With less than two weeks until National Signing Day, Tennessee has plenty of work to do.
The Vols are ranked No. 24 in the nation with 16 commitments. However, Tennessee still has at least 10 top-flight prospects remaining on its board. The Vols are in position. They just have to close.
Here are five questions offered up by Tennessee fans as we quickly approach the culmination of the 2016 class.
Why does Tennessee seem to be down in recruiting rankings this year compared to the last two?
There are a few reasons. Fewer scholarships have been discussed aplenty so let’s leave that be.
First, Tennessee’s coaching staff is at a crossroads. The Vols can’t convince prospects to come to Tennessee for early playing time because there’s not much to be had. The Vols have built a solid foundation of young talent in most areas.
Second, Tennessee’s coaching staff hasn’t proven it can win at a high level. Sure, the Vols beat Georgia and have handled South Carolina under coach Butch Jones, but can they beat Florida and Alabama? Tennessee’s coaches must still answer difficult questions about how they blew three double-digit leads last season.
The Vols are in between selling early playing time and selling championships.
How has Tennessee’s transition to defensive coordinator Bob Shoop affected the previous targets?
So far, Tennessee’s new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has kept the ship afloat. His hiring from Penn State made a splash, which seemed to wow prospects. Just the mere notion of hiring Shoop over the other schools that wanted him created a positive buzz for the Vols.
However, the jury is really still out. It remains to be seen if Shoop can reel in a prospect to Tennessee all on his own. The best news so far is that junior college standout defensive end Jonathan Kongbo said he has been impressed with Shoop. Considering the late transition, just helping secure Kongbo would be enough.
Do you think Tennessee has a chance to crack the Top 10 in recruiting after signing day?
No, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The Vols never expected to sign 30-plus prospects as they have in the past two recruiting cycles. Therefore, there has been a tendency for Tennessee to be choosey. Frankly, that has cost them at times in recruiting this year.
It would be easy to criticize the Vols for that approach. However, it was the right one. If the Vols lose out on some top-notch prospects because they weren’t willing to pursue too heavily, then that’s what Tennessee will have to deal with. This was not a class to get too fat on questionable prospects.
How is Tennessee looking with Nigel Warrior?
This question can and will only be answered after Warrior’s visit to Tennessee on Jan. 29. Until then, it’s impossible to know where the safety from Peachtree Ridge High School (Suwanee, Ga.) will end up. As for now, I give the Vols a 25-percent chance of landing Warrior. Georgia, Alabama and, perhaps, LSU are thought to have the lead over the Vols.
Who are the five-stars or high four-stars who Tennessee will finish with?
I’m going to take two: offensive tackle Landon Dickerson from South Caldwell High School (Hudson, N.C.) and athlete Marquez Callaway from Warner Robins (Ga.) High School. Both are four-star prospects.
Here is why I’m predicting both end up at Tennessee. Dickerson loves Tennessee and Florida State but wants to be close to home. Callaway is also considering Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Given facilities and support, Tennessee could easily be deemed his best option.
All player ranking and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.