Signing Day Preview: Will Vols Make A Splash?

Monday, February 4, 2013 - by Kevin Connelly

Ever since Butch Jones was given the keys to the Tennessee football program on Dec. 7, he and his coaching staff have been hard at work to put together a formidable recruiting class.

Two months later, judgment day is upon us and all they can do now is sit by the fax machine and hope the long work hours and strenuous travel pays off.

In college football land, National Signing Day has become somewhat of a religious holiday. It’s a day where many fans camp out in front of a TV, or franticly scan the Internet, in hopes that a seventeen or eighteen year old kid dons the hat of their favorite college.

Sound crazy?

Welcome to the world of college football recruiting, where millions of dollars can be made or lost and grown men are willing to do or say just about anything to get a teenager to pick their school.

With the emergence of social media, the recruiting trail has gotten even hotter. Fans now use Twitter and Facebook to interact with the high school athletes their schools are pursuing. It’s brought out the good, the bad, and the ugly in every fan base across the country.

Crazy or not, the first Wednesday in February remains one of the most important days of the year for college football coaches. It becomes even more important if you’re in your first year with a program. No pressure though, Butch.

Tennessee has 17 commitments entering National Signing Day, with room to add as many as 10 more.

Without further ado, here is a look at the names to keep an eye on who are considering the Volunteers. Included are my predictions of who I think they’ll end up signing with on Feb. 6.

(Listed in order of rankings)

Top players considering Tennessee

Vonn Bell, DB, Rossville (Ga.) Ridgeland
Scheduled to announce at 10 a.m. EST
Bell visited Knoxville the weekend of Jan. 25 and had plenty of good things to say afterwards. He is the only remaining five-star prospect that the Vols have a chance at landing.
Growing up near Chattanooga, Bell has been a life long UT fan so it would seem like he and the Vols would be a perfect match. However Coach Jones and his staff has had to play catch-up since arriving on the scene, and the defensive back is very fond of Ohio State and Alabama as well.

Prediction: TENNESSEE. I ultimately believe Jones will receive his first five-star commitment and fill a major need in the secondary. There is slight cause for concern with rumors that the Buckeyes are making a late push for Bell. Don’t be surprised if Urban Meyer steals him away from UT, but the Vols are definitely the favorites.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Clairton (Pa.) Clairton

Currently committed to Pittsburgh
No scheduled announcement
After committing to Pitt at the Army All-American game in early January, Boyd has made official visits to West Virginia and most-recently Tennessee. He and his father were very impressed with what the Vols had to offer, but the hometown Panthers are going to be difficult to beat.

Prediction: PITTSBURGH. Boyd’s mother didn’t make the trip to Knoxville last weekend and from the sounds of it, she wants her son staying close to home.

E.J. Levenberry, LB, Woodbridge, (Va.) C. D. Hylton

Currently committed to Florida State
No scheduled announcement
The Vols are going hard after Florida State commit E.J. Levenberry, who was in town for an official visit last weekend. The back story here is that Sal Sunseri wasn’t interested in him when he was at Tennessee, and now that Sunseri is linebackers coach at FSU, Levenberry isn’t sure he wants to play for him.

Prediction: TENNESSEE. This recruiting battle is expected to come right down to the wire with Tennessee holding most of the momentum. Hard to say either way, but my gut instinct tells me he’ll switch to the Vols.

Johnathan Ford, RB, New Hope (Ala.) New Hope

Scheduled to announce at noon EST
Since decommiting from Vanderbilt a week ago, “Rudy” Ford has narrowed his decision down to Tennessee and Auburn. Between a visit from Tigers coach Gus Malzahn and Ford taking an unofficial visit to Auburn last weekend, it’s safe to say they’re the leaders at this point.

Prediction: AUBURN. The four-star running back did have rave reviews after his visit to Knoxville earlier in January, but it appears the Alabama native will stay closer to home and play for the Tigers.

Joshua Dobbs, QB, Alpharetta (Ga.) Alpharetta

Currently committed to Arizona State
No scheduled announcement
The three-star quarterback has been committed to the Sun Devils since last June, but after an official visit last weekend, Dobbs has a decision to make before Wednesday. It’s been reported that academics will play a major role in his decision, with location note being much of a factor.

Prediction: ARIZONA STATE. Dobbs has stayed unusually quite for someone who may be questioning their commitment, which should favor Arizona State. It’s really anybody’s guess though.

Davin Bellamy, DE, Atlanta (Ga.) Chamblee Charter

No scheduled announcement
Bellamy decommitted from Florida Sate a week ago and has reopened his recruitment. His new leader is Georgia, who holds a slight lead over Tennessee and Oregon. The three-star defensive lineman has taken official visits to the remaining finalists over the last three weeks, but the Bulldogs remain the team to beat.

Prediction: GEORGIA. Both UT and UGA coaching staffs will make an in-home visit this week leading up to his decision on Wednesday. Vols still have a chance to ‘wow’ Bellamy and his family, but odds are he signs with Georgia.

Jabo Lee, RB, Dillon (SC) Dillon

Currently committed to East Carolina
No scheduled announcement
For Tennessee to offer somebody, who’s been committed to a school since April 2012, just five days before signing day, they must know something we don’t. Running backs coach Jay Graham has reportedly been in communication with Lee for a while now and the Vols are desperate at his position.

Prediction: TENNESSEE. For no reason other than I respect Graham’s ability to recruit running backs, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee swaps to the Vols on signing day to give them their much needed running back in the class.

Malik Brown, DE, Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Dwyer

Currently committed to Syracuse
Scheduled to announce at noon EST
The Volunteers offered Brown two weeks ago, prompting him to make a trip up last weekend for an official visit. He hasn’t been committed to Syracuse for very long, however with Jones and his staff getting in so late in the game, it’s going to be hard for them to make up enough ground and convince him to flip.

Prediction: SYRACUSE. Brown has been by far the most difficult to predict. From all accounts he really enjoyed he visit to Knoxville and likes what the Vols can offer him in terms of playing time. In the end, I think it’s just too little too late.

Jaylen Miller, DE, Gaffney (SC) Gaffney

No scheduled announcement

Miller appears to be as close to a sure thing as you’ll see in recruiting. He visited Tennessee two weeks in a row, first on an official visit and then on an unofficial one. The other schools he is considering are N.C. State and Wake Forrest.

Prediction: TENNESSEE. He’s made it clear the Vols have been the leader since day one.

Check back for more National Signing Day coverage on Wednesday, Feb. 6., including full analysis from Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones’ press conference at 4 p.m.


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