Recruiting Update: Defense, Special Teams, and a Late Signee
CB D’Andre Payne (@realdpayne)
D’Andre Payne was a big pick up for Butch Jones. Not only is he one of the elite cornerbacks in the nation this year (#15) but he is now teammates with another star recruit, Jalen Tabor. Following his junior football season, Payne transferred from H.D. Woodson High to Friendship Collegiate Academy. This move virtual assures that FCA will have arguably the best high school secondary in the country. Payne joins 5* Jalen Tabor and 3* Daejuan Funderburk for their senior seasons. (Side note: All three hold UT offers) Payne has been very vocal about trying to get Tabor to play college ball with him at Tennessee. Prior to UT firing the abortion of a defensive coordinator know as Sal “Swiss Cheese” Sunseri, Tabor was favoring the VOLS but that interested has waned. His leader now is believed to be Alabama but it will be interesting to see if Payne will be able to draw in his teammate as the season progresses. Don’t view Payne as a package deal though. He is the real deal and will be a great addition to Tennessee’s depleted secondary.
Junior Highlight Film:
D’Andre Payne doesn’t deliver any punishing hits and he is a few inches shorter than you would want a typical SEC cornerback but his combination of speed, quickness, and high football IQ are what make him such a lockdown coverage corner. He always appears to be in good position to either make plays on the ball or limit yards after completion. His flexibility and quickness are ideal for mirroring the quick cuts of receivers. Other than his size the only other glaring weakness is his tackling. As a smaller player, Payne sometimes shies away from contact and he frequently leaves his feet on open field tackles. Seeing as the VOL’s secondary should be much improved by the time Payne arrives on campus, it is unlikely that he will see the field as a CB and will have time to develop before being put up against SEC competition. He could contribute early on special teams as a returner though. As a kick returner, Payne utilizes his speed and shiftiness to weave through pressure.
OLB Chris Weatherd (@Ummmm_Dubb)
LB is a huge position of need for Tennessee moving forward. Heading into this season they are thin at the position and it doesn’t get much better when you factor in that A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggit (less likely) could leave for the draft. After failing to qualify to play college ball out of high school, Weatherd will have played two years at Trinity Valley Community College before arriving at Tennessee. This means that the #1 JUCO OLB and #23 overall JUCO recruit has two years of remaining eligibility.
High School Highlight Film:
Community College Highlight Film:
In his JUCO career, Chris Weatherd has split his time between playing DE and OLB. Due to his size there is little doubt that he will line with his hand off the ground when he dresses in orange. The 220 pound LB is an explosive player off the edge. What he lacks in size, he makes up for it in speed and technique. Weatherd appears to possess the ability to quickly read plays and flow towards the ball. His sharp cuts make him a constant threat off the end even when the play flows to the opposite side of the field. With Weatherd’s commitment, UT is getting a technically sound and fast pass rusher to fill a position of need.
DE Joe Henderson (@Talent_52)
Joe Henderson is rated by 247 as 4* recruit and in the top 15 for WDE in the nation. At 6’4 225 pounds, Henderson’s specialty is pass rushing. He has the necessary closing speed (4.5 40 time) to rack up sacks and disrupt opponents passing games. Pressuring the quarterback has been a weak point of the last few Tennessee squads, but it is apparent that Tennessee DC John Jancek is seeking to change that with this recruiting class. Jancek is seeking to utilize Henderson’s speed to blow by opposing offensive lines.
Junior Highlight Film:
K Aaron Medley (@MedleyAaron)
He worked with James Wilhoit.
Kicking and Punting Highlight Film:
He’ll be better than Palardy don’t worry.
DE Kendal Vickers (@QbKiLLA52)
Kendal Vickers was a South Carolina commit who failed to sign with the Gamecocks. Due to academic concerns, the Gamecocks did not accept Vickers commitment as he was expected to be headed the JUCO or prep school route. After a strong last semester, Vickers qualified academically but at that time USC no longer had a scholarship to give. While visiting Havelock HS to see 4* RB, Derrell Scott, Robert Gillespie noticed Kendall Vickers. Gillespie was impressed by the 2013 DE’s frame and convinced him to give Tennessee a visit. Following his visit, Vickers was in love with the school and it didn’t take him long to commit. The prospect of early playing time was a big attraction for Vickers as UT will lose at least six defensive linemen after this season.
Junior Highlight Film:
Senior Highlight Film:
Senior Highlight Film:
After watching Vickers’ highlight tapes, the first thing that comes to mind is project. This kid is a project. He has a good frame, and a quick change of direction step, but he’ll need to put on some weight before he’s ready to join the hawgs in the SEC trenches. Besides just bulking up, Vickers will need to fix some aspects of his technique if he ever wants to see significant time in the SEC. I don’t know how much weight Vickers can throw up in the weight room but I’m guessing a lot. There are many plays where Vickers just lays the wood to his opponent or just shucks the block of an opposing offensive lineman. While this is encouraging for coaches to see, this natural power and ability has probably caused him to shy away from technique. He has a tendency to pop up on defense when the ball is snapped, engage offensive linemen too high up, and to use poor defensive line stances. While this isn’t a problem in high school, he’ll easily be controlled by an SEC OT if he doesn’t work on pad level and stance. He does do a good job of shedding blocks though, and getting to the quarterback. By engaging opponents away from his body he is able to identify where the play is directing and make his cuts towards the ball. The good thing with Vickers is that he appears to have the quickness, intelligence (on the field at least), and strength to be an SEC DE and his weaknesses can all be fixed through proper coaching. If Vickers is able to continue developing in college, the VOLS could have the answer to their lack of consistent pass rusher problem. Regardless, he is a good pick up for the VOLS in terms of fixing depth issues on the defensive line and is well worth the risk.
I apologize that there has been such a gap between my last article and this one. I will try to put them out with more regularity now that it’s the summer and I do not have school work to worry about.