KNOXVILLE – Two recruiting weekends remain before national signing day and though UT will still be active, a big part of the challenge will be hanging on to what the Vols already have in their massive recruiting class.
Fourteen are already enrolled and, in terms of their recruitment, are locked in with the Vols. Twenty remain verbal commitments and a few of them are visiting other schools in the last days before National Signing Day on Feb. 4.
“I am excited with the way things are going but nothing has caught my staff off guard, I am excited with the individuals that we have,” Butch Jones said in his postseason press conference last month.
“But we don’t ever take anything for granted. We are in a people relationships type of business and I think individuals see we have tremendous people here and a great product to see and really they want to be a part of it.”
Recruiting is always fluid and plans regularly change at the last minute due to weather or other circumstances, but here’s a guide for the next few days on what to look for as UT begins to put the finishing touches on its 2014 class.
Key scheduled visits:
4* DT Craig Evans
Where: to Tennessee
Significance: The Wisconsin native pledged to the in-state Badgers earlier this month, but has kept other programs, including Tennessee, in the mix. The Vols seem set on adding another D-lineman in this class and Evans is one of the highest-rated players left on their board.
**Update: Multiple outlets, including WNML-FM radio in Knoxville, have reported that Evans will no longer make it to Knoxville this weekend.**
3* DT Courtney Garnett
Where: to Tennessee
Significance: Garnett is another defensive lineman UT is still after. The former Texas commitment seems to be favoring Oklahoma now, though Tennessee remains in the hunt.
3* DE Cory Thomas
Where: to Mississippi State
Significance: Thomas might be UT’s softest commitment as the versatile 6-foot-6, 270-pounder has been looking around for the last month or so after committing to Tennessee in November. He visited Clemson last week and will go to MSU this weekend, a school located just a couple hours away from his home in McCalla, Ala.
3* DT Michael Sawyers
Where to: Ole Miss
Significance: Sawyers was one of many de-commitments from Vanderbilt after the departure of James Franklin. A long-standing Tennessee target, Sawyers is looking at Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Notre Dame now. The Vols are hoping to get him to visit on the final recruiting weekend (Jan. 31), but he’s likely headed to Ole Miss instead.
UT commitments to keep an eye on down the stretch:
4* LB Kevin Mouhon
Why: Mouhon’s brother plays at Cincinnati and after visiting last weekend, he seems to be at least somewhat interested in joining him.
3* LB Jerome Dews
Why: With Tennessee crunching numbers in this class, Dews, who only has two other FBS offers (Purdue, Temple), could be the odd man out if Jones needs to let somebody go.
4* DE Dewayne Hendrix
Why: The Illinois native, who committed to UT in October, is visiting Missouri this weekend.
Upcoming announcements/still on the board:
4* RB Derrell Scott
Scott is scheduled to announce on Monday with Tennessee and South Carolina contending for the speedy 5-11, 180-pound back. UT has made no secret that it needs another back in this class and Scott is its best chance at landing one at this point.
5* CB/ATH Adoree’ Jackson
Jackson, the top player left on UT’s board, is expected to announce on signing day. UT still faces an uphill climb in this one, but the Vols should remain in contention until the end.
4* S/OLB Emmanuel Smith
The Vanderbilt commitment hasn’t announced any definitive plans at this point, though he is scheduled to visit with new Vandy coach Derek Mason this weekend. The Vols offered him last spring and would seemingly be interested in hosting him next weekend if the interest is mutual.
* All star rankings come from 247Sports’ composite rankings that average the ratings of multiple recruiting services.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanielNooga