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    Alontae Taylor is currently the Vols’ second highest-rated commit in their 2018 class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Taylor is a four-star athlete out of Manchester, TN, and only five-star offensive tackle Cade Mays is rated higher currently in the Vols’ group of commits in the 2018 class.

    Taylor is ranked as the No. 122 overall player in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, and he’s listed as an athlete because he plays just about every offensive skill position possible for Coffee County Central High School. Taylor projects as a wide receiver in college, but that’s actually where he’s spent the least amount of time in high school so far.

    In high school, the best athlete, regardless of where they project best at the next level, will often play quarterback if a team doesn’t have a defined quarterback situation. And that’s been the case for Taylor for the most part. In his three years at Coffee County Central, Taylor has completed 106 of his 212 pass attempts for 1,355 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions according to Max Preps. He’s also run the ball 563 times for 4,591 yards and 53 touchdowns thus far in his high school career.

    And though Taylor projects as a wide receiver for the Vols, he’s only caught 22 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown in the last two seasons of high school. And that’s why one national recruiting analyst wants to see more from Taylor this upcoming weekend at Nike’s The Opening.

    Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports, listed Taylor in his “Five Players with Questions to Answer” portion of his preview of The Opening this weekend. The Opening is an annual event that gathers together some of the most highly-rated recruits across the country to be evaluated and scored by recruiting analysts. Two Vol commits, Taylor and Cade Mays, will be in attendance this weekend. And Simmons wants to see more of the athletic Taylor play the position he’s projected to in college.

    “Taylor is a twitched up, sudden athlete that has got a lot of upside,” Simmons writes. “As a high school quarterback, though, he’s not very polished at the wide receiver position. This week will be a great test to see how he catches the ball, tracks the ball in the air and separates as a route-runner.

    “If he can show improvement in those areas, the Tennessee commit could see his ranking rise.”

    Taylor is already one of the highest-rated athletes in the 2018 class, but proving that he can cut it as a receiver will be huge for his ranking. Not only that, but it will show Tennessee that they don’t have to worry as much about developing him and molding him as a freshman when he comes in for the 2018 season.

    Vol fans, much like Simmons, eagerly await Taylor’s performance at The Opening. They know Taylor is athletic, but they want to see that athleticism used specifically at receiver. And they hope Taylor can show that this weekend.

      (photo via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

      Former Vol wide receiver Justin Hunter has struggled to find his way in the NFL since he left Tennessee early and was taken in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. But he is making some early waves in his new home of Pittsburgh so far.

      Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report listed the biggest standouts of all 32 NFL teams this offseason thus far, and he believes Justin Hunter has been the biggest standout for the Steelers.

      “With Antonio Brown, the reinstated Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers and rookie Juju Smith-Schuster, the Steelers depth chart at receiver would appear to be a tough nut to crack,” Davenport writes. “But Justin Hunter is doing his best to make himself hard to cut.”

      Davenport points out that Hunter has made some “wow” plays in Pittsburgh’s OTAs and has been using his athleticism and leaping ability to separate himself from others. But Hunter’s work is far from over.

      “Strong OTAs aside, Hunter still faces an uphill climb to make the roster,” Davenports states. “But if he’s having his lightbulb moment, the Steelers receiving corps could be even more stacked in 2017.”

      As Davenport says, the Steelers are loaded at receiver right now. Antonio Brown is widely considered one of the best receivers in the NFL right now, and Martavis Bryant was on his way to becoming another star receiver before serving a suspension last season. Sammie Coates had a breakout second season in 2016, and Eli Rogers also broke out as both combined to catch 69 passes for 1,029 yards and five touchdowns.

      Finding a spot on the roster won’t be easy for Hunter, especially given how he’s perceived by many in the NFL. Hunter was taken with the second pick in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans, and he flashed his potential in his first season with the Titans. But Hunter failed to produce consistently after that and has bounced around the league since parting ways with Tennessee after the 2015 season.

      Hunter hauled in 18 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, averaging nearly 20 yards per reception. But his efficiency dwindled in his next two seasons as he combined to catch just 50 passes for 762 yards and four scores in 21 games in 2014 and 2015. Hunter was signed but never played for Miami in 2016, then he was picked up by Buffalo where he caught 10 passes for 189 yards and four touchdowns.

      But Hunter has a clean slate in Pittsburgh, and so far he’s using that to his advantage.

      The Steelers signed Hunter to a one-year deal back in mid-May of this year. If Hunter can make Pittsburgh’s roster, he will be the fifth former Vol on the Steelers’ roster for the upcoming 2017 season. He would join offensive lineman Ramon Foster, defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, and newly drafted quarterback Josh Dobbs and cornerback Cam Sutton.

        Not only did the Vols have a big couple days of recruiting this past weekend, but they also addressed some of the biggest future needs on their roster with the handful of commitments they picked up.

        Tennessee added commitments from four-star running back Lyn-J Dixon, three-star running back Anthony Grant Jr., and three-star defensive tackle and former LSU commit Jamarcus Chatman this weekend (all rankings are according to 247Sports). Those trio of commitments pushed the Vols into the top five team rankings for their 2018 class on 247Sports, Rivals, and Scout and gave them the No. 8 class on ESPN.

        But the Vols’ newest commitments did more than just improve Tennessee’s standing in the 2018 team rankings; they gave the Vols help at positions of need.

        Coming into the weekend, the Vols had no running back commitments in their 2018 class after missing out on in-state running back Master Teague earlier in the month. Tennessee needed at least one but probably two or even three running backs in the 2018 class to bolster depth for the 2018 season and beyond. And the Vols addressed that in a big way on Saturday and Sunday.

        Lyn-J Dixon is the higher rated of Tennessee’s two new running back commitments, but both Dixon and Anthony Grant Jr. bring athleticism and versatility that the Vols need at the position for the future. Dixon is more of the speedy back that uses his elusive footwork to evade defenders, but he can plow through defenders as well. Grant has impressive straight line speed and is built similarly to a receiver right now.

        The Vols needed athleticism and explosiveness at the running back position moving forward. And they got just that with Dixon and Grant over the weekend.

        Tennessee already had commitments from two highly-rated defensive tackles coming into this weekend. Four-star in-state tackles D’Andre Litaker and Brant Lawless are built like typical defensive tackles and measure in around 285 to 300 pounds.

        But Jamarcus Chatman is built differently and has a strong frame that could allow him to play either tackle or end in college. At 6-foot-3, 267 pounds, Chatman has played both positions in high school and has the athleticism to fit in at end but the strength to play at tackle as well.

        “Tweeners” like Chatman are highly-coveted in recruiting because of their versatility. That raw athleticism is one reason JUCO defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo was such a hot commodity in the 2016 recruiting cycle, and it’s made Chatman highly sought after as well. Chatman holds offers from 60 schools, and many of them are from premier programs across the country.

        Right now, the Vols don’t have any commitments from any true defensive ends in their 2018 class. They are still pursuing several, however, and Tennessee will look to add one or two before National Signing Day. But Chatman gives the Vols an intriguing choice at the position and could easily play at end if he’s needed there more than at tackle.

        The Vols used a big recruiting weekend to leap forward in the 2018 team recruiting rankings, but they more importantly used it to address some big needs in their class as well. Tennessee now sits in good position with their 15 commitments and only have a few positions of need remaining to address in the 2018 cycle after this weekend.

          Photo Credit: Donald Page/UT Athletics

          The weekend recap is brought to you by the Nautical Boat Club of Knoxville, which is now open at the Concord Marina in Knoxville. Call them at 865-234-000 or visit their website to find out more about how you can spend your weekends on the lake!

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          Here’s all the Vol news you may have missed over the weekend:

            (Image via @ChatmanJamarcus on Twitter)

            The Vols added three big commitments to their 2018 class this weekend, and the third came in the form of a former LSU commit who flipped to the Vols on Sunday.

            Jamarcus Chatman, a defensive tackle out of Rome, Georgia, took to Twitter on Sunday afternoon to announce his commitment to the Vols. Chatman had previously been committed to LSU before decommitting earlier this month.

            Chatman is rated as just a three-star defensive tackle by the 247Sports Composite rankings, but he holds offers from 60 different schools. Chatman chose Tennessee over offers from LSU, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, USC, and many others.

            At 6-foot-3, 267 pounds, Chatman has an athletic build but has plenty of frame to add more weight at the collegiate level. Chatman is the No. 30 defensive tackle in the 2018 class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

            Chatman has played both defensive end and tackle for Rome High School, and his tape shows his versatility and strong pursuit skills. He also has a strong push off the line of scrimmage.

            Chatman committed to LSU on April 22nd but found his confidence in that commitment waver after visiting the Vols for their Orange Carpet Weekend. Chatman would decommit from the Tigers a day after visiting Tennessee and pledged his commitment to the Vols a week later.

            After Chatman’s commitment, the Vols now have 15 total commitments in the 2018 class and have added three in the last two days. Chatman is the fourth recruit from the state of Georgia to commit to the Vols in this class, and he is the third defensive lineman to commit in the 2018 class. He joins in-state four-star defensive tackles D’Andre Litaker and Brant Lawless.

              (Image via @anthonygrant204 on Twitter)

              The Vols entered this weekend without a running back committed in their 2018 class. But as of Sunday afternoon, Tennessee now has two running back commitments in their 2018 recruiting class.

              Anthony Grant Jr. of Buford, Georgia took to Twitter on Sunday to announce his pledge to the Vols. Grant joins four-star all-purpose back Lyn-J Dixon as running backs to commit to the Vols this weekend.

              Grant is listed as a three-star running back in the 247Sports Composite rankings and is listed as the 19th-ranked running back in the 2018 class. Grant chose Tennessee over offers from Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, and others.

              At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Grant doesn’t have a huge body, but he has the frame to add more muscle without taking away from his athleticism. And Grant’s highlight film shows that athleticism off very well. Grant knows how to cut back and avoid defenders but can also lower his shoulder if he needs to. He also has solid return skills.

              Two of Grant’s former teammates at Buford, Austin Smith and Quay Piccou, are currently on Tennessee’s roster.

              Grant gives the Vols their second running back commitment of the weekend and their 14th known commitment in the 2018 class. Tennessee’s other 2018 running back, Lyn-J Dixon, is also from Georgia, as is three-star receiver Jatavious Harris.