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Targeting the Trenches: The Vols’ Top OL/DL Targets

Defensive Line

(Photo via Andrew Ivins/247Sports)

Maason Smith — No. 20 overall, No. 2 DT

Leonard Taylor — No. 29 overall, No. 3 DT

Tywone Malone –– No. 53 overall, No. 4 DT

Payton Page — No. 81 overall, No. 7 DT

Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins — No. 285 overall, No. 17 DT

Javon Nelson — No. 343 overall, No. 24 SDE

Jamond Gordon — JUCO N/A DT

Demarcus Smith — N/A SDE

Note: We only included defensive tackles and strong-side defensive ends on this list because most weak-side defensive ends project as pass rushers or outside linebackers in UT’s defense 

The Vols are absolutely swinging for the fences with their defensive line targets. Tennessee is in play in some way, shape, or form, for four of the top seven defensive tackles in the 2021 class right now. But how many of those prospects do the Vols have a real shot at landing?

While Tennessee does appear to at least be on the radars of both Maason Smith and Tywone Malone, those are likely long-shots for the Vols at this point. Tennessee would likely need to get both on campus at least one more time apiece to really move the needle, and getting Smith out of Louisiana especially seems difficult. The Vols made the cut for Malone in his recent top 14, but they’re going up against some heavy hitters for his services.

Tennessee is in the race for five-star Leonard Taylor, but it looks like the Vols have some ground to make up there. Florida is the heavy favorite for the Miami defensive lineman, but Tennessee won’t be going away any time soon. Taylor — who is the No. 1 DT in the 2021 class on 247Sports — listed UT in his top five last month along with Florida, Miami, LSU, and Auburn.

The two defensive tackles the Vols have the best shot at landing, at least right now, are Payton Page and Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins.

Most accounts seem to believe Tennessee is in a two-team race with Clemson to try and land Page, though North Carolina is doing what they can to make it more interesting. Page announced this week that he will be committing sometime in July. Right now, all the crystal ball predictions on 247Sports point to Clemson landing Page, but the Vols appear to be surging and could make it interesting.

As for Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, the Vols seemed to be making a move for him earlier this offseason when he was planning on announcing his commitment in May, but he delayed that decision and named a new top six that included Tennessee. South Carolina, the in-state team for the athletic lineman, seems to be the biggest competition for UT, but Georgia and Alabama are teams to watch, too.

In-state defensive end Javon Nelson is an intriguing name to keep an eye on. Nelson had the Vols in his top 10 back in March along with a number of other SEC teams, but the question is how much of a priority is Nelson for UT? Tennessee has kept in contact with the Murfreesboro lineman, so he’s definitely at least on their board.

Jamond Gordon, a talented JUCO defensive lineman, appeared to want to commit to the Vols back in May, but he clarified that he was not committing to UT at the time after all. He holds offers from Oklahoma and three other SEC schools along with Tennessee and plays for East Mississippi Community College.

Demarcus Smith is a defensive lineman out of Alabama who visited the Vols in January for a Junior Day event then got an offer from Tennessee in mid-February, the same day South Carolina offered him. He’s also picked up offers from Ole Miss and Mississippi State over the last few months. His top seven back in May included the Vols, and he could be a player to watch during his senior season.

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