KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones hasn’t had any issues landing verbal pledges this summer, as Tennessee’s 2017 class is already up to 23 commitments before the end of July.
The Volunteers added five 2017 commits in five days this past week, but Tennessee’s class is hardly finished.
While numbers are currently tight, there will undoubtedly be turnover over the next several months, so let’s take a look at the Top 10 targets remaining on Tennessee’s board.
1. RB Cam Akers
The 5-star tailback from Clinton High (Miss.) is easily atop UT’s wish list. With 3-star tailback Trey Coleman already in the fold, the Volunteers desperately seek an elite, bellcow ‘back to replace Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara (likely headed to the NFL) in 2017. Akers fits the mold. The 5-foot-11, 213-pound prospect is the 13th overall player in the country, and lists Tennessee among his favorites. Akers has visited Tennessee multiple times and recently took notice of the Vols new wideout commit Jordan Murphy, also from Mississippi.
— Cam akers (@thereal_cam3) July 22, 2016
2. OT Trey Smith
Is Tennessee trending with the in-state stud? Smith, the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, per ESPN, recently listed UT among his Top 5 schools and there’s been a run (nine straight picks) on his 247Sports “Crystal Ball.” The 6-foot-5, 300-pound tackle from University School (Tenn.) grew up an Alabama fan, but Smith has continually been around Tennessee this summer. The Vols held a satellite camp in Jackson specifically for face-time with Smith, and the 4-star prospect visited Knoxville again just this past weekend. Finally, Smith’s older sister, Ashely, who attended UT and served as a manager for the Lady Vols basketball team, was recently hired as a part of Tennessee’s recruiting staff.
3. WR Tee Higgins
Yes, the 5-star receiver is currently committed to Clemson. But until Higgins is officially a Tiger, the Vols won’t stop recruiting a superstar that lives in their own backyard. The 6-foot-5, 188-pound Oak Ridge (Tenn.) standout was once a UT commit, and Tennessee hopes a great 2016 season + the allure of staying home will help flip the state’s No. 1 overall prospect.
4. WR Jeremiah Holloman
With Higgins a potential longshot, Tennessee has centered much of its efforts on landing an elite wideout toward Holloman. The 4-star prospect from Newton (Ga.) dominated at The Opening Finals and visited Tennessee this past weekend. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect named the Vols his leader (briefly) in March, yet most expect the nation’s 153rd-ranked player to stay in-state and attend UGA.
5. DE Jordan Williams
Williams will choose between Tennessee, Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech on Aug. 6, and the decision is really a two-horse race between the Vols and Tigers. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound end is a 4-star prospect, hailing from Frank W. Cox High in Virginia. Tennessee has already raided the Virginia Beach area for a trio of defensive linemen this year — DT Eric Crosby and twins Breyon and Brandon Gaddy — but Clemson is considered the team to beat for the nation’s 11th-ranked defensive end.
6. LB Justin Foster
The 4-star prospect named Tennessee his leader last year before backing off that stance. Still, the Vols remain in great shape to poach the top prospect out of North Carolina, as the 6-foot-4, 240-pound outside linebacker is expected to commit sometime in the next month. The 247Sports “Crystal Ball” reads 80 percent for Tennessee versus 20 percent for Clemson.
7. RB Ty Chandler
The Nashville native has long been considered a UT-lean, but the Vols continue to battle Ole Miss, where his father played, Auburn, Ohio State and Georgia for the 4-star’s services. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound tailback is ranked No. 104 nationally and 6th overall in the state. Chandler visited Tennessee in June, and the Vols have received six-straight “Crystal Ball” predictions in the last six weeks.
8. DB Deangelo Gibbs
The 4-star corner from Loganville, Ga., was viewed as a Vols-lock for much of the last year, as Gibbs is cousins with UT freshman safety Nigel Warrior. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound prospect is also the nephew of former Vols star defensive back Dale Carter. However, Gibbs’ recruitment took a turn in May when another cousin, J.R. Reed, transferred from Tulsa to Georgia. Now, the in-state Bulldogs are trending with nation’s 5th-ranked cornerback.
9. CB Lamont Wade
A 4-star cornerback from Clariton (Penn.), Wade didn’t show a ton of interest in the Vols until late last fall. However, after Tennessee hired defensive coordinator Bob Shoop away from Penn State this offseason, Wade’s ties to Shoop seemed to give Tennessee’s efforts a major boost. The Vols trail Ohio State and Penn State for the nation’s No. 7 cornerback, but Wade won’t make a decision until December so there’s time to makeup ground.
10. WR Jerry Jeudy
Netting a commitment from one of the most explosive receivers in the country seems like a hail mary right now, but Jeudy, a 4-star wideout from Pompano Beach (Fla.) continues to list Tennessee in his among his top schools. Although the nation’s No. 35 overall prospect is likely headed to Alabama, Miami or UF, Jeudy visited Tennessee this summer and plans on returning for an official visit this fall.
Next five up: DE Elijah Conliffe, DE MJ Webb, OT Obinna Eze, OG T.J. Moore and OG Billy Ross.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com