With the departures of Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver is a major need for Tennessee and its new coaching staff in this recruiting class.
On Monday, Butch Jones took the first of two major steps remaining to address that need, securing a verbal commitment from Lassiter (Ga.) HS star Ryan Jenkins to slide into the slot for the Vols. The last remaining stamp Jones needs to put on recruiting at the wide receiver position is to pull the coup and land the nation's No. 2-ranked wide receiver, MarQuez North, who is down to the Vols and his home state North Carolina Tar Heels.
But this day's about Jenkins, who'd been considering flipping to Tennessee for several weeks now and finally made it public Monday via his Twitter feed. He told Volquest that his heart was at Tennessee, where his dad Lee played for the Vols in the early 1980s. Jenkins' primary recruiter was UT running backs coach Jay Graham, who made Jenkins a point of emphasis following Jones' staff offering almost as soon as they came on board. They were rewarded when he committed to UT over Clemson, where his brother Martin plays cornerback for the Tigers.
Derek Dooley hadn't offered Jenkins, so all the work to pull this big commitment has been done in the past month. Though Jenkins is only rated a three-star player by Rivals and Scout, he's the nation's No. 160-ranked player according to 247Sports. He's also a four-star on ESPN and is No. 298 in their ESPN300 rankings. 247Sports rates the 5-foot-10, 182-pound receiver as the nation's 17th-ranked pass-catcher. He's listed as running a 4.59 40-yard dash on multiple sites, and some services have that time a step faster -- and he recently told 247's Ryan Callahan he's been clocked at 4.48.
Jenkins had been committed to Clemson for more than six months and also had offers from Louisville, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington among others. He had 24 catches for 415 yards and six touchdowns for Lassiter this past year.
There is also a connection between Jenkins and a couple other major UT targets. He is very good friends with five-star defensive end target Carl Lawson, and Jenkins also has a relationship with Alvin Kamara. His dad also has ties to legacy prospects in 2014 -- he played at UT with Bill Bates [whose son Dillon will be one of the nation's linebacker prospects in next year's class] and James Berry [who is obviously Eric Berry's dad and the father of Evan and Elliott Berry in the '14 class].
The commitment of Jenkins marks the second legacy to commit to UT and Jones since Christmas, joining 2014 athlete Vic Wharton, who is the nephew of former Vols basketball star Brandon Wharton. As we've mentioned on here before, this year and next boasts an unheard-of amount of Tennessee legacies who could catapult the Vols to a great start on the recruiting trail.
Jenkins wasn't really expected to join that group, since he'd been pledged to Clemson for a while, so this is a great coup and a good start. Besides Wharton, Andre Creamer's son Neiko is a jumbo wide receiver [6-4, 230] from Maryland who holds a UT offer and has the Vols firmly atop his list and may be worth watching a commitment from soon. Then, there's the heralded Berry twins -- sons of James Berry and brothers to Kansas City All-Pro safety and Vols legend Eric Berry. Todd Kelly Jr. has offers from every major program in the country and is best friends with Wharton. And Cole Cook -- a junior tight end from Carrollton, Ga. -- is the son of former Lady Vol Kelli Casteel. His uncle Mike Casteel was a defensive tackle at UT.
Jenkins is the 18th commitment for the Vols in this class and the third wide receiver, joining Paul Harris and Josh Smith. He is the sixth commitment for Jones in this year's class after he came on less than a month ago, joining cornerback Riyahd Jones, cornerback/safety Lemond Johnson, tight end A.J. Branisel, cornerback Malik Foreman and offensive lineman Dylan Wiesman.
Welcome home, Mr. Jenkins!