Though none of them have made a single play for the Tennessee Volunteers yet, head coach Butch Jones has found a tight end from within state borders for the third year in a row.
On Wednesday, the Vols got a much-needed and long-expected pledge from Farragut tight end Jacob Warren, a legacy whose father, James, was an offensive lineman for UT not that long ago. The athletic pass-catching weapon will need to put on 30-35 pounds and will probably benefit from a redshirt season, but he is an ideal, big-bodied athlete who has the frame to develop into a mismatch nightmare.
Now, it’s just a matter of whether Warren or either of the other two Volunteer State tight end prospects on the roster can emerge into the much-needed weapon at the position that UT needs. With former tight ends coach Larry Scott now calling the shots as the offensive coordinator, that is an exciting potential twist in the offense that could start with the emergence of senior Ethan Wolf in 2017.
If he follows through with his commitment and signs with Tennessee, Warren will join incoming freshman LaTrell Bumphus (Hardin County) and redshirt sophomore Austin Pope (Christian Academy of Knoxville) on the roster. All three were highly recruited, though none of them were 4-star prospects.
Bumphus will get his first shot on offense though teams such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida and others wanted him as a defensive end. If he flames out on that side of the ball, Bumphus could really provide a boost to the Vols off the edge on defense at a major position of need. Pope looks the part from an athleticism standpoint but needs to live in Rock Gullickson’s weight room and get stronger.
Then there’s Warren, who is 6’6″, 211 pounds and built like a receiver. However, with that massive frame, there’s nothing not to like about a prospect who could dazzle with his speed and upside at 250 pounds and has plenty of time and players in front of him to develop at his own pace. Teams such as Auburn, Oregon, Duke, Louisville, Oklahoma State and others wanted Warren; especially the Ducks where he took a visit.
In the end, he elected to stay home and follow in his father’s footsteps. Everywhere he went, he told GoVols247’s Ryan Callahan he compared it to home.
“When I went to Oregon or Duke or whatever, it was kind of like, ‘Is this place going to be able to take me away from my home and away from Tennessee and everything?’” Warren said. “When I got to all my visits, none of those schools really drew me away from Tennessee. I guess Tennessee was always in the back of my mind when I went there. I was always kind of comparing them to Tennessee, so I guess none of those schools really stood out more to me than Tennessee did.”
That’s the kind of words you want to hear from a legacy, and Jones has thrived at signing those guys in his Tennessee tenure.
In a year where it looks like Jones is going to clean up instate, the Vols have added a bunch of East Tennessee flavor they hope will help the program take the big leap into the SEC Championship Game. The other two locals are 5-star offensive tackle Cade Mays and 3-star center Ollie Lane. Toss in 4-star Chattanooga [Baylor] safety Brendon Harris and ease on over into the eastern half of Middle Tennessee where stud receiver Alontae Taylor resides, and you’ve got a pretty good cadre of local boys prepared to play for the orange and white.
Warren isn’t a guy who’s going to wow you in the rankings, but he’s a player who is going to look like a great pickup a couple of years and 40 pounds from now. The Vols desperately need one or two of these instate tight ends to hit and become weapons for the future quarterbacks.