With Tennessee losing four of their top Defensive Linemen from a unit that struggled with depth and, frankly, talent, adding a large group of talented DL in the class of 2019 is an absolute necessity. And although Tennessee has six commitments from a high-quality group of Defensive Linemen/Pass-Rushers, there is still a need for more, and Coach Pruitt and Coach Rocker are recruiting as such. However, the majority of the players on their DL board are committed elsewhere, which will make it that much more difficult to land another impact prospect at the position. At the same time, one of its DL commitments – Alabama native Ledarrius Cox – has been flirting with Auburn for almost six months.
That said, there is a player on the roster who could make a positional move and give the Vols another talented lineman to work with. That player is junior-to-be reserve TE Latrell Bumphus, a 6’3 250lb player who actually spent a few days in fall practice cross-training at DL after a high school career in West Tennessee spent as a two-way star. Ideally Bumphus would be able to spend all of spring practice at DL to give him a jump start to being an immediate contributor there, but Tennessee will need to make sure they have enough bodies at the TE position before committing to that move.
The Vols will have solid starting TE Dominick Wood-Anderson returning at the position in 2019 along with, assuming nothing changes in their respective statuses, 2018 backups Eli Wolf and Austin Pope as well as part-time TE Jaquan Blakeley. They will also bring on RS-Freshmen Jacob Warren, an intriguing prospect at 6’6 with some speed who needs to have used this season and the coming offseason to add weight and get more physical in the run game.
Currently Tennessee has two TE commitments, and one of them – Jackson Lowe – could be the key to allowing Bumpus to make that move to DL pending two important variables. For one, while Lowe has been to a bunch of Tennessee home games this season, he’s been getting quite a bit of pressure from Florida to visit the Gators officially and has also been receiving some interest from Alabama after a really nice senior season. It’s easy to forget because he committed to the Vols back in March, but the 6’5 235lb+ 4-star Lowe had legit offers from Clemson, UGA and Auburn when he committed. He’s a really nice prospect at the position and arguably comes in as the most or second-most talented TE on the roster. Almost as important when it comes to the immediate issue of moving Bumphus to DL is the chance that Lowe might be able to enroll early and go through spring practice with the Vols. That’s unclear at the moment but is something he’s been working on. Should Lowe be able to enroll in January that would give the Vols six TEs on the roster – not counting Bumphus – and then 7 when fellow 2018 commitment Sean Brown enrolls in the summer.
Obviously the Vols need to hang on to Lowe, but should they do so, and if he gets in for spring practice, he will add not just another body at TE – and a big body with potential for immediate impact at that. He would allow Tennessee to move Bumphus and give them a big body with potential for immediate impact on the DL as well. That would effectively make Lowe a 2-for-1 signee and would make up for a potential miss on another DL in the 2019 class and/or allow the staff to avoid reaching on a less-talented DL just to get another body
Monday Recruiting Notes
- The big news today is that Tyson Helton is now Tennessee’s former Offensive Coordinator and QB Coach. What that means for recruiting is unclear, but what we do know are two things:
- Helton was recruiting current 2019 QB commitment Brian Maurer, who by all indications on his Twitter feed remains firm to the Vols and is still planning to sign next month and enroll in January
- Helton was also recruiting 2020 QB prospect Harrison Bailey from Marietta, Georgia, who plans to announce his commitment to either Tennessee or Michigan this Thursday. Georgia’s 247 mods were hearing some UT buzz but it’s unclear how this news, and how fast Pruitt moves to replace Helton and with whom, will impact that commitment
- Top RB target Eric Gray, fresh off winning his 3rd Tennessee Mr. Football award – the first ever three-time winner – is a Michigan commitment in name only. However, the Wolverines are not giving up and Coach Jim Harbaugh will make an in-home visit this week, as will Pruitt. At the same time, Gray is still currently planning to take OVs to Ole Miss the 12/7 weekend and then to Alabama the 12/14 weekend of Dec. 14, with Texas A&M still fighting to get involved. So while insiders continue to feel confident that Gray is trending to the Vols this one is pretty clearly far from being a done deal
- This article from Dawgnation.com is certainly not promising when it comes to Tennessee’s chances with 5-star WR Jadon Haselwood. Per the article Haselwood plans to sign in the early period and wait to announce at the Army Game. Unfortunately for the Vols, he’s only got 1 OV left and his current plan is to take it to UGA the last weekend before the dead period (12/14). Obviously Tennessee could get him to Knoxville unofficially, but the buzz here seems to have really worn off from just a few weeks ago
- Vols appear to have offered Dyersburg, TN LB Chris Russell, a former Memphis commitment. Russell had a big senior season and has garnered additional offers from Auburn, Arkansas, and Georgia Tech. Right now he’s a February signee so the Vols have done the smart thing in offering and getting involved now. He’s likely a secondary LB target and how serious Tennessee pursues him will seemingly depend on whether they and Owen Pappoe, if so whether they land another of their LB targets like Marshall or To’oto’to; and what happens at other positions
- Speaking of Pappoe, interestingly, while the Tennessee staff will absolutely be in Grayson to see the trio of Vol commit Wanya Morris and top targets Pappoe and Kenyatta Watson, there have been no reported plans for the Auburn staff to visit their “commitment” in Pappoe. Obviously that can change, but there is a report of Auburn visiting Russell, so the absence of a report of a visit to Grayson seems at least notable