We've gathered A LOT of information for today, so let's get right into it.
Thursday is potentially the BIG DAY that we as Tennessee Vols fans and recruiting followers have waited on for a long time.
That's when Flint, Michigan (Powers Catholic HS) four-star defensive tackle Dan O'Brien will make his commitment publicly to either Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan or Michigan State. Multiple analysts say the Vols are the odds-on favorite to land the 6-foot-2, 293-pounder who is the 12th-ranked DT in the country according to Rivals and the 22nd overall DT ranked by 247 Sports.
If he pledges to the Vols and actually signs with UT, O'Brien will stunningly be the first four-star non-JUCO defensive tackle that Tennessee has gotten into school in five years. Not since 2007 when Donald Langley [who is now playing at Texas Tech] and Rolando Melancon [who never came to UT] have the Vols signed a four-star high school DT. The last time UT got a highly-rated hog that eventually contributed has been even longer than that -- going back to 2005 when four-star DT Wes Brown signed. UT also got four-star Demonte Bolden out of Hargrave and three-star Dan Williams in that class, so it was a pretty strong year for DT recruiting.
When you look at all the Vols' struggles the past few years, I'm a big believer that the lack of talent in the trenches is a big reason. During UT's halcyon days, beasts like Albert Haynesworth and John Henderson roamed the field for the Vols. I'm not saying O'Brien is in that class, but it would nice to get a kid [or two or six] that the recruiting experts love who is able to come in and have five to play four. That's not taking anything away from players like Jason Hall and Dan Hood, who were brought in and built into serviceable defensive tackles, but the Vols need some major talent up there. It's also not taking anything away from a jumbo DE like four-star Trent Taylor the Vols took from Miami last week, but even though he's 270, there's a chance Derek Dooley wants to keep him at end like those big, athletic Alabama DEs. We need players there, too.
It's essential for UT to keep trying to build depth with JUCO studs like Mo Couch, Damien Jacobs and Daniel McCullers, but getting high school DTs with big upsides would be a major step forward for this program. Really hope O'Brien pulls the trigger for the Vols tomorrow.
- Speaking of defensive linemen, the Vols did a great job swooping in and taking Taylor once the Miami/Nevin Shapiro troubles came to light. This is a big, athletic kid who has done nothing but impress this year, and a lot of other teams were trying to get him to visit. Darin Hinshaw recruited Taylor FOR the Vols, not AGAINST the Hurricanes. That made a big impression on Taylor and his coach. When Taylor visited Knoxville, he loved it up there, and he decided to make the switch. When you've got a situation like what's going down in Miami, the sharks will always circle. Kudos to Hinshaw for handling it with class. He was rewarded with a big catch. That's three players now in the past two years the Vols have plucked from Miami. Offensive guard Marcus Jackson -- who, for all intents and purposes, looks like he's going to be a great OL in the future -- decommitted from UM and signed with the Vols when Randy Shannon was canned. Also, Byron Moore decided against attending his "dream school" to come to UT.
- 247 Sports writer Ryan Callahan caught up with stud junior cornerback Shaq Wiggins, who picked up a UT offer, and he seemed excited about it. The 5-9, 160 player also has offers from six other schools, including Ohio State and Michigan. It's nice to see the Vols going after some smaller, more athletic corners now that they've got some size in the defensive backfield and LaDarrell McNeil and Kenneth Crawley coming in. Coaches turned away a visit from Bama commit Geno Smith, and they kind of backed off Auburn commit Joshua Holsey, making you wonder what they were thinking. Those kids probably wouldn't have come to UT, anyway. Wiggins is from Rajion Neal's old high school.
- When it comes to high school defensive tackles, the Vols may be getting a big one in O'Brien. But another one they really want is Prattville, Ala., DT and Florida State commit Justin Shanks. The 6-3, 306-pound DT is still being recruited by Lance Thompson, although he's committed, writes Paul Fortenberry.
- The Vols got big (non)news this week, when star MLB commit Dalton Santos debunked the Texas A&M rumors and said he was solid to UT. He also said the whole time he was watching the A&M-Okie State game, he wished he was in Knoxville. He'll get that opportunity this weekend as he and his father bumped Santos' official visit up a week. They'll be in attendance for UT's night tilt with the Dawgs rather than against LSU next week.
Fortenberry writes that Alton "Pig" Howard will travel up to watch the Vols take on the Bulldogs, and he'll bring 5-11, 190-pound safety teammate Karl Joseph with him. Joseph does not yet have a UT offer.
- It appears just by reading the tea leaves on the message boards that Alabama has a big lead on four-star DE and Vols target Jordan Jenkins. Jenkins is expected to visit UT for the Georgia game, as is North Carolina commit TE Justin Meredith of Anderson, S.C. The Vols could get back in on Meredith with a good visit. Four-star DE Kenderius Whitehead also may visit, but he's a heavy UGA lean.
- Callahan writes that touted JUCO RB Marion Grice of Blinn College in Brenham, Texas [Cam Newton's old stomping grounds] plans to officially visit Tennessee. However, if he gets a Texas A&M offer, the recruiting process is probably all but finished for the 6-1, 210-pound runner. The Vols already have Imani Cross [who is obliterating great competition in Georgia] and Alden Hill as RB commits, but the they would like to add another runner like Grice or Beniquez Brown.
- 247's Barton Simmons writes that Memphis commit -- and the site's top overall Tennessee prospect -- ATH Sheldon Dawson has decided he will visit Tennessee, Cincinnati and Arkansas. He's working on contingency plans in case Larry Porter is fired from Memphis. The Vols are making a strong push for Dawson, who can play cornerback or running back. He's still a long shot to flip, in my opinion. Also, his godfather is former Arkansas guard Todd Day.
- Finally, the Vols offered North Carolina WR Uriah LeMay, whose brother is UGA freshman quarterback Christian LeMay, according to Rivals' Keith Niebhur. The younger LeMay seems to have interest in the Vols and does not currently have the Dawgs in his top group. He may visit Knoxville this weekend.