KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee currently has 27 commits in its Class of 2017, ranked No. 9 nationally.
It’s a heavy haul, especially with close to three months remaining before National Signing Day.
Not everyone currently committed to the Vols will sign on Feb. 1. That’s simply a well-known fact at this point.
Still, the base of Tennessee’s class is set, so let’s take a look at the two most important commits — both for the short-term and the long-term.
Most Important Commit — Short-term
Montgomery Bell Academy tailback Ty Chandler
The Nashville native is a 4-star prospect and the No. 5 overall tailback in the country, per 247Sports.
As I noted right when he committed, Chandler checks every box for Tennessee.
With @Channdler_35, Tennessee …
Fills a major need a RB ✅
Secures a key in-state talent ✅
Adds a blue-chipper ✅
Climbs into the Top10 ✅
— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) August 15, 2016
Chandler is not only the future of Tennessee’s backfield, but he’s a potential immediate impact player. With Jalen Hurd already gone and Alvin Kamara almost guaranteed to be out the door at the season’s end, the Vols desperately need a playmaker to come in and compete for carries right away.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound U.S. Army All-American is a complete, explosive running back, with the skill-set to run between the tackles or make opponents miss in the open field. The in-state stud has been a bellcow ‘back for MBA, racking up more than 1,700 yards and 31 touchdowns in his senior season.
While John Kelly, now a sophomore, will enter 2017 as Tennessee’s starting tailback, he will be pushed for snaps on Day 1 by Chandler.
As MBA coach Marty Euverad said after Chandler committed to Tennessee in August, “He was special as a freshman in high school. We play in a pretty good league and he started as a freshman here and arguably was the one of the top players on the field as a freshman. It’s another level, but he definitely handled it in high school.”
Most Important Commit — Long-term
New Market Buckhorn (Ala.) linebacker Will Ignont.
The 4-star prospect just committed to Tennessee two weeks ago, immediately boosting a position in desperate need for some oomph.
Ignont is a Top-200 recruit and the nation’s No. 6 inside linebacker, per 247Sports.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound prospect is a thumper and has a chance to be the centerpiece of Tennessee’s defense in several years.
The Vols lack of depth at linebacker has shown itself in 2016 — especially at the MIKE position.
Darrin Kirkland will be a junior next season, while promising freshman Daniel Bituli could ultimately end up playing the WILL spot — much like Jalen Reeves-Maybin. None of the other linebackers in the Vols current class project as inside linebackers either.
Ignont wants to play as a freshman, saying, “I just have to come in and compete and I can (earn) a job. It’s all on me. I think I’m good enough to play early if I come in and work hard.”
But his value is all about the future.
Tennessee really needs Ignont to pan out in 2018 or beyond. The Vols don’t currently have anyone on their roster with his size and physicality at the position.
He needs a year in a college strength and conditioning program to reshape his body, but Ignont has the upside to be a staple in the middle of Tennessee’s front-seven down the road.