The Vols and coach Derek Dooley are off to a much better recruiting start this year than in the past couple of seasons.
The Tennessee Volunteers are building a pipeline to one of the most talent-laden junior college programs in the country.
On Friday, the Vols received a commitment from 6-foot-5, 215-pound outside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell of Hutchinson Community College in Kansas -- the same school where five-star wide receiver signee Cordarrelle Patterson played and UT graduate assistant Brandon Staley coached. The Vols are also recruiting four-star defensive tackle Toby Johnson from Hutchinson and evaluating several others.
This is the time of year when evaluation gems are aplenty in college football recruiting. Though it's always nice to get the players everybody wants at any time of the season, it's the early offers who sometimes become key players.
There are a lot of things you can say about Derek Dooley's tenure at Tennessee, but one thing that isn't questionable is his coaches' eye for talent. Very often UT is among the first major colleges to offer and by the time the process ends, those players have committable offers from many top programs.
That could be the case with Campbell, who hasn't received any formal offers from anybody else but is the type of athlete who will merit consideration.
The Vols jumped on Campbell due to the familiarity Staley has with the program. Staley actually recruited Campbell out of high school. Campbell redshirted as a freshman at Hutchinson and was a 6-5, 200-pound defensive end in high school. He was little-recruited but at that size, he ran a stunning 22.03 200 meter to finish seventh in the state track meet. He is expected to be an early enrollee who has three years to play three and has the measurables to be a prospect along the lines of former Tennessee commitment, West Virginia standout and first-rounder Bruce Irvin.
Here is a link to some of his highlights. He played at Cypress Lake (Fla.) and is UT's third linebacker commitment from that state along with Corey Vereen and Dominic Zanca. The Vols certainly need linebackers this year and have several others targeted. Vereen projects as a Jack linebacker most likely, while Zanca should play inside. At Campbell's size, he is an outside linebacker all the way. He has SEC speed, and if he can put on another 15 pounds or so and play at 6-5, 230, he can be an outside force.
The film above looks like Campbell was incredibly raw but has a ridiculous frame. Obviously, UT coaches have some connections with Hutchinson and have seen him practice over the course of the past couple of years [especially considering our new GA coached there] and if Sal Sunseri likes him, I do, too.
Welcome to the Big Orange family, Mr. Campbell. Oh, and by the way, anybody with an apostrophe in his first name excites me. I don't know why, but it just sounds cooler.