NCF On The Trail: Tennessee Volunteers

Midterm junior college signing day winners are headlined by Ole Miss and Oklahoma, but they weren’t the only programs that improved Wednesday.
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A flurry of commitments and decommitments has led to considerable movement in the latest class rankings update. Several top-10 programs added ESPN 300 prospects, including Tennessee, which picked up top-10 ILB Darrin Kirkland Jr. The Vols already have a class that features a talented group of defensive linemen, and have now added a big, powerful inside linebacker that can develop into a tough downhill run-stopper. Butch Jones now has Tennessee in contention for a second-straight top-five finish.

Outside the top 10, USC landed a verbal from in-state tight end Tyler Petite, a tall, lengthy prospect with the size, speed and leaping ability to potentially create mismatches as a receiving target at the position. After landing the former Duke commit, USC's class features eight ESPN 300 prospects.

Ole Miss also saw a move up in the rankings with a pair of additions. The Rebels landed ESPN Junior College 50 QB Chad Kelly, a player who is physically gifted enough to be a strong candidate to replace QB Bo Wallace, a one-time junior college transfer himself. Ole Miss, who not sits at No. 17, also landed ESPN 300 OT Michael Howard. He is a lean OL prospect that needs to fill out, but is an athletic and tenacious player and with development could end up being a real strong pick-up out of Florida for the Rebels.

Inside the rankings

Coach Art Briles has had two very distinct luxuries when it comes to recruiting in today's complicated landscape -- recruiting in the shadows and recruiting without pressure. Both are actually in many ways, one in the same. As Briles has built this program, he's been able to do it his way without public pressure or booster interference because early on, nobody thought it could be done and nobody cared.

This staff was able to go after who they wanted, on their own timetable and without much scrutiny. In today's recruiting world, that's a huge luxury. Players like Levi Norwood, Antwan Goodley or Tevin Reese, who was a late qualifier, were all bypassed by other Power 5 programs, but nobody even noticed Baylor signed them or griped, "who are these guys" on signing day.

As a result, prospects like these were brought along at a normal pace and developed properly by the coaching staff. Redshirting the bulk of the classes for the first few years has also been huge for the Bears. The challenge going forward will be dealing with increased program exposure and expectation level which almost always brings with it increased recruiting scrutiny from boosters and fans alike. But the Bears don??t need to change a thing.



To see the full class rankings, click here.

Early Offer: Hokies score super sleeper 

December, 16, 2014
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Once again, Frank Beamer has landed an under-recruited prospect with “unlimited potential.” Plus, how much progress has been made by the committee looking into whether or not there should be an early-signing period?


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The addition of No. 1 2016 TE Isaac Nauta shows that the Florida State recruiting machine shows no signs of slowing down. Plus, Tennessee continues to impress with its 2015 defensive class.


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Tennessee got back in the game Monday, snaring a commitment from ESPN 300 inside linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. Read on to see how the Hoosier State's top prospect impacts the Vols' class:


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ESPN 300 defensive end D'Andre Walker got a little creative when he decided to announce his top three list of schools Friday morning.

Walker used YouTube and a holiday app called Elf Yourself to create a festive video to announce Tennessee, Georgia and Auburn are his final three schools.

Walker is the 19th-ranked defensive end and the 241st-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

December, 9, 2014
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With Alabama winning the SEC championship on Saturday and the college football playoff now set, SEC schools can now turn their focus to recruiting. Despite there being only one game this weekend, there was still a bunch of recruiting news from around the SEC. There was a couple of big commitments, a few decommitments, a big decision date was announced and some important in-home visits. Here’s a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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David Cutcliffe of Duke said young coaches should turn to Kenny Rogers for advice on how to get ahead on the recruiting trail. Plus, Florida's Jim McElwain has been busy since he was hired.

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Jordan Howard rushed for 1,600 yards at UAB this season, and now that the program has been shuttered, recruiters are lining up to get his transfer. Plus, with the Brady Hoke news, Michigan lost four-star tight end commitment Chris Clark. So where do recruits think he’ll end up?


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Top juco prospect comparisons 

December, 3, 2014
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For every recruiting class that includes junior college signees, there is a high-risk, high-reward proposition because most juco prospects are expected to provide immediate help while not having much time to prepare for such a role. Some are up to the task and become immediate difference-makers such as Auburn’s D’haquille Williams. Here are three prospects in the ESPN JC 50, as well as current college stars we feel they resemble with their skillsets.


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Top 2015 juco classes 

December, 3, 2014
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National signing day is quickly approaching, but first up is the mid-year junior college signing period. The opportunity for junior college prospects to sign with FBS schools starts Dec. 17, and many prospects have already made commitments. With the release of the ESPN Junior College 50, let’s take a look at five programs (in alphabetical order) having success in the junior college ranks.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

December, 2, 2014
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There were some big games and a bunch of recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference. There was a big commitment, some coaching changes and key visitors for rivalry weekend. Here's a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

November, 25, 2014
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As always there was a ton of recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference. There was a big commitment, there were key visits and new offers over the weekend. Here's a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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Best of the visits: SEC

November, 23, 2014
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There weren’t many big games around the SEC on Saturday but there were some key visitors. Some prospects attended the games while others watched on television and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend:

Mississippi State wide receiver commit Farrod Green sent out a very cryptic tweet in regards to Ole Miss linebacker commit Leo Lewis. The ESPN 300 linebacker has been to Ole Miss and Mississippi State several times over the last few months and looks to be torn between the two schools. He visited MSU for its 51-0 win over Vanderbilt.
One of the more interesting visits of the weekend was five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson visiting Florida despite not knowing who the head coach will be for the Gators next year. He posted several pictures, including one of himself with Florida defensive line coach Brad Lawing, a fan also tweeted a photo of Jefferson posing with other fans. ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jalen Merrick sent out probably the funniest tweet of the weekend. Merrick sent out a photo of himself posed with Arkansas head coach Bret Beliema with the coach wearing a wig to imitate Merrick's hair style. Merrick took an official visit to Arkansas this weekend. ESPN 300 linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. visited Tennessee this weekend and tweeted a photo of himself wearing a Tennessee jersey. Junior linebacker prospect Toron Morten tweeted about his experience at Georgia for an unofficial visit this weekend. Georgia beat Charleston Southern 55-9. Morten was also joined by Louisville linebacker commit Amonte Caban, who also posted with Morten for a photo. Junior defensive end Julian Okwara visited South Carolina for its 37-12 win over South Alabama. Okwara also has offers from Boston College and NC State.
A few weeks ago, Adam McLean was asked what it would take to back away from his Penn State pledge, and he said “nothing can change my mind.” Well, something happened and the ESPN 300 prospect is back on the market. Plus, Zach Gentry has been committed to Texas since May, but rumors sprouted Tuesday he was considering taking other official visits.

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