A monumental step forward on the field translated to a monumental step forward on the recruiting trail for Tennessee football. The Volunteers inked 24 signatures in the Early Signing Period, which officially concluded this past Friday.
It was fairly uneventful for Tennessee fans. While the Volunteers didn’t pull off a shocking flip, they also didn’t lose any of their commits they had heading into the ESP. In the new era of NIL and other recruiting ventures, that’s an accomplishment in of itself.
The high school class is largely done. Any signings in February will be minimal, and would likely involve preferred walk-on stipulations and other caveats. The 24 signees and one commit are, for all intents and purposes, the 2023 class.
That means it’s time for our recruiting class superlatives! For a look back, here’s what we had to say about last year’s class.
Most Likely to Redshirt
Our Pick: ATH Trevor Duncan
Duncan was formerly a blue chip commit, but got bumped down in recent rankings. I think part of it is some confusion over what his eventual college position will be. He is 6-foot-5 and 277 pounds, and he’s got some real flexibility to his game. He could project at every single position of both lines, and maybe even tight end. There really is a ton of potential here, but he’s going to need some time in the program to figure out where his skill set fits.
Runner Up: OT Vysen Lang
Most Likely to Play Early
Our Pick: CB Jordan Matthews
Really you could just treat Matthews and Gibson as interchangeable here. Tennessee’s secondary situation is well-known at this point, and the Volunteers are looking for any help they can get. I think that by sheer talent and odds, one of these guys is bound to at least get some rotational action by the time the season begins. They both have some pretty tantalizing potential, and it would be the staff’s dream if both are playing by end of the season.
Runner Up: CB Rickey Gibson
Our Pick: OT Shamurad Umarov
I am going off the composite rankings for this category.
Umarov is currently ranked the 288th overall player and 26th tackle in the 247Sports Composite. He is much higher in the 247Sports rankings, coming in at 107th nationally and 13th at tackle.
And yet, I am almost willing to argue that even the latter is still low.
I’m not just sunshine pumping. Umarov’s tape is outstanding, and he has some of the best technique of the entire class. I don’t claim to be doing a better job than others, but I would personally have him ranked near the top 50. He is a very good player that will play sooner than later.
Runner Up: LB Jeremiah Telander
Most Likely to Switch Positions
Our Pick: DL Nathan Robinson
Robinson is listed as an edge player right now, but I’m not sure his best value is on the defensive line. If he did play defensive line, he would probably be more of a Tyler Baron role. I think he might eventually switch over to the offensive line and became an interior player. He’s got some real nice size and power to his game that I think will translate a bit better on the offensive side of the ball.
Runner Up: OL Ayden Bussell
Best Win of the Cycle
Our Pick: QB Nicholaus Iamaleava
It’s almost easy to forget the shock and awe that happened when Tennessee landed Iamaleava. It was gigantic. The Volunteers hadn’t signed a quarterback of his caliber in decades. He had all the elite programs in the country coming after him. Thanks to some reported NIL help and a dynamite offense, the Volunteers landed him early. He was the commitment that put the college football world on notice: Tennessee was not messing around.
Runner Up: ATH Cam Seldon
Biggest Question Mark
Our Pick: ATH Cam Seldon
This isn’t a question mark in terms of his talent or anything like that. I think it’s just a question of where he plays. Seldon is simultaneously too talented to keep off the field, while also maybe not totally ready for big usage in the SEC. Is he a running back? He’s sort of built like one, and he is electric with the ball in his hands. But that room is kind of crowded and has veteran options in front. Is he a wide receiver? He could absolutely be an All-SEC type slot guy—but again, there’s a lot of talent at that position as well. I could even see Seldon on defense. He’s quick and lengthy enough to get a look at cornerback or safety. I really don’t know where Seldon projects best at. That’s up for Tennessee’s staff to decide.
Runner Up: DL Nathan Robinson
Our Pick: WR Nathan Leacock
I have to own up to this one. When Tennessee first got Leacock committed, I sort of viewed him as a “floor raiser” option. As in, I didn’t think he would be the headliner of the wide receiver class, and more so viewed him as a prospect that would shore up some roster depth.
Leacock went ahead and destroyed that analysis. He had an incredible senior season and showed off his growth as a player. The rating services quickly took notice and gave him the credit he deserved. By signing day, Leacock was a top 100 player overall in the country. His combination of size and speed gives him a skill set that I’m not sure is on the roster as of now. This could turn into one of those commitments that we look back on and go “Wow, I can’t believe they were lucky enough to get him committed that early”.
Runner Up: DL Tyree Weathersby