KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us daily at SEC Country for the latest recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers.
On Sunday, Butch Jones went in-home with defensive line commit Matthew Butler.
— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) January 15, 2017
Steve Stripling, Tommy Thigpen and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop all the made the trip, too. Butler told SEC Country the visit went “very well” and the Garner (N.C.) standout is excited to take his official visit to Knoxville this weekend. He’s developed a strong relationship with Stripling and he continues to get to know fellow players and commits.
Meanwhile, a number of key in-home visits will happen over the next few days, as the Vols want to get new secondary coach Charlton Warren face-time with all their defensive back commits. Warren is considered an impressive recruiter with longtime ties to Georgia and Florida, but Monday’s firing of Willie Martinez certainly surprised Tennessee’s commits.
Although Martinez was not considered a dynamic guy on the trail, the longtime assistant was apt at cultivating close bonds with his players.
Corners Terrell Bailey, Cheyenne Labruzza and Shawn Shamburger all really respected and liked Martinez. Same for Theo Jackson and Maleik Gray.
“I built a great relationship with coach Martinez,” Shamburger told SEC Country.
“I was looking forward to playing under him, but I just have to push that aside and understand it’s still a business and come in with the same mindset as before and compete.”
Bailey, Jackson and Gray were all fresh off official visits to Tennessee when they received a phone call from Jones on Monday morning. Martinez is out and Warren is the new position coach.
Bailey told SEC Country he would take a wait-and-see approach to the news. Jones, Warren and recruiting coordinator Robert Gillespie will all go in-home with the John Ehret (La.) standout today.
Tonight, the same group will see Labruzza in Albany (La.). The 3-star corner recently reaffirmed him commitment to Tennessee after another push by LSU.
While some are concerned Labruzza may flip to the in-state school, the versatile defensive back is still solid to Tennessee and simply wants to meet the new coach, per SEC Country sources.
On Wednesday, Shamburger will host Warren for a visit, and then the former North Carolina defensive backs coach will go and see Jackson and Gray.
Both Labruzza and Shamburger will take official visits to Tennessee this weekend, too.
As for other coach visits, Gillespie and Larry Scott will see tight end commit James Brown on Thursday. The Orlando native will also take his OV to Tennessee this weekend.
Offensive quality control assistant Walt Wells will see top defensive line target LaBryan Ray for the second straight week. The Vols hope to build on a solid OV weekend with the James Clemons standout, who will take a visit to Alabama this weekend.
Several Tennessee commits climbed in recent ratings updates by both Rivals and 247Sports.
Offensive tackle signee Trey Smith, a 5-star per 247Sports composite, jumped 48 spots to No. 49 in the final Rivals100.
Smith starred at the Under Armour All-America Game, with analyst Woody Wommack saying, “Smith had a great week at the Under Armour Game in Orlando, showing an impressive mean streak and violent hands. The Tennessee early enrollee will need to add some more muscle to his lean frame before he’s ready to see the field in Knoxville, but with nine months to prepare he should be an early contributor for the Vols.”
Tailback Ty Chandler also climbed up the rankings, finishing No. 80 overall — up 36 spots.
The 4-star from Montgomery Bell Academy played second fiddle to top tailbacks Cam Akers and Deandre Swift during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in Texas, but Chandler still showcased well and displayed a versatile skill-set.
“Chandler was relegated to more of an all-purpose role at the Army Bowl, but his combination of speed and playmaking ability, along with his willingness to run between the tackles, helped him move into the final Rivals100,” Wommack wrote.
“The Tennessee commit has a clear path to early playing time and will likely be a factor for the Vols in 2017.”
Finally, linebacker commit Solon Page III jumped a ridiculous 600-plus spots in the new 247Sports update. The rangy linebacker, now ranked No. 338 overall, had an excellent senior season for Kell (Ga.), finishing third in the state with 178 tackles. Page was also named the Class 5A defensive player of the year.
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