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 it.
Charles asks: What is going to be the two biggest surprises — one good and one bad — in recruiting for Tennessee come February?
Oh, tricky tricky. If I honestly new they wouldn’t be surprises!
But I’ll play along.
In terms of a “good” surprise for Tennessee, I think the Vols ultimately add an extra playmaker — either another tailback or a receiver not even on the radar right now.
They’d like to sign one more receiver anyways, and they continue to target multiple prospects (JaVonta Peyton, Jeremiah Holloman, Jaylen Harris).
Meanwhile, they already have two tailback commits — 4-star Ty Chandler, who should be an instant impact performer in 2017, and 3-star Trey Coleman — but they’re hosting 3-star Sunshine State speedster Darrian Felix on an official visit this weekend. Tennessee also continues to try and get 5-star tailback Cam Akers back on campus for an official visit.
As we get closer and closer to National Signing Day, the Vols seem more and more comfortable with the idea of taking three tailbacks.
And no, I have no idea how the plan to squeeze all theses guys in.
As for a “bad” surprise: After everything is sorted out, I could see a scenario where the Vols will finish 10th or worse in the overall team recruiting rankings. A lot will change over the next three months.
A bonus surprise: Tennessee signs a 2017 quarterback that it hasn’t offered yet.
Brandon asks: Do you see Tennessee having a legitimate chance at landing Cam Akers?
I touched on this briefly in the question before, but Tennessee certainly wants to add Akers. Can it?
The nation’s No. 6 overall player still hasn’t decided on an official visit date with the Vols and time is running out for the early enrollee hopeful.
Tennessee remains cautiously optimistic that Akers will actually give the Vols a visit, but right now it trails other schools like Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU in a heated competition.
Akers movements over the next several weeks will be monitored very closely by about a half dozen schools.
Robbie asks: Are there any high school athletes in my backyard the 850 area code that HC Butch Jones & Co. are actively recruiting? Marcus Riley 2018 James Rickards High School? 2018 Jalen Norwood North Florida Christian? Tallahassee, FL high schools? Wakulla County High School?
Tennessee is not currently recruiting Tallahassee athlete Marcus Riley, a Louisville commit, or Tallahassee safety Jalen Norwood, who holds offers from Louisville and Temple.
Under first-year special teams coordinator Larry Scott, a former longtime Miami assistant, the Vols have mostly targeted South Florida and the I-4 corridor when recruiting the Sunshine State.
They are recruiting Pensacola wideout Jacob Copeland, a 4-star receiver with more than two dozen offers, but don’t seem to be in the mix, though.
Copeland’s 247Sports Crystal Ball currently reads 80 percent for Florida State and 20 percent for Miami.
Heath asks: What is the most critical position need in the 2017 class? Also what are the top prospects in that group that you see us making a move for at the last minute?
Tennessee entered this cycle desperate to restock the cupboard at three key spots: tailback (which I’ve talked about in previous questions), the defensive line and the secondary.
Offensive line was a priority, too.
The Vols have seven commits (if we count LaTrell Bumphus, who could actually shift to tight end) along the defensive line already and would like to add at least one more, starting with highly-underrated 3-star defensive end Matthew Butler. Tennessee is also in the mix for 3-star defensive end Deandre Johnson, a Mississippi State commit, and 4-star pass rusher LaBryan Ray.
In the secondary, the Vols have six commits — not counting CJ Cotman since it seems evident the Clearwater Catholic athlete will actually play on offense for UT.
They continue to aggressively target 5-star cornerback Lamont Wade and 3-star corner Yusuf Corker.
Along the offensive line, Tennessee has just one commit (Riley Locklear) but will add up to three more including the possible addition of 5-star offensive tackle Trey Smith.
As always, thanks for the questions.