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Reranking Tennessee’s 2014 Signing Class

Dillon Bates-1-3


Dillon Bates
Initial ranking: ★★★
Was it a good ranking? It looks like it, but it’s somewhat inconclusive because Bates only appeared in four games before his season was cut short by a torn labrum. Still, he was a top reserve and a regular on special teams in his limited opportunities. With his frame, athleticism, bloodlines and UT’s lack of overall depth at linebacker, there’s no reason to believe that Bates, who could get a look at inside linebacker this spring, can’t live up to his relatively high four-star status.
Rerank: ★★★

Elliott Berry
Initial ranking: ★★★ 
Was it a good ranking? Mid-three-star status makes sense for Elliott Berry. He didn’t have much impact as a true freshman, appearing in nine games and recording no stats. But he’s a versatile player with good athleticism that Tennessee will find a use for going forward – even if it’s primarily on special teams for the next year or two. He kind of has the build of a hybrid DB/LB, and that’s a skill set defensive coaches can use against spread offenses, so expect the Vols to carve him out a role in time.
Rerank: ★★★

Gavin Bryant
Initial ranking: ★★★ 
Was it a good ranking? It’s simply too difficult to say. Bryant was one of the few freshmen that the staff chose to redshirt in 2014, so all we got were a few limited glimpses of him in practice. When A.J. Johnson was suspended late in the season, the Vols never turned to Bryant, indicating that he needs some more time to develop before he’s ready to play meaningful snaps. With that inside spot up for grabs, we’ll find out pretty quickly in 2015 if he can live up to his decent rankings coming out of high school.
Rerank: Incomplete

Jakob Johnson
Initial ranking: ★★★ 
Was it a good ranking? It was. Johnson had only played a season or two of football before enrolling at Tennessee and the staff really saw him as a long-term project at defensive end or inside linebacker. He bounced around a little bit in the spring and during fall camp before eventually finding a home at middle linebacker where he saw some occasional late-game reps. A.J. Johnson’s suspension forced Johnson into the starting lineup against Missouri and the Tigers took full advantage of the true freshman with runs and passes that targeted his area of the field. He made a few plays, but also gave up a few that he shouldn’t have. That trend continued against Vanderbilt and Iowa, but the potential is there.
Rerank: ★★★

Cortez McDowell
Initial ranking: ★★★ (safety)
Was it a good ranking? The projected position was off, but McDowell, who switched from safety to outside linebacker early in the season, showed some four-star flashes, mainly on special teams, in 2014. He led the team with 14 special teams stops, and showed the kind of upside that Jalen Reeves-Maybin did in 2013 before breaking out in 2014. That’s not to say that McDowell will do just that in 2015, but look for him to have a continued presence on special teams and to be a big factor for playing time at linebacker as well.
Rerank: ★★★

Chris Weatherd
Initial ranking: ★★★★ 
Was it a good ranking? Pretty good, it seems. Weatherd wasn’t able to arrive on campus until the last minute before practice started as he got all his academic situation straightened out, so especially considering that, the junior college transfer did a good job of finding a way to get on the field and help the team out. He appeared in all 13 games, primarily as a pass-rush specialist who walked up to the defensive line to try to create a mismatch, and recorded 2.5 sacks. So while he wasn’t some instant-impact JUCO monster, he helped the team and, with a full year to work with the team before his senior season, he’ll have a chance to have a bigger impact in 2015.
Rerank: ★★★

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