ANALYSIS: Brutal day for Tennessee on recruiting front leaves Vols in tough spot
Sunday was a day Tennessee recruiting fans would just as soon forget.
While the Vols hosted a junior day this weekend preparing for the distant future, the rest of the SEC was focused on more pressing needs. Tennessee was only one of three SEC schools that didn’t host an official visitor, along with Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
That – and some untimely decisions – meant a rough day for the Vols just before the NCAA mandated dead period went into effect on Monday.
The negative momentum began on Saturday when athlete Jordan Bonner from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M junior college (Miami, Okla.) committed to Kentucky. The defensive end prospect wasn’t thought to be a top Tennessee priority. However, he had claimed a scholarship offer from the Vols and would be a respectable back-up plan if other defensive end plans fell through, which they would later in the day.
Tennessee was thought to be in prime position with Jordan Smith, the 4-star defensive end from Lithonia (Ga.) High School. Smith had recently announced he was no longer committed to South Carolina and was only considering Tennessee and Florida shortly after his official visit to Knoxville on Dec. 4. Surely, the Vols had made the ultimate impression to cause Smith to walk away from his commitment to the Gamecocks. Apparently not. Florida did so on Sunday when he committed to play for the Gators.
Losing out on those two defensive ends is all the more troubling since 4-star defensive end Jonathan Kongbo from Arizona Western junior college (Yuma, Ariz.) told SEC Country last week that he would take an official visit to Alabama in January, despite committing to the Vols last month. If the Vols lose Kongbo, they’d be without a natural defensive end commitment for the 2016 class.
Tennessee’s coaches couldn’t have been happy with the news that Ja’Quain Blakely was considering an official visit to Florida. The 3-star linebacker from Colquitt County High School (Moultrie, Ga.) maintained he was still committed to Tennessee when interviewed by SEC Country, but the visit has to shake the Vols’ confidence. Blakely had shown little interest in other schools since committing to Tennessee in September.
Tennessee was reeling Sunday evening. Then came the haymaker.
D’Andre Christmas-Giles’ decision to decommit was hardly shocking. It had been rumored for weeks. However, it is a significant loss. The 3-star prospect from St. Augustine High School (New Orleans, La.) has been a fast riser recently, with scholarship offers coming in from various SEC schools, most notably LSU.
Everything above happened in about a 24-hour period. The Vols currently have 15 commitments after losing three in a week: Christmas-Giles, 4-star defensive lineman Chidi Okonya from Riverdale (Ga.) High School, and 3-star athlete TaDarryl Marshall from Leeds (Ala.) High School.
No one lamented Okonya and Marshall when the Vols parted ways with the pair. Most assumed that Tennessee was trading up for better prospects. Now, it’s hard to paint an overly positive picture with less than 10 spots left in the class and just six weeks until national signing day.
Still, there’s reason to think Jones and his staff can turn things around considering what they’ve done since arriving at Tennessee.