Tennessee Football Recruiting: Grading Volunteers' 2013 Class
National signing day has come and gone. The Tennessee Volunteers finished No. 25 according to the 247Composite, which is good considering the fact that Butch Jones took over when they were No. 47. Here's a position-by-position breakdown and grading for the 2013 recruiting class.
The stories for today are undoubtedly going to revolve around Vonn Bell's surprised decision, and to a lesser degree, Joshua Dobbs flip from Arizona State. Only time will tell which one will have the bigger impact on the Vols, though I already have my suspicions.
Before we begin, I want to do a bit of shameless self-promotion with this tweet I sent out right before Malik Brown signed with the Vols:
— Daniel Hudson (@daniel3417) February 6, 2013
*All player ratings courtesy of 24/7sports.com
Ferguson, a 3-star from North Carolina, was a long-time commit to Tennessee and made it official earlier today. He also fielded offers from Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Michigan and Notre Dame.
Dobbs, a 4-star from Georgia, flipped from Arizona State on National Signing Day, though the Volunteers were known to be a strong contender for the outstanding quarterback. He chose Tennessee over Arizona State, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
Dobbs also had offers from Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Penn. What does that say about Dobbs as a quarterback? He's very smart. Go figure.
The Vols already have junior Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman on the roster, and the 2013 class of signal-callers should lock that position down for years.
Grade: B+, The Vols got exactly what they needed.
Slowly but surely, Tennessee's top target for running back were picked off by some of the nation's top programs. First, Derrick Henry chose Alabama. Then, Derrick Green opted for Michigan. Finally, Johnathan Ford went with Auburn.
The Volunteers were able to flip 3-star Jabo Lee from Eastern Carolina, but he was the only running back of the class. Lee had offers from Virginia Tech and Minnesota as well.
Lee is small and fast, much like the now departed Quenshaun Watson. In other words, the 2013 crew of running backs should look pretty similar to the 2012 group, which is basically average.
After Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal, Lee will compete with Devrin Young and Alden Hill for playing time. Under running backs coach Jay Graham, anything is possible, but this unit definitely needs some serious improvement in the 2014 class.
Grade: D+, Lee could become a nice player but only one running back hurts.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
In the 1990s, Tennessee became known as Wide Receiver U. That title was unofficially awarded to the Volunteers again for the past few seasons with players like Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Da'Rick Rogers making stops in Knoxville.
With the 2013 recruiting class, that title isn't likely to be lost. The Vols brought in the 11th-best wide receiver in the nation according to the 247Composite, Marquez North. He had offers from everywhere: Florida, Georgia, Miami, Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Virginia Tech.
Joining North are three 3-star receivers Paul Harris (early enrollee), Ryan Jenkins (flipped from Clemson in January) and Josh Smith (Knoxville-native). While North has the prototypical body of an elite receiver, Harris, Jenkins and Smith offer more in the area of speed and agility.
These four will be a part of a wide receiving unit that brought in Drae Bowles, Jason Croom and Alton "Pig" Howard one year ago. You won't find a better group of seven receivers in the country, and none of these guys are even juniors.
Grade: A+, What's there to say?
Tennessee has the best offensive line in the SEC. There, I said it. Start believing it. For the past two season, no team, including Alabama, has given up fewer sacks than the Volunteers.
And now that Alabama is losing most of their offensive line to the NFL, that leaves the Vols' line as the best in the conference.
Tennessee added Austin Sanders, Brett Kendrick and Dylan Wiesman. Sanders and Kendrick are in-state prospects from Cleveland and Knoxville, respectively. Wiesman is an Ohio-native that Butch Jones was able to bring over from Cincinnati (never committed there but was interested).
The trio had offers from Ohio State, Arkansas and West Virginia with Wiesman garnering the most interest. All three are listed as tackles, but there's no doubt that could change as they begin training, working out and practicing with the team.
You know the starters on the 2013 line. They're awesome. Reserves like Alex Bullard, Kyler Kerbyson and Mack Crowder will help round out a deep unit.
Chongo Kondolo nearly chose the Vols, which would have made the offensive-line grade higher.
Grade: B, Nice players for a strong unit; would've liked just one more.
The defensive line needs more depth and more playmakers. The 2013 recruiting class helped a little bit in both, but not as much as you would hope.
Jason Carr, who had considered Ole Miss and Alabama after Derek Dooley was fired, decided to stick with the Vols and made it official today. Carr is a 4-star end from Memphis and was highly regarded, receiving offers from LSU, Nebraska and Mississippi State.
Jaylen Miller was widely believed to be a UT guy for a while now, but he waited until national signing day to make it official. The South Carolina native is a 3-star end with offers from Florida, Nebraska, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.
Malik Brown was a late target by the Volunteers, but all's well that ends well for Tennessee. Brown flipped his commitment from Syracuse to Tennessee and also had offers from Mississippi State, South Florida and NC State.
Carr could possibly move inside, but the other two are unlikely to become defensive tackles (or at least typical-sized tackles), which means they need to make their mark as pass-rushers on the end.
With Daniel McCullers, Maurice Couch and Daniel Hood manning the middle, Jacques Smith needs a partner opposite him. Marlon Walls could be the guy, but don't be surprised if one of these three steps up and gets a lot of playing time early on.
Grade: B-, No defensive tackles is unfortunate but no reason to panic.
After missing out on 5-star Carl Lawson, the Vols didn't really have any other major linebacker targets (Malik Brown is, though more of a DE/LB).
Corey Vereen and Jalen Reeves-Maybin are both early enrollees that are listed as linebackers by the 247Composite. Vereen, 3-star from Florida, also fielded offers from Clemson, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss.
Reeves-Maybin is a 4-star from Clarksvill, Tennessee listed as an athlete by Rivals and could end up seeing plays on offense as a running back. Needless to say, he's an incredible athlete who picked the Vols over Ohio State, Ole Miss and Louisville.
Tennessee is blessed with two excellent linebackers in AJ Johnson and Curt Maggitt, but there is a gaping hole at outside linebacker with Herman Lather's departure. Kenny Bynum and Dontavis Sapp are the only two players I'd definitely put in front of either of the two 2013 recruits.
Grade: C+, It hurt to miss out on Lawson a few days ago; Reeves-Maybin is loosely termed a linebacker here, which hurts the grade.
By far the biggest gut-shot of the day was safety Vonn Bell's decision to attend Ohio State. People expected him to pick Tennessee and be the face of the 2013 class, but it just didn't work out.
The Volunteers ended up with two early enrollees, Lemond Johnson and Riyahd Jones, and Cameron Sutton. Butch Jones brought in both Johnson and Jones, which was vital for rescuing the otherwise ignored cornerback unit.
Johnson is 3-star from Florida who had a nice list of offers from schools such as LSU, Auburn and NC State. Jones is a 3-star JUCO transfer from Georgia who picked Tennessee over Kansas State and Houston.
Sutton cemented his intent to play for the Volunteers today. He's yet another 3-star player that had the option of going to schools like South Carolina, Florida and Clemson.
Athlete Malik Foreman from Kingsport, Tennessee could see some time at cornerback, too.
The Vols needed help at cornerback with only Justin Coleman and Eric Gordon providing any reliability there. This class addressed that need fairly well. The Vols did NOT need help at safety with Brian Randolph, Byron Moore, LaDarrell McNeil and Brent Brewer having that position locked down.
Indeed, Tennessee wanted Vonn Bell, but they didn't need Vonn Bell.
Grade: C, You have to factor the disappointment of not getting Bell into the grade.
Add Malik Brown to this list
Butch Jones was hired on December 7th and had to have a complete and competent signing class in-house by February 6th, less than two months. He didn't inherit a program on the rise, either.
Considering that fact, you have to be pleased with a top 25 finish. Now he'll have a team filled with players whose recruiting classes ranked 10th, 9th, 13th, 17th and now 21st in their respective years (via Rivals).
National Championship worthy? No. SEC Championship worthy? No. Worthy of serious competition and a first bowl trip in three years? Yes.
Tennessee finished second to numerous high-profile recruits like Derrick Green, Carl Lawson and Vonn Bell. If Butch Jones leads the Volunteers to a successful 2013 season, I wouldn't be surprised to have an Ole Miss-esque haul in 2014, whose situation was nearly identical to Tennessee's.
Grade: B-, Aside from Vonn Bell, the Vols hit on all their targets. The goal now is to acquire more targets from on-field success.