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Tennessee National Signing Day Preview: Wide Receiver

After two years of restocking the cupboard, Butch Jones and the Vols went for quality over quantity at wide receiver with the 2015 class.

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Before there was Kahlil McKenzie, Kyle Phillips, Alvin Kamara, or Shy Tuttle, there was Preston Williams.  A Tennessee commit since September 2013, Williams was the first sign Butch Jones and the Vols weren't just capable of pulling in the once-in-a-generation legacy class of 2014, but could go get the best talent more than a year ahead of time with no on-field results to back it up.

The Vols were able to hold his commitment early and late, with Williams wearing Tennessee gear on his last visit to Auburn before getting sent home.  He was yet another pull for Zach Azzanni and Tommy Thigpen despite offers from all the major SEC players.

A Top 50 consensus player and composite four-star, Williams goes 6'4" 191 and should add a nice option to what Tennessee wants to do on the outside.  The good news is, unlike the receivers taken by the Vols in the last two classes, Williams doesn't have to be a hero right away for the offense to really click.

You can tell Jones and his staff emphasized wide receiver right away, and it's paid off:

  • 2013: 4* Marquez North; 3* Ryan Jenkins, Paul Harris, Johnathon Johnson, Josh Smith
  • 2014: 4* Josh Malone, Von Pearson; 3* Vic Wharton
(Ratings from the 247 Composite)

Even with some of these guys transferring out and others rumored to join them, Jones has built a capable group at receiver using just two holdovers from the previous campaign in Pig Howard and Jason Croom.  With so much coming back at receiver, Preston Williams is the only true product there in the 2015 class.  Local three-star athlete Jocquez Bruce from South-Doyle High School could end up playing in the slot, but Williams remains the main attraction.

At tight end the Vols have had limited results thus far under Butch Jones.  A.J. Branisel and Woody Quinn signed in 2013 but neither contributed much the last two years.  Four-star Daniel Helm transferred to Duke after his freshman year last fall, leaving much of the future in the hands of Ethan Wolf.  To that end, the Vols will add 6'5" 230 Kyle Oliver, another in-state product from Murfreesboro.

The receivers on the roster have all had their issues, including injury for almost all of them and Pig Howard's remarkable return from near-dismissal earlier in 2014.  But adding Williams to this group gives UT another big threat, joining North, Malone, and Croom at 6'3" or taller.  If Tennessee wants to return to Wide Receiver U glory, there are plenty of options to help them down that path.  For a school that recently enjoyed incredibly deep receiving corps as recently as 2010 and 2012, 2015 could have a chance to join their company and make an even bigger mark by helping the Vols win more games along the way.