Category Archives: Recruiting

Jocquez Bruce commits to join Tennessee’s 2015 class

South-Doyle running back Jocquez Bruce during a Class 5A playoff game in 2013. (Paul Efird/News Sentinel)

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeJocquez Bruce, an athlete at South Doyle High School, has verbally committed to Tennessee after a standout performance in a camp this weekend.

Bruce, listed by 247Sports at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, could play receiver, cornerback or even running back at college. Bruce told 247Sports that he worked out at all three spots during his recent visit to UT but was being recruited primarily as a slot receiver.

Bruce is the 13th commitment and second receiver in Tennessee’s 2015 signing class.

In the 247Sports Composite ratings, Bruce is the 28th-ranked overall prospect in Tennessee and the 74th-ranked athlete prospect in the country.

QB Quinten Dormady gives Vols pro-style passer in 2015 class

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeQuinten Dormady came to Knoxville over the weekend for what he thought be the first of many stops on a college tour through the South.

But when Tennessee made it clear that he not only had an offer, but it was an offer that coaches wanted — and needed — him to decide on soon, Dormady scaled back his decision to just two teams: Alabama and UT.

The decision gives the Vols a second quarterback in the 2015 class. (And Jauan Jennings has insisted that he is a quarterback, not an athlete or a safety).

Dormady’s arrival will also help replenish the depth at quarterback after Riley Ferguson‘s recent decision to transfer. Justin Worley will graduate after this season, leaving only Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman and whoever UT signs in this class on the 2015 roster.

Given those numbers, and the questions about Jenning’s ultimate college position, could the Vols sneak a third quarterback into this class? It might be tough (or impossible) to snare another elite quarterback with two other potential competitors already committed. But maybe a late addition just before Signing Day? A late surprise (like Dobbs)? Or maybe even a wildcard from the junior college ranks?

There’s plenty of time left until February. Stay tuned.

Recruiting Kahlil McKenzie: Here’s something you don’t see every day

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The toughest part of the college football recruiting game is finding something new and different.

It’s why schools pay artists to create individualized drawings to mail to recruits, why teams compete to see who can stuff more letters in a recruits’ mailbox and why every visit — official or unofficial — is now a well-choreographed show.

It’s also why Vols coach Butch Jones appears to be engaged in some sort of online scavenger hunt with elite defensive tackle prospect Kahlil McKenzie. See for yourself:

Later…

Kahlil McKenzie posted this message with the photo above: “Found the first bucket!! @UTCoachJones is counting down the days till July 10th different location everyday!!”

July 10 is the day McKenzie says he will decide between Tennessee and Arizona. Most expect the consensus five-star prospect to pick the Vols because of his family ties to Knoxville. McKenzie’s father Reggie, the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, is a Knoxville native and Vol standout. So is his uncle, Reggie’s twin brother, Raleigh.

But Jones clearly isn’t taking McKenzie’s decision for granted. That means 36 more days of this, presumably. Let’s hope Jones and his staff have some more ideas under his hat.

With QB a priority, Vols in battle for 5-star Torrance Gibson

Torrance Gibson (photo by 247Sports, a KNS partner)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Riley Ferguson‘s departure has highlighted Tennessee’s need for another quarterback in the Class of 2015.

There are few bigger targets than dual-threat quarterback Torrance GibsonAuburn and Tennessee are leading the seven-team race for his signature. Helpfully, Gibson has been tweeting and blogging about the recruiting process.

247Sports recruiting analyst Ryan Callahan chatted about Gibson’s visit to Auburn in today’s installment of GVX Audio. Gibson could visit Tennessee as soon as this weekend, but Callahan said the race should continue for some time.

The Vols already have Jauan Jennings in the fold. He’s a four-star athlete from Murfreesboro who is being recruited by most schools as a quarterback. Many think he could also be an elite college safety.

Tennessee football adds DB Stephen Griffin to 2015 recruiting class

Stephen Griffin during a visit to Tennessee (photo by KNS partner GoVols247)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Charlotte defensive back Stephen Griffin, has verbally committed to Tennessee.

Griffin is listed at 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds on his 247Sports profile.

He’s listed as a safety or cornerback, although his apparent size — even as a 17-year-old — makes it seem more likely that he would end up at safety.

Griffin confirmed his commitment on his Twitter account.

Griffin also had recent offers from Michigan, Boston College and others. In addition to UT, he had recently visited Clemson, Duke and North Carolina.

He confirmed his UT commitment on his Twitter account.

Here’s a look at Tennessee’s 2015 commitment list, which now has nine prospects.

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How many players will the Vols sign in 2015? As Butch Jones says, it’s in ‘flux’

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeButch Jones told an audience Wednesday at the Knoxville Tipoff Club that the Vols would probably sign 18-22 players in the 2015 class.

But, he quickly added, that number is in “flux” and would remain so for some time.

At first, Jones’ estimate sounded like an underestimation — perhaps a diplomatic one given the Vols just brought in an estimated 32 players in 2014.

But upon further review, it seems likely that UT could sign a class with fewer than 25 prospects in 2015.

The first factor is how many players, if any, the Vols will push forward to 2015 from this class. That number could be zero, one or two, depending on who’s counting.

But let’s assume that doesn’t happen.

Scholarship status cannot always be determined with certainty, but my list has 14 current seniors out of 85 scholarship players.

So to carve out 25 slots for the 2015 class, the roster would have to undergo considerable attrition, with 11 of the 71 non-seniors (roughly 15 percent) moving on with their careers.

There will be attrition, of course, but counting on that much is probably a bit ambitious — at least for now. So Jones’ guess of 18-22 players is probably as good as any. The Vols already have seven verbal commitments in the 2015 class, which means they’re off to an early start.

Ranking the recruiters: Tommy Thigpen has been consistently near the top

Tommy Thigpen coaches Malik Foreman in practice last August (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who was named Rivals.com recruiter of the year earlier this month, is one of several assistants who scored well in 247Sports’ recruiter rankings.

247Sports added the new ranking to its arsenal about a year ago, and has since used its database to rank assistant coaches from past years as well. (The numbers are not as complete as 2014, but are still useful to review).

The rankings show that Thigpen’s prowess as a recruiter is nothing new.

The change in coaching staffs at Tennessee makes it difficult to get an exact picture in 2013.

But in 2011 and 2012, Thigpen was No. 5 and No. 18 nationally, respectively, credited with signing a dozen recruits who helped build Auburn’s SEC championship team in 2013.

If recruiting rankings were once controversial, 247Sports opened up a whole new realm by ranking the recruiters. Initially, I thought coaches would freak out. Coaches are already a competitive breed, and I thought we’d see internal fights about who gets credit for signing each recruit. Maybe that stuff occurs behind the scenes, but I think most coaching staffs have long since made their peace with the recruiting industry. And 247Sports (full disclaimer: the company is a News Sentinel partner with GoVols247) has done a nice job pushing the franchise into new territory.

So let’s take a look at the 2014 rankings. Thigpen, No. 10 overall, was listed as the primary or secondary recruiter on an incredible 17 prospects in this cycle. (Second place was Cincinnati’s Robert Prunty with 14).

Other Vols assistants ranked this year:

Despite a midseason knee injury, running backs coach Robert Gillespie was a prolific recruiter. (photo by Evan Woodbery)

No. 28: Running backs coach Robert Gillespie

No. 38: Tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Mark Elder

No. 60: Defensive line coach and assistant head coach Steve Stripling

No. 107: Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez

No. 150: Receivers coach Zach Azzanni

Nationally, 247Sports said the top recruiter was Georgia’s Bryan McClendon. Former Vol quarterback and current USC assistant Tee Martin was No. 2.

But small sample sizes or a singe elite player can skew the one-year rankings. In 2013, there was a largely new crop of names in the top 10. (McClendon was No. 122; Martin was No. 92). Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt, now defensive coordinator at Georgia, was No. 1.

The fluctuation shows that plenty of factors lead to a good recruiting ranking. It could depend on the number of players a team plans to sign at a certain position or whether it was a particularly strong year for a certain geographical area.

But Thigpen’s strength seems to transcend those fluctuations. And it’s worth noting that he was a closer of sorts for the Vols’ staff. Butch Jones put him on recruits that weren’t necessarily at his position or his geographic area.

Thigpen came to Tennessee after Auburn dismissed its staff in the wake of a dismal 2012 season. His link to Butch Jones’ Midwestern crew was Martinez, who was also on that Auburn staff in 2012.

Auburn’s coaching staff was stocked with top recruiters — including Trooper Taylor, running backs coach Curtis Luper, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and others. Coaches always pretend not to care about recruiting rankings, but it was either Taylor or Luper who once said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “If they’re keeping score, I want to win.”

That was refreshing honesty. And there’s no doubt that Thigpen has won a lot.