running backs Tennessee signs.
Athlete Marcus Ball (6'3" 205 lbs) Westerville, Ohio. Another big, athletic prospect being recruited most likely to play defense. Ball is a new name to the Tennessee recruiting board. Ball holds over twenty offers and is being courted by Michigan State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Penn State among others. Tennessee hasn’t offered but is not far away from doing so. Wisconsin has the inside track with Ball.
The following 2013 Tennessee commitments are scheduled to be on campus for unofficial visits.
Hopefully, this is a glimpse of a brighter future for Tennessee football. Check out the 2014 prospects planning to be on campus this weekend. I usually don’t look ahead at prospects for the next recruiting cycle until after National Signing Day. The caliber of 2014 talent that will be on campus this weekend warrants a look ahead. Hats off for the work the Tennessee recruiting staff has done in getting these prospects on campus. The most impressive thing to me is for most of these kids, this will be their second or third time on campus. The 2014 prospects mentioned by name below are some of the higher profile kids you will be hearing more about over the next 15 months.
2014 Prospects Unofficially Visiting Saturday:
I have been told Tennessee expects a nice turnout of 2014 prospects from the mid-state and from Georgia.
All for now.
Most believe Derrick Henry will choose Alabama later this week over Tennessee. No surprise really. Tennessee hung in there and gave Henry much to think about over the last 6 months. Because of Jay Graham largely, Tennessee hung around and made this recruitment a lot closer than anyone imagined. Alabama has lead for Henry since the summer when Henry all but committed to Alabama. This one is not a huge surprise.
Now what happens with running backs? Henry drops off the board and the running back board gets shuffled around a bit. No doubt Derrick Green the running back prospect from Richmond, Virginia, is clearly priority #1 and key to the recruiting class. Green who visited for the Florida game had an excellent visit. Tennessee feels good about where they sit with Green although he still has official visits to take.
It is not Derrick Green or bust when it comes to running backs. We have continued to tell you to watch Tennessee and its pursuit of Orlando, Florida, running back AJ Turman. Turman is an excellent running back prospect. The more I study is tape the more he grows on me. Turman is a powerful between the tackles runner, he has a powerful lower body and has the to run through a tackles. Though not quite as fast as Derrick Green, Turman has a definite burst (10.9/100 meters) once he breaks the line of scrimmage.
Turman is a four star prospect, a top thirty 2012 prospect in the state of Florida, and holds over 20 scholarship offers. One thing that important with Turman is he appears to be a willing between the tackles runner. Turman likes Tennessee and was on campus to see the Florida game. FSU, Georgia, Miami are at the top of Turman's list along with Tennessee.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania running back prospect David Williams is another running back that plans to take an official visit to Tennessee this fall. Williams is a 6'0" 195 lb all purpose running back. Williams, another 4 star prospect, holds over 20 scholarship offers from the likes of Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin, NC State, South Carolina, Arizona State among others. He has quick feet and is a shifty runner. He is not the between the tackles runner Green or Turman look to be but looks to be more of a change of pace kind of running back. Right now his top three are Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Tennessee. This is just me but any running back prospect Wisconsin thinks can fit into their running game scheme can play for me. Wisconsin cranks out one after another tough minded between the tackles running backs that have a blend of toughness and speed. Definitely think Williams is a keeper.
A couple more running backs you could hear mentioned with Tennessee are Alpharetta, Georgia running back Peyton Barber. Barber has a low center of gravity and is a tough between the tackles runner . Barber committed to Ole Miss this summer. He is off to a great start during his senior season and schools including Tennessee are starting to notice. Tennessee still evaluating Barber and trying to get him up to campus for a game this fall.
Also watch the two running backs currently committed to Alabama. Altee Tenpenney, the #1 prospect in the state of Arkansas and one of the top running backs in the country, and Marietta, Georgia running back Tyren Jones. Tenpenney has been looking at other schools including Tennessee for some period of time. Tenpenney will most likely will take official visits if Derrick Henry indeed commits to Alabama.
Jones could be the best back in Georgia this recruiting cycle and Georgia is loaded this go around with really good running backs.
Hard to see Alabama holding on to 3 running backs in this class with the stable of running backs they already have on campus.
Thanks for reading.
Enjoy the ballgame Saturday.
This, my friend, is exactly how Tennessee drew it up. Tennessee's staff knew it would be a long off season. Coming off the heels of an embarrassing performance against Kentucky, 7 departures from a dysfunctional coaching staff, and the Tennessee Head Football Coach's mug shot headlining every "Coaches on the Hot Seat" article penned from January through August. You just knew it was coming too. All you could do is have hope. Hope to get to the other side of it. Not certain Tennessee is quite to the other side of it yet. Tennessee does have a huge opportunity to make a lot of people put the November embarrassment in the rear view mirror Saturday evening.
No secret the November debacle cost Tennessee a recruit or two. Also, the coaching changes disrupted a number of recruiting relationships being cultivated with 2013 and 2014 prospects. Some of those have been fixed and with some there is still work to do.
You will never get anyone to admit this publicly but Tennessee having a fairly impressive looking 2 and 0 slate meeting a ranked and undefeated Florida team in a prime television spot (with GAMEDAY here to boot) is exactly what this coaching staff has been looking for.
Tennessee has the opportunity to change a lot of perceptions about the Program Saturday evening plus make a statement to the recruits attending the game in person or watching the game on television.
This game is being well attended by Tennessee commitments and kids right at the top of Tennessee's wish list.
Here is an early list of prospects Tennessee is expecting on Saturday. As usual, there will be a recruit or two that "show up" Saturday people aren’t expecting. Already hearing strong indications that will happen. This list will undoubtedly change but let's roll with what I have.
The following prospects are scheduled to make their official visit to Tennessee this weekend.
Four star Texas Safety and Tennessee commitment Kameron Miles (Miles' teammate and Tennessee cornerback target Will Early could make the trip with Miles. Early had made plans to visit Oxford this weekend. Maybe one prospect that shows up in Knoxville weekend. Miles is one of the top prospects in Tennessee's 2013 class.
Florida Linebacker, Tennessee commitment, and X favorite Corey Vereen. People are sleeping on Corey Vereen. Very under rated. Darrin Hinshaw was on Vereen early and locked him down.
Also, two of the elite running back prospects in the 2013 class will be taking their official visits to Tennessee this weekend. Yulee, Florida running back Derrick Henry and Richmond, Virginia. In some order, these two prospects are at the top of Tennessee's running back board. I understand Tennessee will take the first one that says he is ready to jump on board. Tennessee as made the top two for each of these prospects. Landing either one would give this recruiting class, which is shaping up to be a good one, a shot in the arm.
Jermaine Grace linebacker Miramar Florida. Understand the defensive staff loves this prospect. Grace has struck up a great relationship with Tennessee's staff and he has more than a passing interest in Tennessee. Grace is raw, doesn’t play in a particularly great high school program, and he doesn’t have great technique. Tennessee loves the athleticism.
The following prospects will be in stands attending the game as unofficial visitors.
Tennessee commitments Austin Sanders, Brett Kendrick, Josh Smith, Jaylen Reeves-Maybin, and Dominic Zanca.
The following Tennessee targets will likely be on campus.
Von Bell safety/defensive back Chattanooga area. Bell is likely the top defensive target left on the board. If you assume Bell is an instate player (Bell lives in Tennessee and goes to school in Georgia or something like that), Bell is the top 2013 prospect in Tennessee. Hands down.
Lucas Wilson, tight end Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Tennessee will likely take two tight ends in the 2013 class. Don't be surprised if Wilson isn’t one of them. Wilson is a lanky, athletic kid who has the build to grow into an SEC tight end.
Marquez North, wide receiver Charlotte, North Carolina. North is an exceptional talent. One of the top prospects in the state of North Carolina. Tennessee has made up a ton of recruiting ground with North of late. Tennessee is off to a great start recruiting wide receivers for 2013. North maybe the best of them all. In my opinion, he has the potential to be every bit as good as a couple of wide receivers on Tennessee's campus right now.
AJ Turman running back Cocoa Beach, Florida, is a maybe for Saturday. If Turman shows up, wouldn’t it be interesting that 3 of the top 5 targets on Tennessee's running back board will be on campus this weekend.
Jalen Ramsey cornerback Nashville, Tennessee. Ramsay is committed to USC. Tennessee won’t quit trying with Ramsay and they have told him as much. Ramsay was one of the first prospects Tennessee visited in early September when coaches were eligible to be on the road recruiting.
Tennessee targets linebacker Cameron Toney (committed to Auburn) and defensive lineman Rod Crayton (Tennessee /LSU battle it appears) are giving mixed signals about their Saturday plans. Wouldn’t be surprised if one, both, or neither showed up.
Also, I wouldn’t rule out a couple of Tennessee targets from west Tennessee making to trip to Knoxville for the game.
To me, an under reported but huge story nonetheless for Tennessee is the number of 2014 prospects that plan to be on campus. Many of the 2014 prospects attending Saturday are already national recruits. There are more 2014 kids coming in than listed. Here are a few headliners.
Knoxville standout Todd Kelly, JR;
Quarterback prospects Luke Ward (Tennessee); Will Grier (North Carolina); EJ Moss (Alabama);and, Brooks Barden (Georgia)
Miles Autry (cornerback/athlete) Norcross, Georgia
Georgia prospects Nicholas Ruffin and Nick Glass (There will a too many kids from Georgia here to name them all)
Mid State prospects Josh Malone, Rashaun Gaulden (both Malone and Gaulden have already distinguished themselves and sit atop Tennessee's 2014 recruiting board).
Peace & Go Vols
Hard to tell how many freshman will play Saturday. So many have been hurt and missed time.
Tennessee has got to get some of the younger receivers and defensive backs on the field.
Freshman receivers Drae Bowles and Jason Croom in addition to Cody Blanc who played last week will see action.
Cornerback Deion Bonner (who played last week) and LaDarrell McNeil will see a lot of time in the secondary.
Fullback Justin King and possibly running back Que Watson will see some time as well.
Pig Howard is closer to being ready to play than Dooley has been letting on in his pressers.
I don’t think you'll see any of the true freshman defensive lineman. Tennessee would love to be able to redshirt all three of them.
Recruitniks be cautioned. You probably won’t find a ton of new information here. Let’s be honest, if you follow this recruiting stuff at all, you know, for the past 3 to 4 months, Tennessee’s running back board has generally remained unchanged. In a nutshell and we’ll get into this later, the million dollar question everyone wants to know is where do these prospects actually rank on Tennessee’s board.
There is one particularly important item that has changed since we last discussed running backs before the start of fall practice. Convinced for the longest time Tennessee would only take one running back in the 2013 class, they now take 2. The departure of Devonte Borque freed up another spot. I believe one spot will go to a power back and one will go to a change of pace type running back.
Here are the prospects in play at this time.
Derrick Green. (6’0” 225 lbs) Richmond, Virginia. Green is rated as the #1 high school running back prospect in the country and he should be . Green, in my opinion, is a true between the tackles/power back that would best fit Tennessee’s offense scheme. What sets Green apart is he possesses the speed that once he breaks the line of scrimmage he will be tough to catch from behind. Green is down to four schools Auburn, Michigan, Tennessee and possibly Virginia Tech. Green has consistently been mentioned with Tennessee since Jay Graham arrived on campus. The mother likes Tennessee a lot and there is some though mom wants her son to be closer to home which would bode well for Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Green is now taking unofficial visits. My opinion is this is a recruitment that still has a long way to go.
Derrick Henry (6’2” 240 lb) Yulee, Florida. Henry, along with Derrick Green, is the second 5-star running back on Tennessee’s board. The good news is Tennessee has made Henry’s short list. The even better news is Henry will be taking an official visit to Tennessee for the Florida game. The not so good news is it looks like it is either Tennessee or Alabama for Henry. Henry was once committed to Georgia but that didn’t last long. Late spring/early summer Henry reopened his recruitment. Henry was on Tennessee’s campus once in the spring and then again during the summer. Both times Henry stayed on campus for multiple days. Again, sounds good for Tennessee until you understand he has taken the same approach in evaluating Alabama. We’ll know something sooner than later on Derrick Henry. He plans to get his visits out of the way, make a decision, and enroll in school mid-January. As mentioned, Henry is set to make his official visit to Tennessee during the Florida game. He is scheduled to take an official visit to Alabama in October. If you look strictly at opportunity for early playing time, Tennessee may have an edge on Alabama. However, I will believe he is not headed to Alabama when he shows up on Tennessee’s campus in January 2013.
Alvin Kamara (5”10” 185 lbs). Norcross, Georgia. Kamara at one time was my favorite running back on the board. Kamara is quick, powerful, fast and is just as big a threat catching the ball out of the backfield as he is running the ball between the tackles. For the longest time, Tennessee has been good shape with Kamara. Over the last month, Tennessee has slipped a bit with Kamara. Right now, if I had to guess, its Georgia and Alabama for Kamara then probably Tennessee. Alabama is pushing the concept of Kamara spending time as a slot receiver instead of a pure running back. Kamara is a big-time prospect. Maybe the best running back prospect in Georgia.
Green, Henry, and Kamara are the 3 running backs Tennessee fans fancy. Truly, the above prospects are on that top tier of running backs Tennessee covets… regardless of what order you want to place them in. However, there are the next three prospects are every bit the prospects of Green, Henry, and Kamara. Each comes with a little less fanfare. Don’t sleep on any of these prospects. All are very good.
David Williams (6’1” 190 lbs) Imhotep Institute Charter School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Regardless of what is being said publicly, my understanding is Williams is down to South Carolina or Tennessee. Williams, in my opinion, is more of a slasher/change of pace type running back than a power back. Williams is athletic, quick, and runs a 4.4. He, in short is dynamic with the ball in his hands. Williams is different running back than Henry, Green or Kamara. Williams is better in space than he is between the tackles. As you can tell, I like Williams quite a bit, Williams will be on campus for his official visit for the Florida game. If there were to be a running back that broke rank and committed earlier rather than later, Williams would be my guess.
AJ Turman (6’0” 205 lbs) Boone High School Orlando, Florida. Turman is a four star running back and ranked as one of the top 30 prospects in the state of Florida for 2013. Turman is power back that would seem to be a very good fit for Tennessee’s offensive running philosophy. Probably not as fast as other running backs on the board, yet when I watch film I have a hard time seeing any of the high school defensive backs from Florida catching him from behind. Turman has Georgia, Miami, FSU, and Tennessee at the top of his list.
Tarean Folston (5’11” 210 lbs) Cocoa High School Cocoa Beach, Florida. Said this many times and it bears repeating, I do not profess to be an evaluator of high school football talent. With that said, Tarean Folston is just as good a running back prospect as any running back prospect mentioned here. Folston is an accomplished between the tackles runner. He is shifty and can out run the defense’s second line once he breaks the line of scrimmage. In my opinion, what separates Folston from the other prospects is his proficiency at catching the ball out of the backfield. Just a smooth looking running back prospect. FSU, South Florida, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech are among 20 plus scholarships Folston holds.
The six prospects mentioned above appear to be, in some order atop the Tennessee running back board. All four star or higher for you star gazers (Henry and Green are rated as five star prospects by a couple of services). However, don’t be surprised if you start hearing other running back prospects mentioned with Tennessee especially if any one or two of the above running backs break rank and commit to other another school. As with everything recruiting, all sorts of dynamics are in play here.
Here are a couple of scenarios.
Take Memphis running back prospect Jordan Wilkins. Wilkins committed to Auburn a few weeks ago. Wilkins is a prospect Tennessee offered a had significant interest in. Auburn’s recruiting pitch to Wilkins as I understand it (I don’t follow Auburn or their recruiting) was once Wilkins committed Auburn was done recruiting running backs this cycle. Really? Since Wilkins committed to Auburn, there are rumors that 5 star running back Greg Bryant, former Oklahoma commitment, was ready to commit to Auburn. This has happened yet but could before National Signing Day. Plus, Auburn is in the thick of it for yet another running back the afore mentioned Derrick Green. (Gotta love the stories these recruiters tell kids) If either one of these prospects picked Auburn, would Wilkins give Tennessee another look?
Here is another. Derrick Henry commits to Alabama. Alabama already has two running backs committed for 2013. Alabama also has a fairly stacked depth chart as it stands right now. Hard for 3 new running backs to get many carries early in their careers at Alabama. Tennessee has stayed in contact with current Alabama running back commitment Altee Tenpenny. If Tenpenny wasn’t committed to another school, I would have him pretty high on this board. Tenpenny is the #1 rated prospect in Arkansas at any position and one of the top running backs in the country.
Definitely believe if Alabama takes another running back commitment from either Henry or Kamara, Altee Tenpenny is in play with Tennessee.
Next weekend is a HUGE visit weekend for Tennessee. Have a list next week.
Last week I told the loyal readers of the blog and listeners to the show Tennessee was far from being done with its linebacker recruiting. Since we spoke last, Tennessee's linebacker depth has taken a significant step in the wrong direction. Freshman linebacker Kenneth Bynum had knee surgery and is likely to redshirt, another freshman, Justin King (who would have played at linebacker this year) is taking advantage of an opportunity on offense and will play some as fullback and H-Back this year; and, because of the injuries and depth concern at the tight end, linebacker Greg King is moving to tight end to shore up the depth. Another linebacker freshman Christian Harris, who is recovering from knee surgery this spring, hopes to be ready to provide depth by mid season. Though you can’t do much about it now, quality depth at linebacker is a concern now and is a major priority going forward in recruiting .... especially at the middle linebacker position.
I told you exactly a week ago to watch Tennessee and its continued pursuit of middle linebacker prospects. One that I mentioned was Thomasville, Georgia's Mario Mathis. Mathis is a big thick middle linebacker (6'1" 245 lbs) recovering from January knee surgery. Kid played most of last season on a damaged knee which was incorrectly diagnosed as a slight knee strain. Mathis is a tough guy, has a nose for the football, and loves contact. In short, this is the kind of kid you want as your middle linebacker. Mathis is just now getting back to full speed. Absent the knee issue, every school in the Southeast would have already offered Mathis a scholarship. By all accounts, Mathis is recovering nicely from knee surgery. Tennessee is on this kid pretty hard but no offer yet. I do think the staff wants to see a full body of work to see how the knee responds. Mathis, by the way, was on campus over the weekend. A good sign for Tennessee and a sign that confirms what I suggested last week ...linebacker recruiting is far from over.
Another inside linebacker prospect to watch with Tennessee is current Auburn commitment Cameron Toney. Toney, 6'1" 255 to 230 lbs, committed to Auburn over Tennessee this spring. Auburn though has basically recruited over Toney with a couple of linebackers of similar stature including Rueben Foster. Foster is rated as one of the top linebacker prospects in the country. Even with Toney's commitment to Auburn in the spring, Tennessee has never quit recruiting Toney. Toney likes Tennessee. Coach Sunseri has a relationship with Toney that goes back to his time at Alabama. Not saying anything is imminent but I would expect Toney to visit Tennessee and I would also expect this to be one recruitment that heats up before National Signing Day.... regardless of what you here coming from the Plains.
Don’t know about anyone else but I find my radio tuned to 1180 all day long these days.
Many thanks to the management of TSR for bringing Eric Ainge to the airways. Eric is a star in the making and a much needed breath of fresh air to the morning airwaves of Knoxville.
Can’t wait to hear Chris Treece and Swain on game days. Don't know about you but I was brought listening to the Vol Network on gamedays. I’m a Vol fan and on gameday I want to hear commentary an opinion from guys that love Tennessee.
I will be listening to AA next Sunday night when he debuts is new show. All I can say is it should be interesting
Early last week, Jonesboro, Georgia, ‘athlete’ Cameron Sutton publicly committed to Tennessee. Sutton's commitment brought Tennessee's public commitment list to sixteen (16). X loves the pickup. Sutton is a nice prospect. Tennessee is recruiting Sutton as a cornerback and cornerback is a position of need in this class. Watching his tape, Sutton reminds me of Tennessee player Vincent Dallas. Follow me here. I watch film on most if not every kid Tennessee recruits. Vincent Dallas impressed me in high school as a defensive back. Tennessee recruited Dallas as a wide receiver. Dallas has now been moved to defensive back where I think he has a chance to help. In watching Sutton's tape, I'm not sure he isn’t a better college prospect with the ball in his hands than he is a defensive back. Tennessee will find the right home for him. What they love about Sutton is his athleticism and his speed.
Sutton chose Tennessee over schools like Virginia Tech, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia Tech to name a few. The Virginia Tech offer gets my attention. Florida was close to offering Sutton. However, Florida took commitments from a couple of highly rated cornerbacks on their board and they are simply full at the cornerback position.
As last week drew to a close, "athlete" Jaylen Reeves-Maybin publicly committed to Tennessee in Clarksviile,Tennessee. Reeves-Maybin is one of my favorite prospects in this class. Tennessee is recruiting Reeves-Maybin as a defensive back. He seems an ideal fit for the nickel/star position in the 3-4 defense. This kid is simply a football player, the type that could play two or three different positions in college.
The consensus of the recruiting services is Reeves-Maybin is one of the state's top ten football prospects. I completely disagree with their assessment of this kid's skills. Reeves-Maybin is easily one of the top five players in the state and if not one of the top three. Not sure what tape these analysts are watching.
Reeves-Maybin's commitment was big for Tennessee for a number of reasons. Reeves-Maybin plans on enrolling in January which most likely ensures he sees the field in 2013; this calms down the Vol faithful some of which are still reeling over the mid-state gutshot the Program took when the state's #1 prospect committed to USC; Reeves-Maybin is close with current Tennessee commitment Jason Carr which can’t hurt seeing these kids want to play together; and, from a perception point of view, the commitment of one of the state's top prospects will help with the 2014 recruiting class which is very strong in the mid-state.
Tennessee withstood a bitter negative recruiting barrage from two SEC schools to the west Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Ole Miss was a bit of a factor. Despite all of Vanderbilt's efforts, they never were. Reeves-Maybin has been Tennessee's to lose for months.
Considering 8 months of hot seat talk and an almost total makeover of the coaching staff, Tennessee has cobbled together a recruiting class of seventeen (17) public commitments ranked around 15th in the country for those who care. In some respects, that is amazing.
And let’s give credit where credit is due. Sure, we all have questioned a move here or there by the Head Football Coach. The pickup of Omari Phillips showed me this Dooley guy gets it when it comes to recruiting.
Looking ahead with 17 commitments, where does Tennessee go from here?
A couple of things here. First, the season can’t get here soon enough. On field results will dictate how recruiting plays out. Next, The current names on the commitment list are certain to change. This is not the place to throw out names but with the fervor Tennessee is continuing to pursue linebackers (with 5 publicly committed) you could certainly see turnover at the linebacker position.
Lastly, I hear media types note that because of Tennessee's "numbers" the 2013 recruiting class will be smaller than in years past. Here is the real skinny about that. The same people that told me Omari Phillips had been admitted to school a week before confirmation of such was released to the media say Tennessee will sign "a full class or more". It is just me but I expect Tennessee to sign a full class or more.
Regardless of how many Tennessee signs, the remainder of the class needs to filled out with difference makers regardless of position. Tennessee is well positioned to do so.
Tennessee would like to reel in one more interior offensive lineman. It is no secret Reeve Koehler from St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii is atop Tennessee's list. It is safe to say at this point Tennessee leads Koehler's other pursuers by a wide margin. Sure, Tennessee is "recruiting" two or three other offensive lineman but these are fall backs if something goes wrong with the Koehler recruitment.
Running back is a well chronicled position of need in this recruiting class and it’s no secret who the three kids are sitting atop Tennessee's wish list. In no certain order Derrick Henry from Yulee Florida, Alvin Kamara from Norcross, Georgia, and Derrick Green from Richmond, Virginia. Any one of the three would be a welcome addition. By the end of September, running back recruiting should begin to crystallize.
An don’t be surprised if Tennessee takes two running backs in this class. The next tier of running backs Tennessee is recruiting includes a couple of kids I personally like. I expect Tennessee to continue to recruit Florida prospects like AJ Turman (Orlando) and Taraen Folston (Cocoa Beach) as well as Pennsylvania speedster David Williams. Williams may be one to watch. Also, our running back coach really likes North Carolina running back Marquez Grayson. Don’t discount the fact that Grayson has a relationship with Jay Graham that goes back to his days at South Carolina.
Amazing what a dismissal, an injury, and graduation will do to position depth. Cam Clear ... gone. Justin Meredith can’t seem to get healthy. Mychael Rivera graduating senior. What looked to be a well fortified position going forward now is a position where Tennessee will look for an immediate plug and play guy for next season and also look to add a piece to build future depth. Don’t be surprised to see Tennessee take two tight ends in this class. In a perfect world, Tennessee would like to sign a true tight end from the Junior College ranks. If you follow recruiting you know, Tennessee is trying to get involved with the #1 Junior College tight end in the country Beau Sandland. People closer to it than I don’t see that happening. Tennessee is evaluating other Junior College tight prospects including Logan Stokes an LSU commitment. I don’t see much happening there.
In terms of high school tight ends, North Carolina tight end prospect Lucas Wilson looked to be a Vol commitment a few weeks ago but things have cooled there. Right now, Tennessee seems to be waiting for the season to unfold to see how some of their targets and kids committed to other schools perform. Still think Cincinnati commitment AJ Brainsel is one worth watching as is Miami commitment Jeremy Kerr from the St.Petersburg, Florida area.
At defensive back, Tennessee wants difference makers. With Sutton in the fold, I can’t see Tennessee taking more than two more defensive backs. No secret the two kids at the top of the list are Tennessee/Georgia defensive back Vonn Bell and former Tennessee commitment Mackenzie Alexander. With Bell, I think we'll know where Tennessee stands in the next few weeks. If Bell is considered a Tennessee prospect, he is hands down the top football prospect in the state. Alexander, ranked as one of the top two or three cornerbacks in the country, is another story. He still has a relationship with Tennessee and mentions Tennessee regularly. However, Tennessee needs to get him to campus before I give Tennessee a serious shot here. Tennessee is recruiting a very good athlete from Memphis area in cornerback/athlete Donald Gray. While he can play the corner position, Gray is such a dynamic athlete that he may be best utilized on offense in college.
The receiver position is one that bears watching. Lot of recruiting activity going on with this position. You certainly hope everything works out with kids Tennessee has committed at the wide receiver position. Regardless, Tennessee at least one more down the field threat at this position. Tennessee won’t stop recruiting USC commitment Eldridge Massington, teammate of Tennessee commitment Kameron Miles and who has been on campus; North Carolina wide receiver prospect Marquez North; Texas prospect Jaymar Gibson; and a host of Florida kids. Too, Tennessee is involved with a couple of highly ranked JUCO wide receivers. I like Jonathan Rumph better than the other JUCO targets. Rumph from Holmes Community College in Mississippi, is a big target with playmaking ability.Rumph likes Tennessee but Mississippi JUCO kids somehow have a way of winding up at one of the state schools.......
Some may wonder about JUCO wide receiver Kris Comas who kinda sorta tried to commit to Tennessee a few weeks ago. Comas is a nice player though I don’t expect to see him ending up at Tennessee unless go wrong.
Back to linebackers before I close. As I mentioned above, linebacker is the one position where I could certainly see some turnover in the commitment list. First though, Tennessee needs a Mike linebacker in this class. None of the 2013 linebacker commitments so far really fits that body type. Former Ole Miss commitment Mario Mathis from Thomasville, Georgia is receiving a lot of attention from Tennessee. However, Tennessee will want to see how he has recovered from knee injury before offering. Tennessee could look into the Junior Colleges for a Mike type linebacker who could step in and add depth there at 2013.
Tennessee continues to recruit Georgia linebackers Kight Dallas (South Carolina commitment) and Naim Mustafaa (Georgia commitment). I expect both on campus this fall. Also, don't count Tennessee out with two or three linebacker prospects in Virginia. Just sayin there are a couple of kids there to keep an eye on.
Another Georgia linebacker to keep an eye on with Tennessee is Auburn commitment Carl Lawson. I have said this before and it bears repeating. The Tennessee folks don’t believe this recruitment is anywhere close to being over.
That's all for now. Updates to regularly follow.
What's not absurd is the hard press Tennessee is putting on three members of PSU's roster. Silas Redd is UT's #1 target. Followed by the kicker and another running back on PSU's roster.
Here's the skinny from 'X' on Redd.
'Tennessee recruited Redd out of high school but as I recall the recruitment was never serious. Redd is a stud. Jay Graham loves him and is trying to work multiple angles to get this kid to visit. I believe UT has a shot, but will he leave Happy Valley? The reports about USC were premature in my opinion. Face it, everybody wants this guy. For two consecutive years at Penn State Redd has rushed for 1000 yards. Last year he was Penn State’s primary back the season before he split time. If I remember correctly, last year Redd is the Penn State back who strung together 5 or 6 straight games where he tallied 100 or more rushing yards. Redd is a between the tackles type of runner who has a burst (4.4. /40) to take it all the way. Again, no offense to the running backs on scholarship, Redd is better than any running back on Tennessee’s campus.'
Kicker Anthony Fera is another guy UT covets big time. Here's 'X', presented by Smoothie King on Fera.
'Fera is Penn State’s kicking specialist and is one of the best in the land. The thing I like about Fera is he can punt, kick off and handle the place kicking chores. We all know Tennessee has questions marks in each of those areas.
Fera would walk on campus and assume one, two, or all three of those roles. Last year, Fera was selected a semifinalist for the 2011 Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award and also was a candidate for the Ray Guy Award, an award presented to the nation's top punter. Fera is from Houston, TX. So he may be more willing to consider a move down south than other kids who spent most if not all of their earlier years in the Northeast.
He's another guy that you have to wonder about leaving that campus. If he chooses to, UT would be a great option because like I said up top, Tennessee needs big time help. And he is a Texas kid. UT has had some success there in the past.'
'In the end because of the timing and everything I’m not sure how many of their players will wind up leaving.
However, the speculation makes for great conversation.
Regardless of what is being said publicly by the players, their families, and in some cases their former high school coaches about staying the course and not leaving Penn State, a number are listening to other schools….. including Tennessee.
Tennessee (as I understand it) has about 6 of PSU’s current players and incoming freshman on its radar. I don’t know the exact breakdown by position but what is surprising to me is there are multiple Penn State linebackers Tennessee has an interest in. My guess Tennessee is interested in a running back (Redd) , kicker (Fera) , incoming freshman tight end (Wilkerson) , and the rest linebackers w/Belton. I believe Tennessee’s interest in the linebackers speaks volumes about the depth behind the first team linebackers.
I mentioned to you earlier in the week the real wild card in all this is Sal Sunseri. Penn State is in the heart of Sunseri’s recruiting territory. My guess is Sunseri is familiar with all these kids. He has evaluated them, probably knows the kids and their high school coaches on some level.
Sunseri, from his days at Pitt, is legendary in that area.
This is strictly opinion Silas Redd (running back) is probably at the top of Tennessee’s list along with the kicking specialists (Anthony Fera).
With respect to Redd. Again, I will go on record saying I don’t think he is leaving. “If he does leave” he’ll likely look toward the SEC or ACC instead of looking out west.
The two best situations for a running back in the SEC are at Tennessee and at Georgia. Tennessee’s situation at least in my opinion is a bit better than Georgia’s because Tennessee has an experienced offensive line returning – Georgia’s offensive line is suspect. Tennessee has a lot of firepower at wide receiver which means defensive coordinators have to respect…. resulting in more running lanes for the running backs. Georgia, like all the other SEC schools, does not have near the firepower at wide receiver as Tennessee. Tennessee also has Jay Graham coaching running backs who has been key in the development of Marcus Lattimore.
With that said, Georgia does bear watching. One of Redd’s teammates’ and friends from his hometown is Penn State linebacker Khari Fortt. Fortt almost committed to Georgia out of high school. Georgia has an interest in Fortt as does Tennessee. We’ll see what happens.
I have said this before Tennessee doesn’t have a running back on the roster with the skills of Silas Redd. He runs behind his pads, he can run over tacklers, make them miss, and is a threat to score virtually every time he touches the ball. Redd would provide Tennessee with a very solid threesome in the backfield. This would allow the wear and tear of an SEC schedule to be spread across three backs instead of two, and possibly allow Tennessee to use Devrin Young (who is a small guy) more as a slot receiver instead of a running back.
Also, with the additional depth, Tennessee could redshirt the freshman running backs (Hill and Borque) which is what they both need.
Provided Redd could pick up “ the system” quick enough, he would receive the bulk of the carries. Tennessee would have about six weeks to get Redd ready for SEC play. Fall practice (4 weeks) and the first two weeks of the season. This would be ample time.
Sorry I don’t have more but I’m working on it
I am working a piece for you on how Tennessee fills out the last 10 spots of its 2013 class.
A couple of things on the Penn State roster
If X is sitting in the recruiting office today, the first Penn State current player I am making a call to is Anthony Fera. Fera is Penn State’s kicking specialist and is one of the best in the land. The thing I like about Fera is he can punt, kick off and handle the place kicking chores. We all know Tennessee has questions marks in each of those areas.
Fera would walk on campus and assume one, two, or all three of those roles. Last year, Fera was selected a semifinalist for the 2011 Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award and also was a candidate for the Ray Guy Award, an award presented to the nation's top punter. Fera is from Houston, TX. So he may be more willing to consider a move down south than other kids who spent most if not all of their earlier years in the Northeast.
Next, I would find Jay Graham and we would call running back Silas Redd. Tennessee recruited Redd out of high school but as I recall the recruitment was never serious. Redd is a stud. For two consecutive years at Penn State Redd has rushed for 1000 yards. Last year he was Penn State’s primary back the season before he split time. If I remember correctly, last year Redd is the Penn State back who strung together 5 or 6 straight games where he tallied 100 or more rushing yards. Redd is a between the tackles type of runner who has a burst (4.4. /40) to take it all the way. Again, no offense to the running backs on scholarship, Redd is better than any running back on Tennessee’s campus.
I think Tennessee may call linebacker Khari Fortt. Fortt 6’2” 230 lbs is a kid Tennessee really wanted before he signed with Penn State. Let’s be honest, Tennessee first set of linebackers are really good. There is a bit of a drop off (speed and experience) when you drill down to Tennessee’s backup linebackers. Fortt would be a prospect that could provide immediate help on special teams and provide depth at linebacker.
Tennessee really needs an experienced cornerback. Penn State traditionally recruits smaller cornerbacks (5’10” and shorter) . Tennessee is looking for bigger corners (6’0” and taller). Don’t see a fit here.
Tennessee needs a backup tight end to replace Cameron Clear in the worst way. Tennessee doesn’t need a starter here. Just a tight end who has been in a strength and conditioning program for a couple of years, can block or at least hold their own with SEC defensive ends and linebackers, and catch a pass now and then.
I would not worry about the Penn State kids picking up Tennessee’s offense or defensive schemes. Penn State’s kids generally smart guys.
My guess is Sal Sunseri has recruited a few of the Penn State kids while he was at Alabama as the Northeast has always been his primary territory.
I think Tennessee will push to get involved with current Penn State 2013 verbal commitments Adam Brenaman who is one of the best tight ends in the country and defensive end Garret Sickels.
Both prospects have Tennessee offers. I honestly surprised both Breneman and Sickels committed to Penn State as early in the process as they did.
With respect to Sickels, there are staff members that were surprised Sickels committed so quickly to Penn State this spring. Sickels has connections to Tennessee, Sunseri had been recruiting Sickels since his time at Alabama, and Sickels fits a huge position of need in this recruiting class. I would be surprised if there isn’t contact going on between Sunseri and the Sickels’ camp.
With Rivera leaving after this season and as integral as the tight end position in Tennessee’s offense Breneman would be well served to at least at Tennessee. My instinct tells me Tennessee had an idea this was coming. I believe Tennessee has held off taking a commitment from one of the tight ends on its board in order to renew their recruitment of Brenaman.
There is another Penn State verbal commitment Dorian Johnson Tennessee may try and get involved with. He is a bigger cornerback the type Tennessee is looking for. However, I think he is likely headed for Ohio State.
'Dave Hart proved that he carries the weight to get a borderline kid like Dante Phillips admitted to the University of Tennessee. Impressive.
If Mike Hamilton was still AD, Derek Dooley would've had a less than zero percent chance of getting Phillips admitted to school.
Assuming Phillips is in, you've got to hand it to Dooley. Look at the defensive line haul for the 2012 class (BTW, Phillips counts against the 2012 class).
Darrington Sentimore 6'3" 275 lbs
Trent Taylor 6'4" 280- 290 lbs
Danny O'Brien 6'2" 290 lbs
Daniel McCullers 6'6" 350 lbs
Dante Phillips 6'6" 320 lbs
Big time upgrade!'
'Tennessee picked up another commitment Monday night as wide receiver prospect Paul Harris from Upper Marlboro Maryland committed to the Vols. Harris is a big time talent. Harris is a Rivals top 250 player, rated as one of the top twenty wide receivers in the country according to some publications, and is the top high school wide receiver prospect in the state of Maryland for 2013.
Harris had in the neighborhood of 25 offers. His final two schools came down to USC and Tennessee. USC has three wide receiver prospects committed for 2013 and simply did not have the room for a fourth wide receiver because of scholarships limitations imposed by the NCAA.
Harris was at the top of Tennessee’s wide receiver recruiting board and for good reason. He is a big receiver (6’4” 190 lbs.) with deceptive speed and strength. Receivers like Harris are expected to come in and contribute early in their college careers. He should have that opportunity next season at Tennessee.
Harris is a great pick up at a position that, as the upcoming season wears on, will become a position of ever increasing importance in Tennessee’s 2013 recruiting class. Tennessee has nine (if you count Howard) scholarship wide receivers by my count. One of those wide receivers is a senior and anywhere from one to three others could leave for the NFL draft after the season and another (Cody Blanc) could get move to defense. It is imperative that Tennessee sign 3 to 4 wide receiver prospects in the 2013 class. You need to sign at least two that you think can come in and contribute as freshman. Depth at the wide receiver position will likely be an issue in 2013.
With Camion Patrick, Josh Smith, and now Paul Harris now committed, Tennessee is well on its way to have back to back excellent recruiting seasons at the wide receiver position. By the way, doesn’t hurt that Harris has a brother who runs on what is left of the track team at Tennessee.
Harris is a star gazer delight as Rivals has him rated as a four star. Stay tuned for more this week. Not sure Tennessee is done with this football commitment thing this week.
'Eric Berry's twin brothers will be on campus next week.....Those kids could probably play for Tennessee now'
'Dante Phillips is a 6’6” 270 lb. four star football prospect from Venice, Florida. Phillips was a part of Florida’s 2012 signing class. He actually signed a letter of intent with Florida in February 2012 but that is as far as he got.
However, Florida’s admissions department denied Phillips admission school. He appealed the decision but again his request for admission was denied. My understanding is the admissions issues center around Phillips’s academic work last winter where he took a couple of on line/correspondence courses. Phillips choice to take these on line courses were of his own doing and took the Florida football staff by completely by surprise.
In addition to causing a mess with the Florida admissions office, taking these correspondence courses without first discussing the courses with the Florida football staff caused some heat between the Phillips camp and the Florida staff. I don’t think he is welcome there even if he went to JUCO/Prep School route.
Now, Phillips is looking for a new home. Make no doubt about it, Phillips is an outstanding prospect. Phillips was rated as a four star offensive tackle/defensive lineman and could have gone anywhere in the country to play football. Out of high school, Phillips had offers from virtually every ACC and SEC school including Alabama and Tennessee. What is key to me is he already has a history with Coach Sunseri from Coach Sunseri’s time at Alabama and Coach Hinshaw.
Tennessee is recruiting Phillips as a defensive end type. In my opinion, he has the perfect build for a 3-4 defensive end. He fits a real position of need for Tennessee across the defensive front.
Lots of rumors out there about whether Phillips has been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse and also where he will likely end up playing football. He has visited Western Kentucky and of course Tennessee. Rumors of trips to Ole Miss and Miami are out there.
The visit to Tennessee has my attention. Tennessee would not have brought him if Tennessee didn’t think there was an opportunity to get him admitted to the University. If Phillips winds up at Tennessee and is cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse , he is eligible to play this year. He could enroll in school for the fall semester and be on campus for the start of fall practice.'
If you want my opinion on this, the Buck Fitzgerald I know is not involved in any shenanigans regarding recruiting. He is trying to be a role model for kids. Something like this goes against everything him and his father, who too is a good man, stand for. Buck is not and does not envision himself as a handler. He tries to mentor kids, reach out to kids that have been dealt a bad hand, and be a constant in kids' lives that are looking for a better path to follow.
On Ramsey's recruitment, keep in mind that it is mid July. You think Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Alabama, and any other school interested in Jalen Ramsay will quit recruiting him because he verbally commits to another school in July. Don't think so.
Tennessee has been recruiting Ramsey as long as or longer than any other school. Tennessee could have pulled away from the rest of the pack for Ramsey last summer/fall but that didn’t happen. Heard there wasn't exactly the greatest chemistry between the Ramsay's and the former recruiting lead for Tennessee (you just read this confirmed above about Terry Joseph). Best thing that happened to Tennessee is Darrin Hinshaw, Derrick Ansley, and Jay Graham are involved now. Folks it is still 5 1/2 months till signing day.
Generally, when it comes to recruiting, I believe Coach Dooley has done an excellent job at Tennessee resetting the foundation. When Coach Dooley showed up, he inherited a SUNBELT Conference roster. It isn’t like that any longer.
However, it is fair to question a few decisions made that directly impact recruiting.
For starters, and maybe you can get away with this in another conference, why you go a couple of years without a dedicated running backs coach on staff is a head scratcher. Wouldn’t Tennessee fans feel much better if the roster had one proven SEC running back on it? Running back is still the one position Tennessee's offense seems to be lacking. That is getting ready to change but the decision to coach running backs by committee has cost Tennessee the opportunity to recruit and sign legitimate high school running back prospects.
Next, and I will just say it. You can’t tell me after losing 7 position coaches after last season there isn't a place on the staff for Tee Martin. Listen, anymore, football success on the collegiate level is more about having better players than the other team than it is about coaching. Tee Martin is an effective recruiter, who loves Tennessee, and has recruiting connections throughout the Southeast.
These coaches will try and get you to believe it takes a certain expertise to coach tight ends or special teams. Give me a break. Tee Martin could have helped with receivers and quarterbacks or in some other capacity. Whatever Tee's perceived coaching limitations might have been would have more than been offset by his ability to recruit kids to Tennessee.
Lastly, this nonsense about the program and Derek Dooley going into the bunker for weeks at a time has got to come to stop. This guy needs to create visibility. It's everything in recruiting season. And this is recruiting season!
Good gracious. Get on College Football Live, PTI, Dan Patrick, Tim Brando, Sirius Network's college football show, hit the local radio show circuit. Do something! You have to promote the brand! This will keep the Tennessee name out in front plus it will give your fan base, a fan base just looking for a reason to believe, something to get excited about.
Instead, when fans do hear something from the Head Coach, the message to the fan base from the Head Coach is asking fans to temper the expectations.
Recruiting Bits and Pieces.
Here are some of my thoughts about recruiting during the slowest time of the year for college football fans.
So many seem to be upset or concerned about recruiting. I don't get it. We should be looking forward to the season which is 60 plus days away. If you must worry, here is something to fret about. You better keep your fingers crossed Cordarrelle Patterson is on campus this time next week, enrolled in the second session of summer school, and ready to start classes. Recruiting is going to take care of itself.
Here is why I'm not worried. Recruiting is a marathon not a sprint. If the football team is successful on the field (successful means winning and winning over a couple of teams Tennessee isn’t supposed to beat) a good class will turn into a great class. Winning in my world means at least 9 regular season games.
If Tennessee treads water or worse on the field, you can bet your knickers this new administration will go get them a proven, new head football coach. That is not an opinion folks. It is what it is. A so-so season is not acceptable this year. The new administration will not allow the indifference in the football program and the declining ticket sales to continue.
Looking for positives, here are a couple. Don't hold me to the exact date but approximately 365 days ago Tennessee had two commitments. Neither of the two were rated higher than a 3 star prospect if rated at all. Now, this is just about the time last year Tennessee went on an impressive run of securing 8 to 10 commitments over a period of 14 days. Almost unprecedented. By the way, if memory is serving X, neither of the first two commitments to the 2011 class wound up being a VOL.
Here is another positive and let’s start this one with a bit of Xtrivia. What do current Tennessee players Marques Jackson, Juwann James, Tyler Bray, Rajon Neal, Marlin Lane, Justin Hunter, Brendan Downs have in common? Most that follow recruiting will know this. Each was committed to another school before committing to and eventually signing with Tennessee. Think about this too when you think about recruiting. Tennessee was on the outside looking in on the Curt Maggitt recruitment for the longest time. Most thought he would wind up signing with Wisconsin. This time last summer most recruiting experts thought Daniel McCullers and Darrington Sentimore would be BAMRs and Damien Jacobs and Denico Autry would be VOLS. How did that work out?
Point being there is still a lot of ground to be plowed before February 2013.
X preaches this every recruiting cycle but it bears repeating. This applies not only to Tennessee but to fans of all schools. Don’t fall in love with your the commitment list on June 29,. Things change. It is still 6 months until National Signing Day. Consider how the following may play into the way recruiting classes start falling into place in January. First and close to home, Tennessee's performance on the field this fall trumps anything going on in June with recruiting.
I called this in mid February (not patting myself on the back children could have called this). Most every college football writer has Tennessee's Head Football Coach on the top shelf of the proverbial Hot Seat. It is an easy call. Sure the issues with the NCAA are gone and there seems to be a bit of stability around the Program but this issue with the Head Football Coach more than anything else is stifling Tennessee's recruiting.
Tennessee has seen a large number of high rated athletes visit campus this spring and early summer. The kids and their families like Tennessee, the coaches, the opportunity both on the field and in the classroom. Decisions that could really juice up this recruiting class are being delayed to see what happens with Tennessee football team in September and October. The season just can't get here fast enough.
Here are a few other issues that could impact Tennessee's recruiting.
What happens in the Carolinas? Does North Carolina get whipped again and even harder by the NCAA? What happens at Clemson? Can Dabo keep stringing semi-successful seasons together before there is a move to get him out of there. If South Carolina falls off, does the Ball Coach decide to hang em up? If any one of the above happens, it opens up a huge recruiting opportunity for Tennessee.
Also, will Bobby Petrino wind up at a SEC school, matter of time before Kirby Smart winds up with a head gig, does Dan Mullen leave for greener pastures, or how long can those guys on the Plains keep winning with smoke and mirrors? Any one or two of the events happening above will have a huge impact on the makeup of Tennessee's recruiting class as well as other classes across the Southeast.
Also, it’s the kids. 17 and 18 year olds. Ever been around one or two for any amount of time or raised a couple? Kids this age are influential and prone to change their mind... regularly. More kids are announcing their college decisions early. Also, more kids end up changing their minds in the fall or just before signing day. Happens every year.
On the other hand, since the SEC went to this seemingly hard 25 scholarship per cycle deal a year ago, coaches can't afford to be left holding the proverbial bag. If you take a commitment from a kid , who you thought would make it academically in June, but in January he doesn’t project to qualify, coaches are now telling these kids they no longer have a scholarship offer. The scholarships are just too valuable to schools now. Prospects for lack of a better way to put it are getting kicked to the curb for a prospect that presents less academic risk. Tennessee did it a couple times last year and will be forced to do it again in all likelihood. Also, heaven forbid a committed kid suffers a major injury during his season year. Alabama kicked a couple of committed prospects to the curb in late January. Other schools did or will be forced to do the same. Yes, recruiting is a long long way from being over. All this is simply is recruiting foreplay.
X thinks Tennessee quarterback commitment Riley Ferguson may be the most important commitment in this class. The Ferguson commitment gives Tennessee cred in North Carolina Hopefully, Tennessee can leverage off the Ferguson commitment and compete for anyone of a number of very good 2013 North Carolina prospects. X thinks Tennessee out evaluated ACC and SEC schools on Ferguson who will likely be North Carolina's best high school quarterback by season’s end.
Speaking of Ferguson and North Carolina, wide receiver prospect Marquez North is beginning to take a closer look Tennessee. North, from Mallard Creek High in Charlotte, 6'3" 200 and his body type and athleticism, reminding me of Da'Rick Rogers. If Tennessee has the season many believe they will, selling a game changing wide receiver like North on the opportunity at Tennessee won't be that difficult. Expect North to be on campus again in July. Also, watch for his teammate cornerback Brian Walker (North Carolina commitment) to visit with North and give Tennessee a look. Walker has kinda sorta reopened his recruitment and likes what he is hearing from Derrick Ansley.
X thinks you should watch Tennessee and another North Carolina prospect Lucas Wilson a tight end from Winston-Salem. Signing one possibly two tight ends in this class has recently became a priority.
Wilson stands 6'5" ish and weighs 220 lbs. Only concern is how long it will take Wilson to add 20 to 30 lbs to his frame to withstand the pounding an SEC tight end takes. Wilson is plenty athletic enough to play tight end in the SEC. Actually thought this one might have been done by now.
X thinks Tennessee signs no more than one JUCO wide receiver in this class. Jonathan Rumph seems to be at the top of the JUCO Wide Receive list. Rumph has game changing ability. Looks like Tennessee and the JUCO wide receiver Kris Comas who tried to commit a few weeks ago are going separate directions. Comas is a nice possession receiver. If Tennessee takes a JUCO wide receiver, he needs to be game changer.
One area of recruiting concern X has is offensive line recruiting and here is why. It is almost unprecedented in the SEC for a school to not take an offensive lineman in a recruiting class. Tennessee did that last cycle and at the start of the 2013 cycle, with the exception of Austin Sanders, Tennessee whiffed on a number of their top offensive line targets. Privately, it was a blow right out of the box for a new staff. X loves the addition of Dan Skipper but Tennessee needs to land a couple of tough guys for the interior of the offensive line. Honestly, given we are 6 months away from National Signing Day, there aren't a high number of offensive line prospects on Tennessee's. There is an interior offensive lineman in Hawaii named Reese Koehler who likes Tennessee. Watch his film. He looks like a tough guy. Remember though you fly over a number of schools where a kid can play college football between Tennessee and Hawaii. Sam Pittman has Tennessee battling in North Carolina for Tyrone Crowder and North Carolina commitment RJ Prince. Tennessee likes a couple of Florida offensive lineman but I don't think either is a definite take right now. X understands you will hear Tennessee mentioned with a couple of JUCO offensive lineman from the west coast as the season draws near.
Another area of concern is an off the edge pass rush specialist. The last signing class didn’t have one and so far the 2013 class does have a bona fide plug and play off the edge pass rusher either. Devante Campbell from Hutchinson JUCO has the frame to develop into one but he is 40 or so pounds away from being that guy which means a redshirt next season is likely. As the summer turns into fall watch what happens with Tennessee and Carl Lawson from Alpharetta, Georgia. Lawson is committed to Auburn and says he is solid. Lawson has a number of Tennessee influences around him and has struck up a nice relationship with Sal Sunseri. Tennessee needs Lawson. Great fit for the 3-4 scheme. Lawson is a sign, plug and play type of prospect.
X is not one of those guys. You know that projects where kid's play once they reach college. From what I have been told prospects like Carl Lawson, Louisville, Kentucky, prospect Jason Hatcher, Indianapolis, Indiana, prospect Darious Latham, and North Carolina prospect Lewis Neal though different body types are perfect fits for the new defense. These are the caliber prospects that catch Tennessee up to schools like Alabama and LSU.
Back to the positives? Jay Graham and Darrin Hinshaw have Tennessee in the hunt and the mix with the top running backs in the Southeast. X thinks one of the keys to the 2013 class is landing at least one top shelf running back prospect. The running back prospects Tennessee has locked in on can play anywhere. I have mentioned that time and time again. Right now, it is 50/50 whether Tennessee gets its running back before the season starts. It is reasonable to expect running back prospects to wait to see if Tennessee makes more of a commitment to the running game and has success doing so. Tennessee likes two Florida kids the most at running back or so it seems. Yulee Florida prospect Derrick Henry has been on campus a couple of times this spring already and is coming back for a third time in July. Henry is a big time talent. Though many project Henry to grow into a linebacker or tight end Tennessee is recruiting him as a running back. Also, Tarean Folston from Cocoa Beach is high on Tennessee's running back list. Honestly, Folston may have the best blend of size, speed, ability to break tackles, lateral quickness, and toughness of any running back Tennessee is recruiting. Folston has a few Tennessee connections around him and seems to be one who could make a decision before the football season begins.
Another positive. Tennessee Cornerback Coach Derrick Ansley. Tennessee will land a couple of very good corner back prospects in this class. Not sure of the names but Derrick Ansley is a coaching and recruiting diamond in the rough.
Thanks largely to Coach Ansley's efforts, Tennessee is either a leader or right in the thick of it for cornerback prospects like Jalen Ramsay from the Nashville area; Donald Gray from Memphis; Mackenzie Alexander from Immokalee, Florida (some think is the best prospect in Florida; Brendan Langely from Kell, Georgia; Will Earley from West Mesquite, Texas; Nick Walker, Charlotte, North Carolina; and Cam Sutton from Jonesboro, Georgia, to name just a few. Earley and Sutton are probably not as well known in recruiting circles as Ramsay and Alexander. Earley and Sutton are both long, athletic, and fast.
With Sunseri, Graham, Hinshaw and Ansley, Tennessee has a core group of recruiters that can go toe to toe with most any staff in the SEC.
Two of my favorite prospects on Tennessee's recruiting board are in state kids Jaylen Reeves Maybin and Vonn Bell. The recruitment of each has well in a phrase "blown up".
Maybin from Clarksville, Tennessee, has become one of the most sought after prospects in the Southeast. His offer list is now well into the double digits. Maybin could play an outside linebacker, strong safety, running back or receiver in college. He is talented and versatile. Maybin has always liked Tennessee nothing has changed there. All the rumors of impending coaching changes at Tennessee have caused Maybin and other elite prospects like him to take a bit more time and explore their college choices.
With Bell, still not 100% certain whether Bell lives in Tennessee and goes to school in Georgia or vice versa. If Bell is considered an in state prospect, without a doubt he is the best in the class. Bell has more pure athleticism than any prospect on Tennessee's board. He is that good a prospect. His athleticism jumps out at you on his film. Bell has a number of Tennessee ties but that hasn’t stopped him from considering all his options for college.... which he should do. I don’t know where Bell will end up signing in February but I can tell you when he arrives on a campus next fall he'll play quickly regardless of depth charts.
Tennessee is in the thick of it for both Maybin and Bell. Again, winning will solve a lot of issues.
Love the pickup of Dan Skipper offensive lineman from Ralston Valley High School in Arvada, Colorado, on so many levels. Tennessee needs to grab four of five offensive lineman in the 2013 class. Those of the four of five need to project as offensive tackles. Austin Sanders (current commitment) filled one of those needs at offensive tackle. Dan Skipper fills the other.
Skipper is 6”10” 280 lbs. and for a 280 pounder he actually looks a bit small. He has a huge wingspan and looks like he has good feet for a 6”10” kid.
He is still a kid so I would expect him to add a few pounds before he shows up at Tennessee. Get him in the strength and conditioning program to get stronger and he can easily add 30 to 40 lbs. of good weight to his frame.
The only concern one would have is whether or not a kid this big will have a hard time adding weight to his frame. Only time will tell on that.
This kid really fills a need in this class. In terms of 2013 offensive line recruiting, Tennessee can focus on recruiting one or two more interior offensive lineman types (road grader/tough guys). I will have more on that later this week.'
Haven’t spoken out much on recruiting of late. To be honest, I would question any recruiting analyst that tells you they know how Tennessee's recruiting is faring as of June 14th, 2012. Honestly, none of us will know about the state of Tennessee's recruiting until about late October. The fate of recruiting really comes down to success on the football field this fall. Simple as that.
What I can tell you from the inside is that all fans should be proud of the newly assembled Tennessee coaching staff. I have said this before. This is a staff that seems to genuinely like being at Tennessee and enjoys working with one another. You could not say that about previous Tennessee coaching staffs under Coach Dooley.
I have questioned a few of the decisions made by this staff. Specifically, I think they could have held off taking a couple of commitments so early in the recruiting cycle. However, let’s give credit where credit is due. This staff has flat out been excellent at getting so many highly rated 2013 and 2014 prospects to campus for unofficial visits during the spring and early summer. It has been unprecedented! Not only has Tennessee gotten a number of prospects rated highly by the recruiting services to campus but more importantly Tennessee has gotten prospects to campus that are rated high on Tennessee's recruiting board. The other tidbit that shouldn’t be overlooked is a number of these kids are showing up on campus with their parents. Always a positive sign.
Tennessee has gotten these prospects interested in the program and to campus despite the media portraying the Head Football Coach as being on one of the hottest seats in America. In addition you can bet your life that every football coach recruiting against Tennessee is using Coach Dooley's tenuous situation to their advantage and to Tennessee's disadvantage.
Despite this swirling around, Tennessee currently has 9, 2013 commitments and maybe poised to receive a few more before fall practice begins. My review of the current commitment list is, well, in a word "mixed". Without mentioning names(personally don't think it is fair to the prospects), I believe 5 of the commitments are excellent pickups, 2 of the commitments could become contributors before they leave campus (but I wouldn’t expect it to happen early for either one) , and I believe the other 2 may well get recruited over.
Through the end of the summer, expect Tennessee to pick up 3 maybe 4 new commitments. In my opinion, the most coveted prospects, those that can go to school anywhere and those Tennessee has to land to get Tennessee back to competing at the highest level in the SEC are simply going to wait and see how things play out .... (wins and losses). Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.
Here are a few potential recruiting developments I will be watching over the next few weeks.
Pursuit of a Quarterback. After his performance at camp earlier this week, Butler, North Carolina, quarterback prospect Riley Ferguson appears to have vaulted to the #1 prospect on Tennessee's board. Ferguson has good size frame, a big arm, a nice touch, and made all the throws at Tennessee's camp. Ferguson may wind up being the best quarterback prospect in North Carolina by the end of the football season kind of like Nathan Peterman did last year in Florida.
Speaking of Florida, the other quarterback prospects in play with Tennessee appear to be Florida kids. John O'Korn from St. Aquinas and Kurt Benkert from Cape Coral, Florida. Of the two, Tennessee prefers Benkert to O'Korn. It may get interesting if Benkert is ready to pull trigger late this week.
Think Jay Graham has made a difference? It has been too many years to count since Tennessee has been one of the top choices for so many highly ranked running back prospects. Jay Graham is not just an excellent running back coach. He is an excellent running back coach who is becoming an elite recruiter.
Consider where Tennessee stands with the following running back prospects.
Derrick Henry, former Georgia commitment, and one of the top running back/athletes in Florida has re-opened his recruitment. Tennessee and Alabama appear to be the favorites;
Alvin Kamara, a top running back prospect in Georgia appears to be down to Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. It doesn’t hurt Tennessee to have Kamara's former teammate Jason Croom on campus and another former teammate Ben Bradley as a defensive tackle target.
Tennessee is in the top three for all everything running back Derrick Green from Virginia. Clemson and Ohio State maybe a bit ahead of Tennessee for Green but Tennessee is growing on Green and his family; Tyshon Dye a Georgia prospect, who maybe the best of the bunch, is likely down to Tennessee and Clemson.
Tarean Folston from Cocoa Beach, Florida, appears to be down to Tennessee or Florida. Once one of these prospects commits to a school, you will start seeing the others fall into place. I think Tennessee tries to sign two running backs in this class but scholarships are tight and a numbers crunch may not allow two running backs to be signed.
Can local kicking specialist Jonathan King kick his way to a scholarship? X's forte is not that of evaluating kicking specialists. I will take it from an associate of mine who is a former SEC place kicking specialist. He thinks King is not only one of the best kicking prospects the Knoxville area has produced he believes King is one of the best he has seen in the Southeast in years.
A bigger question is will Tennessee be willing to tie up a fourth scholarship with a kicker.
Lastly, will top defensive targets like Jason Hatcher, Darius Latham, and Toby Johnson make return visits to campus between now and the beginning of preseason camp? All three of these prospects are high on Tennessee's recruiting board. Hatcher, a linebacker from Louisville, KY, was on campus a few weeks ago with his mother. Tennessee is one of Hatcher's top schools and may be his leader; Latham, a 6'5" 270 lb defensive end/lineman from Indianapolis, Indiana is down to Florida and Tennessee. Understand he plans to make a return visit to Tennessee with his family later this month; and, Toby Johnson, the #1 rated JUCO defensive tackle a from Hutchinson Community College, is expected back for another visit later this month.
Landing any of one of these defensive prospects would give Tennessee's recruiting a much needed shot in the arm.
I will shout back before July 4th.
Yesterday we started the "IN" Game with "In the House", "In the lead," and "in the hunt and mix".
Today it's "In Trouble" (prospects where Tennessee has some ground to make up); and, "In Process" (prospects that like Tennessee but are waiting on offers or Tennessee to complete its evaluation). Yes it is only the middle of May but it is a good spot to see how recruiting stands
All is not lost with these prospects far from it as a matter of fact. Simply, Tennessee has its work cut out for various reasons with the following prospects.
Frank Herron (6'5" 245lbs) Defensive line. Memphis. TN. Like many, X thought Tennessee was in really good shape with Herron. LSU has made a move with Herron and is going to give Tennessee fits all the way to National Signing Day. Herron is a great fit for Tennessee's new defensive scheme. Tennessee is not of it by any means but this is one where there is legitimate concern. LSU isn't the only school to be concerned with. Herron like Ole Miss and Southern California has recently offered Herron a scholarship.
DeVontae Covington (6'4" 220 lbs) Linebacker. Rockingham,SC . All along Tennessee was felt to be the leader for Covington. Some even thought Covington would commit to Tennessee in April. Seemingly out of nowhere, Covington publicly committed to South Carolina. Tennessee is high on this kid and Jay Graham has forged a nice relationship with Covington. Tennessee will not go away but Covington's commitment to South Carolina was a body blow.
Antonio Riles (6'4" 250 lbs) Lawrenceville, GA. Defensive Lineman. At one point, Tennessee has the momentum with Riles. It appears Tennessee is now on the outside looking in with respect to the recruitment of Riles. Will be surprised if Riles leaves the state of Georgia.
Matt Rolin (6'3" 215 lbs) Ashburn, VA. Linebacker. See Antonio Riles except replace Georgia with Virginia.
Corn Elder (5'10" 170 lbs) Nashville, TN. Athlete. Elder is one of the best pure athletes in the state of Tennessee. The longer the recruiting process wears on the more I think Elder winds up at another school.
Dane Rogers (6'3" 245 lbs) Shelby, NC. (Defensive End/Linebacker). Rogers talks a lot about Tennessee but hasn’t been on campus. Rogers is one of those prospects early season success by Tennessee would likely increase his interest in Tennessee.
RJ Prince (6 '6" 280 lbs) Albemarle, NC. Offensive Lineman. Prince was one of the top offensive line targets on Tennessee's board and a prospect Offensive Line Coach Sam Pittman had a previous recruiting relationship with. Prince was one of the first commitments to new North Carolina Head Coach Larry Fedora. Tennessee has not given up here. Prince's early commitment was a bit of an early blow to Tennessee's offensive line recruiting. Lots of work to be done.
James Quick (6'1" 180 lbs) Louisville, KY. Wide Receiver. Quick, I have been told, was at one time the top wide receiver target on Tennessee's board. Quick has an offer, is a prospect Tennessee is actively recruiting, and he talks favorably about Tennessee. However, he needs to get to campus this summer before I give Tennessee a reasonable chance here. Until Tennessee gets Quick to campus, I don’t see this recruitment trending in a positive direction.
Derrick Green (6'0" 215 lbs). Richmond, VA. Running Back. Green is probably the most physically impressive running back on Tennessee's board. Green is big kid, skilled at running between the tackles, and runs a ridiculous forty time for a kid as big as he is. I know he talks favorably about Tennessee but I think Tennessee is on the outside looking in with Derrick Green. I will take his interest more seriously if he visits this summer.
Naim Mustafaa (6'4" 235 lbs) Defensive End. Alpharetta, GA. At one time, I thought Mustafaa was all but committed to Tennessee. Then, something changed. It is likely Tennessee believes there are other prospects on its board where they have a good shot at landing. Mustafaa appears headed to Georgia Tech or Georgia.
Mark Dodson (5'9" 185 lbs) running back. Whitehaven HS, Memphis,TN. Dodson and Tennessee are going different directions. Dodson is an excellent change of pace running back. Honestly though, Tennessee has a number of running backs on its board higher rated than Dodson that Tennessee believes are much better fits for their offensive scheme.
Prospects Tennessee is evaluating but hasn’t made an offer or prospects that have just received an offer Tennessee is building a relationship. In most cases, Tennessee wants to evaluate these prospects during summer camp. There are a couple of "In Process" prospects could quickly move into the "In the Lead" category.
Tyler Cogswell (6'5" 220 lbs) Quarterback. Plantation, FL. Tennessee will take one quarterback in the 2013 class. So far, Tennessee has missed out on a couple of the top quarterback prospects on its board. No need to hit the panic button. Remember Tennessee struck gold last summer when Nathan Peterman came to campus and earned an offer. Cogswell is a big, raw kid who is more of an athlete than quarterback right now. He plans to camp at Tennessee. Could Tennessee go into Florida and grab another quarterback in 2013?
Brett Kendrick (6'295" lbs) Offensive Lineman. Knoxville,TN. Brett Kendrick is no longer a secret. Recruiters have made Christian Academy of Knoxville a regular stop this spring to check out this big offensive lineman. Kendrick certainly has the measureables. Tennessee wants to Kendrick to camp this summer to check out his speed and competitiveness. Could be next offensive lineman to grab a scholarship offer.
Neiko Creamer (6'4" 220 lbs) Bear Delaware. You may think wide receiver is not a position of need in 2013 given the wide receiver signees in 2012. Consider though one wide receiver graduates and there is a possibility than 1 to 3 underclass wide receivers could also leave. If this happens, wide receiver position becomes a huge priority. Creamer, son of former Vol Andre Creamer, is a receiver prospect beginning to gain interest from the larger schools. West Virginia, Rutgers, Auburn , and Tennessee have all been in contact. The question with Creamer will be is his speed. Is he fast enough? Look for Creamer to camp this summer at Tennessee.
Charlie High (6'1" 185 lbs) Quarterback. Knoxville, TN. High's measureables will not knock you over nor does he have the greatest arm strength. High has a better arm than you think, he is exceptionally smart, read defenses very well, been coached well, and he is a winner. Tennessee has invited him to camp this summer. This kid is a competitor and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he earns an offer.
Bobby Billingsley (6'2" 275 lbs) Center. Memphis, TN. Tennessee has just recently cranked up its recruiting of Billingsley. Billingsley, from Memphis, is a teammate of another Tennessee target Christian Morris. Billingsley already holds more than a half dozen offers including offers from SEC schools Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Tennessee hopes to get Billingsley on campus this summer and continue to evaluate him.
Sean Spencer (6'4" 255) Defensive End. Newnan, GA. Even though injuries curtailed much of Spencer's junior year, Spencer is still a prospect recruiters are flocking to see. Injuries haven’t stopped schools like LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, North Carolina and a half dozen other schools from offering Spencer a scholarship. Spencer has been on campus and Tennessee is evaluating. Tennessee wants to see more either this summer or in the fall to determine how Spencer has recovered from his injuries.
Davin Bellamy (6'5" 220 lbs) Defensive End. Chamblee, GA. You have to trust the staff on this one. Bellamy has seen his offer sheet multiply of late with schools like Georgia, South Carolina jumping on board. Yet, Tennessee continues to evaluate Bellamy. This suggests to me there are other prospects higher on the board than Bellamy at defensive end. Even without an offer, Bellamy has Tennessee at the top of his list. Bellamy needs time in a strength and conditioning program to gain the bulk needed to play in the SEC.
Tony Jones (6'1" 220 lbs) Linebacker. Norcross, GA. Jones is a linebacker prospect Tennessee likes but they want to see more of him. I saw Jones at the O&W game and he sure looks every bit if not bigger than 220 lbs. He definitely has an impressive build.
Shaun McGee (6'3" 235 lbs) Linebacker. Snellville, GA. McGee is a linebacker prospect we may hear more about over the summer. McGee is big, fast (reported 4.6 40 yard dash) and strong (400 lb squat and 20 X 185 bench press). Tennessee has stopped in and checked on McGee. Clemson is interested as well. Plans are for McGee to camp at Tennessee this summer. Tennessee has other linebacking prospects rated a little higher on its board right now but McGee could crash the party with a strong showing this summer.
In closing, Tennessee will be hard pressed to sign 25 kids this signing class. Spots in this class from here out are limited. Tennessee is in on too many good prospects and still has too many needs to settle. Defensive depth is still a concern. If you remember from the Orange and White Game, the first team kids looked like SEC caliber players. The second line players, especially at linebacker and defensive back, looked a step slower and a tad smaller. The incoming recruiting class and the 2013 class will fix the depth issue. Offensive line is a priority in 2013. If there is one position to have some concern over early in the recruiting cycle, this would be the position.
You can draw conclusions for yourself. This is just a snapshot in time. Things will look differently 90 days from now say about the middle of August. Geez, football season isn't that far away.
Until Next Time
Recently I have been more than complimentary of Tennessee's staff in a couple of areas. As mentioned last week, Tennessee's staff has made a concerted effort to start and finish prospect evaluations much earlier, connect with prospects and get offers quicker, and convince prospects high on their recruiting board to visit campus. Tennessee's staff, still out on the road evaluating prospects, hasn’t slowed down at all. In the last couple of weeks of the spring evaluation period, Tennessee still continues churning out offers.
The question folks are asking is just how well is Tennessee doing with all these offers? So X has came up with the "IN" Game. Yes, I do have too much time on my hands sometimes. Here how the "IN" Game works. Listed below are some 50 odd prospects. Each is listed in a particular category. Those categories are : "In the House" - committed to Tennessee (pretty easy so far) ; "In the Lead" (prospects Tennessee either leads for or Tennessee is one of their top schools); "In the Hunt and Mix" (prospects that like Tennessee but Tennessee is not really standing out. These are kids looking for a reason to bump Tennessee up to the top of their list, named in honor of Coach Fulmer); "In Trouble" (prospects where Tennessee has some ground to make up, coming tomorrow); and, "In Process" (prospects that like Tennessee but are waiting on offers or Tennessee to complete its evaluation, coming tomorrow as well). Yes it is only the middle of May but it is a good spot to see how recruiting stands.
One other thing. With close to 50 prospects listed below, the discussion of each prospect tends to be a bit brief.
In The House
Tennessee now has 6 public commitments. We have mentioned each one before but let’s do it again. In State (3) Camion Patrick (wide receiver and x favorite); Austin Sanders (offensive lineman; and, Jason Carr (defensive lineman). Florida (3). Corey Verreen (linebacker and another x favorite); Dominic Zanca (linebacker); and DeVondre Campbell (linebacker) by way of Hutchinson Community College. All are really good prospects.
In The Lead
Though nothing is final until papers are signed, Tennessee is one of the schools considered a favorite to land these prospects.
Jaylen Ramsay (6'1" 185) cornerback, Nashville, TN. Ramsay is a national recruit. Offers from schools all over the country including Ohio State, Southern California, and most every SEC school. Those that have seen Tennessee's board say Ramsay is at the top of the list with safety Vonn Bell. Tennessee is in good shape but there is a long way to go.
Toby Johnson (6'4" 295 lbs) defensive lineman. Hutchinson Community College. Johnson projects as the Number #1 JUCO defensive tackle in the country. Tennessee has been recruiting Johnson longer and harder than any other school.
Rod Crayton (6'1" 290 lbs) Dadeville, Alabama. Defensive Tackle. Tennessee loves his explosiveness. Excellent nose tackle prospect in 3-4 scheme. This looks like a LSU/Tennessee battle.
Derrick Henry (6'3" 240 lbs) Yulee, Florida. Running Back/Athlete. Henry remains committed to Georgia but there is no doubt Henry and Jay Graham have developed a great relationship. Henry will be a tough pull but don't be surprised. Some schools are recruiting Henry as an athlete. Tennessee likes Henry at running back.
Darius Latham (6'5" 275 lbs) Indianapolis, Indiana. Defensive Lineman. Building a 3-4 defense? Latham is the prototypical 3-4 defensive end. Latham, who has already been on campus has yet to pare his list of schools. I understand Tennessee considers itself right in the thick of it for Latham.
Ben Bradley (6'2" 315 lbs) defensive lineman. Hutchinson Community College. Bradley played high school football in Norcross, Georgia, and was a high school teammate of Vol to be Jason Croom. Bradley is another kid that possesses ideal size for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. Looks like Tennessee's staff is honing in on JUCOs that can provide/immediate impact next season.
Donald Gray, Jr. (5'9"160 lbs) Memphis, TN. Athlete. Gray is one of the best talents in the state of Tennessee for 2013 and, to be honest, very few people are talking about him. Yes, he is a tad small but he makes up with the lack of size with speed and quickness. Tennessee stands in good shape with Gray but will likely have to hold off schools like LSU and Southern California (yes that is USC) to land Gary. If he winds up at Tennessee, look for Gray to get a shot at both corner and slot receiver.
Michael Hill (6'2" 315 lbs) defensive tackle. Pendelton, SC. Hill loves Tennessee. Tennessee will have its hands full fending off the South Carolina and Clemson for the services of Hill. He is another interior defensive lineman Tennessee seems to be in good shape with as this first phase of 2013 recruiting winds down.
Marquis Grayson (6'1 200 lbs) running back. Lexington, NC. Grayson is one of the top running backs in North Carolina. Here is yet another prospect Jay Graham is the lead recruited for. I have read articles that mention Grayson has other schools leading for his services. I'm being told Tennessee is right in the thick of the recruiting battle for Grayson.
Jaylen Reeves-Maybin (6'1" 185 lbs) Clarksville, TN. Athlete. Maybin has exploded this spring. His offer list continues to grow. Maybin is one prospect Tennessee started recruiting early and it is paying off. I expect Maybin to take his time and consider his options but Tennessee is in good shape. I think Maybin is an outside linebacker or safety in college but Tennessee has offered him a chance on offense if he wants it.
Derwin Gray (6'4" 290 lbs) Washington, DC. Offensive Tackle. Tennessee has taken a few early hits with respect to its recruiting of offensive lineman. A few of the key targets have committed to other schools. This is a concern because offensive line is a priority in 2013. A bright spot has been Derwin Gray. Gray, along with current Tennessee commitment Austin Sanders, sits right atop Tennessee's offensive line board. Gray is a prospect that can play for most any school in any conference around the country. He is one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. Gray was on campus this spring and loved his visit. It is tough for offensive line signees to step on campus and compete for playing time in the SEC. Gray is a prospect that would have that chance.
Chris Duffy (5'11" 190 lbs). Indian Trail, NC. Athlete. Tennessee looks to be the leader for this former East Tennessean. Duffy projects as a defensive back in college. Defensive back though is a position where Tennessee feels very confident about where they stand with a number of highly rated prospects. You wonder if Duffy is one that gets caught in the numbers crunch.
Dorian Miller (6'3" 275 lbs) Metuchen, NJ. Guard. Miller is coveted by recruiters at either an offensive lineman (guard) spot or a defensive end. Tennessee is recruiting Miller as a guard. Miller holds double digit offers and one would think the home state school Rutgers will be tough to beat. However, Miller seems open to leaving the New Jersey to play college football and he has Tennessee firmly planted in his top three.
Mac Weaver (6'6" 235 lbs) Harding Academy, Memphis, Tennessee. Tight End/Athlete. Hard to imagine so few have heard of Weaver and he is approaching 20 offers. Tennessee unfortunately got a bit of a late start recruiting Weaver and was a little late to offer Weaver. Thanks to Darrin Hinshaw Tennessee has made up a lot of ground. Weaver could play either tight end or defensive end in the SEC. Heard a comment that Weaver is as good an athlete as any kid Tennessee has offered.
Kirk Garner (6'0" 185 lbs) Olney, Maryland. Defensive Back. Garner is one of the top defensive backs in the Mid-Atlantic but not even the best defensive back on his team. His teammate is 5 star defensive back Kendall Fuller who Tennessee is also recruiting. Tennessee has Garner rated as one of the top corner back targets on its board. Garner is another mid-Atlantic kid Tennessee got to campus this spring. Garner loved it here. Wonder if Tennessee would take his commitment right now with so many highly rated defensive backs still on its board? Tennessee, Maryland, Florida State to name a few.
In the Hunt and Mix
Being in the Hunt and Mix in May is actually not a bad place to be. These are prospects that like Tennessee that are looking for that reason to bump Tennessee to the top of their lists. Many of these prospects will likely be on campus this summer and fall. Many of the concerns with these prospects can be cured by Tennessee hanging up 8 to 9 wins next season.
Kendall Fuller (5'10" 190 lbs) Olney, Maryland. Defensive Back. X would be remiss if Kendall Fuller wasn’t mentioned here. Fuller is rated by a few recruiting services as the top cornerback prospect in the country. Fuller holds over 30 (that is right 30) offers. Tennessee currently is one of his top 4 schools. Tennessee has got to get Fuller and family to campus this summer.
Mackenzie Alexander (5"11" 175 lbs) Cornerback. Immokalee, Florida. The recruiting services that don't have Kendall Fuller ranked as the top cornerback most likely have bestowed that honor on Mackenzie Alexander. Alexander may be the top prospect at any position in the state of Florida. Alexander is a former Tennessee commit who reopened his recruitment earlier this year when a number of former Tennessee coaches left for other positions. The Alexander recruitment surprises me. I thought Alexander would be done to one of the Florida schools by now. Coaches Ansley and Hinshaw have done a fantastic job keeping Tennessee relevant with Alexander. Tennessee thinks they are a contender for Alexander and hope to get him to campus this summer.
Give Derrick Ansley, Darrin Hinshaw as well as others on the staff for having Tennessee in the middle of it for three of the top cornerback prospects in the country... Jaylen Ramsay, Kendall Fuller, and Mackenzie Alexander.
Carl Lawson (6'2" 250 lbs) Defensive end/linebacker. Alpharetta, GA. Lawson shocked Tennessee by committing to Auburn earlier this year. Tennessee has not given up on Lawson and of late has started ever so slightly closing the gap on Auburn. Tennessee along with Alabama and Georgia will fight Auburn to the end for Lawson. Doesn’t hurt that a former Vol is Lawson's coach. Lawson is one of those prospects where a few wins would work wonders for our recruiting efforts.
Vonn Bell (6'1" 190 lbs) Safety. Chattanooga, TN. Vonn Bell is the #1 safety on Tennessee's board. Getting him to Tennessee is a huge priority for this Tennessee staff. Overall, there is not much separation between him and Jalen Ramsay in terms of importance to Tennessee in 2013. Bell is athletic, explosive, and has good football instincts. He has absolutely blown up in recruiting circles this spring. Bell now holds approximately 25 offers including offers from schools such as Texas, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Alabama. Tennessee has its work cut out but I still think Tennessee is one of the top teams to beat for Vonn Bell.
Alvin Kamara (5"10" 195 lbs). running back . Norcross, GA. Kamara is no longer the best running back in the Southeast. He is one of the best running back prospects in the country. He is a national recruit coveted now by Southern California, Notre Dame as well as SEC powers like Alabama, Florida and others. Kamara does very few interviews and his recruitment has been somewhat under the radar. Don't be fooled Tennessee is heavily involved here. Expect Kamara to be on campus this summer and more than a few times his fall.
Jordan Wilkins (6'2" 210 lbs) running back. Cordova, TN. Tennessee is likely to take two running backs in this class. It is looking like Tennessee would like for Jordan Wilkins to be one of those backs. For a period of time, it appeared Wilkins and Tennessee were going in different directions but Jay Graham has got Tennessee at least back in the conversation with Wilkins. Still the Mississippi schools (location ) and Vanderbilt (brother on team) will be tough to overcome.
Brad Henson (6'5" 275 lbs) Toms River, NJ (Offensive Lineman). The offensive line is a priority this recruiting cycle and though its early a number of Tennessee's targets have committed to other schools are seemingly off the board. Henson is a prospect from the Northeast who seems to like Tennessee. Holding offers from many Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic schools, Tennessee is recruiting Henson as an interior lineman and expects Henson to visit over the summer.
Tyshon Dye (6'0" 200 lbs) running back. Elberton, GA. Dye, along with the previously mentioned Alvin Kamara, are the top running backs in Georgia. Though not an evaluator of football talent or skills, I’m not so sure Tyshon Dye wouldn't be ranked a little higher on my board than Kamara. Dye is bigger, maybe a bit better runner between the tackles, and seems every bit as fast as Kamara. Clemson has always seemed to be the leader for Dye (his high school football coach has Clemson ties I'm told) but Tennessee keeps hanging around in the recruitment of Dye. Dye will be on campus this summer.
Jason Hatcher (6'2' 240 lbs) linebacker. Louisville, KY. Hatcher has Tennessee in his top 2 along with Ohio State. Hatcher is an ideal prospect for the 3-4 defense Tennessee is installing. He knows it and Tennessee knows it. Winning would do wonders for Tennessee recruitment of Hatcher. Tennessee expect Hatcher to visit campus with family soon.
Kameron Miles (6'2" 200 lbs) Safety. Mesquite, TX. Miles is a top 100 prospect who has a genuine interest in Tennessee. It is no secret Von Bell is the top safety target on Tennessee's board. Tennessee though plans on taking 2 safeties in the 2013 class and Kameron Miles has firmly planted himself as the second safety on Tennessee's board.
Miles, the 86th ranked player and the 10th highest rated safety in the country, now holds over 20 offers. He has offers from schools in all six BCS conferences. The attention being paid to Miles by recruiters is obvious. He's an athletic 6-foot-2, 200-pounder who put up some pretty impressive numbers against top-level competition last season in Texas. Playing both free and strong safety spots, Miles racked up 101 tackles and five interceptions. Watch his film and you will understand why schools from coast to coast and recruiting him. Tennessee is heavily involved here and it doesn’t hurt than an ex-Vol is Miles' Head Coach.
Christian Morris (6'6" 275 lbs) offensive lineman. Memphis, TN. Morris is one of the top offensive lineman in Tennessee this recruiting cycle. Morris is garnering interest from most of the SEC schools as well as schools like Ohio State and Southern California. Morris has great size but needs strength work. I think Morris really likes Tennessee. I hear different things on whether Morris is a take right now for Tennessee.
AJ Branisel (6'4" 225 lbs) South Euclid, OH. Tight End. Tennessee is looking to sign at least one tight end in the 2013 class. Mac Weaver (mentioned above) may be a bit higher on Tennessee's board but Weaver could wind up playing on the defensive line. Bransiel is currently committed to Cincinnati. Give the Cincinnati staff credit, they were on the first schools to offer Branisel and they got him committed. Throughout the spring, Branisel has started receiving more attention for schools outside the Big East Conference. Can’t hurt that Tennessee will be using three tight ends this season about as much as they use the 5 wide receiver set. This is one to keep an eye on as there is a long way to in this recruiting cycle.
Check in tomorrow for Part II of my X-clusive report. We'll cover 'In-Trouble' & 'In-Process' Thursday.
And thanks to Smoothie King for the support over the past year. Yawl come back now.
'I’m one of those. All I have been looking forward to since National Signing Day came and went is today. Around my household, "spring hasn't sprung" until Tennessee hits the field for the first of its fifteen spring practices. Folks, spring has sprung!
This spring, like no other in recent memory, offers such diversity in compelling storylines.
This is either the beginning of resurgence in Tennessee's football fortunes something this fan base really needs. Or, this is the beginning of the end for another Head Football Coach. Hey, there should not be any excuses this fall. First, there is depth at most every position. Coach Dooley has brought in three solid recruiting classes; a schedule that is more favorable than schedules in Coach Dooley's first two years; a remade staff that, in my opinion, is much better from top to bottom than either of his first two; a set of offensive weapons that any team in the country would love to have; and, enough pieces and parts coming back to build a serviceable defense.
Admittedly, Coach Dooley was dealt a bad hand when hired. A train wreck would more aptly describe things around the football program 2 plus years ago to be honest. However, because of any number of factors including the shenanigans that went on in Lexington last fall, you have a coach who was fortunate to make it through the month of November and December 2011 with his job at Tennessee. So much for four years to turn things around, Coach Dooley is squarely on the hot seat going into the 2012 season. If things weren’t trending bad enough, Tennessee saw seven of his nine assistant coaches (including his recruiting coordinator) depart for lateral positions in the off season. A few of the coaches took jobs where they are earning less than they did at Tennessee. Coach Dooley also hired a Defensive Coordinator whose first game on the sidelines as Defensive Coordinator at the University of Tennessee will be his first game as a Defensive Coordinator in the SEC. He also hired two new defensive back coaches that are virtually unknowns. Neither has coached a game in the SEC.
And, if all the above doesn't put a lump in your throat, there have been whispers of locker room issues that continue to fester. Plus, this is a Head coach who, over the course of two and a half years, has appeared to be tone deaf at times toward the fan base.
As with every start to a new season, the players and many of those close to the Program are saying all the right things. Talk, my friends, will not get it done this year.
There will be a number of storylines that develop during the next fifteen practices. While some questions may be answered this spring , many of these questions will linger into fall camp and even into the start of the football season.
The following are just a few X will be watching.
Which players emerge this spring as team leaders? You can't coach leadership. It is critical for leaders to emerge as spring practice turns into summer workouts. Will Tyler Bray will be one of the team leaders?
Does a new offensive line and running backs coach breathe life into a Tennessee running attack left for dead last season? What does the starting offensive line look like coming out of spring. How much do redshirt freshman like Alan Posey and Kyler Kerbyson push the returning veterans?
As a group, are the offensive linemen in better shape than last season. Many looked slow and frankly not very fit last season.
Will young pups in the defensive backfield compete for playing time? As obvious as the poor running attack was for the offensive, it was also obvious the secondary last season lacked speed and playmakers. The only playmaker seemingly to spend more time on the sidelines than on the field making plays. There has been much talk about how impressive redshirt freshmen defensive backs Tino Thomas and Geraldo Orta have looked during off season workouts. Both are fast kids and both are coming off surgery. However, each has been healthy enough to go through off season conditioning without restriction. Let’s see what they look like when the pads go on.
Which players emerge as the top cornerbacks? Not sure Tennessee had their best guys on the field at all times in the secondary last season. Does Tennessee have two cornerbacks on campus that can line up and play press coverage?
Will Byron Moore find a home in the new defense?
Will the 3-4 defensive scheme give players Jacquez Smith and Steve Fowlkes new beginnings. Both these kids definitely look like SEC players. Neither has yet to play up to their potential. Smith never found a home in Justin Wilcox's defensive scheme. The light has never seemed to click for Fowkles. Time is running out for both of these kids.
Can Tyler Bray take the next step?
Can Justin Worley continue to improve and challenge Tyler Bray?
Just how good is Nathan Peterman and how far can he come in fifteen practices?
Will the Football Gods give Herman Lathers and Greg King an injury free spring. Two kids I’m really pulling for. The defensive can use both.
How will Darrin Hinshaw fare in his new coaching assignment with wide receivers.
Will DaRick Rogers participate in spring practice. If so, which DaRick shows up. The good Da'Rick or the other one.
Will there be an increased emphasis on downfield blocking by the wide receivers. The wide receivers were poor in this area last season
Are Michael Palardy and Matt Darr healthy. Have either one improved. Sadly, these are two questions that will linger until August 31st. George Bullock can't get on campus has enough
How much has Vincent Dallas improved since last season?
Will Cam Clear continue to build on the improvement he made during the last month of the 2011 season. Is that enough to supplant Mychal Rivera as the starter? Can Clear, Downs and Rivera all become effective blockers?
Can anyone block Darrington Sentimore and is he as good as advertised ?
Will there be a Christian Harris sighting?
Has Channing Fugate found a home as an inside linebacker?
Rajean Neal is getting his wish. He will be worked exclusively at running back this spring. Is he tough enough to be an every down back in the SEC?
Can Marlin Lane get through spring practice healthy?
Will another running back emerge?
The running back competition will be fun to watch. Well, since we can't really watch it, the running back competition will be fun to read about.
Can Tennessee get through 15 tough spring practices without major injuries?
And of course, there will be plenty of recruiting activity during spring practice. Starting with today as defensive lineman Darius Latham from Indianapolis will be on campus observing practice. Latham is one of the best in the country and Tennessee is firmly planted in his top five schools.
Look for a number of high profile recruits to be on campus throughout the spring leading up to the Orange and White Game. Also, look for Basilio to have information in this spot regularly throughout the next few weeks.
'It is always a good time to talk football recruiting isn’t it? Recruiting is such a part of the fabric of college football. Recruiting, literally never takes a day off. Most VOL fans are counting down the days to the start of spring practice. Me, I’m just looking forward to the next Junior Day (which is March 3rd by the way) . If recruiting is of interest to you, my guess is you've already marked this day as well.
So, let’s talk 2013 recruiting. Back in January, I posted a list of in state prospects that were sure to be highly recruited by Tennessee and other FBS schools in 2013. Three of the in state prospects on the list have already committed to Tennessee. It is possible a couple or more prospects on that initial list could soon follow suit. Here's the thing. There are probably another 10 to 12 in state prospects that I didn’t include on that initial list that will receive a look from Tennessee between now and National Signing Day. You’ll see more on in state prospects below... and there will be other names emerge as spring evaluations and summer camps get underway. Speaking of in state recruiting, the high school football talent for 2013 in Tennessee is the best in years. However, it is all relative. Tennessee is “catching up” with other states but it will be a long process. The talent in states like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, which regularly crank out excellent high school football talent, is well, in one word, exceptional this year. As one who likes to look at the dynamics of putting together recruiting classes, I will be very interested in watching how Tennessee builds their 2013 class. For instance. How many in state prospects will Tennessee offer and sign? Will the 2013 class be more regionally oriented? How big a factor will Tennessee be in Virginia and the Mid Atlantic area with Sal Sunseri on board? All these little things are side bars but are things that make following recruiting interesting.
A couple of other things to note. Alabama may be a little squeezed for numbers this recruiting cycle while Georgia and Florida look to be able to sign fairly large classes. Because the Florida schools took so many prospects targeted toward defense in 2012, one would think Tennessee could be in a position to land one or two of the better Florida defensive prospects. In 2012, 14 of Florida's 23 signees are defensive players; Florida State 10 o19 signees are defensive players; and 20 of the 33 signed by Miami are defensive players. Hmmm.
Enough pomp and circumstance. Let’s get started. Expect Tennessee to be selective but active in its pursuit of Junior College prospects this fall. The focus will be on prospects that can get to school in January 2013. One who bears watching is Hutchinson Community College (Kansas) defensive tackle Toby Johnson. Johnson a 6’4” 290 interior defensive line player popped on Tennessee’s radar while recruiting eventual signee Corradelle Patterson. A couple of important things to note about Johnson. It can’t hurt that he was a teammate of Tennessee signee Corradelle Patterson. Next, Kansas junior colleges are limited in the number of out of state football prospects they can sign each year. If they do sign an out of state prospect, chances are the prospect can play. Johnson is from the greater Atlanta area and has said publicly he wants to continue his football career closer to home. Tennessee has built a relationship with Johnson over the last year. Ole Miss has offered Johnson a scholarship as has Tennessee. Georgia is evaluating Johnson. More schools will jump on board with offers to Toby Johnson during the upcoming evaluation period.
Devonate Covington, defensive end Richland County Richland, North Carolina. 6'4" 220 lbs. X has already said it but it bears repeating. Expect Tennessee to be active in North Carolina in 2013. Jay Graham has been recruiting Covington for months. Though Covington doesn’t hold a Tennessee offer, Covington has publicly mentioned Tennessee and Clemson as his early leaders. Covington is a defensive end/linebacker type who has the frame to add more weight. Look for Covington to be on campus this spring.
Tennessee is looking to sign at least one high profile running back prospect in 2013. Thanks to Jay Graham, Tennessee has gotten its foot in the door with a number of the Southeast's finest. Here is just a small sampling of running back prospects Tennessee is involved with.
One of the top running backs on Tennessee’s board hails from North Carolina. Marquez Grayson is a 6'1" 205 lb from Lexington, North Carolina. It is early but Tennessee is definitely in the mix with Grayson. Grayson took an unofficial visit to Tennessee last fall. I would expect him back for Junior Day or another date during the spring. Grayson’s early favorites are Virginia Tech, Clemson, South Carolina and Tennessee. Analysts believe Grayson may be the best running back in North Carolina for the 2013 class.
Tyren Jones, 5'10" 200 lbs running back Marietta, Georgia. Jones is a smaller running back with excellent speed and power. As a junior, Jones was the leading rusher in the entire state. Jones recently picked up a Tennessee offer. Clemson is the early leader.
Tyshon Dye, 6'0" 205 lbs Elberton County running back. Dye is one of X’s favorites for 2013. Dye is a bigger back but you can’t tell it watching him run away from defenses on film. He may be the most complete back in Georgia in 2013. Dye has excellent size at 6-foot, 205 pounds, and has the speed, power, and elusiveness that Tennessee is seeking. Dye will certainly make his case for the top running back in Georgia in 2013. Tennessee recently offered Dye a scholarship. Auburn, Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia have offered as well. This is going to be an interesting recruitment going forward.
Alvin Kamara, 5’9” 185 lbs running back Norcross, GA. Kamara is in the same class as the aforementioned Jones and Dye as running backs that will be heavily recruited by all the Southeastern schools before all is said and done. Kamara is lightning fast and runs with toughness. Tennessee has offered Kamara a scholarship. Clemson and Alabama are among other schools that have followed suit. Kamara has been on campus and will likely be back many times. Kamara is a teammate and close friends with Vol signee Jason Croom.
Seems like having a dedicated running back coach is helping recruiting. Thank you Dave Hart.
Garret Sickels 6'4" 225 lbs, Red Bank Regional High School, Little Silver, NJ. Sickels holds a Tennessee offer and has already been on campus numerous times (sister is a Lady Vol athlete). Sickels is listed as a defensive end but in Tennessee's new defensive scheme Sickels is likely an outside linebacker. Sickels is explosive, possesses good speed, and is a nightmare for teams off the edge. Sickels is a high energy type and actually reminds of former VOL Will Overstreet. Florida is involved as is Alabama and a number of other high level FBS schools for Sickels.
A.J. Jackson - 6'6" 233lbs, Lovejoy High School, Hampton, Georgia. Jackson is a very interesting prospect. Tennessee is looking to sign a tight end in this 2013 class. Jackson projects as a tight end or defensive end in college. He is athletic enough to play either position; however, he could grow into an outside linebacker or if he doesn’t get much bigger could play slot receiver. Jackson is an outstanding athlete and plays at one of the better high school programs in Georgia. Jackson is on the Tennessee board but doesn’t have an offer at this time.
Montravious Adams, 6'3" 290 lbs, Dooley County, Vienna, Georgia. Defensive Tackle. Adams is one of the best defensive prospects in the Southeast, a top 10 prospect in Georgia, and an early ESPN 150 prospect for 2013. Adams is dominating. Adams plays with very good leverage and seems to be able to play the pass as well as the run. Tennessee has already offered. Clemson and Alabama appear to be the early leaders.
Greg Gilmore, 6'4" 275 lbs, South View High School, Hope Mills, North Carolina. Gilmore is ranked as the 4th best prospect at any position in North Carolina and has already been rated as a top 100 prospect regardless of position in the nation for 2013. Gilmore, who holds a Tennessee offer, is a big bodied athlete perfect for the new defensive schemes being installed at Tennessee. Gilmore is raw and still needs a ton of work in strength and conditioning program but the talent is there. Gilmore is at the top of Tennessee's list for 2013.
Nigel Bowden, 6'2" 230 lbs, Macon Central High School, Macon, Georgia. Bowden is the prototypical inside linebacker. He is receiving interest from all the major SEC and Southeastern schools. Physically, Bowden already looks like he can play in the SEC. Tennessee hasn’t offered Bowden yet but he is being evaluated.
Jonathan Allen, 6'3" 250 lbs, Stone Bridge High School, Ashburn, Virginia. Outside Linebacker. Allen is one of the top linebacker prospects in Virginia. He holds 15 offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Michigan, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. Tennessee has offered Allen and Allen has expressed early interest in visiting Tennessee. This area of Virginia is a tough area to beat the in state schools for a football prospect.
Demarcus Walker, 6'4" 255 lbs, Sandalwood High School, Jacksonville, Florida. Strong side Defensive End. Walker already holds over 20 scholarship offers (including one from Tennessee). Last season Walker accounted for 14 sacks, 24 tackles for loss many times while beating double teams. Walker has mentioned looking out of state to play college football. Tennessee jumped into the Walker recruitment early. In state schools will be tough to overcome for a talent like Walker.
Darius Latham 6'5" 285 lbs Indianapolis, Indiana. Defensive Tackle/Defensive End. Latham is a prospect who possesses amazing athleticism for a 6’5” 285 lb kid who hasn’t stopped growing. Latham is from the old school. Two way football player(offense /defense) who also excels on the basketball floor. From watching his video, my guess is Latham winds up on defense in college. Latham would be a perfect fit for the new defense Tennessee is installing. Michigan, Tennessee, and Ole Miss are among the schools that have offered Latham a scholarship. Ohio State won’t be far behind.
Cameron Toney, 6’3” 210 lbs linebacker Huntsville, Alabama. Many will ask why include a highly rated Alabama prospect here. Alabama or Auburn usually have their way in state. Three reasons. Sal Sunseri had developed a great relationship with Toney before he left Alabama. Sunseri has continued to recruit Toney and he has been receptive; Alabama will likely have a numbers crunch with its 2013 recruiting class. Linebacker may be a spot where their numbers will be limited. This could spell opportunity for Tennessee; Tennessee has a glaring need in the 2013 class for inside linebackers. Toney is a perfect fit when his frame fills out; and, .finally, the Huntsville area is not quite as pro- Alabama/Auburn as other areas within the state. Tennessee has already extended Toney an offer as has Alabama and Auburn. Should be interesting one to watch.
Mike McCray, 6'4" 220 lbs, Trotwood-Madison High School, Trotwood, Ohio . Linebacker/Tight End. On defense McCray totaled over 90 tackles as a junior and for good measure had 5 interceptions. Equally skilled on offense, McCray tallied 10 touchdowns from the tight end spot. In 2011, McCray was named the Defensive Player of the Year in his region. Defensive is likely his destination in college. McCray likes Tennessee, has already been on campus, and has a Tennessee offer. Right now, he holds over 20 offers. Interestingly, Ohio State who many thought was the favorite for McCray has yet to offer. McCray is one of the best prospects in the country at both the tight end and linebacker position.
......And a little in-state talk to close thing out
Here are three in state defensive tackles for starters. These big bodied athletic kids are being evaluated by Tennessee and are sure to draw interest from other SEC schools.
Malik Brewer, 6’4” 320 lbs Defensive Tackle Boyd-Buchanan High School, Chattanooga. Brewer is hearing from Tennessee.
Garret Oden , 6’4” 275 lbs, Defensive Tackle, Humboldt High School, Humboldt, Tennessee. Humboldt has cranked out yet another very good defensive line prospect. Some believe Tennessee missed on 2012 prospect Tevin Bryson.
Skyler Sheffield 6'2" 300 lbs Chester Country High School, Henderson, Tennessee. Sheffied is built for the nose tackle spot. Mississippi State out in front early here.
And here are a few other Tennessee kids.
Vonn Bell, 6’1” 180 lbs, Ridgeview High School, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Though X couldn’t figure out whether Bell was an in state prospect or not, college football recruiters didn’t have any problem identifying Vonn Bell as a big time talent. The talented prospect is likely destined for free safety in college. Tennessee has offered Bell. A number of other SEC schools have done the same. Even though it is early, a lot of people favor Tennessee here. True, Bell grew up a Tennessee fan. However, Georgia and Alabama will be tough competition for Bell and neither school will go quietly. Bell has been on campus for unofficial visits and will likely be back for Junior Day in early March.
Walker Jones 6’2” 220 lbs outside linebacker Cordova, Tennessee. Yes I know. Why even mentioned Walker Jones? Jones’ father played at Alabama and has two older brothers playing there now. Headed to Alabama for sure. First, the younger Jones has developed a good relationship with Coach Sunseri. He likes Tennessee. Being the youngest, he may want to find his own way instead of following in the footsteps of Dad and his brothers. Just because the kid is a legacy doesn’t necessarily mean he is a slam dunk to pick Alabama. Besides Alabama has a numbers crunch in 2013 and will likely take no more than 2 linebackers (1 already committed). Alabama has to be the favorite but Tennessee is going to recruit him. Tennessee has offered Jones a scholarship.
Mark Dodson, Jr. , 5’10” 185 lbs running back Memphis Tennessee. Last year I thought Dodson was the best running back prospect in Tennessee. Dodson Jr. is a 4.4 speed back who accounted for over 2,000 yds and 20 touchdowns last season. I don’t see Dodson Jr. as an every down running back in college. He looks like a third down change of pace type running back. Dodson gets up field and to top end speed as fast as anyone on Tennessee's board. Tennessee is evaluating Dodson but no offer as of yet. Cincinnati, Oregon, and Arkansas are involved with Dodson. Look for Dodson to be on campus for Junior Day or to take in a spring practice or two.
Christian Morris. 6'6" 270 lbs. Offensive Tackle. Memphis East High, Memphis. Morris is the ideal size for an offensive tackle. He is athletic would likely need a redshirt year in college to get stronger and work on technique. You can't teach the size and frame.
Latavieus Rayfield, 6'1" 180 lbs. Memphis Central High, Memphis. Emerging West Tennessee receiver/athlete Tennessee is evaluating. Rayfield one of the most athletic prospects in the state for 2013. Look for Tennessee to stay involved with Rayfield. He'll likely be at Tennessee during the spring and could camp at Tennessee. Former teammate of VOL Cameron Clear and current VOL target Frank Herron.
We aren’t to Valentine’s Day yet and Tennessee has already offered scholarships to approximately 120, 2013 prospects (yes 120). Compare the number of Tennessee offers to new SEC foe Missouri who has offered 25, 2013 prospects.
Tennessee offered 12, in-state prospects in 2012 (including 2 kicking specialists). Tennessee has already offered 10, instate prospects in 2013 (no kickers).
Tennessee offered scholarships to 6 prospects from the state of Virginia in 2012. Tennessee has already offered 8 prospects from the state of Virginia for 2013. 9 prospects from North Carolina were offered scholarships in 2012. 7 prospects from North Carolina have already been offered for 2013. Of those 15, 2012, offers to prospects from Virginia and North Carolina, Tennessee got 1 official visit (Korren Kirven). Look for that to change going forward.
So much more to follow. Next post will focus on offensive lineman, linebackers, and defensive backs