With De'Vondre Campbell likely on his way to Texas and the status of JUCO defensive tackle Ben Bradley up in the air until Friday, the Tennessee Volunteers may find themselves looking at a double-digit hole to fill between now and National Signing Day.
Due to the few players the Vols have elected not to retain that had previously committed to Derek Dooley, Tennessee currently has 14 committed players when they want to sign the full allotment of 25 in this class. When you toss in the fact that Bradley is a soft commit at best and offensive tackle Dan Skipper has visited Stanford and Michigan and was just offered by Ohio State, that leaves a slew of spots for new coach Butch Jones to fill.
Jason Carr remains firmly committed, but will take visits. Chauntez Jackson told Barton Simmons of 247 Sports he is not sure he'll be retained. Christian Academy of Knoxville duo Brett Kendrick and Josh Smith are expected to visit Jim Chaney and Sam Pittman at Arkansas but both seem solid to the Vols.
Not all of this is bad. Zach Barnes, Colton Goeas and Dominic Zanca were essentially told "thanks but no thanks" by the new staff. Jackson may be in the same boat and listed Oregon State and Houston as a couple of probable destinations if the Vols part ways with the tight end prospect. But guys like Campbell, Skipper, Bradley and Carr are players that Jones and his crew would love to retain.
The bottom line is this new staff is going to have to fill at least half a recruiting class in limited time. That's why it's about to get crazy with offers and a flurry of visits [of which UT is limited to 34 total thanks to Lane Kiffin and his NCAA sanctions], and it's also why -- I know you're sick of hearing this -- the new staff should get some sort of pass for how this year's class finishes.
Jones couldn't have spent more time recruiting from the time he was introduced to the start of the dead period. He's just essentially behind the proverbial 8-ball in this year's class. But that doesn't necessarily mean UT is doomed. While studs like Reeve Kohler won't be attending UT, the Vols still remain firmly in the mix for some of the nation's elite players. There are other kids offered recently who seem to be excited about the Vols. Let's take a look at a few of those guys and a few more notes from around the recruiting world.
- Junior college defensive back Riyahd Jones tweeted today that "I'm back twitter ... I'll be announcing my decision tomorrow afternoon around 1ish." The Vols desperately need help at CB, and Jones is a great mixture of size and speed. He's listed at 6-feet, 186 pounds and has recently had Georgia express interest in him as well. The Vols, Kansas State, Indiana and Ole Miss are expected to be among the schools Jones chooses from, and he'll go ahead and sign in the early JUCO signing period. Jones was recruited to Auburn by Willie Martinez, and his presence at UT could help the Vols. There haven't been any rumors or buzz lately about where Jones will go.
- UT is after Ohio athlete Marcus Ball, who is currently committed to Wisconsin. Ball seemed interested in the Vols' offer, and with the Badgers in flux, he is taking other visits. He most recently went to Ann Arbor to visit Michigan. Ball could play many positions, but the Vols are likely recruiting him as a safety. His lead recruiter at Wisconsin was Zach Azzanni, who is the new WRs coach at UT. Mark Elder was recruiting him to Cincinnati. Willie Martinez also recruited him to Auburn. There are several ties there as UT looks to get a visit.
- Here's a great audio clip of Vols legacy and current Clemson commit -- wide receiver Ryan Jenkins -- about his recent offer from Jones and the Vols. UT would love to steal a player of Jenkins' caliber this late in the process.
- Tennessee received its first commitment under Butch Jones this past weekend when Lemond Johnson committed. Johnson is big and versatile enough to play a lot of places, but he'll likely start out as nickel back. Jalen Reeves-Maybin appears slotted for safety.
- Perhaps the biggest new name that UT has a chance to land is the nation's No. 3-ranked inside linebacker according to 247 Sports, Trey Johnson. Johnson told Keith Niebhur that the Vols made his final four thanks to his relationship with new UT linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen. The other teams in the final four are Penn State, Ohio State and Florida, with Johnson saying the Buckeyes were out front. Hopefully, the relationship with the coach to which he originally committed can put the Vols back in the picture heavily. The Vols are expected to receive an official visit from Johnson.
- 2014 wide reciever Dominique Booth of Indianapolis told 247's Steve Wiltfong that UT was in his final seven along with Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Mississippi State and Ohio State. He's ranked as the No. 25 receiver in the nation by the service. Another receiver the Vols have offered is 6-4, 200-pound WR Neiko Creamer of Eastern Christian HS in Bear, Delaware. Creamer is the son of former Vol Andre Creamer. The elder Creamer had a huge punt return in the 1984 Alabama game to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
- Speaking of Delaware, Creamer's teammate Jahmere Irvin-Sills is a cornerback in this year's class who just received an offer from the Vols and has a great relationship with Thigpen, who originally secured a commitment from him to Auburn when Thigpen was an assistant there. Irvin-Sills decommitted from Auburn and currently has the Vols in his final group along with UCLA, Ole Miss and West Virginia. Irvin-Sills is expected visit Knoxville Jan. 11, and a lot of folks believe he has UT out front with UCLA close behind.
- Tennessee is expected to host another HUGE official visitor on Jan. 11, in Auburn five-star defensive end commitment Carl Lawson. Rivals analyst Mike Farrell believes Ole Miss may have a good shot to land Lawson, to go alongside the nation's top-ranked player Robert Nkemdiche, who is almost a lock to go to Oxford. The Vols have been trying with Lawson for a long time, and his defensive coach at Milton (Ga.) HS is former Vol Constantin Ritzmann.
- Despite the coaching change and everything that has gone wrong for the Vols over the past year, they still remain a player for life-long UT fan Vonn Bell, a five-star safety from Ridgeland (Ga.) HS. Though UT is probably a distant third right now behind Alabama and Ohio State, it appears Bell will give Jones the opportunity to recruit him. He is tentatively scheduled to visit officially on Jan. 26.
- Nashville five-star safety and USC commit Jalen Ramsey recently told ESPN.com that he may visit UT officially. After he took to Twitter to trash the Vols this week, however, I personally hope we don't waste a visit on him. Let him go elsewhere. He obviously has no love for the Vols.
- With the possibility that UT will let go of Chauntez Jackson, the graduation of Mychal Rivera, the lingering injury situation with Justin Meredith and with Jason Croom reportedly staying at WR, the tight end position is a massive position of need for the Vols. Mark Elder has been in California in the last week scouring the JUCO ranks for immediate help at the position. Brandon Vandenburg is a player that a lot of teams really would like to have, and Vandenburg has said he may visit UT on Jan. 4. Vandenburg likes UCONN, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, among others. Another player who may visit UT and may receive an offer is Woody Quinn, a former volleyball player at Pepperdine who has excellent size and a big upside [though raw] at the position. The 6-6, 260 player is being recruited by UT, San Diego State, Auburn and Fresno State.
- Everybody knows two of the biggest names on UT's hot board right now are five-star running back Derrick Green and four-star wide receiver MarQuez North. Rivals Mike Farrell said this week he thought Michigan was "in the driver's seat" to land Green, but he's down to the Vols and the Wolverines. In the past, it has been said that Green's family loved UT, and they all had a great relationship with Jay Graham. North's dad told 247Sports this past week that it was a UT/North Carolina/Clemson battle for his son's services with Carolina slightly ahead. But the lure to play right away and in the SEC was going to be tough to turn down. Here's that article.
- The Vols hope they've identified their quarterback of the future this week in Kentucky 2014 signal-caller Drew Barker, the nation's third-ranked duel-threat QB according to 247. North Carolina also offered Barker, who was being recruited to Cincinnati by Jones. South Carolina, Kentucky and Louisville were thought to be among the early group of favorites. The old staff's top quarterback target, Will Grier, committed to Florida on Wednesday.
- Tennessee offered Florida wide receiver James Clark this week and are trying to get him to visit. He was offered by new UT offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. Clark already has visited Northwestern and Purdue. Rutgers, Texas, Duke, Nebraska, NC State are all trying to get one of his last three visits. Here's a story on him written by Paul Fortenberry.
- UT has offered Dobyns-Bennett cornerback Malik Foreman -- a Vanderbilt commitment -- this past week. Foreman is happy with his commitment to James Franklin's Commodores, but he grew up a UT fan, and Jones is trying to get the speedster to visit and commit. His teammate, DB's Devaun Swafford, was also invited to be a walk-on or to have the possibility of earning a greyshirt. His best offers are FCS offers currently.
- Vols commitment Camion Patrick of Knoxville West signed with East Mississippi Community College this past week. It was obvious for a while he wouldn't have the grades to make it in, and he'll try to be a Vol at a later date.
- Stud cornerback Jalen Tabor -- a 2014 prospect who once had UT out front -- has named a top 10 of Alabama, Florida, Maryland, Clemson, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
- UT commitment Paul Harris -- a four-star wide receiver -- is sticking with the Vols after meeting with Jones and Graham.