Tennessee signed three junior college players on Wednesday, the first day that junior college midterm enrollees could sign their scholarship papers.
It was an impressive haul that addressed a wide array of immediate needs. However, there is still one more junior college player that has yet to sign: Jonathan Kongbo.
Now the attention turns west.
The defensive end from Arizona Western Junior College (Yuma, Ariz.) won’t sign with his chosen school until National Signing Day on Feb. 3 because he won’t be eligible to enroll until June.
There will be some tense times as Kongbo looks around. He has an official visit scheduled to Alabama and has expressed interest in staying out west with a recent visit to Washington. Kongbo would be a key pickup for the Vols, who have recently missed out on some significant defensive end prospects.
As for the three junior college players who signed on Wednesday, they’ll have spring practice to work their way into the rotation. Here is why they can, and need to, contribute immediately:
CB Desmond “D.J.” Henderson – Dodge City (Kansas) Junior College
Henderson could easily step in and secure immediate playing time and possibly a starting cornerback spot, especially if Cameron Sutton decides to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. Even if Sutton returns, no one could nail down the other starting cornerback job this season. Henderson could also give the Vols some versatility and depth if he can play in the secondary’s nickel spot, which Tennessee uses extensively.
WR Jeff George – Dodge City (Kansas) Junior College
Anyone with a passing knowledge of Tennessee’s offense knows it likes to use a lot of receivers. The Vols lose seniors Von Pearson and Johnathon Johnson after the Outback Bowl. Yet there is another reason to welcome George with open arms. Receivers Marquez North and Josh Malone have shown flashes of winning jump-ball battles. However, they haven’t done so nearly often enough. At 6-foot-5, jump balls are George’s specialty. His highlight tape is proof of that. George doesn’t have to master Tennessee’s entire offense to have an impact early and often next season. He just has to win jump balls.
DT Alexis Johnson – Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College
Senior Owen Williams may not be a superstar, but he was a rock at defensive tackle in 2015. He started 11 games and played in all 12. That consistent force will be gone next season. It’s clearly time for Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle to become consistent impact players in their sophomore seasons. However, they can’t be expected to play every snap. The Vols beat several good schools for Johnson. If he can live up to the billing, he’ll help Tennessee’s defensive front immensely.