With Dalton Santos and Otha Peters bailing on their long-time Tennessee commitments and heading to Texas and Arkansas respectively within a week of National Signing Day, the Volunteers were left in a quandary.
Derek Dooley had just hired Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri, who was going to switch UT from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4. And, now, all of a sudden the Vols were short on linebacker depth.
Needing at least another player at that position with little time to recruit, the Vols went looking for one they could possibly poach. That search began -- and ended -- with Jacksonville, Fla. linebacker Kenneth Bynum, a long-time Cincinnati Bearcats commitment. Sunseri convinced Bynum to hold off signing with Cincy until he visited Knoxville after National Signing Day. After a little more than a week of deliberation, Bynum notified the Vols he'd be the team's newest member Wednesday afternoon.
Bynum, who stands at 6-feet-2 and weighs around 220 pounds, is an inside linebacker prospect, filling a major position of need as UT transitions to the 3-4. Counting grayshirt Tino Thomas, Bynum is the Vols' 22nd and final commitment for this year's class.
His strengths are obviously his frame, tackling ability, ability to shed blockers and football acumen. Though he isn't the fastest player in the class by any means, speed is an asset -- not a necessity -- for playing inside in a 3-4. The Raines HS senior will be a candidate to redshirt, have a year in the strength and conditioning program and be ready to compete in 2013. If he comes in, adds the right kind of weight and learns the new defense, however, there is certainly playing time to be earned on the inside.
Bynum is currently at around 217 pounds because he is a high school wrestler who must control his weight, but Bynum played last year at over 225 and, honestly, needs to be more than 235 to play the position in Sunseri's defense. Alabama's middle linebackers -- Dont'a Hightower and Nico Johnson -- weighed 260 and 245 respectively. CJ Mosley was 235 and Trey DePriest was 242, and they also played there.
He was universally rated a three-star prospect by everybody but Scout, who rated him a two-star. ESPN rated Bynum as the 56th-best outside linebacker, 247 had him as the 31st-best inside linebacker, Rivals didn't rate him other than giving him three stars, and Scout had him as the No. 116 outside linebacker.
Bynum had interest from schools such as LSU, Georgia, Florida and Florida State, though none of them offered. He was offered by Ole Miss late after deciding to wait until after NSD. He had offers from UT, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Illinois, North Carolina, N.C. State, Ole Miss, Rutgers, Southern Miss, Stanford and West Virginia.
Though it was a bummer to lose a couple of potential stars like Santos and Peters, you hate to pluck a player from another school this late, putting them in the same predicament the Vols were that late in the game. But recruiting is a cutthroat business, and UT needed another linebacker. I'm more than happy to get Bynum in to school and get him working toward getting on that football field. Hopefully, he is an SEC-caliber talent, and he'll have every opportunity to prove that.
Welcome to Big Orange Country, Mr. Bynum.