Ranking Tennessee's Top 5 recruiting needs by position
The Tennessee Volunteers finished the 2014 regular season with a 6-6 (3-5 SEC) record, earning bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010. Head coach Butch Jones played over 23 true freshman, fielding the youngest team in college football. After signing a top-5 recruiting class in 2014, the Vols rank No. 5 overall in the 247Sports.com 2015 team composite ranking and should continue to see success on the recruiting trail before National Signing Day.
Here’s a look at Tennessee’s top 5 recruiting needs:
1. OFFENSIVE LINE
Who’s leaving: Jacob Gilliam, Marcus Pair
Tennessee’s offensive line was, by far, its worst position group in 2014. The Vols must add depth to a position group that underachieved throughout the season.
Prior to Week 1, Tennessee returned zero starters on its o-line, which was evident in the group’s inability to provide protection. The Vols ranked No. 118 overall in sacks allowed, ranking last in the SEC, with a total of 42 and an average of 3.5 per game.
Tennessee already has commitments from four offensive tackles, including two-time reigning Mr. Football winner Jack Jones and recent recipient Zach Stewart. The incoming linemen should compete for playing time given the current roster’s inability to provide stability.
2. INSIDE LINEBACKER
Who’s leaving: A.J. Johnson
A.J. Johnson’s was suspended for the final two games of his collegiate career. Freshman Jakob Johnson struggled in Johnson’s absence, leaving questions about the middle linebacker position moving forward.
Tennessee is fortunate to have help at outside linebacker, with the emergence of Jalen Reeves-Maybin and resurgence of Curt Maggitt. The Vols also have two four-star prospects from the 2014 class in Dillon Bates and JUCO transfer Chris Weatherd.
But the Vols need a solid contributor at the Mike position. Darrin Kirkland Jr., who committed earlier this month, will add a much needed presence at inside linebacker.
3. DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Who’s leaving: Jordan Williams
Michael Williams enjoyed a successful senior season at defensive tackle. Williams had 25 tackles, four for loss and two sacks. JUCO transfer Owen Williams had several standout performances, but leads a depth chart filled with several inexperienced players.
The Vols already have commits from Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle, two of the nation’s top defensive tackle prospects, and several blue chippers from the 2014 class.
Who’s leaving: Justin Worley
Don’t get me wrong, Joshua Dobbs is the quarterback of the future, but Nathan Peterman is far from a solid backup. The Vols have commitments from pro-style quarterback Quinten Dormady and dual-threat quarterback Jauan Jennings, both whom have the mobility necessary to succeed in Tennessee’s offense. However, with Dobbs’ recent emergence, Vols fans hope that neither player sees much time under center in 2015.
5. RUNNING BACK
Who’s leaving: Marlin Lane, Derrell Scott
Sure, Jalen Hurd had an incredible freshman season when healthy. But with senior Marlin Lane graduating and Derrell Scott opting to transfer, the Vols need another capable back to take some of the weight off of Hurd.
Tennessee has already signed four-star JUCO transfer Alvin Kamara, who has three remaining years of eligibility after redshirting at Alabama in 2013. The Vols also received commitments from three-star running backs Kendall Bussey and Rocky Reid.