With the commitment of Under Armour All-American Punter Paxton Brooks, the Vols are now up to 21 public commitments. With numbers tight already and a lot of good players left on the board in mid-August, some might be surprised to see Tennessee use a scholarship on a punter. But there shouldn’t really be any surprise when you consider Butch Jones’s Beamer-esque focus on special teams and the success he’s had with punters in particular in his relatively short tenure at Tennessee.
While they don’t get the publicity of the Peyton Mannings and now Derek Barnetts, UT had FOUR of its former punters in the NFL last season – Dustin and Britton Colquitt, of course, along with the two Butch Jones alums in Michael Palardy (now in a training camp battle in Carolina) and Matt Darr (in his third season with Miami). Trevor Daniel will be a senior this season and is likely to continue the trend. Brooks will be competing with a handful of walk-ons starting in 2018 and will be given every chance to win the job right off the bat.
Ramifications on the 2018 Recruiting Class
With approximately four spots remaining in the 2018 class – barring attrition, of course – here are five takeaways we can glean from Butch deciding to bring on a punter.
1. No tight end in this class
Although things have been trending away from Tennessee with its top two (and arguably only) tight ends on the board in Tommy Tremble and James Mitchell, I think it’s safe to say that there won’t be another tight end in this class to go with current commitment Jacob Warren. And with the emergence of freshman Latrell Bumphus in fall camp as a future star to go with fellow projected 2018 roster tight ends Warren, Eli Wolf, Austin Pope, and James Brown (not to mention a rumored position change – odds are its freshman Princeton Fant, aka Jason Croom 2.0), the spot is in good hands.
2. Only one more receiver
It’s a virtual certainty that UT won’t have room for more than one wide receiver. While some have speculated that there was already just one spot left for a WR, there has also been speculation that UT could try to find room for two elite players. And with fellow South Floridians Shocky Jacques-Louis and Jeshaun Jones both really liking the Vols, that seemed like a possibility until last night. We’ll get into a comparison of those two prospects at another time, but suffice it to say that it is first-come, first-served at this point, because as of right now there just doesn’t appear to be room for both.
3. No second linebacker
This move also likely closes the door on taking a second linebacker in this class (cough*Cam Jones*cough). As we wrote about just a few days before he committed, current Vols linebacker commitment Matthew Flint is an outstanding prospect and a great fit for what Tennessee wants at the position. And while Jones is a nice prospect in his own right, the numbers just aren’t going to work out for him, both in terms of availability in this class as well as need on the roster with a projected 10 linebackers in 2018.
4. There’s still room for OL Jerome Carvin and CB Jaycee Horn
One thing that hasn’t changed is that the Vols are all in on offensive lineman Jerome Carvin and cornerback Jaycee Horn. Barring something incredibly unforeseen, those two have spots in this class whenever they want them. Horn is expected to make a September decision while Carvin recently postponed his commitment – one that was supposed to take place on Wednesday and likely would have been good news for the Vols. Tennessee is trending with Horn and remains the heavy favorite for Carvin despite the delay in his public announcement. Interestingly, both also really like Alabama and while the Tide has heavily recruited them at this point, neither appear to be takes for Alabama.
5. There’s still room for one more defensive end
The other thing that hasn’t changed is Tennessee’s desire to add one more defensive end. With Azeez Ojulari committing to Georgia on Thursday and Adam Anderson continuing to look like a long shot, the Vols’ defensive end board doesn’t look any different than it did when we looked at it just over a week ago. And I’m still a big fan of high floor project/prospect Kayode Oladele, who recently set his official visit to Knoxville for the September 30 game against Georgia. What is also certain is that the Vols will need to continue to recruit JUCO stud Dorian Gerald, who is one of the jewels of the class and a plug-and-play rotation guy (at worst) in 2018. He’s going to take some other official visits, and home state South Carolina won’t give up on him until he sits in his first class in Ayres Hall in January, 2018. My guess is that the same goes for the other out-of-state defensive line commitment Jamarcus Chatman. Therefore, Tennessee will continue to recruit a bunch of defensive ends and will likely expand the board during the season as more prospects emerge. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Vols look to the JUCO ranks again if they can find another instant impact prospect, especially if a guy like Jonathan Kongbo has a big season and flirts with an early entry to the NFL.