Today Coach Dooley spoke briefly at SEC Media Days and the thing that I was the most excited to see was that he did not make excuses for our team. He alluded to the fact that it is time to make things happen and not discuss our lack of talent or the youth that our team has faced in the past. Multiple players discussed how Coach Dooley was not on the hot seat, but rather the team was on the hot seat. This is the year that the ship can be turned around and it is evident to me that the team has accepted this and has the leadership and maturity to make it happen. I cannot stress how important Herman Lathers is to this team. He really makes a difference off the field and is a true VFL.
Our offense will be deadly, but I do not think that is much of a secret anymore. Justin Hunter is 100% and CP is showing the ability to be a bigtime factor this year. The guy I am proud of is Rajion Neal. He is bigger, faster and shows a mental toughness that he has not shown in years past. He must hold onto the ball, but if he can become more solid in that department, I feel that he will have a good year running the football. The O-Line is a tight knit group that is taking responsibility for the improvement of the running game.
Today we were picked to finish 5th in the SEC East. Are we being underestimated? Yes. Are we being overlooked? Yes. Will we surprise some people in the SEC East? I believe so.
By this time in the week we have seen a number of really good prospects come in and out of the football complex. What was once mentioned to be an underwhelming turnout has turned into a camp that has surprised a number of people. This class has the potential to have some star power, but the quantity of that star power is yet to be determined. There have been talks with many of the higher profile guys about returning for a game in the fall. A target game will be the Florida game.
One of the more interesting things is to finally see where this staff projects some of the players that may be listed as “Athletes” on the numerous recruiting databases. Two of these players are Florida athlete, Marquion Lane and Georgia notable, Marqui Hawkins. I must admit that when I watched the tape on both of these guys I felt that they would be best utilized on the offensive side of the ball. The coaches envision both of these young men at either WR or DB. What is interesting is the size of these guys. Both are about 6’2 which tells me that we are going after corners that have size to match up and play press coverage against the physical wide receivers that make up the SEC.
It was mentioned on our board that a name to keep an eye on would be GA Wide Receiver Demarcus Robinson. This kid is a stud. Unfortunately, it appears we may be trailing the likes of Clemson and Florida at this point, but he was really listening to the sales pitch that Dooley and Hinshaw were dishing out. He liked the idea of being in a passing offense that could showcase his abilities and it was important to him to be somewhere that would allow him to make big plays. He is scheduled to be at Clemson on Friday for their big recruiting weekend. If he leaves Clemson uncommitted, then I think we could prove to be a player with this one. Another wideout that made an impact was Stacy Coley. He is going to be a great player, but there is concern about his grades. Ultimately, we may get a visit from him in the fall, but I do not expect anything more at this point.
Obviously, the biggest name at camp was Derrick Henry. This kid is gigantic. The idea of him taking the handoff and running with force is something that will frighten SEC defenses in the years to come. The thing is, will he be at Tennessee? My gut says no but there is something about his relationship with Coach Graham that makes me feel that we have a legitimate shot. In the end, he could go to Bama or UGA but I think it was made clear to him that he could take this team to another level if he signed with the Vols. As far as other running backs, AJ Turman is set to be on campus today and he hopes to reconnect with the coaches. I think it is clear that he is not the top priority, but I think he would fit in as one of the two backs they hope to pull in this class. He is a downhill runner with long strides. He does not shy from contact and plays against some solid talent in Florida. Many think FSU will be a player with him, but I feel that they are saving space for next year when sanctions should be placed on Miami. With the uncertainty of Derrick Henry and Georgia, I expect the Bulldogs to be a player for Turman as we move along.
Here is the last thing about the running backs—Dominoes will begin to fall, and many have asked which piece is the most important. I think it is Alvin Kamara. At points in his recruitment there was talk of him leaning to Bama and UGA. I think Georgia is a favorite but a team to watch for is Clemson. I think they are in the race more than people think. Once Kamara chooses, I think Tyshon Dye quickly falls into place—wherever that may be.
Another big story coming from camp was the influx of 2014 talent. Rashaan Gaulden, Vic Wharton, Josh Malone, the Berry brothers, Deion Singleton, Jalen Tabor, Racean Thomas, Will Grier, Desean Watson, Harry Dumervil, and Todd Kelly Jr. will highlight next year’s recruiting cycle. We have the potential to snag a number of these players. The staff made a “Dream Team” type pitch to them and many feel like they want to play together.
Let’s move on to the two commits of the week. Paul Harris and Dante Phillips were two great gets for the staff. Harris is a tall receiver that has sneaky speed. He finds a way to get open and runs smooth routes. Phillips is a guy that I did not think we would pursue. Dave Hart was efficient in making sure that the paperwork would go through. He still has to get the final acceptance into UT, but all signs are pointing towards that happening in the very near future. He will need to trim down, but he will be a valuable 3-4 Defensive End very soon.
2014 QB Bo Baldwin from Aiken, S.C. will be heading to Knoxville tomorrow morning to work out for coach Chaney. The 6'5" 230 lb gunslinger is still without an offer (possibly because he only played 4 games during his sophomore year before a broken clavicle sidelined him), but performed very well during camps at both South Carolina and Alabama this week. In Columbia, he outperformed fellow 2014 QB Will Grier, who just picked up a Vol offer this week. Further, the Alabama coaching staff called to tell him he is in their final 2 for QB in the 2014 class after showing well this Tuesday and Wednesday in Tuscaloosa. Baldwin's recruiter from LSU, John Chavis, has made it clear that he is the Tigers' #1 priority in 2014 after really impressing Steve Kragthorpe last month.
Final recruiting note: I would look for some news regarding Brendan Langley relatively soon. Whether it is good news for the Vols, I am not sure at this point but many thought he would commit to South Carolina earlier in the week and that did not happen. Jalen Reeves-Maybin is scheduled to be here on Friday and I still think we are in a good position here. The same may not be able to be said about Jason Hatcher. This will be a USC/UT battle. We have what he is looking for and his mother wants him close to home. USC has the exclusivity and the bright lights of the big city. Sal will be very aggressive in this case, but I would not favor us at this point. Two names to watch that are committed elsewhere that are entertaining our inquiries are Shaq Wiggins and Naim Mustafaa. Mustafaa should also be here on Friday.
Now, our introductory segment on the basketball team. We get buckets.
Basketball recruiting has started to pick up some as we saw Coach Martin travel to Philly to watch Austin Nichols and Robert Hubbs play this past weekend. Evan Daniels of Fox Sports Recruiting said that "Cuonzo Martin has been front and center for Austin Nichols & Robert Hubbs quite a bit this weekend. He's getting plenty of face time."
The vibes seem to be that it is a Duke/Tennessee battle for Hubbs, although Hubbs has been pretty quiet about favorites so far. It will obviously be a tall order to beat out Coach K, especially with him getting a ton of face time coaching the Olympic squad, but Coach Martin has done everything in his power to keep UT right there. One thing to note is that Duke already has a SG committed for the class of 2013, so Duke might not be recruiting him as hard as we are. Another school to watch out for is obviously Kentucky, but they have not offered Hubbs as of now. You also can't rule out Memphis, who Hubbs grew up a fan of.
As for Nichols, Coach Martin is doing a great job with him as well and we will be in there until the end. Florida seems like they might be the biggest competition for him. You also have to watch out for Duke and UNC with him though. If he chose today, Nichols would most likely choose UT.
Rounding out the high priority prospects would be Jonathan Williams III (JW3) and Nick King. As of now, Memphis would be the favorite for both of them, but UT has positioned themselves very nicely and should get a visit from JW3 this fall. The best news is that Kentucky still has not offered JW3. The fact that UT is even mentioned in the top group for these 2 players show how hard Coach Martin works on the recruiting trail.
The biggest recent news out of the current Vols is that incoming FR Derek Reese turned some heads at the Nike Global Challenge playing for Puerto Rico. While this does not mean that he's going to come in and be an All-SEC Freshman player, I think this shows that he has the potential of being a solid 4 year player for UT.
As for the other new Vols, JUCO transfer D'Montre Edwards looks to be the most college ready. He is 6'6 and has a very muscular frame. He has a good looking shot from the perimeter and will be the most likely to crack the rotation early on.
Armani Moore reminds me a lot of Josh Richardson from a year ago. They are both very raw offensively, but are above average athletes that play hard. Like Richardson, Moore could make an impact this year defensively, while his offense should come in time. Another similarity to Richardson is that Moore can play/defend any of the 1-3 positions. The good news for him is that he will not be thrown into the fire like some Freshman are.
The team is currently prepping for a trip to Italy (August 5-15) where they will play against some Italian professional teams. The best thing about the trip is that they do not have to wait until October to run real practices. This is great for the new incoming players that get to see what Coach Martin demands from his players.
Trae Golden and Jeronne Maymon are both expected to be 100% by the time they get to Italy, so the Vols will be at full strength.
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