KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — New Tennessee coach Butch Jones hosted about a dozen players in Knoxville this weekend, but fans also had to monitor important visits from key targets who were taking trips elsewhere.
No public commitments emerged from the weekend, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of news to catch up on.
Let’s run down what happened in the second-to-last weekend before National Signing Day on Feb. 6.
1. Eight of Tennessee’s visitors were verbal commitments — Cameron Sutton, Ryan Jenkins, Dylan Wiesman, A.J. Branisel, Malik Foreman, Austin Sanders, Josh Smith and Brett Kendrick. Of those, only Sutton had seemed to be wavering.
The three-star athlete from Jonesboro, Ga., took an official visit to Auburn last weekend and was positively gushy about the experience.
But Sutton said he had a great visit to Tennessee and even suggested in a tweet to a future teammate that he could take an unofficial to Knoxville next week. That would obviously be good news for UT.
@cooljones_ super straight! Iama probly back up next week.
— Cameron Sutton (@A1Perdicco) January 20, 2013
2. Now let’s look at the non-commitments on campus this weekend.
The highest-profile target is five-star defensive end Carl Lawson of Milton, Ga. He’s an Auburn commitment, but Tennessee got into the picture thanks to former AU assistant Tommy Thigpen.
Lawson told our partners at 247 that he had a “great visit” but still considered himself an Auburn commitment. He is scheduled to visit North Carolina and Auburn in the next two weeks.
3. What other weekend visitors are worth watching?
* West Virginia commitment Shelton Gibson of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, said his visit to UT gave him plenty to think about.
* Defensive end Davin Bellamy of Chamblee, Ga., a longtime Florida State commitment, said the Vols are now right alongside the Seminoles.
* Athlete Jason Smith of Mobile, Ala., is another Auburn commitment being pursued by Thigpen. He was supposed to be in Knoxville this weekend, although it’s not clear that he actually made it.
* Running back Peyton Barber, one of Lawson’s teammates at Milton, is an Ole Miss commit but his mother is a UT grad. He visited campus for the first time this weekend and said it went well, although he still considers himself committed to Ole Miss.
* Defensive end Jaylen Miller of Gaffney, S.C, was also scheduled to be in town. He seems like someone the Vols could steal, as he doesn’t have offers from Clemson or South Carolina.
4. Longtime offensive lineman commitment Dan Skipper is probably a commitment in name only at this point. He visited Arkansas this weekend and was entertained by former Vol assistants Jim Chaney and Sam Pittman. Then he was off to Ohio State. He’s also picked up recent offers from Florida State and Oklahoma, although it’s not clear that he’ll have time to visit.
5. Four-star Memphis defensive lineman Jason Carr, another longtime Tennessee commitment who has been wavering, visited Alabama over the weekend. At least some recruiting gurus think that if Alabama wants him, the Tide is the team to beat.
— Chad Simmons (@ChadSimmons_) January 18, 2013
Not to be a downer, but this should illustrate the perception, if not the reality, of the current recruiting climate in the SEC: Saban is working to “find room” for the player who would be the highest-rated 247 Composite player in Tennessee’s class.
6. Five-star safety Vonn Bell of Ridgeland High in Georgia has had a busy few days. He was wined and dined by Nick Saban at Alabama this weekend and then visited at home by Butch Jones and every member of the Vols’ defensive staff.
7. Athlete/quarterback John Franklin III, after a brief flirtation with UT, appears to be sticking with his commitment to Florida State.
This weekend was perfect and reassured everything #NOLES
— John Franklin III (@05SHOWTIME) January 20, 2013
8. Linebacker Jonathan Walton, a former Penn State commitment from Mobile, Ala., who ditched the Nittany Lions when the SEC offers started pouring in, visited South Carolina this weekend. He’s expected to visit Auburn next week. He identified Tennessee as No. 2 to 247.
9. Four-star receiver Marquez North, from Charlotte, visited North Carolina this weekend. No real word on how the visit went. North is considered one of the Vols’ best chances to land an impact prospect before National Signing Day.
A FEW MORE THINGS…
10. If you’re not subscribed to our partner website, GoVols247, the next two weeks are a great time to try it out. Ryan Callahan does a great job covering recruiting.
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