If you've been taking a break from following Tennessee recruiting, what with having actual college football games to watch, then you couldn't pick a better time to return, as the Vols focus on adding elite talent to a recruiting class already ranked in the top ten.
More Talent Coming to the Defensive Line
Elite defensive tackle recruit Shy Tuttle will announce his commitment Friday afternoon at 3 pm. The top ranked player in the state of North Carolina, Tuttle is a four star defensive tackle rated in the fifty prospects nationwide by the 247 Composite. He attends North Davidson High School, in Lexington, North Carolina, which is just outside the Winston-High Point-Greensboro recruiting triangle, and a little more than 250 miles from Knoxville. Long considered a battle between the home state Tar Heels and the Volunteers, Tuttle has been the top remaining recruiting target for Butch Jones and the Tennessee staff ever since fellow elite defensive tackle Tim Settle began to run into academic trouble.
Listed by 247 Sports at 6'3 and 315 pounds, Tuttle has rare size and strength for a high school prospect, and pairs that with unusual agility for such a large player. Look for a more thorough evaluation of Tuttle following his commitment, which, barring an unexpected disaster, should be to the Volunteers.
Skill Position Recruiting Remains Elite
Two unexpected developments have shaken up Tennessee's skill position recruitment in the last few weeks: first, four star wide receiver Van Jefferson committed to Georgia, opening a spot that the Vols had been saving for the in-state product; and, second, Treyvon Paulk was dismissed from the team, leaving Tennessee thinner than expected at running back.
In-State Target Jefferson Commits to Georgia
An elite wide receiver prospect and one of the top ten players in Tennessee, Van Jefferson was the Vols' primary wide receiver target behind five star commitment Preston Williams. The son of Titans' wide receiver coach and
Ohio State Central Florida alumnus Shawn Jefferson, he plays at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee, in the heart of the mid-state recruiting area that produced current Vols Derek Barnett, Jashon Robertson, and Michael Sawyers. (EDIT: Somehow I confused Shawn Jefferson and a former Ohio State wide receiver. This is completely my fault, and the previous line has been updated to reflect the change. In my defense, all former wide receivers look alike. If only!) Tennessee was widely thought to be saving a scholarship for Jefferson, as he seemed torn between Ohio State and the Vols, with most observers expecting the battle to be decided close to National Signing Day in February. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was known to be pushing Jefferson hard for a commitment, and after he made it through an unofficial visit to Columbus1 without pledging to the Buckeyes, Tennessee seemed to be in good shape with the in-state product. Five weeks later, in a move that caught most recruiting experts by surprise, he committed to Georgia.2
With Jefferson off the table, Tennessee has become more involved with the recruitment of several national wide receiver prospects, including five stars Christian Kirk and Tyron Johnson, four stars Damarkus Lodge and Ryan Newsome, and three star Lawrence Cager. The Vols are already well-stocked at the wide receiver position, so a second wide receiver is more of a luxury pick (and hedging against a decommitment from Preston Williams) than a necessity. As the season goes on, we'll be watching to see which elite prospects Butch Jones and the rest of the staff can get on campus.
Paulk Dismissed from Tennessee
In his Monday morning press conference, Butch Jones dropped an unexpected bomb on the assembled listeners: Treyvon Paulk, a running back from the 2014 recruiting class who had been rehabbing from an injured knee suffered prior to his last high school season, had been dismissed from Tennessee. Jones refused to answer questions on the matter, but a little digging by the local Knoxville media uncovered a domestic violence report from the Knox County Sheriff's Office alleging that Paulk had punched his ex-girlfriend in the face over the weekend. Unlike many of his contemporaries, including Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops3, Jones elected to act even though Paulk faces no criminal charges and gave the backup running back his walking papers.4
The Vols have two running back commitments in the 2015 class in four star JUCO prospect Alvin Kamara and three star recruit Rocky Reid5, but the coaching staff extended additional offers in the last few weeks to in-state four star Ke'Shawn Vaughn, four star current Miami commitment Mark Walton, and several others. In addition, Tennessee seems to have found some mutual interest with four star current Florida State commitment Johnny Frasier, who will be taking an official visit to Knoxville for the Florida game (October 4th). Current commitment Reid, Frasier, and another four star running back Bryce Love all hail from North Carolina, showing both the amount of interest the Vols are generating in the state, and the high priority Butch Jones has placed on it for recruiting.
Tennessee is up against a hard cap of 25 players for the 2015 class, barring some kind of NCAA miracle-working, so if the Vols take a third running back, it likely means they won't be taking a second wide receiver, or a third linebacker. In any case, this class is shaping up to be quite good, with the potential to be spectacular.
1. He visited Tennessee on June 21st and Ohio State on July 12th. ↩
2. According to rumor, Jefferson's mother was the primary reason for his commitment to Georgia.↩
3. Prized Oklahoma running back recruit Joe Mixon was suspended for the year but remains on the roster after he was charged with a single misdemeanor for punching a woman in the face during a late night altercation, breaking several bones in her face. In addition, the Sooners' compliance staff lobbied the NCAA for immediate eligibility for wide receiver transfer Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed from the Missouri football team following a domestic violence incident where he allegedly pushed a woman down the stairs. ↩
4. This is an article about recruiting, so I'll confine my comments on the situation to this footnote: all football teams are composed of young men, some of whom make foolish decisions, so it's not fair, for the most part, to tarnish players or programs with the actions of a few individuals. Overall, football players commit criminal acts at a rate substantially lower than the college population at large. However, football coaches are adults, and it's more than fair to hold them accountable for the disciplinary and cultural climate they create for the young men they are supposedly supervising. For all of the hand-wringing about Mark Richt and the Georgia football team (most of which is minor league college kid stuff), it's actually Les Miles and the LSU Tigers who have one of --if not the worst-- records of violence in the SEC, and Bob Stoops' recent actions with regard to the Oklahoma roster are reprehensible.↩
5. Kamara and Reid are having banner seasons, with Kamara averaging 7.6 yards per carry with 7 TDs and 527 yards through four games.↩