Tennessee Football Recruiting: Vols' National Signing Day Wish List
The Tennessee Volunteers join the rest of the college football world in their anticipation of National Signing Day on February 6th. As is the case seemingly every year, the Vols are in the running for a number of top-flight recruits and have a short recruiting wish list for National Signing Day.
The biggest names still on the Vols' radar are Carl Lawson (4th overall recruit), Derrick Green (8th overall) and Vonn Bell (32nd overall). A wish list is different than a dream list, in my opinion, so you won't see "snag all three 5-stars" on this list. Let's keep things reasonable.
At the same time, a wish list isn't a grocery list!
Butch Jones is an ambitious coach with a serious plan to get the Big Orange back on the winning track, and the wishes for the 2013 recruiting class are no less ambitious.
Let's get this started.
Hold on to Jason Carr and Dan Skipper
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First things first. Tennessee wants to keep players that have already committed to the staff. It does no good to fill a bucket that has a hole in the bottom.
Both Jason Carr and Dan Skipper committed to the previous coaching staff in January and June of last year, respectively, and need to develop a rapport with the new staff soon.
Carr is a defensive end from Memphis, which makes him a tough recruit from the get-go. While in-state, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU are all closer to Memphis than Knoxville. A commit from Indianapolis would be closer.
Suffice it to say, the "stay in-state" card doesn't work with Memphis and Carr. Butch Jones needs to appeal to him in other ways and is no doubt trying to do so, even while Carr takes serious visits to other schools.
Carr's main interests outside of the Vols are Alabama and Ole Miss.
After going to print, Jason Carr decided to cancel his visit to Ole Miss and informed Butch Jones and Steve Stripling of his intentions to sign with the Tennessee Volunteers.
Skipper committed to Tennessee's former offensive line coach Sam Pittman who is now at Arkansas. Logically, that is now the school that the Volunteers are dueling for the 6'10", 295-pound offensive tackle from Colorado.
It really comes down to Skipper's relationship with Pittman versus his dedication to the entirety of the Tennessee program. He just visited Arkansas and will be looking at Ohio State and Ole Miss before signing.
Receive Marquez North's Commitment
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Recruiting news goes in waves as players visit a campus, talk about it for a few days afterward, and then move on to their next visit. A week ago, Marquez North was the first name in Tennessee recruiting news.
Since then, North has visited North Carolina, most likely Tennessee's biggest contender for the 4-star wide receiver's services. He's from Charlotte and is rated as the No. 1 recruit in the state.
After losing Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Zach Rogers (and Mychal Rivera, to boot), the Volunteers are starting fresh at wideout. There's a lot of talent at wide receiver, albeit inexperienced, with Alton "Pig" Howard, Jason Croom, Drae Bowles and 2013 early enrollee Paul Harris and commit Ryan Jenkins.
But North would undoubtedly be one of, if not the most talented of the group.
At 6'3", 205 pounds, he's a prototypical wide receiver. With offers from Florida, Ohio State, Oregon, Alabama, Georgia and virtually every other big-time college program, he's a prototypical major recruit.
Receiving the commitment and signature on National Signing Day of North is a big item on the Vols' wish list.
Flip Davin Bellamy from Florida State
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Davin Bellamy has a ton of personality. I say this having never met him or even heard his voice, but he's a great Twitter follow.
He likes to have fun with over-aggressive fans on Twitter, retweeting every "please come to [insert college football program]." He even joked (I think) that Butch Jones called him at night just to say he loved him!
(By the way, if that's not a joke, then that's what I call some serious recruiting.)
Besides being an active guy with a keen sense of humor, Bellamy happens to be a 3-star defensive end currently committed to Florida State. He also has offers from basically every major college program.
While Bellamy would be a great on-field addition for Tennessee, he seems to be the type of player that others gravitate to, rally around. He has some leadership potential because he's both vocal and sharp.
He hinted that if he were to sign with the Volunteers, he wouldn't be the only "big, big name" to do so. Bellamy could be one of those domino recruits, where if he were to commit to Tennessee, several others might follow.
Then again, I could be reading to much into it. National Signing Day just needs to get here!
Furthermore, flipping a commit from Florida State would be a great sign for the future.
Land Carl Lawson, Vonn Bell or Derrick Green
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Alas, we reach the coveted 5-stars. Recruiting is more of an art than a science, but Tennessee (and everyone else) would rather gamble on a 5-star than a 3-star.
And even if the 5-star doesn't pan out, receiving his commitment is at least a signal that the program is viewed positively in the college football world. After all, these players could go anywhere.
The Tennessee Volunteers are in the running for no less than three 5-star players: Carl Lawson, Vonn Bell and Derrick Green.
Lawson, a linebacker/defensive end from Georgia, is committed to Auburn but reopened his recruitment when Gene Chizik was fired. Tommy Thigpen, Tennessee cornerbacks coach, was key to his committed at Auburn, which certainly gives the Vols an in.
Lawson just finished his official visit with Tennessee (no. 52) and is on his way to North Carolina next weekend. This looks like it could come down to him sticking with Auburn or flipping to Tennessee.
Chattanooga-native Vonn Bell earned his fifth star at safety just a few days ago in Rivals' last ranking update. Unfortunately, Butch Jones' staff started behind with him because of issues with in-state recruiting from the last coaching staff, but he's done a great job in catching up.
Jones and the entire defensive coaching staff visited Bell over the weekend, and the visit went well. This weekend, Bell takes his last official visit with the Vols. You love being the last to host to a player on campus.
Finally, Derrick Green is a stud running back from Virginia who has narrowed his college choice down to Michigan, Auburn and Tennessee. He'll announce this Saturday, January 26th, but Michigan is the favorite.
Jay Graham has recruited Green hard, no doubt selling him on the possibility of starting three, if not four full years on Rocky Top. Also, of the remaining schools, Tennessee is the closest the Green's hometown, too.
Getting any one of these three 5-stars would be terrific, putting that goal on the wish list.
Finish in the Top 15
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If the Volunteers' National Signing Day Wish List comes true or comes close, a top-15 recruiting class ranking is not only hopeful, it's probable.
Butch Jones took over a 2013 class that was softly ranked 27th according to Rivals and immediately plummeted to the low-40s after three 3-star players decommited (thus, the "softly ranked").
His staff regained its footing, developed an aggressive strategy of in-home and on-campus visits, and is in the final stretch of a quick eight-week sprint. He cracked the top 25 a week ago and is now hovering around 30, primed for another surge in the rankings when players start committing.
Retaining the key pieces already committed, grabbing a 5-star (or two??) and wrapping up with a couple other excellent prospects would yield a top-15 class, the first year-over-year ranking increase since 2009.