The 5 Recruits That Will Make or Break Tennessee's National Signing Day
As the clock ticks down to national signing day, the Tennessee Volunteers are more concerned about making their current class of 33 commitments fit into scholarship number crunches than adding new players.
Already there has been some necessary attrition this week with the decommitment of linebacker Kevin Mouhon, who told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) that he "just felt like (he) had better opportunities elsewhere."
Even so, there are a couple of major targets the Vols would love to add to close this year's class and a couple more wavering commitments UT desperately wants (and needs) to hang onto.
Things aren't nearly as wild and wacky in Knoxville the final few weeks of the "silly season" as they normally are since the bulk of the class was wrapped up so early, but there is still a few potentially dramatic twists and turns possible.
Let's take a look at five players who could turn a very good class into a spectacular one for head coach Butch Jones.
All rankings and recruit information courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.
5-Star Cornerback Adoree' Jackson
There is no greater prize remaining on Tennessee's recruiting board than one of the nation's top uncommitted prospects—5-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson.
The Vols have made Jackson's top six along with Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, USC and UCLA, and Jackson hasn't tipped his hand in the least.
While several analysts think UT has just an outside chance to land the star, Knoxville is closer to Jackson's family home in East St. Louis than any other finalist but Oklahoma. So, the Vols have got that at least working in their favor.
Jackson has elite speed, elite coverage skills, the best footwork of any prep cornerback in the country and should garner immediate playing time no matter where he ends up.
For a team like UT in desperate need of impact cornerbacks and of speed all over the field, he would immediately start and be utilized in a myriad ways. For Butch Jones to land Jackson would be the coup of the class, especially considering no other finalist has experienced the recent struggles UT has.
Jones already used his in-home visit with Jackson while he was at home with family, and UT sent defensive backs coach Willie Martinez back this week. He's without a doubt Tennessee's top remaining target and the difference in a very good class and a great one.
4-Star Running Back Derrell Scott
The drama will be over in the race for Derrell Scott's signature long before national signing day.
The 4-star running back from Havelock, N.C., who is the nation's No. 3-ranked all-purpose back, according to 247Sports, is scheduled to make his final college choice Monday between Tennessee and South Carolina.
The Gamecocks were the long perceived leader, but Jones, running backs coach Robert Gillespie and the Vols have swooped in late and made a push that has really made Scott's decision anybody's game.
Most of the recent 247Sports Crystal Ball projections have gone UT's way.
Both the Vols and 'Cocks have used their final in-home visits with Scott this week, and the family is expected to make a decision this weekend.
Given the fact that UT has just one proven SEC running back on its roster (rising senior Marlin Lane), and the two commitments in this year's class—Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk—are coming off season-ending injuries, Scott is a very important piece of the class.
His versatility makes him the perfect fit for this offense. UT hopes he pulls the trigger Monday.
4-Star Strong-Side Defensive End Dewayne Hendrix
Dewayne Hendrix has been committed to Tennessee since late October, but he is scheduled to take one more visit this weekend.
The 4-star strong-side defensive end who is expected to come in and immediately compete to start on the Vols' defensive line told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan this week (subscription required) that he was going to visit Missouri again.
According to Hendrix:
My mom said it wouldn’t hurt anything (to visit Missouri). She knows I’m 100-percent committed to the Vols, but we still wanted to take one more visit. It’s probably going to almost be impossible to change my mind about Tennessee.
Regardless of what Hendrix says, it's always a concern when a player is visiting a school much closer to his Illinois home that he's been to multiple times before. So, there should be a little bit of sweating in Knoxville if he follows through with the trip.
Vols coaches met with him Thursday to try to convince him not to take the visit, so that one will be worth watching.
If the Tigers—who've sent several defensive linemen to the NFL recently—flipped Hendrix, it would be a devastating blow to UT's class. The Vols have to close strong on this one.
3-Star Defensive Lineman Cory Thomas
The biggest concern for Tennessee down the stretch is keeping defensive lineman Cory Thomas in the fold.
After visiting Clemson last weekend, the McCalla, Ala., product is scheduled to head to Starkville this weekend to see the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Dan Mullen's team is the biggest perceived threat to flip a player UT loves and desperately wants to keep.
Thomas discussed this week's in-home visit by Jones and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen with Volquest's Paul Fortenberry (subscription required) and seemed very open heading into the MSU visit.
Thomas has openly fretted about UT bringing in so many defensive linemen in this class and cites the depth-chart concerns again in the linked article.
The 6'5", 275-pound lineman has the athleticism and versatility that coaches love with the size to bulk up and play inside, but the athleticism to stay on the strong-side edge. UT would love to hang onto him, but there is a very real threat looming.
Working in UT's favor is the fact that Thomas is expected to give the Vols the final official visit the weekend before national signing day. With Thigpen and Jones leading his recruitment, it bodes well for Tennessee hanging onto Thomas, but this one will be a fight until the end.
4-Star Running Back Darrel Williams
There was once a time several weeks back when Darrel Williams had surged to the top of Tennessee's running backs' wish list.
At the time, he was committed to Arizona State but wavering. Even when homestate LSU swept in with an offer as an athlete, Williams seemed very open to coming to Knoxville to play in the offensive backfield.
Then, Les Miles and the Tigers convinced him that even though they were recruiting the nation's No. 1 running back Leonard Fournette, they still wanted Williams as a running back, according to The Advocate's Ross Dellenger.
Williams committed to LSU shortly after the decommitment of Sione Palelei. The Vols focused their recruiting efforts even heavier on Derrell Scott.
Then, Fournette committed to the Tigers at the Under Armour All-American Game, and things changed.
The John Ehret High runner is at least open to listening to UT again, as he's scheduled to visit Knoxville this weekend, according to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required). He said he's "still open-minded because I might find something better."
The only problem is the Vols are tight on availability in this class, and Scott has a decision coming up Monday.
It may be a case of whoever commits first (if any do) gets the remaining open spot in the class.