A look at Tennessee recruiting at midpoint of 2013 season

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The recruiting class committed in August is rarely the same one that signs in February, and the defection of a prospect this week is the first sign of it.

The Vols seem to have lost junior college receiver Eric Lauderdale, a Georgia native now playing juco ball in California.

Lauderdale had just picked up an offer from Florida and is intrigued by the prospect of being a Gator. Tennessee has four committed receivers in its 2014 signing class and is likely to add at least one more, so Lauderdale’s departure won’t hurt from a numbers standpoint. Whether the Vols miss his future production won’t known for years, as is often the case in recruiting.

The Vols are coming off a big recruiting weekend, are at the midpoint of the 2013 season and finally get a break on Saturday. So it’s a good time to review the Vols’ 2014 recruiting outlook.

Who’s in the fold: The Vols have 24 verbal commitments. They can sign 29 — I think — by “back-counting” some early enrollees.

Running back Jalen Hurd is the prize of the class and the only consensus five-star, although safety Todd Kelly and linebacker Dillon Bates are very close to that designation.

See the sheet above for the full list of commitments.

Where are they from? Interestingly, the geographic midpoint of the 2014 class sits in Ten Mile, Tenn., only about 45 miles southwest of Neyland Stadium. So the geographic diversity of the class is spread fairly evenly.

Five of the commitments are from Tennessee; five are from Georgia; Texas, Florida, Ohio and Maryland have two each.

What do they play? In keeping with Butch Jones’ goal of increasing the team’s overall speed, many of the prospects fall into the “athlete” category, so there’s some flexibility in their college position.

Using our best guess, there are five linebackers, five defensive backs and four receivers, two running backs, two tight ends, three offensive linemen and two defensive linemen. And a kicker.

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What do the Vols still need? To answer this question, I broke the usual “roster needs” chart into deeper categories. The “goal” in the first column is flexible and not meant to be set in stone. But it provides a good ballpark estimate.

This chart also includes a “new column” for non-contributors. This is for players who, because of injuries or other reasons, seem unlikely to break into the playing rotation in the future.

The chart shows only one pressing need left for the Vols’ 2014 class — defensive tackle. UT might also like to snag another offensive lineman.

So who’s still on the board? Lots of players. Even though there are officially only five spots left in the class, plenty can change in four months. Here are a few names to watch:

Four-star defensive tackle Charles Mosely of Brighton visited Knoxville this weekend and would be an important addition to the class.

Another in-state prospect, Josh Malone of Gallatin, is an elite receiver prospect. He visited Knoxville this weekend, too.

Twins Evan and Elliott Berry — would provide a boost in the secondary.