Once Tennessee offensive line coach Don Mahoney evaluated Tampa lineman Ray Raulerson, he knew he wanted him in orange.
Less than a month after visiting Knoxville for the first time, Raulerson decided he wanted to play for the Volunteers as well. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound versatile offensive lineman from a powerhouse program wound up choosing UT over Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State but had offers from 24 teams that included many other quality programs.
Raulerson is a three-star prospect on all the major recruiting services and fills a big need for UT. Moving to a mostly zone-blocking scheme and a power spread, UT needs athletic linemen, and Raulerson certainly fits that bill. He is long and athletic, possessing very strong footwork and technique. His quickness should aid him in run blocking and his long arms and leverage will help in the passing game. Raulerson could stand to add 15-25 more pounds to his weight, but he has a projectable enough frame to do it.
This past weekend, Raulerson performed well at Georgia's Dawg Night but had not yet garnered an offer from the Bulldogs. Still, his offer sheet is nothing to sneeze at. Another good thing about Raulerson is his relationship with 2015 elite offensive lineman Jake Fruhmorgan, who visited UT last week. Fruhmorgan is an Alabama legacy, and the Tide are thought to be a big favorite, but hopefully Raulerson's relationship with him will make UT a factor in his recruitment.
With his plege, Raulerson gives Tennessee three offensive lineman commitments in the '14 class to go along with tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and versatile lineman Coleman Thomas, who UT says it is recruiting as a center. Raulerson is being recruited as a guard, he says, and the Vols will still look to add one -- possibly two -- more linemen in this class. Tennessee's top target at the position -- and maybe top target overall -- is JUCO tackle Dontavius Blair, who also likes Auburn and Florida State. A bevy of other linemen are being considered by UT as well, including Brock Ruble and Jamie Herr.
The Vols have commitments from two offensive linemen already in the 2015 class as well with in-state guard Zach Stewart and tackle Jack Jones.
"Foundation Week" has been a major success for Tennessee thus far, as the Vols have picked up three commitments, giving them 21 already in a class where they can sign 30. Four-star JUCO wide receiver Eric Lauderdale got the ball rolling on Sunday night by pledging to the Vols, and Cortez McDowell was added a couple days giving UT a major safety commit.
Now, Raulerson has pulled the trigger, and there are still several targets who could possibly commit to UT on visits this weekend. The Vols will host four-star linebacker Kevin Mouhon, four-star defensive end Derek Barnett, three-star defensive back RaShaan Gaulden, four-star athlete Evan Berry and three-star linebacker/safety Elliott Berry, among others, this weekend. All of those players are believed to have UT out front of their recruitment. All would be huge additions to a UT class already ranked first on Rivals and Scout and second on 247Sports.
But today belongs to Raulerson, who really is a nice, solid offensive line commit who fills a major need and is capable and athletic enough to come in and provide depth very early in his tenure. Welcome to Big Orange Country, Mr. Raulerson!