The 2014 Class: Why Tennessee continues to stockpile receivers in recruiting

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee has added two more commitments since the last time we took an in-depth look at building the 2014 class, and both players are notable because of the positions they play.

Offensive tackle prospect Orlando Brown is the second member of what should be a massive offensive line class. Junior college prospect Kameel Jackson is the fourth member of what is already a large group of receiver prospects that is expected to grow even larger between now and February.

The difference between the two positions? The Vols are losing at least four and probably five offensive linemen to graduation (or the NFL) after the 2013 season. At receiver, UT isn’t losing anybody.

What does this all mean?

(Remember, my “goal” for each position in the spreadsheet above is entirely speculative, although I think the numbers are at least in the ballpark of what most Division I programs strive for.)

There are three points that we might be able to glean from Butch Jones’ early recruiting strategy.

1. The new staff believes the Vols are woefully outgunned at receiver and they wanted to start nearly from scratch in recruiting players they believe are SEC-caliber.


2. Jones would prefer to have 15 or more scholarship receivers on the roster and is willing to go a bit shorter than usual at other positions (or make up the difference in quality walk-ons).


3. The 2014 class is very strong at receiver — especially in areas where Tennessee has a chance to get in the mix — and it would be silly to pass up players just to adhere to a formula.

I think the answer is a little bit of all three.

Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni made no secret of his exasperation with the Vols’ receiving corps in the spring. But talent aside, the Vols will be up to 12 scholarship receivers in the fall — which is hardly crisis level — and five of those players will have been signed by Jones and his staff.

Even assuming the possibility — or likelihood — of attrition at receiver between now and 2014, the fact that the Vols continue to load up on receivers with no signs of slowing indicates that Jones and his staff like having a big crew of receivers.

A lot of coaches would like that, of course, but with an 85-man scholarship limit, sacrifices have to be made elsewhere.

Could the Vols make do with, say, 12 offensive linemen instead of 15? I think so. Barring injuries, only six or seven linemen usually play anyway. The Vols could fill in the gaps with a couple of strong junior college linemen or some valuable walk-ons.

If all goes well, of course, the 13th, 14th and 15th-best receivers on the roster — or the 13th, 14th and 15th-best linemen — won’t matter. In that sense, this discussion is merely academic. But it’s summer in college football country. That’s what we do.

** The blog’s been quiet recently while I handle non-football assignments and take normal summer vacations. There will be another gap coming up later this month when I hit the road again. SEC Media Days begin July 16, so there’s plenty of time.

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