The past eight days on the recruiting trail have been very good to Tennessee.
Three-star safety Rashaan Gaulden was the latest big in-state get for Tennessee, which currently has the No. 1 recruiting class for the 2014 cycle.
Since last Sunday (July 14), the Vols have garnered verbal commitments from six prospects, all relatively highly-regarded.
Four-star junior college receiver Eric Lauderdale (Mission Viejo, Calif./Saddleback) jumped on board first (Sunday). Then on Tuesday, the long-anticipated commitment of safety Cortez McDowell (Locust Grove, Ga.) occurred. Two days later, offensive tackle Ray Raulerson (Tampa, Fla./Plant) jumped on board, then in successive days, four-star receiver Dominique Booth (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike), Safety Rashaan Gaulden (Thompsons Station, Tenn./Independence), and four-star linebacker Kevin Mouhon (Norcross, Ga.) all committed.
The flurry of commits vaulted Tennessee to No. 1 in the 247Sports team rankings for the Class of 2014. The Vols now have 24 verbal commitments this cycle from 12 different states. It could not be going much better for first-year head coach Butch Jones and staff, who are attempting to build the Vols roster back to the point where contention for SEC and National Titles again are the norm. Thus far in this cycle, the Tennessee staff has executed three “musts” to perfection.
1- Lock down the “Volunteer” State
It was/is paramount that the Vols take advantage of an uptick in talent within the Volunteer State for the 2014 and 2015 cycles. So far, so good for 2014, as the two most highly-ranked prospects in the class, five-star running back Jalen Hurd and four-star safety Todd Kelly are in-state pledges. There are more verbal commitments in UT’s 2014 class from the state of Tennessee (five) than any other state. Top247 wide receiver Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) could get away, but Top247 defensive linemen Derek Barnett (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy) and four-star Top247 two-way line prospect Charles Mosley (Brighton, Tenn.) are both predicted to be Vols.
2- Calling all Vols
Kelly is a legacy and Tennessee also did a nice job securing a verbal commitment from another legacy, linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla.). There is a feeling that the younger brothers of former Vols star Eric Berry, Evan Berry and Elliott Berry (Fairburn, Ga./Creekside), will jump in the boat in the near future. So that’s four very good prospects with direct family ties to the Tennessee program. It’s somewhat embarrassing when a school loses a talented legacy recruit to another school, but it does happen. Locking the legacies up, though, not only gives the program a talent boost, but it gives it guys on the roster that know all about the tradition of excellence in Knoxville. That’s important when you are trying to get everyone associated with a down, but proud, program to embrace the future.
3- Get the most out of Georgia
Top247 defensive tackle Poona Ford is still a possibility for Tennessee.
The Vols have four verbal commits from the state of Georgia in this class, a number that could rise moving forward. The talent-rich Peach State is a key battleground for Tennessee and this staff finished 2013 strong with four-star quarterback Joshua Dobbs (Alpharetta) and legacy receiver Ryan Jenkins (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter) jumping in late. The former Tennessee staff under Derek Dooley seemed to land a fair number of prospects from Georgia during their time there, but outside of star linebacker A.J. Johnson (Class of 2011 from Gainesville), there wasn’t the quality on paper that we’ve seen under Jones and company to date or under previous Tennessee staffs.
Though two dozen verbal commitments in July is a big number and it would appear that spots are getting tight, Tennessee certainly isn’t done. Top247 defensive end Dewayne Hendrix (O’Fallon, Ill.), Top247 defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C.) and others could end up being part of this class when all is said and done.
So much of the final ranking will depend on what highly-ranked prospects other programs land, but regardless if it’s No. 1 or not, it’s an outstanding group and one that Jones and staff can build on in the coming years.
Craig back on top
It did not take Auburn co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig very long to re-claim the No. 1 spot in the 247Sports recruiter rankings for the Class of 2014.
After a run of Georgia commitments following “Dawg Night” last week, Bulldogs assistant Bryan McClendon ascending to the No. 1 spot, but after Craig landed the nation’s top junior college prospect, wide receiver D’haquille Williams, on Sunday, the former Auburn quarterback jumped back to the top.
He also landed three-star athlete Stanton Truitt (Monroe, Ga./Monroe Area) last Wednesday.
Craig now is the primary recruiter of record for eight of Auburn’s 15 verbal commitments in this class, including seven of the 10 highest-rated.
Should Georgia land Top247 linebacker Christian Miller, it would give the Bulldogs commitments from the top two prospects (according to 247Sports) from the state of South Carolina in the 2014 cycle.
Carolinas success continues for UGA
Gaillard was the third verbal for Georgia in this class from the Carolinas, joining Top247 quarterback Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford) and four-star tight end Jeb Blazevich (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian).
Should the Bulldogs land four-star linebacker Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley), who they are in a battle for with Alabama and Florida, that would give them four prospects from the Carolinas in this class rated four stars or higher.
This is on the heels of landing running backs Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley out of North Carolina in the 2012 class and signing the top prospect in South Carolina, wide receiver Tramel Terry, in the 2013 class.
The state of Georgia is more wide open than ever now with the sheer amount of prospects available and the number of programs that recruit the state. The Bulldogs do lose players out of their own state at a higher rate than they once did, but continued success in the Carolinas (and other states like Florida) cancels that out and keeps the Bulldogs’ roster at a championship-contending level.
Arkansas had a similar surge to Tennessee in the past eight days, adding seven new verbal commits and vaulting to No. 33 in the 247Sports team rankings for the Class of 2014.
Could the top JUCO offensive tackle in the 2014 class call the Hogs? It's looking that way.
Last Sunday, three-star cornerback Chris Murphy (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter) got things started. Another corner, three-star JUCO Kweishi Brown (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont College), followed on Thursday with a Friday commitment of offensive tackle Jovan Pruitt (Dallas, Texas/Bishop Dunne) following.
During the weekend, it was all about dipping into Louisiana as two pairs of teammates- wide receiver Corey McBride and athlete Torrance Mosley (Geismar, La./Dutchtown), and four-star cornerback Henre’ Toliver and safety Dwayne Eugene (Metaire, La./Archbishop Rummel) committed to the Razorbacks.
Given the depth of talent in the state of Louisiana, it’s not a bad idea at all to recruit the Pelican State if you are Arkansas. Outside of Alabama recruiting the best of the best and going head-to-head with LSU, only Texas A&M and at times Ole Miss are really established as SEC options for a slew of good football prospects that the Tigers typically do not have room to take.
So why not the Razorbacks? Especially with Smith working home state connections.
What’s perhaps even more impressive than the players the Hogs have in the boat is who may jump in in the near future.
Arkansas made a huge impression on the top junior college offensive tackle for the 2014 cycle, Jermaine Eluemunor from Lackawanna (Pa.) Community College during the 6-foot-6, 300-pound UCLA commit’s official visit to Fayetteville this past weekend.
The 247Sports Crystal Ball is trending Razorbacks currently and there are plenty of signs that point toward Eluemunor switching his pledge to Arkansas in the near future.
Five-star receiver Ermon Lane could be a huge commitment for Florida should the Gators land him this weekend at Friday Night Lights.
It’s important when recruiting at Arkansas to be resourceful and hit talent pockets to maintain roster level. Bret Bielema was excellent at this at Wisconsin and it appears he and his staff are on the right track in Fayetteville.
Florida’s Friday Night Lights and South Carolina’s Black Magic Camp are both this week and both programs figure to have top targets on campus and participating.
Annually, these events typically feature multiple commits for both programs.
The headlining visitor in Gainesville figures to be five-star wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla.), who is one of the top prospects at his position nationally and would be a tremendously important land for Florida, which needs big-play receivers. Lane was thought to be bound for Alabama or Miami until the Gators made a big push. A commitment is not out of the question during his time at UF.
Former Florida linebacker commit Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) is expected to be in town as well. Fresh off great visits to both Georgia and Alabama, Miller will head back to the program that he originally committed to. While the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide have a leg up right now, you can’t completely rule out a re-commitment to the Gators if he has a great visit. Florida has never been out of this one, just running behind.
Top247 defensive end Dante Sawyer (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett) is expected to be among the visitors in Columbia. Things have heated up of late between the U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection and the Gamecocks. South Carolina also will be looking to close the deal on Top247 defensive tackle/end Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C.), a long-time lean.
Ole Miss is squarely in the mix to land another excellent line prospect in the form of Dallas Skyline tackle Ty Barrett.
-After one of the most talent-laden camp sessions at any school this cycle last week, things have quieted down at LSU. That won't be the case for very much longer, though, as the Tigers continue to have the most upside in terms of top talent to obtain of any team in the SEC and perhaps the country. LSU gained some momentum with the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2014 class, franchise-rated offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, after the talented prospect spent two days in Baton Rouge last week. Should the Tigers ultimately land Robinson and No. 2 overall prospect, running back Leonard Fournette, LSU would be the first program to sign two prospects given a "franchise" rating (numerical rating more than 100, not given in every recruiting cycle) by 247Sports in a single class.
-Almost stealthy, considering the amount of talent on hand, Ole Miss had a huge recruiting visit weekend, got a commitment from Dallas (Texas) Skyline defensive end Victor Evans, made big progress with his teammate, offensive lineman Ty Barrett and four-star cornerback Kendarius Webster out of Georgia. LSU commit Deondre Clark, Alabama commit Shaun Hamilton, four-star safety Jamal Adams, Top247 defensive end Garrald McDowell and 247Composite five-star defensive tackle Gerald Willis were also among the noteworthy visitors.
-Alabama is now in a dogfight with Florida State for junior college speed back Tyreek Hill of Garden City (Kan.) Community College. Hill named Florida State his leader following his official visit to Tallahassee after saying the Tide was at the top after visiting Tuscaloosa. Hill is one of the fastest prospects in the country. Confidence is high on the part of the Noles.
-Kentucky and Mark Stoops continued to add roster upgrades during the weekend when four-star JUCO defensive tackle Cory Johnson committed to the Cats. The question now becomes who fills out the 2014 class for Kentucky. A pair of prospects on the rise from Ohio, offensive tackle Brady Taylor and wide receiver Dorian Baker are a pair to watch as is long-time offensive line lean Nick Richardson. With Taylor, it’s a battle with Virginia Tech. The other two, by all accounts, should be Wildcats.
-After holding the No. 1 spot for a chunk of the 2014 cycle, Texas A&M now ranks No. 6 nationally according to 247Sports, but Taylor Hamm of GigEm247 reports that the Aggies still have a ton of talent left to add to this class. Five-star defensive end Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/Martin) has A&M way out in front and five-star running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) has set an official visit to College Station for the Alabama game.
-Missouri landed a solid linebacker prospect in Roderick Winters (Arlington, Texas/Bowie) during the weekend. Winters is listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds, so he’s a little on the small side, but he can run, pursue and is a violent hitter. The question will be if he can get big enough to handle the running game in the SEC.
-Vanderbilt is in a battle with Stanford for four-star Class of 2015 safety Arrington Farrar (Atlanta, Ga./Woodward Academy). After the Cardinal offered during camp, most familiar with his recruitment believed he was Palo Alto-bound, but the Commodores have made it interesting. If you are Vanderbilt, you want to be locked in recruiting battles with Stanford because both programs typically are chasing the same top prospects nationally because of the academic requirements at both institutions. Crystal Ball says Stanford 100 percent and Farrar, along with 2014 teammate Terry Googer, will announce Aug. 16. Googer is a 100 percent prediction to South Carolina.
-New Mississippi State linebacker commit Keith Holcombe (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest) could be a steal. The 6-foot-3.5, 220-pounder is nasty on film and performed well athletically at a pair of Bulldogs camps, including last weekend’s “Big Dawg” Camp where he made his verbal commitment. Holcombe was rated four-stars by 247Sports after evaluation. A look at the MSU Crystal Ball predictions page shows that the Bulldogs are in great shape for multiple in-state prospects following the camp.