Tennessee needs help at safety and offensive line in 2016 recruiting class
After obtaining excellent recruiting classes in 2014 and 2015, Tennessee will not have many holes to fill heading into next season — a year in which the Volunteers will be expected by many to win the SEC Eastern Division.
But Tennessee’s current recruiting class isn’t as strong as past classes, and the Vols still need to recruit for a couple of positions before National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
Losing after 2015: Brian Randolph and LaDarrell McNeil.
Randolph started every game during the 2015 season, and McNeil started in nine of those contests. They combined for three interceptions, five pass breakups and 97 tackles. That’s a significant amount of production to lose at one position.
But sophomore Todd Kelly Jr. did have lots of playing time as Tennessee’s strong safety this year and is expected to be one of Tennessee’s starting safeties in 2016. And Evan Berry, the younger brother of current Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry, could be the other starter alongside Kelly. But the Volunteers need to add depth at safety.
Losing after 2015: Kyler Kerbyson and Mack Crowder.
Kerbyson is the only starting offensive lineman that Tennessee will lose, but Crowder provided Tennessee depth at the guard position and replaced Jashon Robertson for two games when Robertson was dealing with an injury.
Promising freshman Jack Jones will most likely work his way into the starting lineup, but it wouldn’t hurt the Vols to recruit more depth and talent for an offensive line that paved the way for 2,692 rushing yards this season.
Other positions Tennessee should target: WR, DE
CURRENT RECRUITING CLASS
Tennessee’s 2016 recruiting class includes eight commits on offense and seven commits on defense, led by four-star DE Johnathan Kongbo. The Vols’ current class should add depth to the QB, RB, WR, TE, CB, and LB positions.
HOW VOLS MIGHT FILL NEEDS AT SAFETY AND OL?
If Nigel Warrior — a four-star safety target of Tennessee — commits to the Volunteers, it would significantly improve Tennessee’s depth at safety. Warrior is also considering offers from Alabama, Georgia and LSU.
Landon Dickerson, a versatile four-star offensive lineman, has also shown interest in Tennessee — taking two unofficial visits to the Vols’ games against South Carolina and North Texas. Dickerson is also considering offers from Virginia Tech, Auburn and Florida State.
It’s a sign of progress that Tennessee is mostly recruiting for depth instead of need with its 2016 recruiting class. Most of the players in this class will not start right away, and they should have the opportunity to develop their skills before being thrown into the fire against SEC competition.
But if the Vols can receive commitments from Warrior and Dickerson, the 2016 class will go down as another excellent recruiting job by Tennessee coach Butch Jones.