Right now, there is so much it seems Tennessee needs to be a better football team that it's difficult to pinpoint one thing as being a true difference-making fix in recruiting.
The Vols could use another couple of impact defensive tackles, they certainly need somebody who can pressure the quarterback, an impact running back would be a massive pickup, and you can never have too many offensive linemen.
But if there's something that clearly needs upgrading all over the field it's team speed.
One visitor for Saturday night's 20-12 loss to Georgia at Neyland Stadium who could provide that is Orlando (Edgewater HS) WR/ATH Alton "Pig" Howard. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound four-star prospect not only came away impressed with Knoxville, he told Orlando Sentinel writers that UT leads for his services.
Howard has recently been offered by Southern Cal and Notre Dame, and the Vols lead over major competition for his signature such as Central Florida and Louisville. He also has offers from Florida, West Virginia, Miami, Nebraska, Ohio State, South Carolina and Utah, among others. Alabama is giving him a major look, too, and if the Tide offer, it may be tough for Howard to turn down the opportunity to play with cousin and former star prospect Hasean Clinton-Dix in Tuscaloosa.
Getting Pig would be a huge coup for the Vols and would help with that team speed deal we so sorely lack all over the field. Howard is listed with 4.4 speed, and it may be a tick better than that, actually.
According to the Sentinel:
He went to Tennessee with a top five of South Carolina, West Virginia, Cincinnati, UCF and Tennessee, but Alabama has recently stepped into the picture. He no longer has a top five, he said. He will be visiting Cincinnati this weekend.
"Tennessee is No. 1 so far on my list," Howard said. "I will have a top three probably in another week or so. Alabama has been talking to me also and I’m going to see where they stand in about a week."
We've got a lot to hit on this week, so let's move on. Still, encouraging news for the Vols and Howard.
- Tennessee got perhaps its biggest news of the recruiting season last Thursday when Powers Catholic (Mich.) DT Dan O'Brien chose UT over Michigan. Alabama and Michigan State were the other major players, but the Vols and Wolverines hats were on the table -- and both of them were camouflage. Beautiful! Welcome to Knoxville, Big Dan! O'Brien is planning on visiting Knoxville for the LSU game along with LB commitment Otha Peters, South Florida tight end commitment Sean Price and Georgia Tech defensive end commitment Francis Kallon. The Vols have recently turned up the pressure on Kallon and Price.
- It'll be interesting to see in the coming weeks/months whether or not the Vols can turn one of their top two tight end targets from the schools in which they're currently committed. The Vols absolutely love Price, and this week will go a long way in determining whether he switches his commitment from the Bulls. The other major tight end target for Derek Dooley was onhand for UT's loss to the Dawgs. North Carolina commitment Justin Meredith of TL Hanna High in Anderson, S.C., told GVX247's Callahan that he likes the Vols and the Tar Heels, but he doesn't know what's going on at UNC because of the recent coaching shake-up. The 6-5, 223-pound TE may visit UT officially again. JUCO TE Blake Jackson is also a UT possibility.
- Howie Long's son Kyle, a 6-7, 297-pound JUCO tackle who went to Florida State on a baseball scholarship before deciding he wanted to play football, has been offered by the Vols and is being recruited by defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. He is currently at Saddleback Community College in MIssion Viejo (Calif.). He's listed as an offensive tackle, but the Vols may be recruiting him to play DL.
- One of the most exciting developments for 2013 is that one of the best running backs in that class is absolutely in love with the Vols. Eagle's Landing Christian Academy tailback Keyante Green grew up loving UT, and he told Volquest's Paul Fortenberry that he had an "amazing" visit to Knoxville. Vols and Dawgs are standing out to him right now. He visited with teammate Isaac Rochell. 247 caught up with Rochell, who has offers from a ton of big programs already and likes Bama and Clemson a lot. The 6-3, 250-pound lineman spoke to Rusty Mansell. In the same article, Fortenberry talks to big-time Sandy Creek (Ga.) CB Shaq Wiggins, who also enjoyed his visit.
- Sticking in the really good news portion of this report, the Birmingham News caught up with Florence (Ala.) RB Beniquez Brown this week, and the article notes that UT is in his top three along with Florida and Mississippi State. Though Bama was thought to be the longtime favorite here, the Tide have commitments from two standout athletes in Kenyan Drake and Eddie Williams, and the 6-2, 210-pound Brown may go elsewhere. He has a great power/speed combo that would be a big get for the Vols as they search for another impact running back to go with current commitments Imani Cross and Alden Hill. Brown does say he grew up an Auburn fan and will still visit Auburn.
- UT may ramp up the pressure on Brown especially now. As we told you last week, Texas A&M offered Marion Grice, who was UT's probable top RB target left on the board. The JUCO back had long been thought of being an Aggies lean, and he committed this week according to A&M's Aggies site. There are some conflicting reports about it, but it appears UT is on the outside looking in for Grice.
- One of Tennessee's top in-state targets for 2013 is Brentwood Academy athlete Jalen Ramsey, who told GVX247 his visit to UT was "exciting." The 5-10, 180-pound athlete is being recruited as a cornerback by UT and already has offers from the Vols, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech and others. He also really likes Miami. His brother plays for Tennessee State, who also has offered.
- The Vols hosted a ton of official and unofficial visitors on Saturday -- too many for me to name -- but we'll provide you updates in this space when/if they become available. For instance, four-star DE Jordan Jenkins hasn't spoken to anybody yet, so we don't know how the visit went. One player who was excited about heading to Knoxville was 2013 cornerback Ross Douglas from Avon (Ohio) that Peter Sirmon is recruiting. He sports a 4.41 40-yard dash and was spoken to by 247's Ryan Callahan last week.
- Another visitor for the UGA game was Alabama linebacker Javiere Mitchell, a 6-2, 205-pound linebacker from Leeds. He told Volquest the same ol' stuff about enjoying the visit, but the thought here is it'll be tough to pull him out of state with Alabama and Auburn both pursuing him. He plans on deciding in November.
- GVX247's Ryan Callahan caught up with junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg of Virginia, who visited UT for the Georgia game and liked the Vols a lot. He is a 6-4, 210-pound signal-caller, and seems to speak a lot about Penn State in the article. His other offer is Virginia.
- Sticking with next year's quarterback targets, Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports said Massillon (Ohio) Washington quarterback Kyle Kempt will visit the UT game against LSU. He is a 6-5, 200-pound QB with offers from Bowling Green, Stanford, Toledo, UT and West Virginia.
- Chris Nee of Rivals reported that along with Price, more Florida prospects will be visiting Knoxville this weekend including junior DB Reggie Wilkerson, senior DT Jabari Bothwell -- a Western Michigan commit, senior RB Jamie Gilmore, junior DB Darryl Rhem and junior DB Jabari Bothwell.
- According to Steve Wiltfong, 2013 Middletown (Ohio) five-star athlete Jalin Marshall will visit UT for the LSU game. The 6-foot, 190 athlete also really likes Notre Dame and Ohio State. This is kind of out of the blue and a big early visit for the Vols.