Tag Archives: Class of 2013

Ranking SEC teams in recruiting over last 4 years: Vols fare better than you might expect

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Now that National Signing Day is in the books, let’s take a step back and look at recruiting in the SEC over the last four years.

These are the players — if they’re still around — who will have the greatest impact on a team’s success in 2014.

The numbers don’t lie: Alabama has dominated the recruiting game just as it has on the field.

That’s not a surprise. But Tennessee’s ranking relative to the league average might be better than many expected.

We used the 247Sports Composite rankings in order to get a broad perspective from all the major recruiting services. We also wanted to go beyond a simple ranking to see the relative strength of each class as it compared to the rest of the league.

A few takeaways:

1. Tennessee’s recruiting ratings are above the league average over the last four years both collectively and individually. The Vols have been above the league average in three of the last four years.

2. On the negative side, the Vols suffered serious attrition in the 2012 class. Some of it was natural (Cordarrelle Patterson) but there were also plenty of washouts. Also, some of the higher rated players from 2011 and 2012 simply haven’t lived up to expectations.

3. Florida, despite last year’s debacle, still has plenty of talent. If they can fix a few issues from 2013, they could be right back in the title race.

4. Auburn can still lean on several solid classes and has every reason to expect to be in the mix for the SEC championship again.

5. Texas A&M has put together three consecutive solid classes that should help mitigate the departure of Johnny Manziel.

6. The bottom of the conference is largely what you would expect. Despite recent improvements in recruiting from Kentucky and Vanderbilt, relative to the rest of the league, their ratings are still low.

7. Missouri’s recruiting may not be impressive on paper, but it’s worth remember that the Tigers won the SEC East in 2013 using classes that were ranked near the bottom of the league.

Mizzou’s case, of course, is why factors like retention and development and coaching still matter.

But if we were to judge the 2014 season solely by its inputs, here’s what the standings would look like. Just for fun, we’ll use the four-year relative score (with 100 being average) and give 10 points to the home team in each game.

SEC East

1. Florida, 7-1

2. Georgia, 7-1

3. South Carolina, 5-3

4. Tennessee, 3-5

5. Missouri, 2-6

6. Kentucky, 2-6

7. Vanderbilt, 0-8

SEC West

1. Alabama, 8-0

2. Auburn, 6-2

3. LSU, 5-3

4. Texas A&M, 4-4

5. Ole Miss, 3-5

6. Mississippi State, 2-6

7. Arkansas, 2-6

It would be hard to imagine Missouri and Vanderbilt plummeting so quickly, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Florida make a dramatic rebound.

Before you prepare your hate mail, remember this is just a “fun” excercise that does not necessarily reflect my actual opinion, nor does it have any effect on the real world.

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.

A look at Tennessee’s 2013 class: Who played, who will take a redshirt (chart)

Receiver Johnathon Johnson goes up for a catch during warmups at Missouri earlier this year (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Two members of Tennessee’s 2013 class played in all 12 games this year.

One is easy to guess. The other is much more difficult.

Freshman cornerback Cameron Sutton was likely the most pleasant surprise of the hastily assembled 2013 class, starting every game and emerging as perhaps the Vols’ most trusted defensive back.

Who also played in every game? Freshman safety Lemond Johnson was a special teams regular, despite (as far as I can tell) not playing a single snap on defense.

(Note: Freshman walk-on Devaun Swafford also played in all 12 games. Thanks to @donnieconley for the catch).

Receivers Marquez North, Josh Smith and Johnathon Johnson also played important roles in 2013. Some who I expected to have a major impact — like tight end Woody Quinn and cornerback Riyahd Jones hardly played at all.

As Tennessee welcomes a huge signing class in 2014, it’s worth remembering how difficult it is project freshman performance. Even arriving early is no guarantee of success. Of the five players who enrolled early and went through spring practice in 2013, only one made an impact beyond special teams. That would be defensive end Corey Vereen.

 Who can take a redshirt?

Officially, six players did not take a snap and are eligible for a redshirt season: Offensive linemen Brett Kendrick and Austin Sanders, defensive ends Malik Brown and Kendal Vickers, quarterback Riley Ferguson and receiver Ryan Jenkins.

Jenkins is battling a worrisome chronic injury, so it will be interesting to see how or if he responds in spring. The linemen weren’t needed immediately and got a chance to bulk up and work out during the season. Ferguson was on call until the very end, but ultimately survived the season with his redshirt intact.

In theory, there are two more defensive linemen who would be eligible for a medical hardship waiver — sometimes called a medical redshirt — if they sustained documented injuries during the season. Jason Carr and Jaylen Miller played in only three games (all during the first half of the season).

I’m not sure UT intends to request waivers for either player, however, because coaches didn’t “sell” the hypothetical “injuries” very aggressively during the year. In fact, Carr was even mentioned as a possible option to play late in the year.

We’ll find out soon enough whether Carr and Miller enter 2014 as sophomores or redshirt freshmen.

 

Name High school Position 247Sports Composite rating Games played Games started
Marquez North Mallard Creek (Charlotte, N.C.) WR 0.9574 11 11
Joshua Dobbs Alpharetta (Alpharetta, Ga.) QB 0.9276 5 4
Jason Carr White Station (Memphis, Tenn.) DL 0.9197 3 0
Jalen Reeves-Maybin Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.) S/LB 0.9051 11 0
Ryan Jenkins Lassiter (Marietta, Ga.) WR 0.8832 0 0
Austin Sanders Bradley Central (Cleveland, Tenn.) OL 0.8793 0 0
Riley Ferguson Butler (Matthews, N.C.) QB 0.8741 0 0
Paul Harris Frederick Douglass (Upper Marlboro, Md.) WR 0.868 5 0
Corey Vereen West Orange (Winter Garden, Fla.) DE 0.8678 9 0
Lemond Johnson Cooper City (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) S 0.8656 12 0
Cameron Sutton Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Ga.) CB 0.8625 12 12
Jaylen Miller Gaffney (Gaffney, S.C.) DL 0.8566 3 0
A.J. Branisel Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School (Chardon, Ohio) TE 0.8503 10 0
Johnathon Johnson Friendswood (Friendswood, Texas) WR 0.84 10 2
Malik Brown Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) DE 0.8387 0 0
Dylan Wiesman Colerain (Cincinnati, Ohio) OL 0.8352 10 0
Brett Kendrick Christian Academy of Knoxville (Knoxville, Tenn.) OL 0.8296 0 0
Malik Foreman Dobyns Bennett (Kingsport, Tenn.) CB 0.829 9 0
Riyahd Jones Carver High (Columbus, Ga.) CB 0.8262 2 0
Josh Smith Christian Academy of Knoxville (Knoxville, Tenn.) WR 0.821 11 4
Woody Quinn St. Margaret’s Episcopal (Calif.) TE 0.8091 2 0
Kendal Vickers Havelock (Havelock, N.C.) DE 0.7997 0 0
Jabo Lee Dillon High (Dillon, S.C.) RB

Has Butch Jones found a recruiting loophole? Vols could use complex strategies to manage brimming class

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — When Butch Jones met with the Knoxville Quarterback Club last week, he dropped a nugget of recruiting information that most wrote off as hyperbole.

“If we can find a way to sign 35, we’ll sign 35,” he said.

Was he exaggerating for effect?

Perhaps.

Or perhaps not.

As Tennessee’s list of verbal commitments continues to grow (it should be up to 34 if lineman Charles Mosley commits on Friday as expected), the Vols are contending with two limits.

One is the NCAA-imposed limit on scholarships. The other is the conference-imposed limit on signees.

There’s no loophole on NCAA scholarship limits. Teams can have only 85 total scholarship players, of whom no more than 25 can be “initial counters” in any given year. (There are some strategies to minimize the impact of the NCAA limits, which I discussed here. More on that in a second).

But is it possible that Tennessee’s staff has stumbled upon a loophole that would effectively allow the Vols to “over-sign” in a way that was common a few years ago but has largely been eliminated because of new rules?

Take a look at the text of the SEC rule limiting signees that went into effect Aug. 1, 2011 (emphasis added):

13.9.1 Letter of Intent – Limitation. Each SEC member institution is limited to signing 25 football prospective student-athletes to a National Letter of Intent, Conference financial aid agreement and/or institutional offer of athletics financial aid from December 1 through May 31st of each year. [Adopted 5/29/09; effective immediately; revised 6/3/11; effective August 1, 2011]

(Here’s a .pdf link if you want to peruse the SEC rules yourself.)

The dates are critical, because the SEC bylaw collides with a new NCAA rules interpretation that impacted this recruiting cycle. Academically eligible student-athletes who plan to enroll early (in January) are now allowed to sign aid agreements with universities as early as Aug. 1.

Tennessee had a flood of players sign aid agreements last month — perhaps a half-dozen players or more. Why is this significant? By the letter of the law, those players wouldn’t count against the SEC’s signing limit. They’re freebies, if you will.

Now, make no mistake: This loophole, if it’s real, doesn’t affect the scholarship limitations. But it would give Tennessee more flexibility than teams that haven’t yet discovered the loophole.

For example, let’s say five players sign aid agreements before Dec. 1, 2013, and enroll at UT in January.

UT can count back at least five scholarships against 2013 because that year’s class was under the 25-man limit. So that’s now 10 that wouldn’t count against the SEC signing limit.

Jones has said he wants to welcome 14 mid-year enrollees in January. If the Vols were able take 10 of those players “off the books” for the purposes of the SEC signing rule, they could sign another 21 players to traditional Letters of Intent in February.

Grand total? 35.

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Tennessee’s freshman class: Who played and who didn’t

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Marquez North waiting on the ball.

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Eleven true freshmen played in Tennessee’s season-opening victory against Austin Peay.

The debuts ranged from Marquez North, who started and appears to be one of the Vols’ top options at receiver, to linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who played only on special teams.

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UT signee Jabo Lee says he’s qualified, going to a 4-year school, but it won’t be Tennessee

Jabo Lee

Jabo Lee

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Running back Jabo Lee, who signed with Tennessee in February but was expected to land at junior college upon failing to qualify academically, says those assumptions are off base.

Lee told the Florence (S.C.) Morning News that he is qualified academically and that he doesn’t plan to go to a junior college. But he won’t be going to Tennessee.

“This is just the beginning and everything is good. It is no sweat all,” Lee told the paper.

Lee said that Temple was one of the options he was considering.

Lee posted a message to Vols fans this week:

Lee had been verbally committed to East Carolina but switched to Tennessee just before National Signing Day. The Vols had missed on their top running back targets and needed to add a back to the class.

Without Lee, the Vols will enter 2013 with only four scholarship running backs — Rajion Neal, Marlin Lane, Alden Hill and Tom Smith.

Kendal Vickers is officially on Tennessee’s roster — and he’s No. 39

Kendal Vickers

Kendal Vickers (photo from KNS partner 247Sports)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Kendal Vickers, ditched by South Carolina amid concerns he wouldn’t qualify academically, is officially a Tennessee Vol.

The defensive lineman from Havelock, N.C., is No. 39 on the latest update of Tennessee’s roster. He is listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds.

Vickers’ arrival gives the Vols an estimated 83 scholarship players in 2013. According to the recruiting sites, Vickers is the lowest-rated prospect in the Vols’ 2013 class and the third-lowest rated on the team. However, with many veteran defensive linemen on the squad this season, Vickers is likely destined for a redshirt season before he will compete for playing time in 2014.

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Tennessee prospect Kendal Vickers announces acceptance via Twitter

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Defensive lineman prospect Kendal Vickers, a late pickup by coach Butch Jones’ staff tweeted out a photo of an important document on Monday afternoon: A certificate of admission to the University of Tennessee.

Vickers, who was nudged out of South Carolina’s signing class because of academic concerns, had promised he would be ready to enroll at UT when the second summer session begins on July 8.

The photo appears to confirm that all is going according to plan.

An end from Havelock, N.C., Vickers also considered East Carolina and North Carolina before ultimately signing with the Gamecocks. He verbally committed to the Vols on May 24, but has not signed a National Letter of Intent.