Tennessee recruiting: Vols have needs but also flexibility on defensive line

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Butch Jones watches practice last week (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee’s aggressive recruiting efforts show no signs of slowing, even as the Vols push past the 30-man limit in their class.

Cory Thomas was the latest player to verbally commit to the 2014 class.

Here’s a look at Tennessee’s class within the context of its current roster. Be sure to check out the disclaimer and details below.

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I’ve tweaked the breakdown above, adding a section for roster non-contributors. These are players who are in at least their second year in the program and have not contributed and don’t appear close to contributing right now. I didn’t want to single anyone out, but in order to provide a clear picture of the recruiting efforts, those numbers needed to be considered.

The usual caveat applies: This is a speculative exercise and may not match UT’s goals, strategy, etc.

The only major issue remains at defensive tackle, but that’s somewhat misleading, as many defensive tackles start their career at end.

Daniel McCullers (facing camera) chats with Trevarris Saulsberry before the Auburn game.

Even so, with Daniel McCullers and Daniel Hood graduating, the Vols would love to have more depth inside — both on the current roster, and in the 2014 class.

Who could grow into a defensive tackle? Anyone, really, including several options on the current roster. But if you’re looking for a big run-stuffer in the mold of McCullers, the options are more limited.

Dimarya Mixon (6-3, 265) is the only player listed as a tackle among the current group of commitments.

DaVonte Lambert (listed at 6-3, 275), Derek Barnett (6-3, 265), Thomas (6-6, 270) and DeWayne Hendrix (6-5 254) are all big ends, while Joe Henderson (6-3, 228) is in the lighter, weak-side mold.

Obviously, all heights and weights should be taken with a grain of salt, but compare those numbers to Hood (6-4, 277), McCullers (6-8, 351) and reserve tackle Trevarris Saulsberry (6-4, 291). Except for McCullers, the differences aren’t immense.

Marlon Walls (6-2, 272) is mainly an end now, although he’s played tackle before and frequently will move inside on passing downs when speed rushers come in.

Vols freshman tackle Jason Carr (6-5, 285) played briefly this year but will have a chance to earn more playing time in 2014.

Long story short, will defensive tackle be a concern in 2014? Probably. A crisis? Perhaps not.