KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — What will Tennessee’s recruiting class look like on National Signing Day?
Close to three months away, it remains a tricky proposition to project any class — especially one as fluid as the Volunteers.
As it currently stands, Tennessee already has 26 commits, yet the Vols are still actively targeting upward of 8-to-10 blue-chip prospects.
Something has to give.
When the first Wednesday in February rolls around, Tennessee will sign between 25-27 recruits.
In the exercise below, I’ve listed 33 names.
At this juncture, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to straight up cross off a prospect’s name from a commit list when that decision hasn’t officially happened yet. I’m not burning a kid.
Again, Tennessee’s class is fluid. Things will change.
*** Indicates current Tennessee commit
*** 3-star recruit CJ Lewis (Cheshire Academy, Conn.)
3-star recruit Bubba Thompson (McGill Toolen, Ala.)
Note: Tennessee will only take one quarterback in 2017. The Volunteers have had a tough time landing a 2017 signal caller (missing on Hunter Johnson, Jack Sears and N’Kosi Perry) after bringing in Jarret Guarantano last cycle. Lewis has been committed since late July but has had an inconsistent senior season. The Volunteers recently extended an offer to Thompson, a budding prospect who is deciding between playing either baseball or football.
*** 4-star recruit Ty Chandler (Montgomery Bell Academy, Tenn.)
*** 3-star recruit Trey Coleman (West Monroe, La.)
Note: Both are longtime commits. Chandler is a stud from the Midstate and should come in and compete for carries immediately at Tennessee. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound tailback has 31 touchdowns this season and is among the more explosive runners in the nation. Coleman is more of an athlete and grinder, but he gives the Volunteers added depth at the position.
*** 3-star recruit Chase Rogers (St. Stanislaus, Miss.)
*** 3-star recruit James Brown (Jones, Fla.)
Note: The Volunteers just received a commitment from Brown, a recently converted quarterback with an intriguing skill set. Rogers has put up record numbers this season and continues to hear from in-state Ole Miss, as well as other schools. It remains to be seen how many tight ends Tennessee ultimately takes, especially since LaTrell Bumphus (see below) could play offense for the Volunteers.
*** 3-star recruit Jordan Murphy (Hattiesburg, Miss.)
*** 3-star recruit Princeton Fant (LaVergne, Tenn.)
*** 3-star recruit Jacquez Jones (Clearwater, Fla.)
3-star recruit JaVonta Payton (Hillsboro, Tenn.)
Note: Payton has been on Tennessee’s radar for a while, but the in-state wideout hasn’t received the attention that some of its other priority targets have. Murphy has delivered a monster senior season (more than 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns), while Jones has put up big numbers, too. Both prospects still have some work to do in the classroom. Fant is an unbelievable athlete who has battled injury problems his entire high school career.
Jeremiah Holloman remains a top target at the position, but Georgia still holds the edge. It will be interesting to watch the recruitment of both Jaylen Harris (Cleveland Heights, Ohio) and Florida State commit D.J. Matthews (Trinity Christian Academy, Fla.) over the next six weeks, too.
*** 3-star recruit Riley Locklear (Spring Valley, W.Va.)
5-star recruit Trey Smith (University School, Tenn.)
3-star recruit K’Rojhn Calbert (Warren County, Tenn.)
4-star recruit T.J. Moore (Mallard Creek, N.C.)
Note: Locklear, a versatile lineman in a similar mold to Volunteers junior Coleman Thomas, is Tennessee’s lone commit right now. But the Volunteers have trended with Smith for months and remain in the driver’s seat to land the in-state tackle. Smith is the biggest fish still out there for Tennessee.
Calbert recently earned an offer from the Volunteers and could officially jump on board by December. Moore de-committed from South Carolina after picking the Gamecocks over the Volunteers in August. He visited Tennessee several weeks ago and will take an official visit to Knoxville later in the year.
*** 4-star recruit CJ Cotman (Clearwater Central Catholic, Fla.)
*** 3-star recruit Marquez Bembry (Mount Vernon Presbyterian, Ga.)
Note: Both longtime commits. Cotman was initially recruited to play cornerback, but it seems like the explosive playmaker is more likely to start on the offensive side of the football for Tennessee. Bembry is recovering from a knee injury and projects as a defensive lineman.
*** 3-star recruit LaTrell Bumphus (Hardin County, Tenn.)
*** 4-star recruit Breyon Gaddy (Bishop Sullivan Catholic, Va.)
*** 4-star recruit Eric Crosby (Ocean Lakes, Va.)
*** 3-star recruit Brandon Gaddy (Bishop Sullivan Catholic, Va.)
*** 3-star recruit Kivon Bennett (St. Thomas Aquinas, Fla.)
*** 3-star recruit Tre Lawson (North Augusta, S.C.)
3-star recruit Matthew Butler (Garner, N.C.)
Note: A deep group, as Tennessee really needs to restock the cupboard along the defensive line. The Volunteers have aggressively recruited Butler for a while, and remain in solid shape. Crosby, as well as Breyon Gaddy, are potential instant impact guys. Brandon Gaddy is an athletic body who could play a variety of positions for the Volunteers. The twins still have some schoolwork to do, though.
Lawson is probably the most underrated guy in the entire group. He has good size (6-6, 250), long arms and plays with an active, nonstop motor. As previously mentioned, Bumphus could ultimately play tight end at Tennessee, so another name (say Malik Young or Aaron Sterling) could be added to this list closer to signing day. Tennessee still is in the mix for 4-star prospect LaBryan Ray, but he remains a very, very tough pull out of Alabama.
*** 3-star recruit Jaquan Henderson (Newton, Ga.)
*** 4-star recruit Will Ignont (Buckhorn, Ala.)
*** 3-star recruit Solon Page III (Kell, Ga.)
*** 3-star recruit Mo Burnam (Salem, Ga.)
Note: Tennessee has room for just three linebackers, so something will eventually give here. Ignont was a big get just last week, landing the thumper out of Auburn’s backyard. Henderson and Page are two athletic, versatile prospects who could play outside linebacker or a hybrid nickel role for Tennessee.
*** 4-star recruit Maleik Gray (LaVergne, Tenn.)
*** 3-star recruit Theo Jackson (Overton, Tenn.)
*** 3-star recruit Cheyenne Labruzza (Albany, La.)
*** 3-star recruit Terrell Bailey (John Ehret, La.)
3-star recruit Yusuf Corker (Woodland, Ga.)
Note: Obviously the notable name missing here is 5-star cornerback Lamont Wade. I don’t think Tennessee’s chances have changed for the top-50 prospect.
The Vols are definitely one of Wade’s top schools, but pulling the blue-chip recruit out of the Keystone State — away from legitimate options in Pittsburgh and Penn State — was always going to be very difficult. Unless Wade visits Tennessee a fourth time, I don’t see him ending up in this class.
Now, Corker is player, too, and has the frame to come in and compete for a spot right away. Jackson and Gray both have serious upsides, while Labruzza flashed as Tennessee’s diamond in the rough before re-injuring his meniscus. The Volunteers would love to add top-50 prospect Deangelo Gibbs or 4-star cornerback Christopher Henderson, but they trail a pair of East Division rivals for both prospects.
*** 3-star recruit Brent Cimaglia (Fred J Page, TN)
Note: The in-state kicker has 32 touchbacks this season. He’s perfect on extra points (27 for 27) but just 5 of 9 on field goals.