It seems silly to talk about Tennessee Vols recruiting at this point with so much uncertainty facing the program, coaching changes expected and all of the buzzards surrounding Knoxville after UT's stunning 10-7 loss to Kentucky last week.
But it is the silly season, after all. So, if anything, the turmoil has really ramped up the rumors on message boards, pay sites and among my recruiting sources. Sit back, crack your knuckles and read all of this. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it is far-fetched. Kind of like all of those "reports" surrounding our stung football program right now.
We'll try to give you the facts -- and the rumors -- and, of course, we'll link all the possible articles so you can read for yourself. NOTE: All of this information is subject to change A) because it's recruiting and these are 17-year-old kids and B) because recruiting is all about relationships, and if UT lets go of a coach -- or one voluntarily leaves -- that is recruiting a player, all bets are off. Also, with limited space, I have no idea what's going to happen with the guys committed or the players who want to. Really, I'm completely clueless right now about that.
With that, it's onto the tidbits and rumors.
- Let's start out with some good news -- the Vols received a commitment from small-but-tested running back Quenshaun Watson of Athens, Ga., this week. I say he's "tested" because he carried the load for a quality Clarke Central HS team this year and wasn't just a change-of-pace back. According to this article, he rushed for a school-record 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. That's a good number of rushes. He also caught 14 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns. He is from current UT OL Alan Posey's high school and also the alma mater of Derek Dooley. Watson wasn't rated by any service until recently when Rivals saw his film and awarded him three stars and a 5.6 rating. Even with Watson's commitment, UT is apparently not done recruiting running backs.
- Watson is UT's third running back commitment and 20th overall in this class. So, that has to mean the Vols are done recruiting running backs, right? Wrong. They've actually been by to check on a few running backs they haven't offered yet this past week. Also, message board rumors indicate UT went by Murfreesboro running back I'Tavius Mathers' school this past week to gauge interest. Since Houston Nutt got fired, the Ole Miss running back is looking around. However, it's doubtful Mathers was interested in UT and likely he wants to leave the state.
- A more realistic option for the Vols right now is Florence, Ala., athlete Beniquez Brown, who is down to Tennessee and Mississippi State and told GoVols247 this past week that he wants to visit both places again and the schools are even. Most thought Brown would go to MSU because that's where his cousin is heading, but UT still has a shot there. He had a bunch of offers to play defensive back and linebacker at schools like Alabama, Florida and Auburn. But UT is going to first look at Brown at RB. There is a possibility Brown takes more visits, but he is slated to be in Knoxville for his official this weekend.
- If Tennessee closes the deal on ousted Memphis head coach Larry Porter, adding him to the staff, the Vols could stand to get back in the race for a couple of Tigers commitments who UT heavily coveted. The most likely of those guys would be DB Sheldon Dawson, who chose his hometown Tigers over many top-notch offers. He is 247 Sports' top player in the state. He told 247 this past week that he is open to listening to UT, and that was before the Porter-to-Knoxville rumors started. Dawson is arguably UT's top cornerback target on the board. Another guy to watch out for would be bruising running back Jovon Robinson. There haven't been any articles or updates on him that I've seen, but he looks like an every-down back in the SEC, and he's an Auburn commitment. Robinson highly considered Memphis because of Porter, so UT could try to get back in on that one. He is rumored to have potential grade issues.
- One final RB note is Alden Hill visited UT for the Vanderbilt game, and he loved his visit. Hill, from Marlington, Ohio, is a Vols commitment.
- Moving on, how about some more good news? Stud defensive end Denico Autry is scheduled to make his decision on Dec. 15, and he said earlier in the week that he's down to Tennessee and Mississippi State with the Vols leading, and he wants to visit both schools again. Now, in typical silly season fashion, he told Volquest last night that he is considering visiting Louisville and Miami. There have been other rumors on radio and message boards that Autry is already a silent commitment to UT, but we all know how those silents go. Whatever the case, the Vols appear to be positioned as the team to beat for the DE who will come in and play -- probably start -- right away.
- Autry's teammate Damien Jacobs has fallen silent lately. The UT defensive tackle commitment is a huge need for the Vols. He has visited Florida and Texas A&M, and he really likes both places. Some Florida boards even suggested he was going to switch his commitment last week. Didn't happen. Still, if Autry pledges to UT, you have to like UT's chances to hang onto both, unless, God forbid, Justin Wilcox and/or Peter Sirmon leave.
- Speaking of Texas A&M, the biggest worry I've seen so far this week is that UT commit MLB Dalton Santos visited College Station again last week for the Texas game and was blown away. He told Taylor Hamm of the 247 A&M site that he's waffling back and forth on Tennessee and A&M, keeping his options open. He's maintained a strong relationship with Aggies' coaches. I hope I'm reading too much into it, but A&M has always been a threat and remains so. We really need Santos and his attitude and leadership. If Sirmon goes elsewhere, Santos -- and some other commits -- are good as gone.
- Rivals reported that Memphis DB and Mississippi State commitment Will Redmond will visit UT, his other finalist. Also, another cornerback South Florida commit Chris Bivins is slated to visit UT soon.
- Rivals analyst Keith Niebhur reported this week that TCU was turning up the heat on Otha Peters, who has told UT recruiting writers he's solid to the Vols. There is also some concern about safety commit LaDarrell McNeil and his interest in Texas Tech. All of this is just rampant speculation at this point. Also, CB commit Daniel Gray is reportedly visiting Nebraska, West Virginia and Texas Tech, according to 247 Sports and now also reported by other outlets. Gray may look elsewhere if UT can get Dawson, would be my outside-looking-in guess.
- Tennessee has offered four-star South Carolina WR Quinshad Davis. That really concerns me that we think Georgia is the team to beat for Patterson.
- UT safety target Jordan Diggs visited South Carolina this past weekend and loved it. Diggs, a SC legacy, is probably OK to be considered a Gamecocks' lean.
- In the "would-be-nice-but-it's-a-long-shot" department, UT is getting one of five-star safety Landon Collins' four official visits along with Alabama, LSU and Texas. It's a Tide-Tigers battle right now, but Collins has recently hosted UT coaches, and the visit went well. At least there's a chance.
That's about as much information as I can piece together without lifting any information from the pay articles. Just trying to give you guys as much information as I can without taking their input. GoVols247 and Volquest both do great jobs, and this is the time of year to be members at those places.