Category Archives: Recruiting

LB Jerome Dews says he’ll enroll at prep school rather than Tennessee this summer

 

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Longtime Tennessee verbal commitment Jerome Dews said Tuesday that he planned to enroll in prep school and indicated that academics may have played a role in his indirect path to college football.

Dews, a three-star linebacker from Maryland, announced the news on Twitter.

It is unlikely that Dews will formally sign with Tennessee on Wednesday, so his departure effectively reduces the Vols’ recruiting class to 33 players.

Dews could be considered a gray-shirt, in that he is delaying his enrollment to UT until at least January 2015, although he would be free to sign with any team or enroll at any school after his stint at prep school. With fewer spots available next year, there’s also no guarantee that the Vols will recruit Dews in the next cycle.

Here is Tennessee’s new commitment list.

 

We think Tennessee has 31 scholarships to give — here’s how we came up with that number

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — In all the talk about Tennessee’s numbers crunch, there’s one question we don’t know with absolute certainty.

Just how many scholarships does Tennessee have to offer in this recruiting cycle?

For competitive reasons, most teams like to keep that exact number under wraps.

Tennessee, like all teams, can offer no more than 25 initial scholarships in any given year. But they can “count back” some scholarships against the previous class, provided the prospects enroll early and there is space available.

One problem in determining the back-counted scholarships is that back-counting seemingly can go on in perpetuity.

Also, there’s no way of knowing for certain which players arrive with a scholarship and which are walk-ons. That distinction may become even more confusing in this recruiting cycle.

But we can make some educated guesses. And I feel fairly confident in saying that 31 is as good a “magic number” as any this year. Thanks to colleague Daniel Lewis, who helped me hash out some of the details during a math-heavy instant-message conversation. The result was this tabulation that I transferred to a spreadsheet above.

If you just want to trust me on 31 scholarships and skip this part, I don’t blame you. But here’s the nitty-gritty:

The Vols had 22 scholarship players in the 2013 cycle (after subtracting Jabo Lee and adding late signees Johnathon Johnson and Kendal Vickers).

They were able to count three of those back to 2012. The 2012 class had 23 scholarship players (including the gray-shirted Tino Thomas), and was able to count one against 2011.

This is where it becomes confusing, and this is where I think UT’s 2014 maximum grew from 30 to 31. Thomas was gray-shirted and pushed into the 2012 class because Derek Dooley didn’t think there would be room in the 2011 class. As it turns out, however, some very late academic casualties opened up a couple more slots that would have allowed Thomas to enroll. So after back-counting two early enrollees to 2010, UT had only 24 initial scholarships in 2011, allowing the Vols to count back one scholarship from 2012.

The trickle-down effect of that academic casualty in the summer of 2011 action may have led to an extra scholarship in 2014.

Of course, Tennessee may sign more than 31 on Wednesday. But that’s another story.

The geographic midpoint of Tennessee’s 2014 class? For now, Riceville gets the honor

This map shows the geographic midpoints of recent Tennessee recruiting classes. The Class of 2014 has not been finalized.

This map shows the geographic midpoints of recent Tennessee recruiting classes. The Class of 2014 has not been finalized.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The geographic midpoint of Tennessee’s 2014 class is farther north and closer to Knoxville than it has been in at least six years.

That was the takeaway from the News Sentinel’s analysis on Tuesday (available for subscribers).

Why the shift north?

Butch Jones has added a couple of prospects from his old stomping grounds in the Midwest. But a bigger factor is the lack of any South Florida presence. For the first time since 2008, the Vols won’t have any prospects from the Miami, Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach areas.

If the hometowns of all 34 current commitments in the 2014 class are weighed equally, the geographic midpoint falls just 60 miles southwest of Neyland Stadium, near Riceville. (That map marker could change slightly based on last-minute changes, which is why we’re giving it an asterisk for now).

Here’s the midpoint of the other classes we reviewed. Want to find midpoints yourself? This site is really cool.

*Class of 2014: Riceville, Tenn.

Class of 2013: Calhoun, Ga.

Class of 2012: McDonough, Ga.

Class of 2011: Newnan, Ga.

Class of 2010: Memphis, Tenn.

Class of 2009: Trenton, Ga.

The 2011 and 2012 classes — both recruited and signed exclusively by Derek Dooley and his staff — are remarkably close. They’re both in the south suburbs of Atlanta.

The only real head-scratcher on the list is the Class of 2010, which is about 300 or 400 miles west of all the other midpoints. That class had several California prospects, which skewed everything west. If you take away three of the four West coast kids, the midpoint looks much more normal.

Here’s the map that shows all the midpoints if you want to take a closer look.

National Signing Day will answer some questions about Vols’ numbers crunch — but not all of them

Butch Jones (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — If you like a good mystery, the growth of Tennessee’s 2014 class has been fun to attempt to unravel.

We think — unofficially — that the Vols have scholarships available for 31 in this recruiting cycle. That’s the NCAA maximum 25 in 2014, plus six counted back against the smaller 2013 class.

Beyond that, we’ve engaged in a lot of speculation about Butch Jones and the Vols’ number-crunching strategies.

As of today, the Vols have 34 verbal commitments. Michael Sawyers, visiting this weekend, would be No. 35 if he chooses to commit to Tennessee ahead of Ole Miss and Georgia Tech.

So how does 35 become 31 in a climate in which once-routine “over-signing” has essentially been legislated out of existence?

We might get some clues about the answer to that question on Wednesday, even if the final resolution doesn’t come until this summer.

News Sentinel subscribers can check out a long story I wrote on that subject in Sunday’s paper.

In a nutshell, the Vols have a few options:

1. Pare down the current class to 31 (remember that 14 have already enrolled) by slicing off players who might have academic troubles and asking them to sit tight for the moment. If they qualify, offer them a grayshirt opportunity in 2015. If they find another home in the meantime, wish them well.

Advantages: Avoids negative “over-signing’ publicity.

Disadvantages: Might lose borderline academic cases.

2. Go full steam ahead with the so-called “loophole” strategy. In this case, Tennessee could sign 34 or 35 (or perhaps even more) and then worry about paring down the class later.

Advantages: By signing borderline players, UT would be in a better position to push them toward gray-shirting opportunities in 2015.

Disadvantages: Negative attention from alleged “over-signing” might not be worth the advantages of hanging on to only a couple of players.

3. A mixed strategy: This is what I think UT might pursue and I think it will leave the most unanswered questions. Let’s assume that UT wants to hold on to more than 31 of its commitments AND avoid “over-signing” in a way that will attract negative scrutiny. There has to be some way to let those 32nd, 33rd or 34th players feel like a part of the class without actually signing them to National Letters of Intent. How will that be done? I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps one or two will blue-shirt or others will gray-shirt. Academic risks could be held in wait-and-see mode.

So Wednesday might come down to semantics. A blue-shirting player can’t sign a Letter of Intent or an aid agreement. So could Jones comment about him publicly? Could he be mentioned in the UT press release? I’m not entirely sure.

Some of this is uncharted territory, which is why I think we’ll get at least a hint of clarity on Wednesday.

Former Vandy commit Michael Sawyers, planning trip to Knoxville, could be last ‘free agent’ on Vols’ board

Michael Sawyers of Ensworth High (photo by 247Sports, a News Sentinel partner)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Defensive tackle Michael Sawyers is one of a dozen Vanderbilt verbal commitments who have jumped ship since the departure of coach James Franklin to Penn State.

He might also be the last free agent that Tennessee is pursuing in the final stretch before National Signing Day.

Sawyers visited Ole Miss last weekend and most prognosticators on the 247Sports Crystal Ball expect him to sign with the Rebels. The Vols, however, have kept in contact and Sawyer is expected in Knoxville this weekend.

 

As Barton Simmons noted on today’s #GVXAudio podcast, Sawyers would be able to connect with many other in-state friends in the Vols’ current class. But Simmons also said that Sawyers has always been one to do things his own way and not necessarily follow the crowd.

Simmons also raised another question: Just how much room do the Vols have? Sawyers would be No. 35 in the class, and while the Vols should be able to sign that many, finding scholarships for all of them this summer will be more of a challenge. So does the pursuit of Sawyers indicate a defensive lineman could be de-committing? Dewayne Hendrix now seems securely in the fold. But what about Cory Thomas?

Butch Jones ‘fortunate to get out’ of snow-stricken Atlanta

Butch Jones (KNS photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones said he was “fortunate to get out” of a gridlocked Atlanta during a recruiting trip on Tuesday.

Jones said he pulled off the highway to wait out the delays at an emptied mall as an unexpected snowstorm pummeled the region. 

Jones tweeted from the passenger seat of his car on Tuesday a photo of a slow-moving Atlanta highway.

“It was crazy,” he said.

Even so, Jones may have dodged the worst of Atlanta shutdown, which stranded many people overnight.

Knoxville got its own dose of heavy snow, but seemed better equipped to handle it than cities in Georgia and Alabama, which are still digging out.

The weather wasn’t believed to have stopped Jones from making his scheduled recruiting visits in the Atlanta area with running backs coach Robert Gillespie.

Coaches like Mark Elder, who got a considerably warmer recruiting assignment, boasted about it on Twitter.

Even Butch Jones can’t escape gridlocked Atlanta traffic in surprise snowstorm

 

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones did not escape the winter storm that paralyzed much of the Southeast on Tuesday.

Jones tweeted from the passenger seat of his car on Tuesday a photo of a gridlocked Atlanta highway.

The front page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

As bad as that photo looks, Jones may have dodged the worst of Atlanta shutdown, which stranded many people overnight in the unexpectedly heavy storm.

Knoxville got its own dose of heavy snow, but seemed better equipped to handle it than cities in Georgia and Alabama, which are still digging out.

For his part, Jones still made his scheduled recruiting visits in the Atlanta area.

Coaches like Mark Elder, who got a considerably warmer recruiting assignment, boasted about it on Twitter.

 

5-star cornerback Adoree Jackson eliminates Tennessee from contention

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Five-star cornerback Adoree Jackson won’t be coming to Tennessee.

Jackson eliminated the Vols from contention when he announced his top four schools on Twitter Tuesday night. They are: Florida, LSU, Southern California and UCLA.

With Jackson now out of the picture, the Vols’ 2014 signing class could be nearly finished.

Jackson, rated the No. 1 cornerback in the country in 247Sports Composite, has played his recruitment close to the vest, although most have given USC and Florida a slight edge.

Could Adoree Jackson be last major decision to watch in Vols’ 2014 class?

Adoree Jackson (247Sports photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — With National Signing Day now in sight, Tennessee’s class has started to take a clearer form in the last four days.

Running back Derrell Scott is in.

Commitments who were visiting elsewhere, like defensive lineman Dewayne Hendrix, appear to be solidified (although other schools are still working to flip Cory Thomas and Derek Barnett).

Last-second additions like Wisconsin commitment Craig Evans seem to be off the table.

So where does that leave the drama between now and National Signing Day?

Look West to five-star cornerback Adoree Jackson.

 

J.C. Shurburtt‘s comments Tuesday (listen to them here on GVX Audio) suggested that Tennessee is no more a long shot than any other team in the quest to sign Jackson, the No. 1 corner in the nation in the 247Sports Composite.

ESPNU’s College Football Live featured Jackson on Tuesday night, focusing on his overall athletic ability (Jackson punts too, by the way), but especially his passion for track. 

Jackson said his goal is to compete in the 2016 Olympics in the long jump.

Jackson has previously listed Southern California, UCLA, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and Tennessee as his finalists.

USC and Florida have generally been considered the teams to beat. But the decision is tough to predict. Jackson’s parents live in East St. Louis, Ill. — where Tennessee’s staff has visited more than once — while he lives with his sister in California.

Jackson plans to announce on National Signing Day, ensuring some last-second suspense for fans of his final teams.

Long snapper Wesley Horky commits to walk on Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Long snapper Wesley Horky has said he’s accepted an invitation to be an invited walk-on at Tennessee.

Horky, who attends Ravenwood High in Brentwood, is considered one of the nation’s top long snappers.

The Vols lost snapper J.R. Carr to graduation. Horky, Matt Giampapa and possibly others will compete to replace him.