Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us daily at SEC Country for the latest Tennessee recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers. Check out previous editions here . In this edition, we discuss which position is the biggest area of need for Tennessee on the recruiting trail.
Tennessee will have a lot question marks surrounding the team going into next season. Most of all, the new coaching staff and how quickly it can turn around the Vols program.
There are holes in a few different positions that will have to get sorted out quickly. Freshmen will have the opportunity to play meaningful minutes. Junior college players might have to be recruited and signed, too, to provide some immediate depth.
Here are three position groups the coaching staff will need to immediately address after being hired:
Tennessee expected offensive line depth to be a strength heading into the 2017 season, but it ended up being possibly the weakest link. With attrition and injuries, the Vols had only four healthy scholarship linemen at times this season.
Tennessee loses Coleman Thomas, Jashon Robertson and Brett Kendrick, as all three have exhausted their eligibility. Jack Jones retired from football with neck injuries and Venzell Boulware left the team midseason.
Tennessee has only two offensive linemen committed in the Class of 2018 in Ollie Lane and Tanner Antonutti. Both would likely benefit from a redshirt season to become bigger and learn more technique.
This is where the new coach becomes extremely important because of Cade Mays. He lives 30 minutes away from Neyland Stadium and was committed for more than two years. The 5-star offensive tackle de-committed in October.
Mays has taken official visits to Clemson, Ohio State and Georgia. I’ve been told Tennessee isn’t out of his recruitment, yet. Former coach Butch Jones appeared to be a reason why Mays didn’t want to come to Tennessee.
The new coach’s first move after talking to the team should be to call Mays and try to get him back on board. Tennessee desperately needs someone to come in and plug a few holes on the offensive line. Mays fits that role.
Tennessee has also pursued Jerome Carvin and Jahmir Johnson on the line, too. Carvin started to lean toward Mississippi State, but Dan Mullen’s departure to Florida could change things. Johnson is a junior college player who could potentially be plugged in and play early.
It’s up in the air if the new coaching staff will target either player.
Tennessee lost commitments from cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Tanner Ingle over the past two weeks. The Vols need to bring in probably three prospects at the corner position for depth purposes.
The Vols lose seniors Justin Martin, Emmanuel Moseley and Shaq Wiggins off their 2017 roster.
Freshman Shawn Shamburger showed flashes against Alabama when he received his only start of the season. This is the only significant playing time a returning player at the position will bring into next season.
Brandon Cross is the lone cornerback commit at this time and he seems solidly committed to the team. He can provide depth but likely won’t play a key role in the secondary next season.
Trey Dean is a safety commit with the potential to play corner. He might be close to de-committing, though, if he doesn’t like the new hire.
Tennessee’s chances with Horn probably aren’t done if the new coach can quickly build a relationship with him. Horn wants a place he can play early. The Vols certainly can give him that opportunity.
The wide receiver group might have been the least productive position for the Vols this season. Next season doesn’t look too much better, unless some underclassmen improve a lot over the summer.
Jauan Jennings sustained a wrist injury in the season opener against Georgia Tech and missed the rest of the season. He delivered a profane Instagram video talking about the coaching staff last week and was kicked off the team. On Sunday, he made another video apologizing and said he wants to come back to the team.
If the new coach doesn’t take him, then there might not be much depth at wide receiver.
The Vols played Marquez Callaway, Brandon Johnson and Josh Palmer almost exclusively down the stretch. All three will return next season but can’t be expected to make the only contributions on the outside.
The problem is Tennessee doesn’t hold a commitment from a wide receiver right now. Manchester, Tenn., native Alontae Taylor was committed as a wide receiver until Jones was fired.
He recently put Tennessee back in his top 5 so the new coach still has a chance to bring him on board.
Taylor could provide an explosive element to the wide receiver group, which it lacked last season.
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