Last season was a rough one for Tennessee, but thanks to a top-10 recruiting class for 2014 set to sign on National Signing Day, Butch Jones and the coaching staff will have plenty of talent to work with moving forward.
It's one of the largest classes in the nation, with 34 players expected to put pen to paper this week. Of those players, 16 of them are regarded as four-star talents.
And more UT commits were able to sign in January as early enrollees than at any other school. That includes four-star prospects Josh Malone, Jalen Hurd, and Von Pearson. Malone is one of the top wide receivers in his class, ranking as a top-50 talent nationally. Hurd is regarded as one of the top athletes in his class and will likely play running back in Knoxville. Pearson is a four-star JuCo prospect out of Feather River College (Calif.) who can add depth and experience at wide receiver.
The best of the unsigned commitments for Tennessee is probably Todd Kelly, a four-star safety recruit out of Knoxville. Kelly chose the hometown Vols over offers from quite a few other SEC schools, though his commitment last March ended his recruitment before it ever really got started. He is the 61st-best prospect nationally and the fifth-best safety. SB Nation has a full scouting report on the talented safety:
Athletically speaking, Kelly would qualify as more quick than fast. His quickness and change of direction ability exceeds his long speed. However, he 'plays fast' due to the instinctual nature of his play. In actuality, short area quickness is a better asset to possess than pure long speed, as it better applies to the traditional responsibilities of the safety position.
Kelly is exceptional in run support. When working his way toward to line of scrimmage he shows quick, powerful hands. At the second level, he does a nice job keeping blockers clear of his frame, first jolting them with his hands and then discarding them in manner linebackers would envy. He runs the alleys aggressively and packs a nice wallop as a finisher. He also shows the quickness and burst to run down backs out on the edge. Out in coverage, he displays good route recognition and gets good breaks on the ball.
Joining Kelly on defense the next few years will be Dillon Bates, son of Vols and NFL great Bill Bates and a four-star outside linebacker out of Ponte Verda High School in Florida. Ranked as a fringe top-100 prospect and the seventh-best OLB nationally, Bates chose the Vols over the likes of Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, and others. Check out SB Nation's scouting report on Bates here.
The Vols will also add to their defensive line with four-star defensive end Dewayne Hendrix out of O'Fallon High School (Ill.). Hendrix is ranked as the 117th best prospect in his class by 24/7 Sports' composite rankings. At 6'5, 255 pounds, the big fella could step in right away and see some snaps early on in his career. Hendrix committed to UT back in October.
On the whole, the sheer number of players set to sign with Tennessee is remarkable. There will likely be some players forced to transfer in the coming years due to depth chart issues, but Coach Jones and his staff needed to focus on quantity and not necessarily quality with this class, though that's not to say there isn't a ton of talent here.
You'd think a class this big would be full, but you'd be wrong, apparently.
The Vols are still in it for a handful of players, including three-star Nashville defensive tackle Michael Sawyers. The former Vanderbilt commit will announce on Signing Day, with most expecting him to pick Ole Miss.