For the first time in Butch Jones’s tenure at Tennessee, there looks to be some real drama on National Signing Day for the Vols. In Jones’s previous three National Signing Days, the Vols had relatively little mystery as to who they would land in their recruiting class of that year.
The 2013 class saw some flips days before and the day of, as well as the 2014 class. But those recruits weren’t the most highly sought-after recruits of their classes, even though current Vols starting quarterback Josh Dobbs was one of the ones who flipped late in 2013. In 2015, the Vols got five-star offensive tackle Drew Richmond to flip from Ole Miss, but other than that the class was pretty much set.
This season, however, the Vols have a lot more riding on National Signing Day.
Tennessee had a very productive recruiting weekend that saw five of the nations top 90 2016 prospects take their final official visits to Knoxville. The Vols are in on a ton of highly-rated prospects who are waiting till National Signing Day to announce their intentions for college.
The Vols’ current 2016 class of 17 commitments ranks 21st in the nation according to 247Sports. And nabbing three or four of those top targets to close out the class would give them a significant boost in their ranking. But the Vols also run the risk of missing out on some of them or having some of their current commitments flip last minute.
There are a number of possible scenarios for the Vols on National Signing Day, and we have the best and worst (realistic) scenarios for the Vols once the dust settles.
Best Case Scenario
In a realistic best case scenario, the Vols find a way to land three of their final five remaining big targets in the 2016 class and don’t have to resort to a “fallback” commitment from a lower rated prospect.
While wording it that way may be harsh, the stark reality is that if the Vols have to take a commitment from a three-star recruit on Wednesday, then they’ve likely missed out on one or more of their high-rated targets. Ideally, the Vols will get commitments from any of the top-rated players they’ve been recruiting.
Some combination of S Nigel Warrior, DE Jonathan Kongbo III, DT Derrick Brown, OT Landon Dickerson, and CB Tyler Byrd committing on National Signing Day would be the best way for the Vols to finish off this class. Especially if they land three of them, essentially filling up the class by doing so.
All of the players listed above are rated as four-star recruits or higher, and landing three of them would push Tennessee’s total of four-star recruits to 10 in the 2016 class. Assuming the Vols hold on to all their current commits, of course. And holding on to all their current recruits would fit in with the “best case scenario” mantra here.
The Vols have a very, very good shot at this scenario being the one they see happen on Wednesday, and it would be Butch Jones’s best finish to a recruiting class in his four years at Tennessee.
Worst Case Scenario
It’s highly unlikely the Vols strike out on all their remaining high-value targets, but there’s a slim enough chance of it happening that it’s actually possible. The more realistic worst case scenario, however, is that the Vols only get one of their top remaining prospects and have to add on a couple “fallbacks” to finish off the class.
If the Vols do miss out on all or all but one, they have some lower-rated recruits they can likely add to the mix. Three-star linebacker/defensive end JaQuan Bailey, running back Zack Moss, and even four-star defensive tackle Chris Daniels would all qualify as such, although Daniels would be a nice get regardless. But if it means missing out on Warrior, Brown, Kongbo, Dickerson, and Byrd, then it won’t feel like much of a haul.
The biggest miss of the group if he decides not to commit would be Nigel Warrior. The Vols need help at safety moving forward, and Warrior is one of the best in this class. As of right now, Tennessee doesn’t have any contingency plans if Warrior doesn’t commit, which seems to indicate they’re very confident he will join the fold.
If he doesn’t, however, the Vols will have failed to address the biggest remaining need in this class.
Added to that worst case scenario is the Vols losing a commit or two to another school. The Vols have a couple flip candidates currently committed in the class, and losing one of them would hurt not only the rank of this class, but also the structure of it in how it pertains to filling holes on the roster.
It’s unlikely this scenario happens, but there’s still a chance things don’t go smoothly for the Vols on National Signing Day. The Vols, however, appear to have plans just in case the worst happens.