When Butch Jones was hired to become the head coach of the University of Tennessee football program, I doubt many people had any idea he would become such a recruiting monster. Him and his staff have Tennessee near the top of every major recruiting service’s rankings for the class of 2014.
He has a very interesting pitch for recruits to consider.
Butch Jones has built his recruiting class based on a brick theme. For every player who commits to UT, another brick is said to be added to the foundation. With so many high quality recruits already committed and many more being a possibility, the Vols future looks extremely bright under the guidance of Butch Jones and his staff. If Jones can get all of his current commits to sign, which it certainly appears most, if not all, are firm, Tennessee is looking at a possible top five class.
The coaching staff has restocked at the running back position with the highly rated Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk. Hurd is the jewel of this class and Paulk is a good compliment to Hurd’s bruising running style.
Daniel Helm is one of the nation’s top tight end recruits and Ethan Wolf is another commit that will be a good target at the tight end position. Kameel Jackson, a former Oklahoma Sooner, is a JUCO transfer commit at the wide receiver spot and should help as soon as he steps on campus. Neiko Creamer is a legacy commit with good hands and great size, and Lawrence Lee has speed to burn. Coleman Thomas and Orlando Brown Jr. will help to replenish an offensive line that could lose all five starters after this upcoming season.
Defensive end Joe Henderson recently won the defensive line MVP at the Nike camp in Columbus, OH over Da’Shawn Hand, who is the number one player in the country according to Rivals. Chris Weatherd is a JUCO linebacker transfer from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas and should be an impact player right away.
Vic Wharton III could play either cornerback, or the slot during his career and D’Andre Payne is one of the top cornerbacks in the country. Todd Kelly Jr. is another legacy commit and one of the top safeties in the nation. Aaron Medley is a kicker with a big leg. Medley has been filmed kicking a 65 yard field goal and is one of the nation’s top kickers.
Butch Jones has put together a staff that can recruit with anybody in the country. Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen and defensive backs coach Willie Martinez have long been regarded as two of the top recruiters in the country. Wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni has proven to be a tremendous asset to this team. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie, who played his college football at the University of Florida, has shown he is a Vol. Offensive line coach Don Mahoney, defensive line coach Steve Stripling, and tight ends and special teams coach Mark Elder have been hard at work recruiting all over the country.
The Vols have plenty of work to do and many more highly regarded targets to go after during the next several months. Their main areas of need are on both lines, linebacker, and speed and depth in general. With the possibility of losing all five starters on the offensive line, several defensive linemen, and 5-6 linebackers after the 2013 season, the Vols need to restock.
At the quarterback position, the Vols are heavy after David Cornwell from Oklahoma. It has been speculated that Cornwell might jump at an opportunity to go to Alabama, but has not ruled out Tennessee. Kizer, another top target, recently committed to Notre Dame. If the Vols whiff on Cornwell, they might go after dual-threat signal caller Kendrick Doss out of Alabama or back off recruiting a quarterback in this class.
The Vols are pretty well set at running back with the commitments of Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk, but a third running back could be looked at. Caleb Kinlaw is a name to keep an eye on, as he holds a Tennessee offer and has mutual interest. Sedrick Palmer does not currently hold an offer, but could also be given a look to bring in the always needed depth. JUCO recruit Tyreek Hill has recently visited and holds an offer.
The wide receiver position is always a position of extreme importance. Josh Malone is an in-state recruit and one of the top wide receivers in the country. Keeping him in Tennessee would be a major victory for the Vols, as Georgia is very much alive for Malone. Dominique Booth from Indiana delayed announcing his commitment in May, which many people speculated was going be in the Vol’s favor. He wants to be 100% sure of his decision and is no hurry to end the process. JUCO wide receiver Eric Lauderdale is high on the Vols and would be a great get for Jones and staff. Other names to keep an eye on are: Braxton Berrios, Shaq Davidson, Ryshene Bronson, Jacob McCrary, and Myles Autry.
The offensive line is a major position of need for Butch Jones. The Vols are off to a great start with the commitments of Coleman Thomas and Orlando Brown Jr, but they know they will need to restock. Damian Prince is a newly named five-star according to Rivals and has plans to visit Tennessee in upcoming months. Isaiah Wynn from Florida, is getting a lot of attention from schools across the country and has said he likes the Vols. He is a candidate to make an official visit. Dontavius Blair and Chad Maverty are both high on the Vols list and could take longer looks as their recruitment progresses. Nolan Kelleher, Ray Raulerson, Brock Ruble, and Corey Martinez are other names to keep an eye on over the next several months.
With several defensive ends and defensive tackles graduating and possibly entering next year’s NFL draft, the defensive line is a big area of need. Dewayne Hendrix from Illinois has been said to be very high on Tennessee. Derek Barnett is an in-state recruit and it is important to keep his talent in Tennessee. Along with recently committed Joe Henderson, Barnett and Hendrix have been invited to Nike’s invite only camp called The Opening in Oregon.
Five star defensive end Lorenzo Carter has not ruled out Tennessee as a possible destination and should be whittling down his list leading up to National Signing Day in February 2014. Kentavious Street, Lorenzo Featherston, DaVonte Lambert, Cory Thomas, Jeremiah Clarke, Andrew Williams, Jalen Jelks, and Rick Leonard are other defensive ends to be keeping in mind. Poona Ford from South Carolina and in-state recruits Charles Mosley and Michael Sawyers are defensive tackle priorities and each will give Tennsesee a long look. Travonte Valentine, Matt Elam, Cory Johnson and Abu Lamin are other defensive tackles to watch.
With a multitude of linebackers leaving the Volunteer football program after the 2013 season, the Vols will need to find some new blood for the team.
Legacy recruit Dillon Bates is set to announce his decision at The Opening on either July 2 or 3. Mass speculation has him choosing the Vols. Kevin Mouhon is another highly rated linebacker who is high on Tennessee. He has gone on record saying Tennessee is at the top of his list. Clifton Garrett has been very high on the Volunteer program as of late and looks like he will be considering the Vols until the end. Greg Miclisse is another linebacker who has Tennessee atop his list and is letting the process play out. Richard Yeargin III has listed Tennessee as a team on his list, as has in-state recruit Patera Wilson. Other names to look for in the upcoming months are Vincent Jackson Jr., Dwight Williams from California, KeShaun Freeman, Gavin Bryant, Ty Tomlin, Rashaan Evans, and Nyles Morgan.
One area in which the Vols lacked in 2012 was the secondary. Butch Jones has made a conscious effort to get more speed and depth for these positions. With Vic Wharton III and D’Andre Payne already committed, he has started to lay a solid foundation. More possible bricks in this foundation can be laid with several top targets such as DJ Smith and Rashaan Gaulden. Five star cornerback Adoree Jackson from California has interest in the Vols and has said he plans to take a visit to Rocky Top over the Summer. Wesley Green had stated the Vols were high on his list after he visited for the Orange and White spring game.
Twin legacy targets Evan and Elliot Berry have not been very public on their recruitment, but speculation is they are high on the Vols. Vanderbilt commit Emmanuel Smith and Georgia commit Nick Glass could possibly flip their commitments as their recruitments have not been completely shut down. Quincy Wilson, John Battle, and Nigel Patten will be names to keep an eye on. Cortez McDowell, once thought to be close to pulling the trigger for the Vols has backed off a little and is now speculated to be interested in Auburn as well. Other athletes who are drawing mutual interest from the Vols are Stanton Truitt, Terry Googer, and TJ Harrell.
Many more players will rise up as potential targets as the months pass, the summer camps conclude, and the season gets under way. Butch Jones has drawn praise from recruits and their families, as well as the national media for creating a family atmosphere and being a stable leader for the Tennessee program. While Jones has not yet coached a game from the sidelines for the Vols, he has already began building a solid foundation…Brick by Brick.