Tennessee isn’t going to have a blockbuster recruiting class in 2016. It’s just not going to happen. It all comes down to math.
In Butch Jones’ first two seasons as Tennessee’s coach, the Vols have signed 60 prospects. Sure, there has been some attrition, but not enough to allow the Vols to sign 30 or more prospects in this class.
With 17 current commitments, Tennessee is expected to sign less than 25 prospects (maybe closer to 20) and be ranked among the top 20 classes in the nation. A top 15 group is a possibility. A top 10 class looks like a long shot.
Here are the five most important recruits Tennessee has to sign to finish its 2016 class at the highest level:
5-star DL Derrick Brown, Lanier (undecided)
- Resides: Buford, Ga.
- Ranking: No. 1 prospect in Georgia, No. 3 defensive tackle in the nation, No, 8 player overall.
- Measurements: 6-4, 318 pounds
- Main schools competing for him: Alabama, Auburn, UGA, Mississippi State, Tennessee
- Odds on landing him: 20%
- Why Tennessee needs him: Imagine what a coup this would be for the Vols. Signing Brown would mean beating perennial national championship contender Alabama, the in-state UGA Bulldogs and his parents’ favorite school, Mississippi State. The Vols are still a long shot but not as bad as before. They have shown the ability to beat UGA and hang toe-to-toe with Alabama on the field. Brown thinks he could be the difference in some of the close games this fall. Tennessee’s coaches would like to find out.
4-star DE Emmit Gooden, Haywood (undecided)
- Resides: Brownsville, Tenn.
- Ranking: No. 6 prospect in Tennessee, No. 13 strongside defensive end in the nation
- Measurements: 6-3, 285
- Main schools competing for him: Tennessee, Mississippi State, LSU
- Odds on landing him: 65%
- Why Tennessee needs him: The Vols don’t want to lose another in-state recruiting battle to LSU, as they did with Memphis defensive lineman Frank Herron in 2013. Herron is buried on LSU’s depth chart. He could be playing extensively for the Vols this season. As for Mississippi State, the Bulldogs don’t have as much to offer as Tennessee. Gooden needs to join the Vols to prove Tennessee controls the state.
5-star WR Mecole Hardman, Elbert County (Undecided)
- Resides: Elberton, Ga.
- Ranking: No. 1 athlete in the nation, No. 2 prospect in Georgia, No. 20 overall in the country
- Measurements: 5-10, 175
- Main schools competing for him: UGA, Tennessee, Florida State
- Odds on landing him: 35%
- Why Tennessee needs him: Seemingly, the Vols have recruited well at receiver in Butch Jones’ first two full signing classes. They aren’t producing like it. Hardman is an elite talent and has been a prime target for the Vols for months. Hardman has shown he’s willing to head north. He has visited Knoxville on several occasions. In order to upgrade their underachieving group of receivers, Hardman is a must get.
4-star S Nigel Warrior, Peachtree Ridge (undecided)
- Resides: Suwanee, Ga.
- Ranking: No. 4 safety in the nation, No. 8 player in Georgia
- Measurements: 5-foot-11, 188
- Main schools competing for him: Alabama, Tennessee, UGA, Florida, LSU, Ohio State
- Odds on landing him: 33%
- Why Tennessee needs him: The Vols always want to recruit well in the state of Georgia. Warrior is the crown jewel for the Vols in The Peach State this year. Warrior’s recruitment has been incredibly tough to follow, much less predict. He has changed his mind frequently and, at times, likes to play his cards close to the vest. The Vols have a strong tie to Warrior. He is the son of former Tennessee star safety Dale Carter.
4- star CB Joejuan Williams, Hendersonville (undecided)
- Resides: Hendersonville, Tenn.
- Ranking: No. 1 prospect in Tennessee, No. 15 cornerback in the country
- Measurements: 6-2, 195
- Main schools competing for him: Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Penn State
- Odds on landing him: 70%
- Why Tennessee needs him: The Vols have to win important recruiting battles in the mid-state area. It was understandable when it was former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin beating former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley. Those days should be over. Speaking of Franklin, he secured an official visit for Penn State last week from Williams, which is set for Nov. 21. The Vols need to secure a commitment – then his signature on National Signing Day.