KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us at SEC Country for the latest recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers.
I do this every Thursday, so please submit any questions for future mailbags on Twitter (@JesseReSimonton), email (email@example.com), in the comment section below or on our Tennessee Insiders Facebook page.
Let’s get to your questions.
Jimmie asks: What do we need most from this point in recruiting?
Hmm. I think Tennessee could use some added star-power, but unless the Vols can land LaBryan Ray, I don’t see that happening. For true “needs,” Tennessee still has holes at tailback and corner. The Vols want to sign another defensive lineman or two, as well. Also, receiver is suddenly a targeted position with Josh Malone off to the NFL.
With numbers so tight, I think Tennessee should sign another tailback and take the next two best players available — regardless of position.
Justin asks: Why did the Vols not go after Jalen McKenzie? He’s a legacy and rated higher than all of our offensive lineman, except (Trey) Smith. Who looks like a redshirt candidate next year: Page? Bembry? McBride? Jackson? Out of our current class, are there any guys who don’t make it to campus in the fall because of academic issues or other issues with eligibility?
1. For those unaware, Jalen McKenzie is Kahlil McKenzie’s younger brother. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound guard from Clayton Valley (Ca.) is ranked a 3-star prospect, No. 408 nationally. McKenzie is rated higher than both Riley Locklear and K’Rojhn Calbert, but the Vols don’t really care about prospect rankings. They make their own evaluations. They believe both Locklear (an early enrollee) and Calbert (an intriguing lineman with limitless potential) are better players with higher ceilings.
2. Projecting redshirt candidates now is a bit tricky, but of the names you mentioned, I only see defensive end Marquez Bembry definitely not playing in 2017. He’s coming off a knee injury and is still learning to play defensive end. Solon Page and Theo Jackson will be a cannons on special teams at least, while quarterback Will McBride could actually see some time next season as the backup depending on how the battle between Jarrett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady shakes out.
3. Several current commits have some work to do in the classroom, including a number of Tennessee’s receivers. That’s normal for this time of year, though. They have the spring semester of their senior year to sort of whatever issues currently remain. We’ll know more here early in the summer.
Tanner asks: Who do you think the next recruit pickup will be — if any?
Defensive end Elijah Conliffe plans to announce a decision on Jan. 31. The 4-star end from Hampton (Va.) High will take his official visit to Tennessee over the weekend.
With Alabama likely out of room, this seems to be a UT-Penn State battle. The Vols are trending and could add the talented lineman by the end of the month.
Wideout JaVonta Payton, a kid from the Mid-State, and tailback Johnathan Lovett are two more names to watch, as well.
Ryan Rock asks: How’s it looking for LaBryan Ray, Elijah Conliffe and Aaron Sterling? Does Yusuf Corker still have a visit scheduled? What are your thoughts on the receiver from Alabama that just decommited from Southern Cal? The speedy receiver Jeff Thomas? Are we getting a visit from either of those guys?
1. The Vols are making a hard push for Ray, but ultimately, I see him at Alabama.
2. Conliffe was addressed above. I believe Tennessee is in a 50-50 battle to add the 4-star lineman late.
3. Aaron Sterling is a UT-South Carolina showdown. The Gamecocks currently hold the edge, but if Tennessee pivots from Ray and makes a hard push for Sterling, things could change. The 3-star end from Tucker (Ga.) plans to take an official visit to Tennessee on Jan. 20.
4. With corner Ameer Speed eliminating Tennessee from consideration Wednesday, Yusuf Corker is the Vols lone defensive back target right now. Corker committed to Kentucky on Dec. 26, but still planned to visit Tennessee. That trip hasn’t been scheduled yet, though, so it’s something to monitor.
5. Alabama native Marlon Williams recently decommitted from Southern Cal, and plans to visit Tennessee the last weekend in January. The 3-star from McGill-Toolen will trip to LSU next weekend, too. I don’t see him ending up at Tennessee.
6. Jeff Thomas is a Top-50 guy from St. Louis. He won the MVP at the Under Armour All-America Game. He’s a dynamic wideout scheduled to visit Tennessee the final weekend in January. The Vols would love to add the explosive playmaker, but most believe he’ll end up at Miami.
Thanks for all the questions.
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