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Tennessee Football Recruiting: Remaining Targets for 2015

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With National Signing Day rapidly approaching, Tennessee continues to pursue a number of players to complete the 2015 recruiting class.

If National Signing Day were to be held today and every recruit currently committed to Tennessee signed his letter of intent, the Vols would finish with a consensus top five class -- 4th according to the 247 Sports composite, 5th by Rivals, 5th by ESPN Recruiting, and 3rd by Scout. With less than two weeks to signing day, however, head coach Butch Jones is far from satisfied with the elite group of prospects and he and his assistant coaches continue to crisscross the nation in hopes of landing even more talent.

As you may remember from this article, the Vols have needs remaining at linebacker and tight end, with wide receiver and running back depth still in danger of recruits committing to other schools. In addition, despite being oversubscribed from a numbers standpoint, offensive line recruiting remains a work in progress, as Jones appears determined to add at least one and perhaps as many as three (!) blue chip offensive tackle recruits to the 2015 class.

Offensive Line

Name Hometown Position 247 Composite Rating Stars Commitment Status
Jack Jones Murfreesboro, TN OT 0.9404 4 Early Enrollee (EE)
Chance Hall Roanoke, VA OT 0.8585 3 EE
Venzell Boulware Fairburn, GA OG 0.8837 3 Tennessee
Zach Stewart Coalfield, TN
OG 0.8649 3 Tennessee
Drew Richmond Memphis, TN OT 0.9732 4 Ole Miss
Patrick Allen Reiserstown, MD OT 0.9031 4 uncommitted
Tyree St. Louis Bradenton, FL OT 0.8984 4 Miami

Top Targets: Drew Richmond, Patrick Allen, Tyree St. Louis, anyone else anywhere who can play tackle

Dickerson's gold Pontiac Trans-Am

The Drew Richmond recruiting saga, "El Amor Prohibido"TM continues unabated with the Memphis offensive tackle considering visits to Alabama and Tennessee in the next few days despite his longtime commitment to Ole Miss. If you're a conspiracy theorist, there are signs that the situation is playing out exactly as Butch Jones intended, with the home state Vols poised to swoop in and steal Richmond's commitment with a last minute offer. First, when rumors began that Jones and Richmond were back in contact, the Rebels turned up the heat on four star offensive tackle Toby Weathersby, who subsequently decommitted from Texas. Weathersby's recruitment now looks like a three-headed race between Ole Miss, Arkansas, and LSU. Second, Alabama went ahead and accepted a commitment last week from four star offensive tackle Isaiah Prince, who was most likely second on the Crimson Tide offensive line big board behind Richmond. Given the way that his recruitment has gone so far, positive momentum for the Vols means that Richmond will probably do something really outlandish like flip his commitment to Vanderbilt or Hipster Miami (of Ohio).

The Vols also remain in contact with Maryland offensive tackle Pat Allen, however, it looks less likely with each passing week that Tennessee will be able to flip him from Georgia. When Mike Bobo unexpectedly fled from Athens, it looked like Allen was poised to change his commitment, but the Bulldogs may have been able to weather the storm.

Tyree St. Louis took an official visit to Knoxville this past weekend but the Vols face long odds trying to pull him out of South Florida.

Running Back

Name Hometown 247 Composite Rating Stars Commitment Status
Alvin Kamara Norcross, GA 0.9760 4 EE
Kendall Bussey New Orleans, LA 0.8856 3 Tennessee
John Kelly Oak Park, MI 0.8665 3 Tennessee
Bryce Love Wake Forest, NC 0.9077 4 uncommitted
Jaason Lewis Virginia Beach, VA 0.9189 4 Arizona State

Top Targets: Bryce Love and Jaason Lewis

It's hard to tell how serious the Vols' flirtation with Virginia Beach athlete Jaason Lewis really is. Lewis was reportedly very interested in Tennessee back during the summer but his interest seemed to wane and he eventually committed to Arizona State. He's a jumbo-sized athlete who can play running back, h-back, and linebacker.

Tennessee coaches remain in contact with four star running back Bryce Love, but it appears that both parties are content with the status quo -- the Vols accepted commitments from John Kelly and Kendall Bussey, both of whom are very similar to Love -- and Love is expected to sign with Stanford. At this point, Love is more likely a hedge against Bussey flipping to Texas A&M or Kelly flipping to Michigan.

Wide Receiver

Name Hometown 247 Composite Rating Stars Commitment Status
Preston Williams Hampton, GA 0.9763 4 Tennessee
Camion Patrick Knoxville, TN 0.8600 3 uncommitted
Van Jefferson Brentwood, TN 0.9489 4 Ole Miss

Top Target: Camion Patrick

Despite interest from Georgia, Auburn, and a host of other schools, wide receiver Preston Williams remains solidly committed to Tennessee. With versatile athletes like Vincent Perry and Jocquez Bruce committed, the Vols aren't really in the market for any slot receiver or returner types. Texas wide receiver Ryan Newsome intrigued coaches with his elite speed and return potential, but he committed to UCLA last weekend.

Camion Patrick, a Knoxville native, is a late addition to this list because he's trying to accumulate enough academic progress at East Mississippi Community College to be eligible in 2015 instead of 2016 -- where he was originally projected. With numbers tight in the current recruiting class and his eligibility still in question, Vols coaches would probably prefer not to take his commitment at the present time. Patrick is a very strong wide receiver with good hands who has interest from a number of prominent programs, including Auburn, who he visited this past weekend. However, his academic concerns are probably going to mean that his recruitment continues after NSD.

Van Jefferson committed to Ole Miss on Saturday after decommitting from Georgia a week or so prior. In between, the mid-state wide receiver visited Oklahoma and the rumor circulated that he would commit to the Sooners. There's some chance that Jefferson could come to Tennessee as part of a package deal with Richmond, but that's extremely unlikely.

Linebacker

Name Hometown 247 Composite Rating
Stars Commitment Status
Darrin Kirkland, Jr. Indianapolis, IN 0.9271 4 EE
Austin Smith Buford, GA 0.8631 3 Tennessee
Quart'e Sapp Alpharetta, GA 0.9077 4 uncommitted

Top Target: Quart'e Sapp

Who knows? The Vols wouldn't seem to have room for the speedy Georgia linebacker, but stranger things have happened. Sapp was thought to be a Vols lock at this time last year but when his former high school teammate and friend Treyvon Paulk was kicked off the Tennessee football team, Sapp backed away from the Vols. Miami could be his final destination.

Tight End

Name Hometown 247 Composite Rating Stars Commitment Status
Kyle Oliver Murfreesboro, TN 0.8606 3 Tennessee

Top Targets: None

According to the numbers, the Vols are short a few bodies at tight end, but there aren't any remaining tight ends with offers from Tennessee. Expect to see players moved from other positions, preferred walk-ons (like Ethan Wolf's brother, Evan), and perhaps another 2016 commitment (joining elite 2016 recruit Devante Brooks).

Decommitment Watch: Au Revoir, Mes Enfants

At this late date, decommitments are likely to fit into two broad categories: (1) flips to other schools and (2) scholarships pulled by coaches. Potential players in the first category, roughly in order of likelihood to flip include Justin Martin (Texas A&M), Venzell Boulware (Ohio State), Kendall Bussey (Texas A&M), Darrell Taylor (Virginia Tech), Austin Smith (Florida), and John Kelly (Michigan).

In the second category are players like former Tennessee commit Marques Ford, who was asked to grayshirt with two weeks remaining until NSD. It's an unfortunate business, but remember that with 32 commitments in the 2014 class and 28 commitments in the 2015 class, there aren't many (if any) additional scholarships available. Every new recruit added to the 2015 class is likely to take a scholarship from a current commitment. I don't have any special knowledge about which players could be asked to go elsewhere, but here are a few things to consider:

  • Butch Jones has placed on a ton of emphasis on special teams play, so it seems unlikely that Riley Lovingood (long snapper) and Tommy Townsend (punter) are asked to decommit. One or both could be asked to blueshirt instead, although what that means exactly is unclear. Jones appears to have found some loophole in the NCAA initial counter rule where players can be counted forward to the next class in addition to backward.
  • Jones values relationships with in-state coaches enough that it's unlikely that an in-state player who has been committed to the Vols for months is asked to look around. That probably means Zach Stewart, Vincent Perry, and Jocquez Bruce are safe, although Bruce in particular has long seemed like a candidate for a gray or blue-shirt. Remember that Jones has tried to instill a culture of accountability and hard work, and he hasn't hesitated to cut ties with players with a sense of entitlement.
  • However, Kyle Oliver is a possible exception to the above rule, as he has been looking around some at other schools. Allegedly.
  • It's easier to move on from recruits from distant and less frequently recruited locations, so a player from Texas like Darrell Miller may be on the chopping block depending on which other recruits become available.

Conclusion

With the football team on the upswing, the men's basketball team overachieving, women's basketball staying in the mix, and baseball looking better than it has in the last few years, it's an exciting time to be a Vols fan. We'll have more coverage of Tennessee recruiting leading up to National Signing Day.