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After a week where the Tennessee Vols lost to Mississippi State, has there been any negative recruiting news to follow?
The Tennessee Volunteers suffered a disappointing 41-31 loss in Starkville on Saturday night, but believe it or not, the impact shock waves don't seem to have reached the Vols' recruiting class just yet.
Whether that means UT has a bunch of kids solidly committed to Derek Dooley and his staff, kids who love the university and program or players who aren't being heavily courted by other programs is unclear. But there also hasn't been a ton of news this week on the positive side, either, so this is going to be a short and sweet preview.
The biggest [good] news from Saturday was the Vols receiving a verbal pledge from 6-foot-5, 235-pound tight end Chauntez Jackson of Inglewood, Calif. Though the prospect's weight has been reported as more in some places, that was the confirmed weight by 247 Sports. Jackson was being recruited by a lot of Western teams as a defensive end, but the Vols evaluated and loved him at tight end. They believe he has the body type to grow into a big help in the running game. Strictly off my amateur film study, he doesn't have incredible speed, but he is a nice athlete for his size and has surprisingly soft hands.
Tennessee coaches were very pleased with this commitment.
Now, here's the question: Can we really get all that excited about any commitments at this time with the shakiness of the coaching staff?? Unfortunately for teams like Tennessee in duress, there is no early signing period in football. Everybody knows teams like Arizona State will be in Kameron Miles' ear about this staff's uncertainty. There are other prospects who'll be courted and hear the same. Not all of these guys will stick; they just won't.
Also, what if Derek Dooley and company are fired? The new coaching regime may not like all the players committed currently. All the current pledges may not like the new regime.
The bottom line is UT needs to take care of business -- at least in November -- if it wants to promote staff security and finish strong in recruiting. Guys like Vonn Bell and Derrick Green are certainly major concerns for Tennessee now that Dooley's future is even more in question.
- While the Vols were in Mississippi, they checked on several JUCO prospects including top receiving target Johnathan Rumph [who also is a major Mississippi State target, and that loss couldn't have helped the Vols], former wide receiver commitment Corey Smith, three-star safety Justin Cox [who was once a MSU commitment] and four-star defensive end Za'Darius Smith. Smith has offers from both Mississippi schools, Florida State and other strong programs.
- This weekend's visit list is simply huge. Four-star wide receiver MarQuez North -- who has UT out front -- is expected to be in town. Georgia commitment linebacker Naim Mustafaa is expected to be here, as is all-purpose running back David Williams, five-star defensive lineman Montavious Adams, South Carolina cornerback commitment Brendan Langley, UT commit Cameron Sutton, Bell, five-star Auburn defensive end/linebacker commitment Carl Lawson, five-star Auburn defensive tackle commit Dee Liner, Florida State defensive back commit Marquez White and possibly A.J. Turman. Tons of junior talent is expected to be in town, too.
- One of those top junior targets -- Jalen Tabor -- has Tennessee and Alabama high on his list, and Ryan Callahan had a great story about his upcoming visit here.
- The Atlanta Journal Constitution had a story about five-star JUCO DT and top UT target at the position Toby Johnson where he said Georgia told him he was their No. 1 choice at the position.
- With Jackson's commitment, the big question is whether or not the Vols are through at tight end. Would they still take a pledge from Luke Wilson? What about if they could flip another target? There are so many needs for Tennessee and so few spots right now, it'll be interesting to see how it shakes out.
- You have to believe UT wants a running back or two. They need a couple of defensive backs. They are sitting well with three or four wide receivers. Reeve Kohler is quiet, but you have to believe UT leads for that stud offensive lineman. They still want Toby Johnson and are courting other defensive linemen and they desperately need a pass rusher or six. So, I don't know how the numbers will play out.
Really, that's all the news this week. I know it's not much, but I believe recruiting news is slow because A) the Vols have 18 known commitments B) a lot of prospects are in wait-and-see mode with UT right now, and they don't like what they're seeing and C) the Vols' focus has narrowed to scant few prospects out there.
Unfortunately for Vols fans, we're all worried about the future of the program. Unfortunately for Vols fans who follow recruiting, all the star prospects are, too. At this point, we really can't worry a ton about recruiting. We've got to fix our own house. If it means making a change and losing some players, Dooley has stocked the pantry with some pretty good prospects.
I just hope for everybody's sake -- and that of the program -- that Dooley wins one of these next two games and wins out and puts all the questions to rest.