Butch Jones and his staff hopes they've found a diamond in the rough with the latest commitment.
The only big-time schools Woody Quinn ever officially visited were for volleyball scholarships.
So when he made his way to Knoxville this past weekend, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end project from Santa Ana (Calif.) College was admittedly blown away by Neyland Stadium and the rest of the facilities in Knoxville. His only other football visit so far had been to Stony Brook. So, on Monday, the former Pepperdine volleyball squad's outside hitter-turned-footballer committed to Butch Jones as part of the new Vols coach's first class at Tennessee.
I'd tell you more about Quinn, but I don't know a lot. He's reportedly big, athletic and can jump out of the building. But the only other moderately decent football teams to offer him were Fresno State and San Diego State. He's rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports and a two-star player by Rivals.com [star-gazers, beware]. Quinn has only played one year of football since he was a freshman in high school -- so he's the definition of "project" -- but you can watch his highlight reel for yourself here. Obviously, the reason he didn't play any football recently is his focus on playing collegiate volleyball at Pepperdine.
In that highlight clip, he doesn't look like he has great speed to me, but he's known as being an excellent blocker and pass-catcher. He was identified by Derek Dooley's staff, and Jones' staff continued their pursuit of him.
Quinn makes five potential Vols who can play tight end, though it appears commitment Chauntez Jackson will be a defensive end if he signs with Tennessee. A.J. Branisel committed a couple of weeks ago to Jones. Tennessee is also trying with Davin Bellamy's buddy Arshad Jackson, though it looks like Florida State leads for the former Auburn commitment. This will likely end UT's courtship of JUCO tight end Brandon Vandenburg, who favors Vanderbilt.
Tight end is one of those positions where players can come out of nowhere and be excellent prospects -- guys such as Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham. While I'm not saying Quinn is on that level of ridiculous athleticism, I'm also saying don't necessarily judge him by his lack of offers or inexperience.
Quinn has been in a collegiate weight program for five years. He's mature beyond his years and has already made the adjustment to collegiate athletics. He has two seasons to play two at tight end -- a position at which Tennessee desperately has to build depth, considering the graduation of Mychal Rivera and last year's booting of Cameron Clear [who has resurfaced at Texas A&M]. So, it's not like this is a huge reach. Coaches sold Quinn on using him much like pass-catching Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce, who finished his junior season with 45 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns and is rated as the top returning collegiate tight end in the nation.
Quinn visited this past weekend and was predictably blown away by what he saw. He'll come in and hopefully be able to provide depth. Quinn is the 19th known commitment for UT in this class. That number is definitely fluid however. Dan Skipper, Jason Carr and Cameron Sutton are soft commits. Chauntez Jackson and Joe Sanders are potential grades liabilities, and who knows what else may occur between now and National Signing Day.
Another development to watch in coming weeks is Tennessee's diminished number of official visits. Thanks to sanctions from the Lane Kiffin era, UT has fewer OVs than normal this year, and heading into the final three weekends of recruiting, GoVols247's Ryan Callahan reported that Jones has only 23 visits remaining. With several spots still open, the Vols must use those wisely.