On a day that started bleaker for the Vols than the rainy weather than blanketed most of Tennessee, a little happiness -- and perhaps sanity -- was salvaged this afternoon with the signing of JUCO defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore. The former Alabama player who left UA prior to this season was one of the Vols' top two junior college targets and rallied the fanbase by signing with Derek Dooley and UT after a frantic morning rife with terrible news on the recruiting front.
Dooley went to sleep Tuesday night with 22 verbal commitments and looking like the leader for another junior college commitment heading into today's signing day for mid-term JUCOs. When the smoke cleared from an emotional roller coaster ride throughout the A.M., UT now has 21 commitments and three major targets/commitments have signed elsewhere.
Prior to Sentimore's signing, it was cue the message board meltdowns in Big Orange Country. This was shaping up to be one of the worst recruiting days -- if not THE worst -- in recent memory for the Vols, who should re-examine whether or not their time and resources would be spent better somewhere other than Mississippi junior colleges, much like Memphis high schools.
The day of awful news started when Twitter became abuzz with news that defensive back Otis Jacobs, who switched his longtime commitment from Texas A&M to Tennessee last week, had signed with the Aggies. Texas A&M's 247 Sports site Gigem.com reported it, and the news only got worse from there.
Longtime JUCO defensive tackle commitment Damien Jacobs switched his commitment from UT to Florida, of all teams. The writing has been on the wall for some time on Jacobs, who has flirted with and visited other schools. Then when his teammate [and Vols top JUCO target] Denico Autry verbally committed to Mississippi State last week and signed with the Bulldogs on Wednesday, all the momentum left the Vols. Still, it was thought he may follow Autry to Starkville. The Gators pulled a shocker there.
Thankfully, Sentimore made the day something we can stomach.
The Otis Jacobs news was bad and the tone-setter for the day, as he cited UT's depth chart as the chief reason for switching his commitment back to the Aggies and new coach Kevin Sumlin just a week after flipping to the Vols. But he is not an irreplaceable player. UT has several defensive back irons in the fire, and it's possible to get in on another kid or two at the position. But it was disappointing that Jacobs, who has been committed to UT less than a week, failed to even call coaches before flipping back to A&M.
That was a disappointing loss, but any time you lose defensive linemen at this stage of the recruiting class is a bad deal. Damien Jacobs had been committed to the Vols and recruiting coordinator Terry Joseph [what a bad year it's been for our recruiting coordinator on the trail...] but has been flirting with other teams for a long time now. Still, what we essentially did was trade him for Sentimore, which isn't a terrible swap. Sure, it would be nice to have both of those players, but I'm trying to be a glass-half-full guy here.
The scoop on Sentimore is UT has been fighting for that commitment for a long time. Alabama wanted him back, LSU, Texas and Miami tried to get him to visit, but Sentimore has been focused on UT, Texas A&M and Mississippi State for a while now. The Vols were thought to be the leader, but he has been so quiet through the recruiting process that it was up in the air. He immediately gives the Vols a versatile weapon on the defensive line who could play as a jumbo defensive end or replace Malik Jackson as UT's big, athletic defensive tackle.
It was unclear in the first place why Sentimore transferred from UA. After playing as a redshirt freshman for Alabama and being firmly in the mix for playing time this year, he had been suspended indefinitely by Nick Saban before transferring to Gulf Coast Community College. Rumors were everything from grades to behavioral issues, and Sentimore is so quiet that it wasn't talked about much. But the Vols are banking on that year of JUCO maturing the beast defensive lineman a lot. He was in no trouble at all this year and had a standout season. The Vols will expect Sentimore to come in and compete for playing time immediately.
The Vols should immediately extend an offer to Humboldt, Tenn., DT Tevin Bryson, who recently has picked up offers from Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Ole Miss and others. His stock is rising, and the Vols now have an additional spot with the departure of Jacobs and Autry's signing with Mississippi State. The Vols are also still trying with high school DTs Davlin Tomlinson, Vinnie Valentine, Koren Kirven and Justin Shanks. Now, the focus needs to turn to Bryson and especially massive JUCO DT Daniel McCullers, who favored Alabama, but the Tide appears that it won't have room to take him. If UT can somehow close with McCullers, Sentimore, Bryson, Danny O'Brien, Trent Taylor and LaTroy Lewis, that would still be one of the best defensive lineman hauls at UT in recent memory.
Two Big In-State Offers Out For the Vols Today: Tennessee has offered two standout in-state players for the class of 2013 today in Ensworth RB/ATH Corn Elder and Lenoir City WR/ATH Camion Patrick. Patrick is already considered a heavy UT lean and could commit soon. If Elder sticks with football over basketball, he'll have plenty of major offers before next year's signing day.