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.
I do this every Thursday, so please submit any questions for future mailbags on Twitter (@JesseReSimonton), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), in the comment section below or on our Tennessee Insiders Facebook page.
Let’s get to your questions.
Jimmy asks: Do we have any more instate 4/5 star players that are considering Tennessee?
No. The only blue-chip prospect from the Volunteer State still on the board is 4-star tailback Cordarrian Richardson. The former Clemson commit is not a Tennessee target and is reportedly battling some academic questions.
Doug asks: Is Tennessee still recruiting Bubba Thompson? Is Sherrion Jones a contender for the QB job? He was a 4star recruit. Why would Tennessee waste a scholarship on a 3 Star white QB committed to Memphis? Jones has shown zero ability to develop players, why are they getting so many 3 star recruits and continue to lose out on great players to other SEC teams? How can Jones loose an OL to Oregon and a LB to Oklahoma, both from Nashville!
1. No. The Vols have their 2017 quarterback in 3-star Will McBride, who is already on campus as one of five mid-year enrollees. Bubba Thompson was a top target in November, but Tennessee grew concerned with the Mobile native’s possible decision to skip college and sign with a MLB team following June’s draft.
2. The Vols like McBride’s upside. They believe he’ll excel in their spread system, limiting his height issues. He put up good numbers against solid competition in Texas. He’s certainly a project, so we’ll see how he progresses.
3. Butch Jones & Co. have bet big in this class on A) identifying prospects early B) developing some green guys into high-ceiling players. Tennessee has fostered a number of 3-stars into productive players recent years, including guys like Cam Sutton, Corey Vereen, Dylan Wiesman, Rashaan Gaulden, John Kelly, Chance Hall, etc.
The Vols have actually had a larger issue with top guys not panning out/reaching their potential, with many blue-chippers transferring or middling in mediocrity.
4. For whatever reason, defensive tackle Rutger Reitmaier never had a ton of interest in Tennessee. I honestly don’t know the whole deal there. Jacob Phillips is a different story. The Vols were the second program to offer the standout linebacker, and Phillips liked them a lot early on. Then Tennessee decided Phillps wasn’t a true fit in their defense and he quickly soured on the staff. So after nearly a year of minimal communication, he returned for one game this fall but never really gave the Vols a long look. He’s an Oklahoma commit now, but I believe he’ll play in Neyland Stadium next season — suiting up for the LSU Tigers.
Jeff asks: What former Vol running back does Chandler most reming you of. Will he be able to play immediately.
Interesting question. Really, Chandler runs a lot like rising-junior tailback John Kelly. He’s an established playmaker, a one-cut runner and a guy who plays bigger than his size suggests.
The difference between the two is that Chandler, as he showcased at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, is a more versatile player out of the backfield. He has some Alvin Kamara in him. He’s not as shifty or as fast as AK, but Chandler has plenty of wiggle and nice hands. He’ll push Kelly for carries in 2017.
Ben asks: How many spots do you think Tennessee has left? How many will they take?
Impossible to answer. The number seems to change every week. Fluidity reigns. I’ve long thought that Tennessee would sign 28 guys. Well, the Vols already have 27 commits and they still want at least one defensive lineman, one tailback and maybe the BPA (i.e. LaBryan Ray, a receiver). But the math is what is. Something has to give. Tennessee will have to get super creative (blue-shirts, grey-redshirts or other avenues) just to manage signing 29 guys. My guess: more attrition. Forced or otherwise.
Jeremy asks: Have you heard any noise about Gray and FSU?
Let’s see if Maleik Gray visits Florida State this weekend. The 4-star safety meets with new Vols defensive back coach Charlton Warren today and he’s fresh off his OV to Tennessee last weekend. I think Gray likes the legacy and NFL Draft history at FSU, but ultimately, I believe he stays in-state, playing with his buddies Theo Jackson and Princeton Fant and carves out his own story.
Justin asks: If the Vols are still looking for a third tailback, is there any chance of getting back in the race for Cordarrian Richardson, an in state 4 star prospect who is still uncommitted? How many more comittments are the Vols seriously considering taking, with Thaxton now on board? Was it smart to offer Thaxton, considering that Ray, Conliffe, and Sterling are still possible? Do the Vols have a legitimate chance to sign Jeff Thomas?
1. Due to depleted depth, the Vols definitely want to add a third tailback, but Richardson (as mentioned above) is not an option. Travis Etienne, a 4-star who visited last weekend, is the top target, but Jonathan Lovett and Tim Jordan are other names to watch as well.
2. Class number addressed above.
3. The Vols added Thaxton because they believe he’s a good player. Athletic pass rushers who move well at 6-foot-5, 235-pounds don’t grow on trees. He’s not a game-changer, but I see a productive contributor (think LaTroy Lewis).
4. Ray remains a very tough pull away from Alabama. Tennessee has momentum with Conliffe but haven’t locked down the 4-star tackle just yet. Sterling is a South Carolina lean who could end up at Georgia if the Bulldogs decide to go all-in on the Under Armour All-American.
5. I do not see Jeff Thomas at Tennessee. Doubtful he even visits. Loooonngshot here, IMO. Seems likely to end up at Miami or Louisville.
Matt asks: Do you see Tenn going after any talented Graduate Transfers, for WR, TE, or CB?
No. Mainly because of space. There’s a chance a name or two could pop up in March-April, but I don’t see that happening right now.
As always, thanks for your questions.
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