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.
Tennessee’s 2017 board continues to evolve as we approach National Signing Day.
With 25 commits, spots are at a premium, but roster depth remains a concern, so the Vols have gotten creative at adding more bodies for next season.
Three days after earning an offer, outside linebacker TJ Minnifee accepted a preferred walk-on spot Sunday, tweeting out the news.
— Groot1️⃣ (@Teej1k) December 19, 2016
The Wilson Central (Lebanon, Tenn.) product is a 2-star recruit who chose to stay in-state and turn down scholarships from Jackson State and South Carolina. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect played linebacker and tight end for the Wildcats, earning his offer from the Gamecocks during a satellite camp last summer.
Meanwhile, Tennessee also extended a preferred walk-on spot to 3-star safety Chris Bell.
— ?¹⁵ (@imchrisbell) December 17, 2016
The in-state product hails from Hendersonville’s Pope John Paul II High — the same school that produced Detroit Lions star receiver Golden Tate. He’s a little-known defensive back with eight offers from schools including Mercer, Miami (Ohio), Jackson State and Tennessee Tech. His lone Power 5 offer is also from South Carolina.
The 6-3, 190-pound recruit projects as a hybrid linebacker/safety in college — a similar role several other Tennessee commits fill, too.
Commits/Targets in all-star games
A number of Vols commits have played in various all-star games in recent weeks, with Sunshine State natives Shanon Reid, a 3-star linebacker, and Jacquez Jones, a 3-star WR, taking part in the FACA All-Star Classic in Lakeland last weekend.
Jones, from Clearwater (Fla.) High, recorded a game-high 8 receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown.
— Shanon Reid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@SReezy21) December 18, 2016
Meanwhile, two Tennessee targets spent the week at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, as offensive guard T.J. Moore and defensive end Matthew Butler represented North Carolina. Butler remains a priority target for the Vols. He recorded a tackle and 2 quarterback hurries after impressing all week during bowl practices.
The 6-4, 265-pound Garner High product will announce a college choice on Dec. 21. Tennessee is in the driver’s seat, with N.C. State, Duke and Penn State in the mix.
Finally, 3-star offensive tackle Riley Locklear will participate in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl this week in Dallas. The Spring Valley (W.Va.) standout is an early enrollee and will start classes at Tennessee on Jan. 11.
Wade commits to Penn State
On Saturday night, 4-star Clairton (Pa.) cornerback Lamont Wade stayed in-state and committed to the Nittany Lions, as most expected.
Earlier this fall, Tennessee made a strong push for the 5-9, 190-pound corner. Wade visited Knoxville several times including an official visit Oct. 15. But the Vols’ midseason swoon coupled with Penn State’s surge was the difference in his recruitment, as Wade explained to 247Sports’ Sean Fitz.
“It was back-and-forth so much at first. Last year I wanted to go to West Virginia, then this year in the spring I was really feeling Ohio State, then at the beginning of this season it was all Tennessee. Then Penn State just had a great season and they stayed consistent with me.”
Tennessee saw the writing on the wall six weeks ago, turning its focus on corners including Keisean Nixon (who committed to South Carolina last week), Yusuf Corker (a top target who announces Dec. 26) and Ameer Speed.