KNOXVILLE – Tennessee received a commitment from junior college defensive back Riyahd Jones, originally from Columbus, Ga., on Friday afternoon.
The 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back chose the Vols over offers from Kansas State, Indiana, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Wake Forest, Texas Tech, Ole Miss and others.
He’s the 15th commitment for Tennessee’s class of 2013, though the commitment list is currently somewhat fluid with a new coaching staff taking over.
“Jones displays the foot quickness, playing speed and toughness needed to defend against the run and pass as a defensive back,” ESPN.com wrote in a scouting report. “He has the size and athleticism for the cornerback position at the major level of competition.”
He’s spent 2011 playing cornerback at Georgia Southern before transferring to Garden City (Kan.) Community College in 2012. Jones plans to enroll at Tennessee for the spring semester and will go through spring practice with the Vols.
247Sports.com: 3-star, 149th best JUCO prospect, 14th best cornerback
Nooga.com analysis: Watch any Tennessee game from 2012 and you’ll quickly see that speed in the secondary was lacking. It wasn’t just teams such as Florida, Alabama and Georgia that blew by the Vols’ secondary. Georgia State, Akron and Troy all had multiple plays where their skills players were clearly outrunning Tennessee defensive backs. That must change for the Vols if they hope to compete in the SEC.
Jones, though not an elite-level prospect, does bring needed speed and a touch of experience to the secondary. He’s got good feet and runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.5-second range according to multiple recruiting services. He might not turn into a lockdown cornerback, but he could help Tennessee eliminate some of the huge plays it was prone to giving up in 2012.
How he fits: The cornerback position offers opportunity for 2013. Seniors Prentiss Waggner and Marsalis Teague have departed. Rising sophomore Deion Bonner’s status is in question going forward after a late-season suspension.
That leaves Daniel Gray, Justin Coleman, Eric Gordon and Jaron Toney as the only experienced cornerbacks returning. Most of Gordon and Toney’s experience has come as the nickelback – neither has much experience playing outside as a true cornerback.
Coaches generally don’t bring JUCO players in unless they think they can help immediately. That’s the case for Jones. He’ll have a chance to battle for a starting corner position and at the very least should be an important backup and special teams’ contributor.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.