Recruiting Tuesday: The Tipping Point

What a wild month of recruiting!  In July, we had the following events:

  • Chase Rettig committed to the Boston College Eagles on the 13th.
  • Jesse Scroggins committed to the USC Trojans on the 23rd.
  • Nick Lamaison committed to the Tennessee Volunteers on the 24th.
  • Markeith Ambles committed to Tennessee on the 28th.
  • Matt Milton committed to the Vols on the 31st.

It's been an odd sequence; normally, you don't see successive VHT receivers commit to a school that lost out on its primary quarterback prospects and had to fish the JUCO ranks.  Not only that, but both receivers made public statements immediately after their commitment that they would call up UT's coveted quarterback prospects and add to the recruiting efforts.

Removed from the board are: Neiron Ball (Florida commit),  Blake Bortles (Central Florida commit), and Garrison Smith (Georgia commit).

More will follow after the jump, but first - the board:


View Rocky Top Talk Tennessee Volunteers Recruiting Big Board 2010 in a larger map

THOUGHTS ON THE NEW RECRUITS

I mentioned Lamaison at the start; even though I've covered him in a previous recruiting update, I will say again that I think he'll be a pleasant surprise.  His ability to clear the JC academic requirements to transfer to the 1-A ranks in only one year stands out.  His willingness to be patient while Scroggins played the recruiting game was also impressive.  If his play matches his maturity, I think he'll do quite well at UT.

Markeith Ambles and Matt  Milton

Markeith Ambles was somewhat prophetic when, after his commit, he said this:

"If I was a quarterback I would want to go throw to some good receivers," Ambles said. "If I commit and some more receivers commit it’d be a good spot for a quarterback to come in there."

So far, so good.  With his commit and with Milton's successive nod to UT, Neyland suddenly looks like a much brighter place to play for an aspiring quarterback.  Also in the same article, Ambles talks about his willingness to help recruit quarterbacks:

"I’ll probably just ask them who they want me to call," Ambles said. "I know a few that are being recruited that I’m going to call up."

The best part about that is the investment: for Ambles to take the time to shill UT to other players means that he's pretty confident that he'll stand by his commitment.  It's a mindset that assumes a home in Knoxville rather than somebody who's leaving the door open for other schools.  It's the same route that Jacques Smith took when he announced his committment on National Signing Day in February; by immediately turning into another recruiter, Smith (and now Ambles) are placing "sweat equity" into the Vols, making UT more valuable in their eyes.

Matt Milton is also lending a hand to the recruiting trail, but is adding some effort to befriend future teammates:

Milton, who caught 40 passes for 797 yards and eight touchdowns last year, is the second prospect from Illinois to commit to the Vols for 2010.

Offensive lineman Zach Fulton from Homewood-Flossmoor High committed to UT in June.

"I think that’s pretty cool," Milton said. "I want to get his number and talk to him."

Milton said he’s also willing to talk to quarterbacks to help recruit them to UT.

I love to hear these kinds of stories from the recruiting trail.  These players will be spending three to five years in a pressure cooker, balancing their academic and athletic lives while being constantly stalked and scrutinized by people like us.  Their greatest resources are their family and their friends, so making friends with teammates early is a huge plus for them.

As for family:

When asked what Milton’s mom felt about Tennessee, you could hear her in the background giving her approval.

"I love it a lot here," Milton’s mom yelled. "She loves it as you can hear. She was concerned about everything. Academics, location, the coaches, everything met her approval."

LOOKING FORWARD

It's going to take a couple of years to get the kind of depth necessary to compete with Florida and Alabama, but this class is starting to head in that direction.  Last year, UT managed to stock up on a boatload of players for the secondary (Janzen Jackson, Marsalis Teague, Darren Myles, Nyshier Oliver, Mike Edwards, and Eric Gordon) and running backs (Toney Williams, David Oku, and Bryce Brown).  This year, some defensive line depth problems are being resolved partly by JUCO commits and partly by freshmen.  Palardy gives us some great options in the kicking game.  And now, with the two receivers committing, we look to be on the right track for skill positions going forward.

The two most pressing needs are to fill out the offensive line and a quarterback for the 2010 class.  At quarterback, we'll have to watch names like Barry Brunetti and Tyler Bray; I don't see any of the other commits making a switch to UT at this point in time.  But if neither Brunetti nor Bray come UT's way early on, a strong season on offense could flip a player late in the game.  At offensive line, we have to tackles on the commit list (Marquis Pair and Zach Fulton), so the biggest needs are at guard.  I'd still love to get James Stone from Nashville (and think we will) to make a third O-tackle on the depth chart.  He's probably the best bet to be a regular starter in the future.

At offensive guard, there are O.C. Brown from Memphis and Zak Tait from Knoxville.  Neither have an offer at the moment, but that may change as other players make up their minds.  A bevy of other names are out there, but Darius Kilgo and Charles Barkins appear to be the most likely names (as far as I can tell).  Both are a little leaner, relatively speaking, at closer to the 300-lb mark, which would help in a zone blocking system.  At center, we have the eminently named Jose Jose who will probably need to manage his weight throughout his career but is reported to be very agile and quick.  (By quick, I mean acceleration, not top speed.)  However, if the center position is filled by another player, Jose could easily move to guard (or possible even tackle) as needs dictate.

FURTHER WATCH - KYLE PRATER

Kyle Prater is the nation's top receiver prospect, according to Rivals.  Like Milton, he is very tall (6'-6") and would be a perfect fit for routes over the middle and for red zone play.  He's another Illinois resident - a place that UT has suddenly been very successful for recruiting.  The intrigue will come from Zach Fulton, who lives across town from Prater and is likely already talking to both Matt Milton (the other Illinois receiver) and Kyle Prater.  I'm not sure if UT will be able to convince the twin towers of Milton and Prater to play at the same school, but doing so would be a complete coup and would make for an utterly terrifying set of receivers.  Think about it:  by the time Gerald Jones graduates, we'll have Nu'Keese Richardson, Markeith Ambles, and Matt Milton in full swing, and possibly Marsalis Teague.  If Prater is added to that list, you're looking at a lot of possibilities for speed and size on the field at one time.  Throw in Bryce Brown and David Oku as running backs who can also catch out of the backfield, and it's a very, very tempting treat for any quarterback to consider.

Prater was on campus this weekend and was very complimentary of UT, assuming "perfect" is complimentary.  If he commits (especially if he commits soon - and both are big 'if's), recruiting offensive players will likely go onto cruise control for the rest of the year.  But even without him, things are really looking up for UT.

Circle September 12th on your calendar:  Prater will be visiting for the UCLA game.  The only other trip he's scheduled to take is September 5th to USC, so UT will get the final visit with him before he makes his decision.  If he enjoys his time enough on that trip, he may also be the turning point for others who are visiting that weekend.

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