Butch Jones and his staff have been able to secure commitments from 18 prospects in the 2015 class so far, but they’re nowhere close to finishing up this class. They’ve extended offers to over 270 players in the 2015 class, and we’ve been detailing those offers position-by-position for the last few weeks in an effort to familiarize Tennessee fans with current commitments and possible new ones for the Vols.
So far, we’ve broken down the secondary, linebackers, and defensive line in the 2015 class. Most recently, we brought you the defensive tackles, and that finished up the defensive side of the ball for the Vols.
What better way to make the transition between offense and defense than to bring you the players who are “transitional” themselves? The next positions we’ll break down: Athletes and special teams.
Athletes are players who typically don’t play just one position in high school; they play various positions and do multiple things well. This ranges from a player being a quarterback and a safety, a QB and a wide receiver, a running back and a wide receiver, a linebacker and a running back, or any combination of positions on the same or opposing sides of the ball.
And, of course, special teams players are athletes who aren’t considered to be on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball, such as punters, kickers, and long snappers.
All in all, the Vols have offered 25 athletes and 2 special teams players for the 2015 class. Of the 25 athletes, 9 of them have committed elsewhere. Both of the special teams players the Vols are known to have offered have both committed to Tennessee, and 3 of the 25 athletes are also Tennessee commits.
The two specialists are long snapper Riley Lovingood and punter Tommy Townsend. Both are 2-star athletes, but it is rare that even the best punters, kickers, and long snappers achieve anything higher than a 3-star rating.
When it comes to these two, look not at their ratings, but at their offer sheets and teams who showed interest in them. Lovingood, a native of Hendersonville, Tennessee, had drawn interest from Auburn, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt, and he is rated the No. 3 long snapper in the country according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Townsend could turn out to be an unheralded recruit in the 2015 class who later plays one of the most significant roles of any player in the class. Current Vol punter Matt Darr is a senior, and Tennessee currently has no clear-cut replacement for him once he leaves. Townsend looks to come in as a freshman in 2015 and take over the job immediately. Townsend, currently living in Orlando, Florida, is rated the No. 2 punter in the nation, receiving offers from Baylor and Colorado as well. He is also the brother of current Florida Gator punter, Johnny Townsend.
The three athletes Tennessee has committed for 2015 are a little more high profile than the specialists. The Vols have pledges from Jauan Jennings, Jaylond Woods, and Jocquez Bruce (all Tennessee residents, as it were).
Jennings is easily the highest rated of the bunch, earning a 4-star rating from 247Sports and the Composite rating system. He’s the No. 14 athlete in the country and the 5th best player in the state of Tennessee. He attends Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, and he plays both quarterback and safety.
As a first-year starter at quarterback last season, Jennings threw for 1,465 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also ran for 795 yards and 10 scores on the ground, giving the Vols and intriguing dual-threat option at QB for next season (according to The Times Free Press).
That is, if he even plays QB at the next level.
Jennings also plays in the secondary at Blackman, and many analysts think he projects better as a safety in college. At 6-4, 186 lbs, he certainly has the height and frame to play quarterback at the SEC level. The Vols have stated they will give him a shot at quarterback his first season on campus, and it likely depends on how he performs whether or not he will line up behind center or deep in the defensive backfield as a sophomore in 2016.
Jaylond Woods is a 3-star athlete out of Lenoir City. Woods has literally played all over the field in his two years at Lenoir City High School, racking up stats as a running back, receiver, kick returner, and defender. He committed to Tennessee well over a year ago, and he received an offer from Clemson as well. His early commitment has likely pushed other teams away from recruiting him, as his services likely would be highly sought after otherwise.
In his two seasons with Lenoir City, Woods has 139 carries for 992 yards and 20 touchdowns, 58 receptions for 754 yards and 10 scores, and 179 kick return yards. He’s averaged 96.8 yards per game in 22 career games for Lenoir City, and those are just his offensive stats.
As a defender, he registered 41 tackles, 4 interceptions, and a blocked field goal as a sophomore. As a junior, he recorded 42 tackles and forced 2 fumbles (all according to Max Preps).
As you can see, Woods is an all-around performer who projects to be a useful offensive weapon for the Vols. At 5-8, 160 lbs, Woods would most likely be used as a running back or slot receiver. He’s been timed at running the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, and he has the shifty moves along with his speed to be a dangerous returner as well.
The final athlete the Vols have committed for 2015 is South-Doyle’s Jocquez Bruce, who, much like Woods, has played all over the field so far in his career.
Bruce is a 3-star athlete that measures in at 5-10, 165 lbs. He was mostly being recruited by smaller schools before the Vols got involved. Schools such as Austin Peay, Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee State, Mercer, and Memphis had extended offers to Bruce before the Vols did on June 14th. Bruce grew up in Knoxville, and he grew up a Vol fan as well, so it only took him 3 days before committing to Butch Jones and Tennessee.
As a junior, Bruce racked up 852 rushing yards on 118 carries and 8 scores, 12 receptions for 112 yards, and added 163 kick return yards and 128 punt return yards. As a defender, he made 39 tackles, 2 interceptions, broke up 2 passes, forced 2 fumbles, and recovered 2 fumbles as well (according to Max Preps).
Bruce was told by Tennessee at their camp on June 14th that they foresee him as a possible slot receiver for them in college, so it will be interesting to see if South-Doyle uses him as a receiver more his senior season. Regardless, Bruce definitely has potential to be a play-maker, and (if I may insert a little personal aside for a moment) I know I will be rooting for him since he plays at my Alma Mater.
The Vols have quite the haul at the athlete position, and they could land a few more commitments from versatile athletes as well. See who else the Vols are targeting and may receive pledges from in the coming months.
All stats and rankings provided by 247Sports unless noted otherwise.