State of the Vols: Looking for Some Offense Edition

    by -

    Devon Baulkman-1-4

     Football

    Team 119, as it will be known, took a big step in its formation over the past week with 10 early enrollees officially joining the program: Andrew Butcher, Quinten Dormady, Stephen Griffin, Chance Hall, Jauan Jennings, Jack Jones, Alvin Kamara, Darrin Kirkland Jr., Kyle Phillips and Shy Tuttle.

    Getting early enrollees (EEs) in the program is a big part of Butch Jones’ philosophy, and this year he hit it big again. The hope around the program was that they would get at least eight, and aided by commitments from Kirkland Jr. and Phillips, the Vols got all the way to double digits.

    The new group will be available to the media this week, so we’ll have more information about them soon, but we’ve spoken to some who have spent time around the new group already to get some initial impressions. What stood out? Multiple people have spoken highly of Jennings especially. He comes across as a natural leader and one of the most competitive members of this crop of EEs. Jennings’ position is still somewhat in the air, but we continue to hear that he’ll get a strong look at quarterback right off the bat, which was his wish throughout the recruiting process. To loosely quote one source we spoke to about Jennings, “It’s too early to tell if he’ll be the QB of the future here, but he’s going to succeed at whatever he does.”

    The size of Chance Hall (6-5, 315) and Jack Jones (6-5, 300) also stood out to people we’ve spoken to. As Butch Jones has said time and time again, offensive line is a developmental position, so it’s probably ambitious to say that either are likely to have an immediate impact, though size shouldn’t be a huge obstacle for either. Jack Jones also comes across as a potential team leader as multiple people have noted that he has one of the most outgoing personalities of this class.

    We’ll have more on the EEs this week and be sure to check out our Q&A with Kyle Phillips’ high school defensive coordinator, who talked at length about Phillips’ upside, what he needs to work on and some of the battles he’s had with shoulder issues in the past. It is safe to give Phillips somewhat of a ‘freak’ label, however, as he stands at 6’4, at least 250 with a low body-fat percentage, has a 6’11 wingspan, runs a 4.6 40-yard dash and, as his HS coach put it, “isn’t even weight room strong yet.”

    Tennessee got great news on Sunday in regards to Dillon Bates. The former standout recruit received a medical hardship waiver and will return to UT classified as a redshirt freshman next year. Bates technically exceeded the percentage of games that the NCAA normally requires to be eligible for one if an injury occurs, but, and we don’t say this a ton, credit the NCAA for using some common sense and not stripping a full year of eligibility for what really was just a handful of plays in the Georgia game, which was the fourth game he appeared in and the one that put him over the limit.

    These are the other scholarship Vols who were credited with a redshirt or a medical hardship from the 2014 season: Charles Mosley, Neiko Creamer, Ray Raulerson, Gavin Bryant, A.J. Branisel, Josh Smith, Dontavius Blair and Cody Blanc.

    Bates, Mosley, Creamer, Smith and Blair especially stick out as potential future contributors that UT could benefit from having extra eligibility from. Remember Butch Jones’ move to redshirt Marcus Jackson in 2013 will payoff in 2015 especially as the Vols get that extra year of eligibility from him on a line that is short on depth and experience. A similar situation could easily play out with one of the aforementioned players in the future.

    Despite some indications that he might be moving on, Tennessee continues to state that now redshirt junior quarterback Nathan Peterman remains part of the program. Peterman still isn’t showing up in UT’s online student database and Dormady was photographed and filmed wearing No. 12 (Peterman’s number) when introduced in Tennessee’s official release. So we’ll keep monitoring that situation, but consider Peterman still officially on the team until further notice. He would have the option to be a graduate transfer who would not have to sit out if he enrolled in a grad program that UT does not offer since he received his undergraduate degree from UT after the fall semester.

    Suspended cornerback Michael Williams remains enrolled and on the team’s official roster. Obviously there are a lot of legal steps that would have to be cleared before the discussion can be had as to if he could ever return to team activities.

    On the injury front, linebacker Jakob Johnson has been seen in a sling after a minor procedure on his shoulder and he’ll require some rehab before continuing full-fledged workouts, which are back in swing now that the spring semester is underway. We’ll have more updates on him and others in the coming weeks as spring practice will be coming up just around the corner.

    Finally, the news that Curt Maggitt will be returning is a big boost to an already potentially loaded defense for the Vols in 2015. His impact can be recorded by statistics, but his leadership, especially once A.J. Johnson was no longer on the team, is one of the biggest things he brings to the 2015 roster. One source with NFL Draft ties indicated to RTI that rising senior receiver Pig Howard is at least giving some level of thought to entering the NFL Draft. So while we’re not ready to report that officially at this point, we did want to at least pass what we were told along. The early-entry deadline is Jan. 15.

     Recruiting 

    It is officially crunch time for the 2015 recruiting class. With 23 days left until National Signing Day on February 4th, Tennessee still has a few key pieces that they would like to add to their already highly touted list of commitments.

    Here’s a list of Tennessee’s current committed players: 2015 Vol Commits.

    Here’s a list of the 10 players that enrolled early: 2015 Early Enrollees.

    The Vols got great news last Thursday when Moreno Valley, California quarterback Sheriron Jones  announced that he had committed to Tennessee. Jones, who was originally committed to Florida before Muschamp’s firing, became Tennessee’s third 4-star quarterback to join the 2015 class along with Quinten Dormady and Jauan Jennings. Jones is the highest rated quarterback of the three according to recruiting services and his commitment now gives Tennessee arguably the best quarterback class of 2015 in the SEC – something that hasn’t happened in Knoxville for a long long time.

    At this stage of the recruiting season, Tennessee only has a very small handful of players that they are hoping to add to the 2015 class. We touched on them last week, but here’s an updated look:

    Pat Allen Headshot 200x200Pat Allen
    Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle
    6’4, 285 pounds
    Reistertown, Maryland (Franklin)
    Top Offers
    Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida State, LSU
    Status
    Uncommitted

    The Vols desperately need to add one more premier offensive tackle to this class, and, at this point, Allen is probably their best bet. The longtime Georgia commit decided to open up his recruitment after Bulldog offensive coordinator Mike Bobo announced that he would be taking the head coaching position at Colorado State. Allen appeared set to commit to the Vols on Sunday, January 4th, but decided to wait and see who Georgia hired as their next OC before making his final decision. The news of Schottenheimer’s hiring in Athens didn’t appear to change much with Allen, who will likely make a final decision between Georgia and Tennessee in the coming weeks.

    john kellyJohn Kelly
    Athlete
    5’10 19o pounds
    Oak Park, Michigan (Oak Park)
    Top Offers
    Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Tennessee
    Status
    Uncommitted

    Kelly is the newest addition to the recruiting board for the Vols and is a player with a a lot of potential at the running back position. The departures of Treyvon Paulk and Derrell Scott along with Marlin Lane and Devrin Young graduating has left Tennessee woefully thin at running back heading into the 2015 season. With Kendall Bussey currently committed to this class and Alvin Kamara already enrolled in school, Tennessee has added a couple of quality playmakers, but adding one more for depth alone appears to be in the staff’s plans. Tennessee will have to fight off Michigan to land him, but getting him to campus this weekend is a huge positive for the Vols.

    Jaason Lewis headshot 200x200Jaason Lewis
    Athlete
    6’4, 240 pounds
    Virginia Beach, Virginia (Ocean Lakes)
    Top Offers
    Arizona State, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan
    Status
    Arizona State commit

    It’s been an interesting recruitment for the four-star jumbo athlete. Lewis released a top-5 last year of Tennessee, UCLA, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Arizona State with Tennessee as his leader. After the Vols picked up a lot of momentum he eventually committed to UCLA only to decommit from the Bruins, and later commit to Arizona State. And just as it looked like the Vols and Lewis had parted ways in terms of mutual interest, Lewis announced in January that he would visit Knoxville on Jan. 30. Lewis has the size to wear defenses down and the strength to break tackles, but also the speed to break long runs get through the second level of the defense. With Kamara and Bussey already committed, the addition of Lewis would give the Vols a truly versatile trio of backs in the 2015 class.

    Bryce-Love-Head-200x200

    Bryce Love
    Running Back
    5’10, 180 pounds
    Wake Forest, North Carolina (Wake Forest)
    Top Offers
    Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
    Status
    Uncommitted

    Love appears to be down to Stanford and Tennessee with the Cardinal slightly ahead at this point. Tennessee wants to add another running back to this class and Love would be the perfect addition from a talent standpoint, but it appears that he may want to go to a place with a depth chart that isn’t quite as crowded. Distance from home is a factor that favors the Vols, but it may not be enough to snag the Tarheel State running back.

    Newsome 1Ryan Newsome
    Wide Receiver
    5-8, 180 pounds
    Aledo, Tex. (Aledo)
    Top Offers
    Texas, Tennessee, UCLA
    Status
    Uncommitted

    The Vols need one more receiver in this class to compliment Preston Williams and Newsome is their guy. Tennessee recently made Newsome’s top-3 along with Texas and UCLA and his Twitter feed would suggest that the Vols are out in front. Newsome has built strong relationships with many of Tennessee’s current commitments and Tennessee’s coaching staff, who has Newsome as the top WR left on their board – but will that be enough to steal Newsome away from the Longhorns? Too close to call. Newsome will be making his college selection on January 23rd.

    Drew Richmond headshot 200x200Drew Richmond
    Offensive Tackle
    6-5, 320
    Memphis, Tennessee (University School)
    Top Offers
    Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, LSU
    Status
    Ole Miss commit

    While Richmond appears to be firmly committed to Ole Miss, the Vol coaching staff will be working on him until he officially signs his letter of intent. With so many other in-state prospects joining the Vols in recent weeks, there has been some chatter that Richmond may be feeling a bit of pressure to sign with Tennessee. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but Tennessee will be doing all they can to flip the talented tackle from Memphis.

    QuarteSappphotoresize.jpgQuarte Sapp
    Linebacker
    6-2, 200 pounds
    Alpharetta, Ga. (Milton)
    Top offers
    Miami, Texas A&M, Clemson, Florida State, Tennessee
    Status
    Uncommitted

    Sapp is a player with a lot of potential at the outside linebacker position and would be a nice addition to the class that doesn’t really have a pure outside linebacker. Sapp has been rumored as a silent commit to Tennessee for months and, from all accounts, still looks like a player that Tennessee wants to add in 2015 if they can find enough room to do so.

    tyree st louisTyree St. Louis
    Offensive Tackle
    6’5, 300
    Bradenton, Florida (IMG Academy)
    Top Offers
    Florida, Miami, Nebraska, South Carolina, USC
    Status
    Miami commit

    St. Louis is currently committed to Al Golden and the Miami Hurricanes, but has kept some other options open and will be taking a visit to Tennessee this weekend. Florida is also making a late push for St. Louis under new coach Jim McElwain, so look for this recruitment to go all the way up until signing day for the talented tackle. Much like the situation at running back, Tennessee’s staff is going to make sure that they close this class with another offensive tackle.

    As of today (Monday) the Vols will also be hosting nine official visitors this weekend, six of which are currently committed members of the 2015 class. This list is almost certain to change between now and Friday, so check back in later on this week when we post the official visitor list, but here’s what it looks like now.

    This weekend’s official visitors:

    MarquesFordsmall.jpgMarques Ford
    Defensive End
    6-3, 220 pounds
    Gibsonton, Fla. (East Bay)
    Top Offers
    Clemson, Miami, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, Arkansas,
    Status
    Tennessee commit

    Sheriron Jones headshotSheriron Jones
    Dual-Threat Quarterback
    6’3, 195 pounds
    Moreno Valley, Calif. (Rancho Verde)
    Top Offers
    Arizona, Arizona State, Florida, Nebraska
    Status
    Tennessee commit

    john kellyJohn Kelly
    Athlete
    5’10 19o pounds
    Oak Park, Michigan (Oak Park)
    Top Offers
    Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Tennessee
    Status
    Uncommitted

    Kahlil McKenzie HeadshotKahlil McKenzie
    Defensive Tackle
    6-4, 340 pounds
    Concord, California (Clayton Valley Charter)
    Top Offers
    Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas
    Status
    Tennessee commit

    Quay PicouQuay Picou
    Defensive Tackle
    6’3, 285 pounds
    Buford, GA (Buford)
    Top Offers
    Miami, Ole Miss, Missouri, Texas A&M, Ohio State
    Status
    Tennessee commit

    QuarteSappphotoresize.jpgQuarte Sapp
    Linebacker
    6-2, 200 pounds
    Alpharetta, Ga. (Milton)
    Top offers
    Miami, Texas A&M, Clemson, Florida State, Tennessee
    Status
    Uncommitted

    Austin Smith
    Linebacker
    6’3, 225 pounds
    Suwanee, Ga (Buford)
    Top Offers
    Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Miami
    Status
    Tennessee commit

    tyree st louisTyree St. Louis
    Offensive Tackle
    6’5, 300
    Bradenton, Florida (IMG Academy)
    Top Offers
    Florida, Miami, Nebraska, South Carolina, USC
    Status
    Miami commit

    Tommy Townsend HeadshotTommy Townsend
    Punter
    6-1, 175 pounds
    Orlando, Florida (Boone)
    Top Offers
    Baylor, Colorado, Tennessee
    Status
    Tennessee commit

     Basketball

    The Vols went 1-1 last week and, as we said in last Monday’s State of the Vols, that should be considered a success. Yet, after scoring just 38 points against Alabama in Saturday’s home loss, the week didn’t feel like a success to many Vol fans. Tennessee’s offensive output ranks as the lowest point total in the history of the program inside the friendly confines of Thompson-Boling Arena.

    Tyndall’s team simply needs more consistent production from players not named Josh Richardson moving forward and another starting lineup change may be coming in the hopes of sparking some more offense. Kevin Punter and Willie Carmichael combined for just two points against Alabama and, if the Vols played Arkansas today, they would be replaced in the starting lineup by Robert Hubbs and Derek Reese.

    Detrick Mostella played just eight minutes against the Tide after tweaking his ankle against Mississippi State on Wednesday. Tyndall said today that Mostella was just about 80% against Alabama but should be close to 100% when the Vols take the court on Tuesday against No. 19 Arkansas.

    The Razorbacks – at 13-2 (2-0 in the SEC) and with a No. 14 standing in the RPI – are clearly the second best team in the SEC at this point. Tennessee is in for a big test against an Arkansas team that likes to get up and down the floor. They’re one of the most efficient teams in the nation on the offensive end, they use their athleticism to cause turnovers and use their size to outrebound opponents by a significant margin. The Vols will have to play their best game of the year to knock off the Razorbacks (Tuesday at 7 pm in Thompson-Boling Arena, SEC Network). We’ll have a full game preview for you on Tuesday morning.

    Tennessee will close the week with a road matchup at Missouri (Saturday at 6pm, SEC Network). The Tigers went 1-1 last week with an overtime home win over LSU and a road loss at Auburn. They don’t do a ton of things well and the Volunteers will have a good shot at moving to 2-0 on the road in SEC play against the Tigers.

    Last but not least, after 3 1/2 years in the program as both a walk-on and a practice player, Galen Campbell was awarded a scholarship over the weekend. If you haven’t watch the video of him hearing the news, take a few minutes and do that here.