KNOXVILLE – The list of visitors expected in town isn’t as big as last weekend, but it’s still a huge couple of days coming up for coach Butch Jones as he works on assembling his first recruiting class at UT.
The biggest moment will come on Saturday afternoon, when running back Derrick Green, a five-star prospect out Richmond, Va., will choose between Tennessee, Michigan and Auburn.
The 6-foot, 220-pound Green was pursued by former coach Derek Dooley and his staff before Jones picked right up on the chase as soon as he was hired in early December.
"Tennessee was good, [running back coach Jay] Graham, the tight ends coach, the wide receiver coach and the offensive line coach all came in," Green told Rivals.com last week after UT’s staff came to see him. "It was a good visit and it showed how much they wanted me that they sent all those coaches. They showed me some film, told me they will be running a pro-style offense and how it fits my style."
Green clearly likes the Vols, but will that be enough to overcome Michigan, a team that hasn’t gone through a coaching transition this year and has been on Green the longest?
The consensus guess is that the Wolverines will get the commitment. We’ll find out for sure on Saturday.
Meanwhile in Knoxville, the coaching staff is keeping an eye on the radar with several prospects scheduled to make it into town. Knox County schools were closed for Friday in anticipation of a possible ice storm. The Vols will hope that inclement weather doesn’t prevent any of the visitors from making it.
That’s especially true of Vonn Bell, a five-star defensive back prospect, who lives just south of Chattanooga. Bell attends Ridgeland High in the Peach State, but grew up a Vols fan and lives under two hours from UT’s campus.
Again, Tennessee is playing from behind on Bell. Alabama and Ohio State have been leading the race for him, but the Vols have gained ground in the past few weeks. Alabama is still considered the favorite. Tennessee will try and change that this weekend if he makes it in.
Whoever lands the 6-foot, 190-pound prospect will get one of the best defensive back prospects in the nation.
“A very well-rounded safety prospect, Bell has the size, speed and athleticism to make plays in all three levels of the defense,” ESPN.com wrote in a scouting report. “Tall, well-built with a muscular frame that can still add size and power, he has a knack for being around the ball and making plays. He covers the field with great speed and proper pursuit angles. Can makes plays in the first level from his high-point position.”
Other official visitors expected in town this weekend (weather permitting):
QB Joshua Dobbs – 6-3, 190 pounds; Alpharetta, Ga.
Outlook: The Arizona State commitment has taken an interest in a couple of SEC schools – Tennessee and Mississippi State – over the past month. The Vols already have quarterback Riley Ferguson committed, but with plenty of scholarship space open at the moment, adding Dobbs as a second quarterback in this class is an option if the interest is mutual.
DE Antonio Riles – 6-4, 265 pounds; Lawrenceville, Ga.
Outlook: He’s committed to Florida, but Tennessee is at least getting him in for a visit. Jones will likely pitch early playing time to the Georgia native, but don’t expect him to flip his pledge.
LB Zach Cunningham – 6-4, 200 pounds; Pinson, Ala.
Outlook: The rangy outside linebacker is coming to Knoxville on Sunday after swinging by Vanderbilt earlier in the weekend. Auburn, Miami and Oregon are other schools to watch in his recruitment.
LB E.J. Levenberry – 6-3, 230 pounds; Woodbridge Va.
Outlook: Tennessee has gained considerable momentum with the Florida State commitment, especially since multiple assistant coaches have departed from FSU the last few weeks. The Vols, at this point, have a realistic shot at landing him on signing day.
• Wide receiver Tyler Boyd, a four-star prospect out of Clairton, Pa., was originally scheduled to visit this weekend, but now is not planning to come. He is currently committed to Pittsburgh.
• Offensive line commitment Dan Skipper of Arvada, Col., is visiting Ole Miss this weekend. Jones went to visit Skipper this week, but the 6-10 offensive tackle is one of UT’s most wavering commitments at this point.
• Defensive end commitment Jason Carr of Memphis reaffirmed his pledge to the Vols this week after showing interest in Alabama and Ole Miss over the past month.
• Defensive end Carl Lawson, one of UT’s top remaining targets, is schedule to visit North Carolina this weekend.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga