Tennessee Volunteers Football

Tennessee Football Recruiting: Meet the Volunteers' 2014 Class

Brad ShepardFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2014

Tennessee Football Recruiting: Meet the Volunteers' 2014 Class

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    On Wednesday, Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones etched in ink the finishing touches on his first full recruiting class, and it is one that has exceeded everybody's expectations.

    The Volunteers class is huge (32 players), and it's strong. In fact, it is ranked sixth by the 247Sports Composite Rankings, which compiles rankings from the four major recruiting services. That's frankly incredible considering that the Vols have endured four consecutive losing seasons.

    National Signing Day brought with it a bit of drama. UT won a major battle to secure Michael Sawyers, as the big 4-star defensive tackle and No. 8-ranked Tennessee recruit chose the Vols over Ole Miss and a host of others, according to GoVols247's Wes Rucker (subscription required).

    Meanwhile, Cory Thomas did the expected and flipped from UT to Mississippi State, according to MSU 247Sports' Paul Jones.

    In the end, Jones' mixture of enthusiasm, relentlessness and salesmanship revived the Power T and put "Tennessee" on the tips of prospects' tongues all across the nation.

    A depleted Vols team that was outclassed all over the football field during Jones' first season will receive a much-needed injection of youth and talent next season. Let's take a look at this massive class that has everybody on Rocky Top excited and the recruiting nation buzzing.

    Here are all the players signed by the Vols in 2014 and everything you need to know about them.

     

    All prospect information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

Josh Malone

2 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 191 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star WR (No. 5 position, No. 36 overall)

    High School: Station Camp (Gallatin, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: 71 receptions, 1,404 yards, 19 TD; 23 rushes, 227 yards, 3 TD

    Other Finalists: Clemson, Georgia

    Commit Date: Dec. 4, 2013 

     

    Analysis

    The silky smooth in-state receiver has all the intangibles to play immediately, and the best thing for the Vols is that he's already on campus and going through workouts.

    Malone brings is one of the most college-ready received that UT landed this year, and he gives wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni a much-needed injection of talent into his receiving corps. The Vols rallied in Malone's recruitment, assigning ace recruiter Tommy Thigpen to him and ultimately won his signature.

    This prize is one of the jewels of the class.

    (247Sports profile)

Jalen Hurd

3 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 227 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star RB/ATH (No. 4 position, No. 40 overall)

    High School: Beech (Hendersonville, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: Injured senior year (Junior year stats: 317 rush, 3,357 yards, 43 TD)

    Other Finalists: Ohio State, Florida

    Commit Date: March 4, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Ever since 2009, the Vols have swung and missed in terms of running-back recruitment. All of that came to an end, however, when Butch Jones made a huge early statement by securing the pledge of Jalen Hurd back in March of 2013.

    The state-record-setting runner was coveted by essentially everybody in the nation. Though his senior season was cut short when he suffered a shoulder injury, Hurd is already enrolled at UT and cleared for workouts.

    He will be given every opportunity to compete with rising senior Marlin Lane for carries and should be a major part of the offense in 2014.

    (247Sports profile)

Von Pearson

4 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 185 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star WR (No. 2 JUCO position, No. 4 JUCO overall)

    Junior College: Feather River CC (Quincy, Calif.)

    Sophomore Year Stats: 93 receptions, 1,601 yards, 12 TD

    Other Finalists: Illinois, Utah

    Commit Date: Oct. 20, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Tennessee got an absolute steal when it found Von Pearson dominating competition out in the California JUCO ranks. His HUDL highlight film is one of the most impressive around, and once UT got him to campus and laid eyes on him, the Vols wrapped up his commitment quickly.

    Pearson's speed and leaping ability make him an intriguing prospect, and if he can learn the offense quickly, watch out for him to make an immediate impact. Already in school, he's expected to battle with Josh Malone and Jason Croom to line up opposite Marquez North in 2014.

    (247Sports profile)

Todd Kelly Jr.

5 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'0, 188 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star S (No. 5 position, No. 61 overall)

    High School: Webb School (Knoxville, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: 72 tackles, 3 INT; 1,120 rushing yards; 31 total TD (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

    Other Finalists: Alabama, Ohio State

    Commit Date: March 10, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Todd Kelly Jr. cut his teeth on Tennessee football. His dad starred for UT back in the early 1990s before becoming a first-round NFL draft pick, and Kelly has spent his life in Knoxville. Still, it was considered a surprise when he committed to the Vols back in early March after having little interest in Tennessee during the Derek Dooley regime.

    Kelly was a U.S. Army All-American, and because of his natural instincts and ball-hawking ability, he has everything it takes to immediately battle incumbent LaDarrell McNeil for the starting strong safety job as a true freshman.

    (247Sports profile)

Dillon Bates

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 220 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star OLB (No. 7 position, No. 95 overall)

    High School: Ponte Vedra (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.)

    Senior Year Stats: 81 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 INT (Max Preps)

    Other Finalists: Alabama, Florida

    Commit Date: July 3, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Dillon Bates is another legacy whose father, Bill, was a star under Johnny Majors in the early 1980s before going on to an All-Pro career with the Dallas Cowboys.

    The younger Bates committed to UT over rivals Alabama and Florida in front of a national television audience at the prestigious "The Opening" showcase back in July. He was honored as an Under Armour All-American and shone on every all-star stage, drawing rave reviews for his instincts and coverage skills.

    UT has a bunch of options at outside linebacker, so it isn't a guarantee that Bates will crack the rotation but given his elite skill set, it'll be tough to keep him off the field.

    (247Sports profile)

Dewayne Hendrix

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 254 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star SDE (No. 7 position, No. 117 overall)

    High School: O'Fallon (O'Fallon, Ill.)

    Senior Year Stats: 60 tackles, 9 TFL, 8 sacks (Max Preps)

    Other Finalists: Missouri, Florida, Southern Cal

    Commit Date: Oct. 27, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Some of the top programs in the country courted Dewayne Hendrix, but UT took advantage of his family's Tennessee ties to lure the talented lineman to Knoxville.

    Throughout his recruitment, Hendrix admitted to being a lifelong UT fan due to his family originally hailing from Memphis. With teams like Florida and Southern Cal coming after him, he had plenty of options, but Hendrix stayed true to his first love. Even with a late second visit to Mizzou, he stuck with UT.

    With the Vols needing tons of help rushing the passer, Hendrix will have every opportunity to play immediately, and he'll be firmly in the rotation as a true freshman.

    (247Sports profile)

Derrell Scott

8 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 180 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star All-Purpose RB (No. 3 position, No. 126 overall)

    High School: Havelock (Havelock, N.C.)

    Senior Year Stats: 2,148 rush yards, 25 TD

    Other Finalists: South Carolina, Florida

    Commit Date: Jan. 27, 2014

     

    Analysis

    Most of the drama already had taken place for Butch Jones' first full recruiting class, but Derrell Scott provided some late-cycle excitement when he chose Tennessee over SEC East rivals South Carolina and Florida a little more than a week before National Signing Day. UT overcame the longtime favorite Gamecocks thanks to a thin depth chart and an ace recruiting job by running backs coach Robert Gillespie.

    Blessed with great balance and speed, Scott is exactly the type of all-around back who will thrive in Jones' offense, and he could carve an immediate niche as a third-down back.

    (247Sports profile)

Cortez McDowell

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 200 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star S (No. 12 position, No. 178 overall)

    High School: Locust Grove (Locust Grove, Ga.)

    Senior Year Stats: 92 tackles, 4 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 3 INT (Max Preps)

    Other Finalists: Auburn, Georgia, Florida State

    Commit Date: July 16, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Tennessee beat out some of the South's top football programs to earn Cortez McDowell's commitment, and the two-sport star has the body type to project at a couple of different positions for UT on the football field.

    Though he'll start his career as a hard-hitting safety, some analysts believe his future is at outside linebacker. With UT's need to upgrade athleticism on the back level, McDowell will compete with Todd Kelly Jr. and LaDarrell McNeil to start alongside Brian Randolph. He also expects to play baseball for Dave Serrano's Vols.

    (247Sports profile)

Daniel Helm

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 225 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star TE (No. 5 position, No. 198 overall)

    High School: Glenwood (Chatham, Ill.)

    Senior Year Stats: 35 receptions, 565 yards, 13 TD (UTSports.com)

    Other Finalists: Ole Miss, Michigan, Illinois

    Commit Date: April 23, 2013

     

    Analysis

    One of the top pass-catching high school tight ends in the nation, Daniel Helm's commitment to UT was one of the first tangible signs that Butch Jones' message was reaching past state lines.

    Helm certainly has a golden opportunity to step right in and earn a starting spot for the Vols. Incumbent starter Brendan Downs is coming off a woeful junior season and is injured, and A.J. Branisel is still recovering from a torn ACL. That means Helm and classmate Ethan Wolf will battle former walk-on Alex Ellis for major reps this spring. Both freshmen tight ends are mid-term enrollees, and both should carve out a niche in UT's 2014 offense.

    (247Sports profile)

Derek Barnett

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3.5", 265 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star SDE (No. 13 position, No. 206 overall)

    High School: Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: 66 tackles, 5.5 sacks

    Other Finalists: Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Missouri

    Commit Date: Oct. 9, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Though Tennessee is not a state usually known for producing a ton of defensive line talent, Derek Barnett headed a strong class of big men in the 2014 class. When the 2013 Mr. Football Award winner in his classification pledged to UT over Vanderbilt, it gave the Vols a very versatile lineman who could project to a couple of places across the line.

    Though he's listed as a defensive end, Barnett could grow into a defensive tackle for the Vols. It's always difficult to project freshmen starting on the defensive line, but given that UT graduated six players from their regular rotation in 2013, the opportunity exists for Barnett to win immediate reps.

    (247Sports profile)

Dontavius Blair

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'8", 303 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star OT (No. 4 JUCO position, No. 8 JUCO overall)

    Junior College: Garden City CC (Garden City, Kan.)

    Sophomore Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida State

    Commit Date: Oct. 8, 2013

     

    Analysis

    There's no question Dontavius Blair is one of the most important commitments in the entire recruiting class.

    With all five of Tennessee's starting offensive linemen leaving for the NFL, offensive line coach Don Mahoney desperately needed to fill a major void at left tackle. Though he still has to earn the job, Blair looks to be the favorite to take over the big shoes of departed junior Tiny Richardson, who left early for the NFL.

    Blair still has some conditioning work to do, but given that he's an early enrollee who'll be going through spring drills, it's the best-case scenario for a UT team that needs him to be great right away.

    (247Sports profile)

D'Andre Payne

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 5'9.5", 175 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star CB (No. 22 position, No. 264 overall)

    High School: Woodson (Washington, D.C.)

    Senior Year Stats: 70 tackles, 4 INT (UTSports.com)

    Other Finalists: Florida State, Maryland, Vanderbilt

    Commit Date: April 4, 2013

     

    Analysis

    There are few questions about the athletic ability of D'Andre Payne, one of UT's early prizes in the class who was targeted by some of the nation's top programs. The only concern was his size.

    Since Payne arrived on campus in December, however, he has added weight and is already learning the defense. That is good news for a UT team that is lacking proven playmakers at cornerback.

    Whether Payne projects on the boundary or at nickel back is yet to be determined, but there is plenty of playing time available at nickel corner, and that's a safe bet on where he'll get his first look.

    (247Sports profile)

Gavin Bryant

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'1.5", 230 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star ILB (No. 10 position, No. 271 overall)

    High School: Jackson (Jackson, Ala.)

    Senior Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: Auburn, Miami

    Commit Date: June 17, 2013

     

    Analysis

    One of the most athletic linebackers in UT's class, Gavin Bryant could be a steal if he qualifies. It isn't every year that teams can go into the state of Alabama and pull a 4-star linebacker away from Alabama and Auburn, but Bryant has a chance to be special.

    He is a prototypical SEC middle linebacker, with speed and size. While Miami made a late push and Auburn showed some interest, Bryant stuck tight with lead recruiter Tommy Thigpen and should work his way onto the depth chart by his second year.

    (247Sports profile)

Chris Weatherd

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3.5", 220 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star OLB (No. 1 JUCO position, No. 18 JUCO overall)

    Junior College: Trinity Valley CC (Athens, Texas)

    Sophomore Year Stats: 24 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FF

    Other Finalists: Texas A&M, Auburn

    Commit Date: May 31, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Teams don't recruit junior-college players to ride the bench, so Chris Weatherd will have every opportunity to battle Jalen Reeves-Maybin for the only open outside linebacker spot. The Texas native certainly looks the part, standing nearly 6'4" and being blessed with speed and athleticism.

    Weatherd was coveted by many of the nation's top programs, turning away Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin numerous times to stick with Tennessee and defensive coordinator John Jancek. You always worry about JUCO kids wrapping up schoolwork and getting on campus, but if Weatherd makes it to Knoxville in time, he'll be firmly in the rotation in 2014.

    (247Sports profile)

Charles Mosley

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 350 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star DT/OG (No. 23 position, No. 282 overall)

    High School: Brighton (Brighton, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: Alabama

    Commit Date: Dec. 9, 2013

     

    Analysis

    The Vols caught and passed rival Alabama in the recruitment of the big West Tennessee two-way lineman.

    While UT will start Mosley on the defensive line, some analysts think he fits better long-term as an offensive guard. Regardless, he will settle fine in either place for the Vols, who have needs at both positions.

    One of the most entertaining recruits in this cycle, Mosley announced his decision in a unique way: via his hair (h/t Troy Machir of the Sporting News). He has some work to do on his body to be able to endure the SEC grind, but there is playing time to be had on both lines if Mosley shines.

    (247Sports profile)

Evan Berry

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 195 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 4-star CB/ATH (No. 28 position, No. 289 overall)

    High School: Creekside (Fairburn, Ga.)

    Senior Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: N/A

    Commit Date: Nov. 4, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Tennessee fans have known about "the Berry twins"—Evan and brother Elliott—for several years now, mainly because they're the younger siblings of former UT all-world safety Eric Berry. Their father, James, was a team captain for Johnny Majors back in the '80s as well.

    Evan is the higher-rated of the twins, and while he doesn't have nearly the same accolades as Eric did coming out of high school, Evan is a speed-burning, all-purpose athlete who can play several positions.

    He wants to start out on offense, but his highest ceiling is at cornerback, which happens to be one of UT's biggest needs. That's probably where he'll settle.

    (247Sports profile)

Ethan Wolf

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5.5", 247 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star TE (No. 14 position, No. 325 overall)

    High School: Minster (Minster, Ohio)

    Senior Year Stats: 41 receptions, 475 yards, 5 TD (UTSports.com)

    Other Finalists: Alabama, Michigan State, Nebraska

    Commit Date: April 10, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Already on campus and participating in workouts, Ethan Wolf is an under-the-radar commit who could have an immediate impact for Butch Jones.

    With UT's struggles at tight end in 2013 and with the Vols needing blocking help on the offensive line, it's hard to see a scenario where the imposing Wolf doesn't get serious gameday reps. He has surprisingly soft hands as well, and as a prototype in-line tight end, he will be a major benefit for UT's running game in the SEC.

    (247Sports profile)

Michael Sawyers

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 300 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star DT/OG (No. 28 position, No. 368 overall)

    High School: Ensworth (Nashville, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: 29 tackles, 6 TFL, 1.5 sacks

    Other Finalists: Ole Miss

    Commit Date: Feb. 5, 2014

     

    Analysis

    Once a long-time Vanderbilt commitment, Nashville defensive tackle Michael Sawyers reopened his recruitment options once James Franklin bolted to Penn State, and, like Jashon Robertson, he committed to UT.

    The Vols became a big-time player for his signature very late in the process, and Sawyers visited Knoxville last weekend. He chose Tennessee over Ole Miss on National Signing Day, giving Butch Jones a cherry on top of his already outstanding 2014 class.

    Though he's a 247Sports Composite 3-star, he is a 4-star prospect according to three of the four major recruiting services (minus Scout). Sawyers struggled during his senior season, but he has one of the biggest upsides of any in-state defensive tackle, and he is very explosive at the point of attack. There is plenty of immediate playing time to be had as well.

    (247Sports profile)

Joe Henderson

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 230 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star WDE (No. 20 position, No. 378 overall)

    High School: Shaker Heights (Cleveland, Ohio)

    Senior Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: Wisconsin, West Virginia

    Commit Date: May 30, 2013

     

    Analysis

    The past few years haven't been kind to the Volunteers' pass rush, so when Butch Jones went back into his old Ohio stomping grounds to pull Joe Henderson, it was a very important recruiting victory.

    Henderson is the perfect weak-side defensive end, as he is tall, quick and possesses a projectable frame that can add weight and still allow him to rush the passer.

    He needs to work on his strength, which made it even more disappointing when he had to finish a class that kept him from being a mid-term enrollee as previously expected. Instead, Henderson will enroll this summer and is likely facing a redshirt year in 2014.

    (247Sports profile)

RaShaan Gaulden

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 178 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star S (No. 33 position, No. 407 overall)

    High School: Independence (Spring Hill, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: 207 tackles, 4 INT, 3 FF

    Other Finalists: Vanderbilt, South Carolina

    Commit Date: July 20, 2013

     

    Analysis

    RaShaan Gaulden may not be a name many around the country currently know, but the biggest sleeper in Tennessee's recruiting class will be a household name sooner rather than later.

    His 207 tackles accumulated against solid competition last season were eye-popping, but even more impressive is his versatility. Gaulden could carve a niche immediately as a rangy nickel back who gets on the field in 2014. Long-term, he may be a better fit at safety, but it'll be impossible to keep him off the field. He will get some playing time in 2014 and be a future star.

    (247Sports profile)

Treyvon Paulk

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 5'9", 195 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star RB (No. 28 position, No. 436 overall)

    High School: Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.)

    Senior Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: Miami, North Carolina, Ole Miss

    Commit Date: March 15, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Treyvon Paulk played in the same backfield as Auburn freshman Peyton Barber as a junior at Milton High and was poised to have an even more impressive season once he took the reigns full-time in 2013. Unfortunately, that was before he suffered a knee injury.

    Now, Paulk is rehabbing, and it could affect his freshman year in Knoxville. Regardless of what happens with Paulk's status next season, he has major upside for the future. His blend of strength and speed should bode well down the road for the Vols.

    With Jalen Hurd and Derrell Scott coming in this class as well, the backfield is crowded, but Paulk isn't scared of competition.

    (247Sports profile)

Owen Williams

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 280 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star DT (No. 17 JUCO position, No. 113 JUCO overall)

    Junior College: Butler CC (El Dorado, Kan.)

    Sophomore Year Stats: 48 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 1 FF (UTSports.com)

    Other Finalists: Texas Tech

    Commit Date: Nov. 24, 2013

     

    Analysis

    When defensive line coach Steve Stripling flipped Owen Williams from Texas Tech to Tennessee in late November, it was met with little fanfare. At the time, UT had a commitment from DaVonte Lambert, and Williams was thought of as being depth fodder.

    Lambert has since committed to Auburn, and Williams is already turning heads in Knoxville as an early enrollee, looking like an evaluation gem.

    Though he doesn't have prototypical size for an SEC interior lineman, he is aggressive and relentless rushing the passer and is expected to battle for an immediate starting spot after the Vols lost all four starters along the front from last season.

    (247Sports profile)

Vic Wharton

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 188 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star ATH/WR/CB (No. 43 position, No. 488 overall)

    High School: Independence (Nashville, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: 519 rush yards, 56 receptions, 1,039 receiving yds, 24 TD; 48 tackles, 6 INT

    Other Finalists: Notre Dame, Mississippi State

    Commit Date: Dec. 25, 2012

     

    Analysis

    Vic Wharton isn't among the highest-rated commitments in this recruiting class, but nobody would argue with him being the MVP. Butch Jones' first commit pledged all the way back on Christmas Day 2012, and he immediately went to work to help recruit his peers via word-of-mouth and social media.

    He was instrumental in putting together this class. Wharton then went out and had an uber-impressive senior year that drew attention from Notre Dame and others. While he can play on either side of the ball, Wharton will start his UT career as a slot receiver and should play a key role at the position in a couple of years.

    (247Sports profile)

Jashon Robertson

25 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 295 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star DT/OG (No. 30 position, No. 567 overall)

    High School: Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: 74 tackles, 14 TFL, 4 sacks, 5 PBU

    Other Finalists: Vanderbilt, Penn State

    Commit Date: Jan. 15, 2014

     

    Analysis

    For the better part of two years, Jashon Robertson had his heart set on attending Tennessee's in-state rival Vanderbilt. Then, James Franklin bolted for Penn State.

    Once the Vols began recruiting Robertson heavily, the courtship didn't last long before he pledged to UT, joining his friend Jalen Hurd.

    Much like fellow in-state lineman Charles Mosley, Robertson's future could be on either line. Where he ends up remains in the air, though UT is expected to start him on defense. Regardless, it's difficult to see Robertson helping much in 2014, but he is a prospect to watch in the future.

    (247Sports profile)

Dimarya Mixon

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3.5", 265 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star DT/SDE (No. 40 position, No. 578 overall)

    High School: West Mesquite (Mesquite, Texas)

    Senior Year Stats: 48 tackles, 12 TFL, 2 sacks (UTSports.com)

    Other Finalists: Nebraska, Missouri, Boise State

    Commit Date: Nov. 9, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Dimarya Mixon committed to Nebraska a year ago but failed to qualify and sat out the 2013 football season.

    After a crazy recruiting cycle this time around, he ultimately chose UT and enrolled mid-term in Knoxville. Like a lot of UT's defensive line pledges, Mixon is versatile, having the body type and athleticism to play either inside or outside. He will likely remain as a strong-side defensive end, and while he has some conditioning work to do, he should be able to help the Vols in a couple of years.

    He's a nice prospect who is a bit underrated because of his one-year hiatus.

    (247Sports profile)

Coleman Thomas

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 297 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star C/OG (No. 8 position, No. 639 overall)

    High School: Fort Chiswell (Max Meadows, Va.)

    Senior Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: Florida State, Virginia Tech, West Virginia

    Commit Date: March 9, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Coleman Thomas committed way back in March before his recruitment really even started, and he has the versatility to play any position on the offensive line.

    Coaches love his size and athleticism, and he is expected to be thrown in the mix right away to battle for that wide-open right tackle position with Austin Sanders and Brett Kendrick.

    It's always difficult for a true freshman to play on the offensive line, but Thomas is one who may just seize the opportunity. If not, he at least should be firmly in the rotation in 2014.

    (247Sports profile)

Neiko Creamer

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    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 218 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star ATH (No. 50 position, No. 638 overall)

    High School: Eastern Christian (Bear, Del.)

    Senior Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: Boston College, Rutgers, Syracuse

    Commit Date: March 11, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Yet another legacy, Neiko Creamer's father Andre played in the secondary and on special teams for Johnny Majors back in the mid-1980s. The younger Creamer decided to follow in his father's footsteps and commit to UT back in March, and the jumbo athlete can play many different positions.

    He will start at wide receiver, but tight end, defensive end or outside linebacker are not out of the question for him in the future. Creamer has a big body and surprising athleticism and would prefer to stay on offense.

    It'll be tough to keep an athlete of his stature off the field, but he won't contribute much in 2014 as he settles on where he'll play.

    (247Sports profile)

Jakob Johnson

29 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 240 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star ILB (No. 28 position, No. 643 overall)

    High School: Jean Ribault (Jacksonville, Fla.)

    Senior Year Stats: 93 tackles, 15 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 FF

    Other Finalists: Tulane, Central Florida, Wisconsin

    Commit Date: Nov. 24, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Though he wasn't highly recruited, German-born Jakob Johnson was a favorite of linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen and committed to UT.

    He is already enrolled, and early reports out of Knoxville are saying that he is a freakish specimen who looks poised to take the reins from A.J. Johnson at middle linebacker once he leaves for the NFL after 2014.

    Johnson has just one year of American football in the states under his belt, so he's raw. But if he can grasp things fundamentally and technique-wise, the size and athleticism are there.

    (247Sports profile)

Ray Raulerson

30 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 278 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star OT (No. 80 position, No. 846 overall)

    High School: Plant (Tampa, Fla.)

    Senior Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt

    Commit Date: July 18, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Tennessee didn't sign the offensive line class it wanted in this cycle, but Ray Raulerson is a player who offensive line coach Don Mahoney believes fits into his system as a future guard.

    The Vols are stout on the interior of the line with Dylan Wiesman, Marcus Jackson, Kyler Kerbyson and Mack Crowder, so it's tough to see Raulerson cracking the rotation as a true freshman. That will give him time to develop and settle into a side.

    Another bonus is that Raulerson played at one of the powerhouse high school programs nationally and is friends with elite 2015 lineman Jake Fruhmorgan, who is an Alabama legacy. The Vols are in the mix for Fruhmorgan's services as well.

    (247Sports profile)

Emmanuel Moseley

31 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 165 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star CB (No. 59 position, No. 858 overall)

    High School: Dudley (Greensboro, N.C.)

    Senior Year Stats: 1,443 rush yards, 1,370 passing yards, 47 TD; 28 tackles, 4 INT (UTSports.com)

    Other Finalists: North Carolina State, Charlotte

    Commit Date: Sept. 10, 2013

     

    Analysis

    When the Vols flipped little-known Emmanuel Moseley from Charlotte, he was a 2-star prospect with no major offers. But secondary coach Willie Martinez saw him at camp, fell in love with his blazing speed and ability and took a chance.

    Moseley committed, became one of the top prep playmakers in the state of North Carolina as a senior and received several more high-level offers.

    Now that he's enrolled, UT is trying to put weight on him. His body is a work in progress, but it's tough to keep 4.3 speed off the field on a team desperately needing speed. A redshirt is likely, but given UT's need for quality corners, he could play his way into the rotation.

    (247Sports profile)

Elliott Berry

32 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 191 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star S/OLB (No. 61 position, No. 741 overall)

    High School: Creekside (Fairburn, Ga.)

    Senior Year Stats: N/A

    Other Finalists: N/A

    Commit Date: Nov. 4, 2013

     

    Analysis

    The other Berry brother is a speedy athlete who can play multiple positions. While a lot of people projected he'd wind up an outside linebacker, he recently told Volquest's Austin Price that he'd start his career at nickel (subscription required).

    His athleticism and bloodlines make him more than a project. Though Elliott isn't expected to help right away, UT has never had a Berry who didn't work hard and perform well, so it's hard to see him not playing a significant role in the future.

    Berry should redshirt and wait his turn, but he's the kind of athlete who hasn't yet blossomed and could have a bright future when he does. Playing with a chip on his shoulder won't hurt, either.

    (247Sports profile)

Aaron Medley

33 of 33

    247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 170 lbs.

    Position/Ranking: 3-star K (No. 6 position, No. 1,143 overall)

    High School: Marshall County (Lewisburg, Tenn.)

    Senior Year Stats: 3/6 FG (44 long, 39 ypp)

    Other Finalists: Oklahoma, Texas A&M

    Commit Date: May 22, 2013

     

    Analysis

    Aaron Medley is a lifelong UT fan who is rated as the nation's top place kicker by the prestigious Kohl's Professional Kicking Camp. The top recruiting sites in the nation don't rate him that high, but the Middle Tennessee native received plenty of interest, choosing UT over offers from Oklahoma and Texas A&M along with serious interest from Ohio State and others.

    Medley's future is as a place kicker, and he owns a big-time leg. With Michael Palardy out of eligibility, the kicking job is wide-open in 2014, and Medley will be given every opportunity to win it.

    (247Sports profile)

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