KNOXVILLE – Tennessee received a verbal commitment from defensive tackle/strongside defensive end Joe Sanders of Lagrange, Ga., on Wednesday night, according to InsideTennessee.com, an affiliate of Scout.com.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive lineman chose the Vols over offers from Vanderbilt, Colorado, Indiana, South Florida and others.
He’s the 19th commitment for the 2013 class and the third defensive lineman, joining tackle Ben Bradley and end Jason Carr.
“Sanders is a kid with very nice natural size,” ESPN.com wrote in a scouting report. “He possesses great height and carries good bulk on his long frame and still looks pretty lean around 270 and should be able to pack on some more good mass with further physical development.”
ESPN.com: 3-star, No. 91 player in the state of Georgia
247Sports.com: 3-star, No. 65 strongside defensive end, No. 96 player in the state of Georgia
Nooga.com analysis: It’s tough to recruit while on the hot seat. That partially explains why coach Derek Dooley might have taken a commitment from a lower-ranked player without an impressive offer sheet.
Still, Dooley has been known to trust his eyes over rankings and offers on players. He probably sees Sanders’ impressive size and long frame. He plays defensive end in both a 3-4 and 4-3 look for his high school team. He doesn’t explode off the ball the way some elite high school ends do, but he’s got a decent first step.
Sanders’ strength appears to be good, though not overwhelming considering the size advantage he has on many of the blockers he takes on. He will need to work on staying lower and needs to use his hands and his pass-rush moves better. He often dips a shoulder into a pass blocker instead of engaging him with his hands and getting him off of him quickly. That won’t work against SEC offensive linemen.
Sanders is a good looking high school player, but he’ll have a lot of work to do at the next level. You can’t teach size, though. He’s got a lot of that for his age and position.
How he fits: He looks like a 3-4 defensive end in Tennessee’s scheme. The best comparison on the current roster is redshirt freshman defensive end Trevarris Saulsberry.
Sanders will need to work on technique and his overall speed, but if he adds a little more bulk, he could grow into a an ideal 3-4 end. He’s probably not an instant-impact type of player.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.