Returning: SR Ja’Wuan James; SR Zach Fulton; SR Alex Bullard; SR James Stone; JR Tiny Richardson; JR Marcus Jackson; JR Marquis Pair; SO Alan Posey; SO Mack Crowder; SO Kyler Kerbyson
Incoming: Austin Sanders (3-star); Brett Kendrick (3-star); Dylan Wiesman (3-star)
Current 2014 commitments:
• Orlando Brown (6-8/350/Peachtree Ridge, Ga./3-star): Brown, the son of a former NFL lineman, chose the Vols over a star-studded offer list that included Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and Texas. With a massive frame and great bloodlines, the main question is if he keep his weight under control and be athletic enough to play tackle in the SEC.
• Coleman Thomas (6-6/300/Max Meadows, Va.)/3-star): Thomas is a versatile lineman who could play any spot on the offensive line in college. He’s rated as a center on 247Sports, but his 6-foot-6 frame could be utilized at tackle as well.
Level of need: Extremely High. In a class that has several needs, restocking the offensive line might be the most important. The Vols are guaranteed to lose Stone, Fulton, James and Bullard – all multi-year starters — and they could have Richardson depart early for the NFL draft.
That means the entire starting offensive line might need to be replaced, not to mention all the depth behind it. Quantity and quality will be important in this class. The coaching staff seems to have confidence in Jackson, Kerbyson and Crowder as future starters, but the reality is that one or more players from this class could be in line to start as soon as 2014.
That’s why junior college prospects could come into play. Expect the Vols to pursue at least one, if not more, JUCO prospects to help immediately while adding several prep prospects who can add to the depth and develop for the future. In total, it wouldn’t be surprising to see six or more offensive linemen in this class.
Top Uncommitted Targets:
• Dontavius Blair (6-7/295/Garden City C.C./4-star): The JUCO prospect visited UT in March and currently has an impressive offer list including Oklahoma, Florida State, Georgia and others. UT has some ground to gain, but he’s the type of prospect who could factor in as a starter at tackle next year in Knoxville.
• Alex Bookser (6-6/295/Pittsburgh, Pa./4-star): Bookser, a tackle, recently listed UT as one of his eight finalists. Alabama and a host of Big 10 teams such as Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State are the top competition.
• Corey Martinez (6-4/300/Tampa, Fla./3-star): The interior offensive lineman recently named UT, Alabama, LSU, Miami, Vanderbilt and Florida State as his finalists.
• Brock Ruble (6-9/305/Hyattsville, Md./3-star): The massive offensive tackle is planning to visit Knoxville this week. Maryland, his home-state school, has the lead at this point, but UT’s offer of playing time could be attractive.
Others to keep an eye on:
• Christian Taylor (6-5/330/Lexington, SC/3-star): Another oversized tackle who likes UT. North Carolina State is his only offer at this point, though he visited Knoxville in April.
• Nolan Kelleher (6-6/305/Mount Pleasant SC/3-star): Was impressed on a recent visit to UT. Clemson, Florida State and Georgia are the top contenders for the guard right now.
• Alex Bars (6-6/290/Nashville, Tenn./4-star): The Nashville native was a top priority before committing to Notre Dame in May.
• Ray Raulerson (6-4/280/Tampa, Fla./3-star): Received an offer from UT a few weeks ago and has the Vols near the top of his list.
• Matthew Pyke (6-3/300/Clinton, Tenn./3-star): Local guard/center prospect is looking for a UT offer. Would likely commit if he gets one.
• Avery Gennesy (6-5, 320/East Mississippi C.C./4-star): The highly-ranked JUCO prospect received an offer from UT last week. He appears to be in no hurry to make any decisions.
*All rankings are from the 247Sports Composite.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga