Tennessee's 2015 National Signing Day Wish List
With national signing day just two weeks away, the Tennessee Volunteers are basically in maintenance mode with their fifth-ranked recruiting class.
The Vols have 28 commitments, and after taking a huge class in 2014, there simply aren't that many spots remaining. That doesn't mean, however, that they're finished in this cycle.
A couple of positions remain needs, and there are a few prospects left on the recruiting board who would be luxuries for a roster rebuilt and seemingly ready to win.
UT has met most of its needs, but there are still holes, especially at offensive tackle. There are a couple of players left on the board who could fill that role nicely.
Also, the Vols have a couple of longtime commitments worth sweating in the days leading up to signing day. Then there's another target who has been high on the Vols forever but still hasn't pulled the trigger.
The way head coach Butch Jones has recruited the past two years, there hasn't been a ton of late-January and early-February drama. It's much the same this year.
None of the players on this list will break a strong class if they don't commit. But a couple could push a great class to elite if they decide on the Vols.
Let's take a look at six players who are on Tennessee's wish list or who the Vols want to keep on that list leading up to February 4.
Offensive Tackle Drew Richmond
Without question, the biggest miss by the Vols in this recruiting season was 4-star offensive tackle Drew Richmond of Memphis University School.
The 6'5", 310-pound lineman chose Ole Miss over Tennessee back on September 9, ending the Vols' two-year pursuit of him, as he decided to stay close to home and play for the Rebels.
Despite his pledge, Richmond has remained in contact with UT coaches, and it will be interesting to see how solid he is to the Rebels following his visit to Oxford this weekend.
According to GoVols 247's Ryan Callahan, UT stood a good chance to earn an 11th-hour visit from the huge target at a major position of need:
Tennessee's hopes of stealing Richmond from Ole Miss appeared to have faded just a few weeks ago. But the Vols recently have started to sneak back into the picture, and it's not out of the question that he could visit the Vols next weekend. An assistant coach at his school told 247Sports this week that Richmond might decide to extend his recruitment beyond National Signing Day to give himself more time to weigh his options and perhaps visit another school or two.
Right now, it appears Tennessee and Alabama are the only two teams with a realistic chance of plucking Richmond from Hugh Freeze. If UT can somehow get Richmond to flip, it would be an almost perfect class for Jones.
Not only would he have met his needs and signed another nationally regarded class, he'd have gotten everybody in the state that he coveted most. He's needed for perception, his talent and because he is an elite player at the place UT needs difference-makers the most.
Wide Receiver Preston Williams
For more than a year and a half, 5-star wide receiver Preston Williams has been committed to Tennessee. Now, in the shadows of national signing day, he is looking at some other options.
The good news for the Vols is his weekend visit to Auburn was cut short, as he left early, according to 247Sports' Keith Niebhur. UT will have to sweat some late mutual interest between Williams and home-state Georgia, but if the Vols can weather that, he'll likely stick.
Tennessee really needs to keep a talent of Williams' caliber in the fold.
The Vols' uncertainty on their offensive staff may not be helping with Williams, either. Former offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian left Knoxville last week to be Lovie Smith's quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay.
Since UT wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni (who is close with Williams) is a candidate to become the head coach at his alma mater of Central Michigan, according to the Detroit Free Press' Brian Manzullo, Williams' commitment is worth watching.
Despite tearing knee ligaments late in the season, Williams proved time and time again in camps and national all-star situations that he was one of the top pass-catchers in the country. Though UT is loaded at receiver, he has the size and skill set to come right in and play.
That's why Tennessee needs to hang on to him. After this weekend, it doesn't seem Auburn is a viable threat, but Georgia bears watching, especially if he makes a visit there next weekend. Williams is currently expected to visit Knoxville, and if that happens, it would be stunning if he doesn't stick.
Offensive Tackle Patrick Allen
Maryland 4-star offensive tackle Patrick Allen has been torn between Tennessee and Georgia for some time now, with an ultimate decision expected on national signing day.
Right now, he seems to be a little bit more of a realistic option for committing to the Vols than Drew Richmond, but it would be intriguing for UT to get both. Though numbers are an issue and it's unclear whether they'd take both, getting them would be huge for depth at the biggest remaining position of need.
Oklahoma and Michigan also remain in the picture for the huge lineman, and while he has been relatively quiet throughout the recruiting process, 50 percent of 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections have him going to Tennessee while 45 percent predict him to Georgia.
In other words, it's anybody's guess where he's going.
The Asbury Park Press' Steven Falk reported Sunday that UGA received a commitment this weekend from former Wisconsin offensive tackle Sam Madden, which would seem to bode well for the Vols' pursuit of Allen, at least on the surface.
It's worth noting, however, that Allen reopened his recruitment when Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo took the head-coaching job at Colorado State and took Bulldogs offensive line coach Will Friend with him. Now that the Vols are seeking a coordinator, it'll be interesting to see if that affects UT.
Allen told Dawgs247's Jake Rowe on Friday regarding UT's ongoing coordinator search:
I don't think it is going to affect me. The only reason it bothered me at Georgia was when they lost my position coach, coach (Will) Friend. I wasn't that upset about coach (Mike) Bobo leaving because he wasn't the coach that I was dealing with and would be coaching me. It means something and it is something I have to consider, but it's not the same because he isn't my position coach. I know coach Mahoney is there and how they run the program so I don’t think I will hold it against them.
That's excellent news for the Vols, who'd love to add either Allen or Richmond (or both) before the cycle ends.
Offensive Guard Venzell Boulware
What's not so funny for the Vols is the 3-star offensive lineman and former teammate of current Vols Evan and Elliott Berry at Creekside High School outside of Atlanta visited the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend.
The Buckeyes were thought to be the other finalist when Boulware picked Tennessee. Though he remains committed to Tennessee, that visit is worth paying attention to.
UT has other positions more vital to the immediate success of the program than guard, where Boulware projects, but that doesn't mean they'd be OK to lose a prospect of his caliber. He is a 6'4", 290-pound lineman who is very strong and athletic for his size.
That's why some of the nation's top programs want to flip him.
Boulware's ties to Tennessee run deep with friends already on the roster and a strong bond with the coaches. But the lure of a program that is already at the pinnacle of college football is intriguing for any prospect, and Urban Meyer is one of the two best recruiters in college football.
When you throw in the national championship celebration OSU held this weekend, it looms as a scary scenario for the Vols. But it's still difficult to see him flipping.
There haven't been any recruiting reports on Boulware yet, but with Tennessee getting the last visit next weekend, the Vols will have the opportunity to wrap him up then regardless.
Outside Linebacker Quart'e Sapp
For months, outside linebacker Quart'e Sapp has been at the top of Tennessee's board at the position, and it seemed just a matter of when and not if he'd become a Volunteer.
Still, here we are two weeks before national signing day, and Sapp remains uncommitted.
He's also expected to visit Missouri and Michigan State (this weekend) in the days leading up to the final decision.
While it's no longer clear how high Sapp is on UT's list of needs or even where he stands on the recruiting board with the Vols tight on numbers, he has proved over this cycle that he marches to the beat of his own drum and is in no hurry to rush into a decision.
That puts a commitment that once seemed a foregone conclusion for the Vols in doubt, and that is true on both sides of the coin. Would the Vols even take him right now? GoVols247's Ryan Callahan said this week there's "no guarantee" the Vols will have room for him if he waits.
In other words, they aren't necessarily holding Sapp a spot.
The 6'1.5", 200-pound linebacker is extremely athletic and appears to be a good coverage 'backer with a projectable frame that can add weight. With Tennessee having plenty of bodies on the outside, he could develop at his own pace and turn into a nice player down the road.
But UT can't wait forever. The Vols are trying to fill out the class, and Sapp has some strong options. Where he fits into the puzzle is going to be interesting to watch in the days leading up to national signing day.
If he decides he wants to be in Knoxville, it will give the Vols yet another long, athletic defender capable of turning into a star.
Running Back Kendall Bussey
With Bryce Love canceling his visit to Tennessee (per GoVols247's Ryan Callahan) this past weekend following the commitment of John Kelly to the Vols, the class appears finished at running back.
Now, it's essential for UT to hang on to the runners it currently has pledged in this class with such a dearth of depth on the roster.
The Vols only return Jalen Hurd in the backfield, and with Ralph Abernathy IV transferring from Cincinnati, the pool is extremely shallow.
Midterm enrollee Alvin Kamara has star potential, and the Vols now have Kelly and Kendall Bussey Jr. to go along with athletes such as Jocquez Bruce and Vincent Perry, who could get shots at the spot.
But Bussey's commitment is at least somewhat in jeopardy.
The 3-star all-purpose back had been committed to Nebraska before flipping to Tennessee, and after a visit to Texas A&M (the other finalist when he chose the Vols) this past weekend, there is at least some optimism in the Aggies' camp that they could flip him again.
Taylor Hamm of A&M's 247Sports site says Bussey is "sincerely considering a flip to the Aggies" following the trip.
Volquest's Paul Fortenberry relayed to subscribers tonight that Rivals analyst Jason Howell traded texts with Bussey's father, who said his son is still committed to UT "as of now" and is still planning on visiting Knoxville next weekend.
This one looks like it's going to be a fight to the finish for Bussey's signature. The Aggies are desperately seeking a runner in this class, and they're relaying a scenario where UT's backfield is suddenly crowded.
Tennessee will try to convey its needs next weekend. But the Vols would love to keep him in the fold.
All recruiting information from 247Sports composite rankings, unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.