Arguably the top running back in the nation, Cam Akers, selected Florida State over Tennessee, Ole Miss, LSU, Alabama and Georgia on Tuesday evening.
The five-star prospect out of Clinton, Miss., had been a long-time target of Tennessee and running backs coach Robert Gillespie. And while it was no huge shock to see him pick FSU after the ‘Noles seemed to have the momentum in the past couple weeks, it does leave Tennessee still on the hunt for another back in this class as the Vols continue to move on from Jalen Hurd and brace for the likely departure of Alvin Kamara to the NFL Draft.
Akers is a special talent that can’t just be shrugged off. But Tennessee still has a top player at the position in this class in four-star prospect Ty Chandler out of Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. He’s ranked as the No. 5 overall back in the nation by 247Sports, and has been one of the most decorated players in the state over the past couple seasons while playing in the highest private school classification.
Athlete/running back Trey Coleman of West Monroe, La., gives Tennessee some more depth and flexibility. He could play a few different positions in college, but some recruiting services see him as a running back. His future could ultimately depend on what else Tennessee is able to do in this class.
While there’s nobody along the lines of Akers realistically in play for UT at this point, there are some names to keep an eye on.
Travis Etienne of Jennings, La., is certainly one of those. There’s been a long-standing mutual interest between the 5-11, 200-pound back and Tennessee. The Vols will get an official visit from him on Jan. 13, he confirmed on Twitter this week, but a recent offer from the in-state Tigers certainly complicates matters from UT’s standpoint. Texas A&M and Oregon are the other teams to watch.
Darrian Felix (Ft. Myers, Fla.) is another name to keep in mind. Felix, the No. 5 ranked all-purpose back in the nation according to 247Sports, visited Knoxville during the season and just put the Vols in his top five along with Clemson, North Carolina, Nebraska and Oregon.
At 5-11, 190, he’s a bit more of a scat-back with that prototypical Florida speed. But he could be an intriguing option in Tennessee’s offense to add in with Chandler and the hard-running John Kelly.
Memphis product Cordarrian Richardson, a four-star who just backed off his Clemson commitment, could be another name to keep in mind as well. There isn’t a ton of buzz linking him and UT at this point, but with FSU landing Akers, perhaps he takes a look at his in-state school. You have to know that Gillespie and UT will at least be calling.
And as is always the case this time of year, new names can pop up at any point as coaches leave, minds get changed and players like Tyler Byrd (who was barely on UT’s radar at this point last season) pop up and can be last-minute additions that can help out.
Losing Akers certainly stings, there’s no denying that. He could’ve come in as a freshman and had a major impact. But there’s still a lot to like at the position after watching Kelly emerge in 2016 and with Chandler, who doesn’t quite have the size that Akers does, but might be just as explosive, coming in. Add one more back to the equation, and UT can still feel good about the future of the position.