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.
A bunch of questions this week.
Let’s get to your questions.
Justin asks: With Butler now committed, do the Vols continue to go after Labryan Ray?
Did the Vols recruit Butler as a D-end or D-tackle? Or Both? Are the Vols still planning on only taking 27? If so, obviously Akers is first choice, but who is second… Moore, Corker, Ray, Felix, Etieene?
Are Barnett and Kamara holding two scholarships hostage from the Vols by not declaring for the draft now, or how does that work exactly?
Justin coming in hot! Several different topics here, so I’ll use bullet-points to answer everything succinctly.
* With the commitment of 4-star defensive lineman Matthew Butler on Wednesday, the Vol are probably done addressing the defensive line. Probably. Why the italics? Well, they won’t turn away 4-star end LaBryan Ray if he truly wants to join the class. Sure, it’ll make the numbers crunch harder, but schools don’t pass up preeminent pass rushers. Those dudes don’t just grow on trees. Ray will visit in January, but he’s still a strong lean to Alabama.
* Butler was recruited as an end, but Tennessee is well-aware that he could grow into a terror as a 3-technique tackle. The Vols don’t really care either way. They simply hope Butler reaches his lofty potential.
* 27 seems right? I think? Again, Tennessee’s numbers are fuzzy. They Vols want to add another corner and tailback, so will there be more attrition so the math works? We’ll see.
* Cam Akers is a guaranteed take. Cornerback Yusuf Corker, who commits on Dec. 26, is as well. Right now, guys like T.J. Moore, a 4-star guard, and Jaylen Harris, a 4-star receiver, don’t have a spot.
* Derek Barnett and Alvin Kamara aren’t “holding scholarships hostage.” Their likely departures are being counted in Tennessee’s scholarship projections for 2017.
Jimmie asks: Just curious what area do you think Butch Jones needs to focus on more in recruiting this year compared to last year? And how do you think this year is gonna play out for him in recruiting because of the way the season ended this year?
Tennessee entered the 2017 cycle needing to shore up its defensive line, secondary and running backs room. The Vols have mostly filled their needs. They’ve certainly missed on some big fish, but Butler’s commitment cemented a solid DL group. If Corker joins the fold on Monday, the secondary will be complete, too.
Tennessee already has two nice tailbacks in the class — 4-star Ty Chandler, a true plug-and-play prospect, and 3-star Trey Coleman — but would like to sign a third ‘back to further shore up the group’s depth.
The Vols will likely finish somewhere between No. 11-15 nationally in team recruiting rankings — No. 2 in the SEC East and No. 6 in the conference overall. That’s ok, but if Tennessee wants to seriously compete for championships, it needs to climb up the rankings and recruit among the big dogs again.
Timothy asks: What do you think of Tennessee’s chances of landing a commitment from Deangelo Gibbs?
Next to none. Gibbs included the Vols, once his purported leader over the summer, among his finalists recently, but the 4-star safety is headed to either Georgia or Alabama.
He’s cousins with Tennessee freshman safety Nigel Warrior, but this one has trended toward the Bulldogs ever since Gibbs’ other cousin — JR Reed — went to Athens. Make no mistake, it’s a big loss for Tennessee, especially for a secondary desperate for some dynamic playmaking ability.
Tanner asks: Sense this deal with Cam Akers seems to be heating up, what do you believe our real chances are at getting him?
Eh. Slim. Akers recruitment has been rather wild for a guy who rarely talks to reporters. I know the Vols had some (perceived??) momentum after 5-star tackle Trey Smith committed to Tennessee in early December.
But I’ve been on record for weeks saying Tennessee’s only shot to reel in the 5-star tailback was if Akers delayed his announcement at the Army All-American Game, opted to take more visits and commit on NSD. Instead, he bumped up his decision date and will reveal his college choice on Dec. 27. It certainly seems like an FSU-LSU showdown, with Ole Miss still lingering.
Joe asks: Who is being recruited to replace the entire coaching staff at the end of the 2017 season?
Joe bringing the Christmas cheer!
Max asks: How many 3-star players has Jones got commitments from so far and why this year is he so fascinated with recruiting 3-star talent?
Because the staff believes they are good players and mostly ignores traditional recruiting rankings. As for total number of 3-star commits: Tennessee has 21, easily the most in the SEC.
Wes asks: Every year there are kids that out perform there “rankings” who do you think the sleepers are in this class and which ones do you anticipate seeing the field this year coming up?
Good question to close out the mailbag. Before Butler received his ratings-bump Wednesday (now a 4-star per 247Sports), I always believed he was severely underrated.
Guys like Theo Jackson, a 3-star safety, and Solon Page, a 3-star linebacker, have high-ceilings, too. Both products have lower rankings than their true potential.
K’Rojhn Calbert is the nation’s No. 65 offensive tackle because he’s so raw, but the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Warren County product has the frame and athleticism to be a legit NFL tackle.
Two more names to watch: 3-star receiver Jordan Murphy (a possible instant impact guy in 2017) and corner Cheyenne Labruzza.
As always, thanks for the questions. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, everyone.