KNOXVILLE – Wednesday marked the first day that junior college prospects who are graduating after this semester can sign a letter of intent with a four-year institution.
JUCO signing day doesn’t get the same publicity as prep signing day in February, but for Tennessee, it is a big day for the future of the program. The Vols signed three players Wednesday, but lost a potential fourth when defensive lineman DaVonte Lambert broke his commitment to the Vols and signed with Auburn.
The players who did sign will enroll in January and go through winter workouts with the team and spring practice beginning in March.
WR Lavon Pearson (6-3/185/Feather River (Calif.) C.C.)
247Sports Composite Ranking: 4-star; No. 4 JUCO player overall; No. 2 JUCO WR
2013 Stats: 90 catches, 1,598 yards, 12 TDs
Impact: Pearson is an impressive athlete with fantastic film. He might not be quite to the level of former UT JUCO signee Cordarrelle Patterson, now of the Minnesota Vikings, but he makes plays on film that are reminiscent of him. He has excellent hands, good instincts, good size, is a great leaper and has enough speed to hurt opposing defenses. It’s not a huge stretch to say that he could be an instant starter for UT, if not at least an important part of the rotation.
DT Owen Williams (6-1/280/Butler (Kan.) C.C.)
247Sports Composite Ranking: 3-star; No. 116 JUCO player overall; No. 17 JUCO DT
2013 Stats: 50 tackles, 16.5 TFLs, 7 sacks
Impact: Williams is a bowling ball that can plug into the middle of UT’s defensive line. Defensive line coach Steve Stripling likes a stout, athletic player to play in the one-technique spot that lines up in the gap beside the center and Williams might fit that role. He needs a little more weight and some work on his technique, but he easily could find himself in the rotation at D-tackle next season with the departure of Daniel McCullers, Daniel Hood and Maurice Couch.
OL Dontavius Blair (6-8/305/Garden City (Kan.) C.C.)
247Sports Composite Ranking: 4-star; No. 8 JUCO player overall; No. 4 JUCO OT
Impact: Blair might be the most likely Day 1 starter of today’s signees. With Tennessee losing all five starting linemen, the Vols need help everywhere on the OL, especially at tackle where there is very little experience returning. Kyler Kerbyson is an option on one side and go ahead and pencil Blair in on the other – possibly as the protector of the blind side at left tackle.
• Tennessee lost 4-star JUCO defensive line commitment DaVonte Lambert in a surprising announcement on Wednesday afternoon. The versatile D-lineman out of Georgia Military College had been committed to UT since August, but ultimately decided to sign with Auburn.
• Tennessee has one other JUCO commitment, linebacker Chris Weatherd. He will not be signing with anybody until February because he's not a mid-term enrollee.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga