Tennessee has precious few spots to fill when National Signing Day arrives on Wednesday. The Vols have 17 commitments and are ranked No. 21 in the nation with their 2016 class.
The Vols are expected to sign 21-22 signees. Here are the five most important targets:
DE Jonathan Kongbo – Four-star, Arizona Western Junior College (Yuma, Ariz.)
Tennessee’s battle for the nation’s top-rated junior college prospect got just a little bit easier when the 6-foot-6, 264-pound defensive end eliminated Alabama from his list of finalists last week. Now, the Vols only have to beat out Ole Miss, Southern California and Florida State. That seems doable, especially since Kongbo was once committed to Tennessee before opening up his recruitment. Kongbo can provide an immediate boost for the Vols at defensive end and linebacker. Tennessee’s defense was at its best when the Vols were able to use former standout Curt Maggitt in a similar role. Kongbo would be expected to be an immediate starter and playmaker once he arrived on campus.
DT Derrick Brown – Five-star, Lanier High School (Sugar Hill, Ga.)
Brown has all the credentials one would expect from a top-flight defensive lineman. The five-star prospect is the No. 4 defensive tackle in the nation and the top prospect in Georgia. The Vols seemed to improve their standing with Brown thanks to a strong official visit this past weekend. However, there is still plenty of competition. Alabama has always been in good standing. Georgia is the nearby, in-state school. Yet, Auburn has also made a strong recent push. Brown’s signing with Tennessee would be the most impressive pick-up out of Georgia in almost two decades by the Vols.
S Nigel Warrior – Four-star, Peachtree Ridge High School (Suwanee, Ga.)
Every Tennessee fan knows of Warrior. That comes with being the son of an all-time Vols great, former safety Dale Carter. However, the Vols hope Warrior understands just how much he’s needed to help rebuild a suddenly youthful secondary. Warrior’s signing would give the Vols tremendous flexibility, as he can play safety or cornerback. The 6-foot, 186-pound prospect would also be a candidate to play nickelback, which the Vols utilize frequently. Georgia, Alabama, LSU and Auburn are also interested in Warrior, who is the No. 4 safety in the nation and the No. 7 prospect in Georgia.
OT Landon Dickerson – Four-star, South Caldwell High School (Hudson, N.C.)
Dickerson’s recruitment by Tennessee has been a roller coaster. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive tackle took several unofficial visits to see the Vols last year. However, he didn’t receive a visit by Tennessee coach Butch Jones last month when coaches were allowed to be back on the road. It’s hard to surmise just where Dickerson’s recruitment is headed. However, Alabama has made a strong late push and Florida State has always been in the running. The Vols have proximity on their side for the four-star prospect, who is rated the No. 4 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 2 prospect in North Carolina.
CB Tyler Byrd – Four-star, Naples (Fla.) High School
Byrd didn’t have much to say about his official visit to Tennessee last weekend. That may be good news, as it could mean the 6-foot, 194-pound prospect is thinking seriously about his commitment to Miami, which he first made in February 2015. Keep in mind, things have changed mightily at Miami. Former head coach Al Golden was eventually replaced by former Georgia coach Mark Richt. All along, Byrd’s primary recruiter has been Larry Scott, who was hired from Miami to coach at Tennessee. Don’t be surprised if Byrd follows Scott to Knoxville, Tenn. The four-star Byrd is rated the No. 10 cornerback in the nation and the No. 15 prospect in the state of Florida. He happens to be good friends with Tennessee running back commitment/high school teammate Carlin Fils-Aime.