Although Butch Jones ultimately wasn’t the answer for Tennessee and left the program in the midst of its worst season ever, he did leave a relatively robust recruiting board in terms of talented players who have strong relationships with the school or at least took visits. Before we get into prospects who a new staff will add to the board, below is a look at players who’ve been linked to UT in some capacity and where Tennessee might stand right now, starting with offense:
One could make the argument that this class needs three more OL in addition to Lane and Antonutti. Unfortunately the current board doesn’t have a ton of names on it, but what it lacks in quantity it certainly makes up for in quality. It all starts, of course, with the local legend Cade Mays:
Cade Mays* – We all know about him. OL Coach Will Friend and OC Tyson Helton were in to see him yesterday, Pruitt will be in home next week. And Fulmer is all over it. Color me not shocked if we reel him back in, although it won’t be easy
Jerome Carvin – Likely down to us and UF, with the Gators having the Mullen tie, which is meaningful. I wouldn’t be surpised to see him take another visit to Knoxville before he makes a final decision, which of course would be a great sign. Carvin may not be a plug and play guy like Mays, but he’s an early enrollee who would likely be able to give some snaps on a pretty thin OL next season
Jahmir Johnson – Very good JUCO prospect who the previous staff offered and had a relationship with (he was scheduled to OV for the Vandy game but that was cancelled), and the new staff immediately offered as well. Importantly, he’s one of 4 bigtime prospects at Arizona Western (former home of Jonathan Kongbo) who have offers from and interest in. Good news is that Defensive GA Jon Shalala went out to visit the school, where he was the OL coach before coming to Tennessee, ten days ago, so there has been recent contact. On an OL bereft of both talent and numbers, he would be a big add. Hopefully the new staff can secure an OV and get firmly in the mix
Jalen Goss – A former Florida commitment, Goss is a talented player from a strong program in Valdosta, GA. A long and lean OT prospect, he’s taken an AU visit and is expected to OV to Michigan this weekend. His has been a relatively quiet recruitment, but one has to think Pruitt and Friend have good relationships in that area of GA, so we’ll see how much UT tries to get involved
The immediate need at running back is dependent to a large extent on John Kelly’s NFL decision. Should he return for 2018 he’ll team with Ty Chandler to form a very strong 1-2 punch, and behind them Carlin Fils-aime and Tim Jordan along with Anthony Grant give the Vols a strong stable of backs. If Kelly were to leave, however, things look very different. I think it’s imperative that Tennessee add another RB in this class, and depending on how things go with the two below (specifically Dixon) I wouldn’t be surprised to see the new staff throw out some more offers at the position.
LJ Dixon* – A summertime commit to the Vols, Dixon decommitted during the season after Clemson kept putting pressure on him. However, he’d defied expectations by not (yet) committing to the Tigers, and there has been talk of him wanting to take a Vols OV. With Gillespie staying on staff and a new direction for the program if Tennessee can indeed get him back to Knoxville there’s a real chance they can land his signature
Michael Barrett – Goss’s teammate, UT has been keeping Barrett warm throughout the season as it sat on two RB commits it liked. However, with the decommitment of LJ Dixon the class currently has only one RB in it and definitely needs another. Barrett played QB for Lowndes and looks to my eyes a lot like Cam Akers in that role. Michigan has made a big push (he’s already OV’d there) but he’s a talented player that likes the Vols a lot. If Pruitt is interested I think the Vols could get heavily involved.
Another spot where the decision about the return of an existing player (this time, Jauan Jennings) makes a large difference in how one feels about the position and what the class of 2018 needs. But it needs WRs for sure, and right now it has zero. I expect Pruitt to add Alontae Taylor back to the commitment list soon, but he’ll need to expand the board and get a few more in this class.
Alontae Taylor* – Taylor is taking his OV in Knoxville this weekend and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him recommit to the Vols and lock it down. He’s a really good player at a position of need, not to mention an instate stud who UGA is fighting hard for, so getting him back into the fold would be a big win for Pruitt and Co.
Shocky Jacques-Louis* – Another former WR commit, Jacques-Louis is a very good prospect who I’d love to see end up signing with the Vols. He’s completed his OVs, having taken his to Knoxville for the UGA game. He plans to sign 12/20 and expressed interest in hearing from Coach Pruitt, so if Tennessee wants to get back in this recruitment it has a narrow window.
Jaron Woodyard – Another of the Arizona Western prospects on the board, Woodyard also received an offer from the previous staff and has been quoted as saying he is saving an OV for Tennessee. That said, he appears to be a big target for Scott Frost and Nebraska, so that will be a battle – in fact, Nebraska insiders think he could pop this weekend while in Lincoln. He’s talented and an early enrollee, so at yet another position that could use both talent and raw numbers, he’s an interesting prospect
Jeshaun Jones – A good friend of Jacques-Louis and a fellow early-enrollee, Jones also took his UT OV for the UGA game. He recently got an offer from Frost and Nebraska and will be taking an OV there this weekend. He’s very talented and smooth – route running and hands are his best traits. Hopefully the Vols can get back in this one