KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It’s move-in day for Tennessee’s 2016 signees, most all of whom are expected on campus in time for tonight’s 6:30 team meeting with Coach Butch Jones.
Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who many expect to be the Vols’ quarterback of the future, has taken a leadership role in the recruiting class.
Linebacker Ja’Quain Blakely said Guarantano has been a central figure in the group chat the 2016 signees have used to stay in touch.
Blakely brings something extra to the group as well: a working knowledge of what it takes to win a national championship.
“When I was making my decision on which school to pick, I looked at teams that could win a national championship,” said Blakely, who won back-to-back state titles at Colquitt County in Georgia’s largest classification level and the 2015 national title.
“Winning a national title back home in high school makes me hungry to see what it’s like to win a national title at the college level.”
Colquitt County’s national championship was the first by a Georgia high school since 1992. It was determined by High School Football America, which uses a computer ranking that includes several metrics.
Concord De La Salle (California) was ranked No. 2, followed by Katy (Texas), Las Vegas Bishop Gorman and Corona Centennial (California).
Tennessee 2016 offensive line signee Nathan Niehaus played for the No. 18-ranked team at Cincinnati’s Colerain.
Blakey, like Guarantano, arrived on Sunday with his family and joined SEC Country for an impromptu Facebook Live session minutes after checking into his hotel.
Tennessee 2016 LB signee Ja’Quain Blakely discusses arrival and upcoming season
Posted by Tennessee Volunteers Insiders on Sunday, May 29, 2016
Tennessee is the prohibitive favorite to win the SEC East Division, and if the Vols can take the next step and win the SEC Championship Game, they could find themselves in the College Football Playoff.
“In my opinion, national titles come from hard work, dedication, and the players buying into the coaches,” Blakely said. “You have to approach it with a humble attitude, and of course number one, you put God first in everything you do.”
Guarantano said Sunday he wants to win “at least two or three SEC titles and a national championship” during his tenure with the Vols.
Those are exactly the sort of goals Jones wants his players to have at Tennessee, as he looks for the team to share one vision and bond quickly.
Players will continue to arrive leading up to the start of classes on Wednesday.
Here’s a look at the players in Tennessee’s 2016 signing class:
- WR Jeff George, 6-6, 200, Leavenworth, Kansas
- DB D.J. Henderson, 6-0, 180, Lyman, South Carolina
- DB Marquill Osborne, 5-11, 183, Cornelius, North Carolina
- MLB Daniel Bituli, 6-3, 228, Antioch, Tennessee
- OLB Ja’Quain Blakely, 6-2, 235, Moultrie, Georgia
- TE Devante Brooks, 6-5, 225, Bowie, Maryland
- DB Baylen Buchanan, 5-11, 187, Lawrenceville, Georgia
- WR/DB Tyler Byrd, 6-0, 195, Naples, Florida
- WR Marquez Callaway, 6-2, 170, Warner Robins, Georgia
- TE Andrew Craig, 6-5, 245, Knoxville, Tennessee*
- RB Carlin Fils-Aime, 5-11, 185, Naples, Florida
- QB Jarrett Guarantano, 6-4, 207, Lodi, New Jersey
- ATH Corey Henderson, 6-1, 170, Shreveport, Louisiana
- WR Brandon Johnson, 6-2, 175, Plantation, Florida
- OT Ryan Johnson, 6-6, 295, Brentwood, Tennessee
- DL Jonathan Kongbo, 6-6, 260, Surrey, British Columbia%
- OL Nathan Niehaus, 6-6, 255, Cincinnati, Ohio
- TE Austin Pope, 6-4, 235, Sevierville, Tennessee
- LS Logan Punch, 6-0, 245, Knoxville, Tennessee*
- OL Marcus Tatum, 6-6, 265, Ormond Beach, Florida
- DB Nigel Warrior, 6-0, 186, Suwanee, Georgia
- WR Latrell Williams, 5-11, 175, Lake City, Florida
* preferred walk-on