After the Thursday commitment of stud JUCO Defensive End Dorian Gerald,, the Vols now have 17 public commitments (seven of which are early enrollees, by the way) and a class firmly in the top five nationally. With only about eight spots left roughly seven months from National Signing Day, the UT staff is in an enviable spot of being able to be extremely picky with how they fill out the class. At this point, it seems highly unlikely you’ll see any “reaches” for lower level prospects as the board is stocked with elite players at each position.
And while it really is incredible to have this many high level commitments at this point in the cycle, it is more likely than not that the Vols add multiple commitments before the summer is over. A number of big time targets, for whom UT is in a range of “great shape” like WR Shocky Jacques-Louis, LB Cam Jones and fellow Cordovan OL Jerome Carvin to “firmly in the mix” like DE Azeez Ojulari, LB/DE Richard Jibunor and TE Tommy Tremble, are expected to make summer decisions. The Vols are in a major battle with other SEC powers for Ojulari, but have received two campus visits since the spring and are in the top two (but likely trailing at this point) for Jibunor and Tremble with Auburn and Notre Dame, respectively.
In an interesting development in terms of timing, three other very important and elite prospects that would probably fit into the “firmly in the mix” group, are visiting on July 20 for Tennessee’s last camp of the summer:
A big time defensive tackle prospect who is probably the only remaining non-defensive end the Vols would take on the defensive line. He’s just that good, and as everyone knows, you can’t have too many elite DL. Most think that while the Vols are in the final two at the moment for Mustipher, they trail Penn State, a school he’s visited multiple times. Mustipher is scheduled to attend PSU’s big recruiting event shortly before coming back to Knoxville for what would be his third visit to campus. He could decide at any time, and there is some thought that he might not even make it out of Happy Valley without committing to the Nittany Lions. If he does, however, the Vols could find themselves in a prime spot with the opportunity to seal the deal on another elite DT and continue to add to an unprecedented haul on the DL.
Along with the aforementioned Tremble, Mitchell is one of two tight ends that the Vols would realistically like to pair with local product Jacob Warren. Thought to likely be a slight Virginia Tech lean at the moment, the Big Stone Gap, VA prospect will also be on campus for his third visit on the 20th. Given how much Scott likes the TE spot in his offense, you know he’d like to add another elite talent here. However, as we have talked about before, I am of the opinion that if the Vols miss on both Tremble and Mitchell they shouldn’t take another TE in this class. That makes this visit incredibly important. Mitchell’s decision timeline isn’t as well-known as some other prospects, but this is probably one of the last chances to impress him with an on campus visit other than a potential official visit.
This will actually be the 4th visit for this elite cornerback and is by far the most surprising visitor. After coming to Orange Carpet Day just a few weeks ago and seemingly enjoying himself yet again, Horn abruptly (and somewhat shockingly) cut the Vols and named a final two of Alabama and South Carolina as well as a decision date of July 15th. However, after some recent pro-UT activity on Twitter, news broke on Wednesday night that not only is Horn unlikely to make a commitment in a week or so, but he’s now set to visit Knoxville again on the 20th. While the Vols have two defensive back commitments that they love in Brandon Cross and Tanner Ingle, both of them are probably more suited for either nickelback or even safety. A truly elite cover corner is one of the very few missing pieces in this class, and if the staff was somehow able to not only get back into this recruitment but actually land Horn, it would check that box in an emphatic manner.
What Butch Jones and Co. are getting done with this class is very impressive. As the dead period comes to an end soon, the rest of July is going to be incredibly interesting. With a handful of high level prospects set to make decisions and three big time targets scheduled to visit campus as they wrap up their respective decisions, there could be more fireworks as the Vols add to a class that is shaping up to be Butch’s finest.