KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — National Signing Day is still five days away, but after receiver MarQuez North committed to Tennessee Wednesday night, UT fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
The worst-case scenario — striking out on every major target — is off the table.
The best-case scenario — landing North, Vonn Bell AND Carl Lawson — is still a possibility.
And now Butch Jones and his staff have some recruiting momentum as they put the finishing touches on their first class at Tennessee.
Where Tennessee stands now: UT has 17 commitments, including five who have already enrolled. We are not currently counting defensive end Joe Sanders, who appears bound for junior college or prep school. We have also moved juco offensive lineman Chongo Kondolo down to the target list, as it appears reports that he had committed to Tennessee were premature.
How many players can UT add: The Vols can take up to 27, including two of the five early enrollees who will be counted back to 2012. That leaves 10 open spots, but it’s not clear if they will fill all of them.
Remaining targets with 247 Composite Ranking and odds of signing with UT:
3-star DL Jaylen Miller. Everyone thought he’d be committed to UT by now. He’s not, but he could just be milking the drama to Signing Day. 70 PERCENT ↑. Will announce on NSD.
3-star OL Chongo Kondolo. Nebraska and Utah State seem to be the main competitors here. Utah State is a wildcard before his former juco coach is there. 60 PERCENT. No known announcement date.
5-star DB Vonn Bell. Visited UT last weekend and likely to decide between UT, Alabama and Ohio State. The teams made their final push Thursday. Bell grew up UT fan and seems comfortable with Jones and staff. 60 PERCENT. Will announce on NSD.
4-star RB Johnathan “Rudy” Ford. He officially decommitted from Vandy. Now it’s between Auburn and UT, and his high school coach told 247Sports that he’s struggling with his decision. I moved him up because it appears unlikely any other teams will get in the picture at this point. It’s a two-team race. 40 PERCENT ↑. Announcement planned for National Signing Day, although he could make his decision earlier.
5-star DE Carl Lawson. UT felt good about its standing, but he’s an Auburn commit and Auburn is getting last shot this weekend. Don’t forget about Clemson, either. 35 PERCENT. Will not hold a press conference. Could make decision early next week.
4-star LB E.J. Levenberry. FSU commit. His visit to UT last weekend was canceled due to weather and his case of the flu, but he’s trying again this week. He seems flippable but is there enough time before National Signing Day? FSU fans are preparing for the worst, as they’ve weathered several de-commitments after off-season staff changes. 30 PERCENT↑.. No current announcement planned, as he remains an FSU commit.
4-star WR Tyler Boyd. Briefly considered UT, but now says he’s sticking with Pitt. End of story, right? Maybe not. One story suggests Boyd is still agonizing over his decision. A visit to UT this weekend is very possible or even likely. But there’s another suitor in the mix. Boyd also visited West Virginia, where he has close friends on the team. Boyd still might be a long shot, but he no longer seems like an impossibility. 25 PERCENT ↑.
4- star DE Davin Bellamy. Bellamy raved about his UT visit but now favors Georgia. He officially decommitted from Florida State Tuesday and said he will choose between Tennessee, Georgia and Oregon. We moved him up slightly because FSU is no longer a potential competitor. Could rumors about UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s future make the difference? 25 PERCENT↑. He is likely to announce on NSD.
4-star QB Joshua Dobbs. Arizona State commit visited UT last weekend. He’s super-smart and wants to study aerospace engineering. He’s from suburban Atlanta, but distance doesn’t seem to be an issue. He hasn’t said much of anything about his decision-making process, so we’re left to guess. 20 PERCENT. No new announcement currently planned.
3-star DE Malik Brown: He’s a Syracuse commit, but he’s from south Florida, so he may not fully realize what he’s signed up for. Tennessee seems like an easy sell, right? Especially since coaches are putting on the full-court press. If he comes to Knoxville for a visit this weekend, we’ll move him to 50 percent or higher. But North Carolina State could also be a factor. Until then…. 20 PERCENT ↑ . No announcement currently planned.
3-star RB Aregeros Turner: Former Cincy commit. He hasn’t visited yet, but could be a fall-back option that UT ends up turning to. If UT wants him, the Vols could probably get him, but it’s not clear if they do. 15 PERCENT.
4-star LB Trey Johnson. He took “secret trip” to UT this weekend, but it looks like he’s sticking with his commitment to Ohio State. (I bumped Johnson’s odds a tad because he seemed so heavily invested in keeping the visit from getting out that he even retweeted a report that he wasn’t visiting. So he went to great lengths to avoid spooking OSU. Does that mean anything?) 15 PERCENT ↑.
3-star LB Skai Moore. Previously committed to Rutgers, but opened it back up. Hasn’t visited UT yet, and South Carolina and Vanderbilt are al
so after him. There are conflicting reports out there, with some saying he’ll visit UT this weekend and others saying he’s eliminated UT. Any team that manages to get him in for a late visit has a chance, but we’ll wait until he hear something more concrete before moving him up. 10 PERCENT.
4-star WR Shelton Gibson. He seemed to briefly waver from his commitment to West Virginia after a visit to UT earlier this month, but stayed with the Mountaineers. Tight ends coach Brad Elder may have made a last push for Gibson earlier this week, but it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere. 10 PERCENT↓.
3-star LB Jonathan Walton: Visited UT earlier in January, but looks like he’s deciding between Auburn and South Carolina. 5 PERCENT ↓. He’s said he would like to make a decision this week.
3-star RB Peyton Barber. Ole Miss commit from Georgia visited UT on Jan. 18. May visit Miami this weekend. Hasn’t yet wavered from Ole Miss. 5 PERCENT ↓.
OFF THE BOARD
4-star LB Zach Cunningham. He didn’t come to UT as planned on Sunday, and it looks like this ship has sailed. Will announce on NSD between Auburn, Oregon and Vandy.
3-star DL Antonio Riles. Canceled last weekend’s trip due to weather. No plans to reschedule. Florida commit.
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