Tennessee Recruiting: 5 Long-Shot Targets Vols Would Love to Land
With Tennessee's football recruiting class filling up and not expected to be as loaded rankings-wise as the past couple of years, the Volunteers would really like to add a big fish or two.
They're legitimate contenders for so many wide receivers that even though it's arguably the team's biggest need from a depth standpoint, there isn't urgency in recruiting that position.
UT will almost certainly get at least two more elite receivers in this class to go along with Jeff George and Corey Henderson. Given that GoVols247's Ryan Callahan listed at least 15 players recently who have mutual interest with the Vols, the need may be dire, but the quality of quantity is abundant.
Other areas such as the defensive line, offensive line and running back are where coach Butch Jones is really fishing.
With the way UT has recruited since Jones took over and with more time to spend on fewer prospects between now and 2016's national signing day, it would be unwise to rule out the Vols swaying a big name or two.
So, who are some options that may be in play?
Instead, let's take a look at some national names who have at least expressed interest in the Vols and would be "takes" for anybody. Here are five marquee guys that UT would love to lure to Knoxville.
Rashan Gary, Defensive Tackle
Why not start with numero uno?
Paramus, New Jersey, defensive tackle Rashan Gary is the nation's top-ranked player, a freak of nature at 6'4", 311 pounds who moves like a defensive end but is strong enough to dominate the interior of the line.
Everybody wants him, and on the Crystal Ball rankings, a host of schools are slotted to land him, led by Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide at 44 percent. Michigan holds 41 percent of the vote, home-state Rutgers has 6 percent, and Ohio State and Clemson each have 3 percent.
Following an eye-opening visit to the Plains this month, Gary told Al.com's Wesley Sinor he plans to be back at Auburn for a five-day visit in July. That could bode well for the Tigers and coordinator Will Muschamp, as it looks like they're definitely on his mind.
As for the Vols, Gary has stated multiple times that he hopes to visit UT. Coach Butch Jones has a commitment from elite New Jersey quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who has ties to a lot of the star prospects in the state, and the Vols working that avenue hard.
There were hopes that Gary would make it to last weekend's "Orange Carpet Day" with Guarantano and several other New Jersey prospects such as Ohio State stud running back commitment Kareem Walker (more on him later).
"I'm trying to go to Tennessee with Jarrett and a couple other guys," Gary told Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue in April. "A lot of guys are trying to get me to go places, but that's one that stands out a bit."
That didn't come to fruition because of a conflicting camp, but UT is trying to get him on campus. Until that happens, it's difficult to imagine the Vols being a major player. But if he visits, the Guarantano factor could come into play.
Teaming him with Kahlil McKenzie, Shy Tuttle and company could mean championships for the Vols.
Kareem Walker, Running Back
Sticking in the Garden State, Tennessee again is working the Jarrett Guarantano connection with the nation's top-rated running back Kareem Walker.
The 6'1", 210-pound do-it-all back remains firmly committed to Ohio State, but he isn't done listening to other suitors.
As was the case with Gary, Walker was originally slated to have already visited Knoxville, but it hasn't happened. That doesn't seem to bode well for UT, but Guarantano said a couple of months ago that Walker was his top target, according to 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong.
The sway of a quarterback is a big deal to some prospects, and with the Buckeyes having already taken another couple of prospects who could project to the offensive backfield, Walker hasn't shut the door on other schools.
Since Guarantano chose Tennessee over Ohio State and Rutgers—two schools heavily involved with Walker—he can drive home the reasons why he selected the Vols over those emotional ties.
If Walker takes an official visit to Knoxville, coach Butch Jones will pull out all the stops to land such an elite player at a major position of need.
Behind sophomores Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, UT will have only two running backs starting in 2016 in incoming freshmen John Kelly and Joseph Young. The Vols are planning on taking at least one running back in this cycle, and they'll take two if it's the right two.
Walker would certainly have a spot.
Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle
The way the Georgia Bulldogs are feasting on Peach State talent in this year's class, pulling a superstar recruit from within those borders is going to be a chore.
It's no different in the case of the nation's third-ranked defensive tackle, Derrick Brown, a 6'4", 314-pound mammoth prospect from Buford who would be the centerpiece of any class.
Though Brown recently has backed off naming a definitive leader, he once said he favored the Bulldogs, and they're going to be difficult to topple in his recruitment. Even so, the usual suspects in poaching that state for talent such as Alabama and Auburn are trying.
Add the Vols to the list.
Brown visited UT unofficially recently, and the Vols have a shot at convincing him to come to Knoxville. He told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan that UT is "high on my list," and he is expected to come back for another visit.
During that visit, another Callahan article noted that Brown spent a lot of time with last year's 5-star stud, defensive tackle recruit Kahlil McKenzie. So, he undoubtedly got an earful about how the Vols are a sleeping giant.
McKenzie is more of a mauler on the interior, but Brown has huge upside as well. There aren't many prospects in the nation who are stronger, more explosive or more dominant at the point of attack than the Lanier High School product.
He may be the most important player on this list because if the Vols can't convince him that they're the right landing spot for him, they'll have to play him every year.
Janarius Robinson, Defensive End
Few prospects possess the size and frame of 4-star weak-side defensive end Janarius Robinson. There's a reason why his offer sheet boasts high interest from the nation's marquee programs.
The 6'5 ½", 260-pound Panama City, Florida, defensive end runs the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds. He's already built like a college upperclassman. And, unfortunately for the rest of the nation, he's already committed to Florida State.
That hasn't stopped other teams from coming after him hard, and he recently has visited Alabama (multiple times), Tennessee and USC, among others. Everybody is vying to get one of the most athletic players in the class to change his mind.
The Vols have been recruiting him for a long time, and that familiarity isn't lost on Robinson. The interest hasn't waned either.
On his birthday, Robinson tweeted a photo that he received from UT coach Butch Jones and defensive graduate assistant Larry Knight wishing him a happy birthday.
With Jones personally taking an interest in Robinson, that bodes well for UT. The Vols have fared well in landing those prospects in recent years.
But Robinson remains firmly committed to the Seminoles, and given how close Panama City is to Tallahassee, it's going to be difficult for the Vols or anybody else to land him.
With all the future depth the Vols have built at defensive end in Derek Barnett, LaTroy Lewis, Corey Vereen, Dimarya Mixon, Kyle Phillips, Andrew Butcher, Darrell Taylor and others, Robinson doesn't fit the classification of "need."
But he sure is a "want."
Jauan Williams, Offensive Tackle
You can never have too many offensive tackles, and Tennessee certainly doesn't have enough.
Even after a year where the Bols were able to convince Drew Richmond, Jack Jones, Chance Hall and Venzell Boulware all to come to Knoxville, they still have a need at the position. Not all of those players will wind up on the exterior, after all.
This year's class is already off to a good start at the position with in-state 4-star Ryan Johnson already on board, but Tennessee needs more linemen, especially with the news that Brodarious Hamm recently decommitted.
At the top of UT's desired commitment list for offensive tackles are Jauan Williams and Landon Dickerson. With the Vols firmly in Dickerson's top group along with Virginia Tech and South Carolina, Williams is the real long shot in the duo.
The 6'7", 303-pound tackle has one of the most projectable frames of any player at his position, and though he's only the nation's 15th-rated tackle, the elite programs want him.
His Crystal Ball points to Alabama (50 percent) as the favorite, with Maryland and Ohio State also receiving votes.
Tennessee has enjoyed a lot of success recently with ace recruiter Tommy Thigpen scouting the Washington, D.C. area, and the Vols hope their efforts pay off with a signature from Williams.
It probably doesn't bode well for UT that Williams named Alabama his leader (according to 247Sports' Hank South) shortly after visiting both schools, but following an April trip to Knoxville, he told 247Sports' Ryan Bartow that UT was "probably one of the best" visits he's had.
If the Vols can keep his interest piqued and get an official visit, they'll have the chance to bring him south.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.