Recruiting Never Sleeps Part Deux: A Look Ahead To Tennessee's 2013 Defensive Class Needs


To get you caught up in case you missed it, here's a link to Friday's offensive breakdown.

The Cliff's: UT has 70 scholarship players on its roster now with 14 signed high school players yet to make it into town. There's the possibility that the Vols could add one more player, but that's still up in the air. With only 13 scholarship players set to graduate after this upcoming season, that means UT can only bring in 14 kids in next year's class.

There will be attrition [check the rules listed in Part I of this two-part series on listing potential defections]. And we're going to operate under the thought that Derek Dooley will not be able to sign a full class of 25 but that the Vols will make it to 23-24 signees for the 2013 class.

NOTE: UT has a lot of defensive backs who can play cornerback or safety. So, we'll do a little projecting below. Again, there could certainly be differences in where I see a player fitting or moving to and where the coaching staff does. Again, as we mentioned Friday on the offensive side, some players may be listed twice.

So, without delaying any longer, let's break down the defensive side of the football.

INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMEN [TACKLES/NOSE GUARDS]

Returning players: Sr. Maurice Couch, Sr. Daniel Hood, Sr. Daniel McCullers, Jr. Alan Carson, Jr. Greg Clark, So. Danny O'Brien, So. Trevarris Saulsberry, So. Trent Taylor.

Possible defections/roster questions: I don't see any way that Clark gets any playing time, so he's a possibility to go elsewhere or not be on the team by this time next year. Taylor is already 270, so there's a legitimate possibility that he packs on another 30 or more pounds and stays in the middle. He is going to be another one of those hybrid types, and it'll be interesting to see with Saulsberry's size where he winds up -- inside or out.

Recruiting targets: 2-3. I see the Vols wanting AT LEAST five defensive linemen overall in next year's class. How they sort that out remains to be seen, but with UT graduating three interior linemen -- and likely the three who will get the most playing time, finding help on the inside will be essential. My early guess is the Vols seek two big-body, 300-plus pound types to anchor the 3-4. This is a specialized position that would be best-suited to be filled with a huge player who can still move around some inside. I'll go with two, but that number could swell to three if the opportunity arises.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Returning players: Sr. Joseph Ayers, Sr. Corey Miller, Sr. Darrington Sentimore, Sr. Marlon Walls, Jr. Jordan Williams, So. Trevarris Saulsberry, So. Trent Taylor

Possible defections/roster questions: Personally, I think Taylor stays outside, and I'm not sure about Saulsberry. Even so, with three graduating players in time for the 2014 class, I know Sal Sunseri will want to load up at this position. It's essential for UT to not miss on defensive linemen over the course of the next two classes. They'll always seek JUCO players who can immediately help, but the Vols really need to beat the bushes for quality four-year players on the lines, too.

Recruiting targets: 3. I'd say the Vols need to get at least three of these guys and potentially even four. Nobody left for 2014 has any proven impact ability. The Vols already have a commitment from Jason Carr, who is a perfect 3-4 defensive end, and they really want Frank Herron out of Memphis too along with Carl Lawson. These are the type of players the Vols are gearing toward, and you HAVE to take at least three. If four want to come, you can't turn them away.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Returning players: Sr. Jacques Smith, Sr. Raiques Crump, Sr. Dontavis Sapp, Sr. Brent Brewer, Jr. Jordan Williams, Jr. Curt Maggitt, So. LaTroy Lewis

Possible defections/roster questions: Don't look at me like I'm crazy. I'd love to see Brewer move to OLB because I don't think he's good enough in coverage. Will it happen? It's not necessarily likely, but I still think it would be a good fit. Also, I could see Williams keeping his hand down if he continues to grow, but he's a possibility for being an outside backer in the 3-4. Already, UT has told Lewis that's where he'll play. As for defections, I'm not sure Crump or Sapp will ever be entrenched in the linebacker rotation, but they probably aren't going anywhere. I didn't list him, but I guess it's not out of the realm of possibility that Cody Blanc grows into an outside linebacker.

Recruiting targets: 2-3. The Vols have to get at least two players here, even though the two outside linebacker positions in a 3-4 are extremely different. One side is more of a coverage 'backer, and the "Jack" as Alabama calls it, is a big pass rusher. That's the spot Smith, Lewis and possibly even Williams will occupy. Look for Tennessee to go after more kids who could play DE or LB in the 3-4, but two is the minimum they need on the outside.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Returning players: Sr. Greg King, Sr. Channing Fugate, Sr. John Propst, Jr. AJ Johnson, So. Christian Harris, [hopefully Sr. Herman Lathers, if he gets another year, which is doubtful]

Possible defections/roster questions: This is a big spring for Fugate, who is moving from fullback to linebacker, where he played in high school. If he doesn't fit there, it wouldn't surprise me to see him jump ship. Also not certain Propst is going to be a fit at all anywhere in the 3-4. So, that leaves UT pretty thin on the inside to say the least.

Recruiting targets: 2-3. Same scenario as the outside, the Vols desperately need two true inside linebackers in this class with the late defection of Dalton Santos and Otha Peters from this year's class. The reason I believe the numbers almost have to shake out for Dooley to sign 24-25 is because there are so many needs, and inside linebacker is a place where the Vols simply have no depth. I doubt the Vols would turn down three inside backers if they wanted to come, and they'd just do something with numbers to make them all fit.

CORNERBACKS

Returning players: Sr. Izaeua Lanier, Sr. Eric Gordon, Jr. Justin Coleman, So. Tino Thomas, So. Deion Bonner, So. Daniel Gray

Possible defections/roster questions: None.

Recruiting targets: 2-3. At least. I know that UT has taken very big DB recruiting classes over the past two years, but the Vols have a bunch of targets already at corner for this upcoming class and are sitting pretty with players like Jalen Ramsey and Corn Elder. It just seems like you always want to take two or three defensive backs, and the Vols already have one commitment -- albeit a shaky one -- from potential five-star corner Mackensie Alexander of Immokalee, Fla.

SAFETIES

Returning players: Sr. Brent Brewer, Sr. Eric Gordon, Sr. Byron Moore, Jr. Brian Randolph, So. Geraldo Orta, So. LaDarrell McNeil, So. Cody Blanc

Possible defections/roster questions: None.

Recruiting targets: 1-2, depending on numbers. I'd love to see Tennessee take two safety types, and they already are in decent shape with Ramsey and Vonn Bell out of the Chattanooga area. I don't get some saying this is such a dire position of need. There's some quality players on the depth chart, and there also are a couple of corners who could switch over like Prentiss Waggner has done in his career. Gordon, Moore, Thomas ... all those guys have the body types to play either.

PUNTERS

Returning players: Jr. Matt Darr, So. George Bullock

Possible defections/roster questions: None.

Recruiting targets: None, unless you count Jonathan King, and we discussed him along with the offense.

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