Tennessee Football Recruiting: Ranking Every In-State Signee on Vols 2017 Class
Tennessee football recruiting usually relies heavily on players in the state. Here is a ranking of every in-state prospect in the Volunteers’ 2017 class.
Butch Jones had a bit of a drop-off in in-state recruiting for Tennessee football this past recruiting class compared to previous years.
Despite 28 total commitments and 27 signee, only eight players from the state of Tennessee committed, and only seven have signed.
Princeton Fant, a three-star wide receiver from La Vergne, Tenn., is the eighth commitment. He hasn’t signed and will blueshirt, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
So that means there are seven signees out of 27 overall from the state of Tennessee in the 2017 Tennessee football recruiting class.
And this year, Butch Jones took a big hit by missing out on the top three players in the state and the only three five-stars, according to Rivals.
That includes wide receiver Tee Higgins, who committed to the Clemson Tigers, and defensive back JaCoby Stevens and linebacker Jacob Phillips, both of whom committed to the LSU Tigers.
Jones just has to hope that the guys he brought in were steals because that can’t happen again. The good news for the Vols is many of these guys indeed could be huge steals, and some of them are already deemed elite.
In fact, across other services, one of them is actually considered the best player in the state and maybe the country.
We are going to compare them here based on their upside. Here is the ranking of all seven in-state signees for the 2017 Tennessee football recruiting class.
Defensive Back, Nashville, Tenn.
A two-sided player in high school, Theo Jackson committed to Tennessee football back in January of this year, as Butch Jones’s recruiting class began to unravel.
Jackson demonstrated a solid ability to play wide receiver and play safety while in Nashville, and he’ll stay in defense in college. His biggest asset back there is his size. At 6’2″, he is uniquely able to cover big wide receivers.
That’s a huge plus for the Vols when they face receivers that are 6’4″ and 6’5″ spread out across the offense.
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However, he is raw coming in, and with the Vols likely to move him to cornerback, Jackson has a lot to learn to be able to play the position.
After all, his experience at this point is going up and playing the ball on either side. There’s a lot more technique involved in playing cornerback and sticking with a receiver.
That means he is going to need some time to develop, and while he’s a quality player with potential down the road, he won’t be ready to go any time soon.
So for right now, he is the worst player from the state of Tennessee in the 2017 Tennessee football recruiting class. But the fact that he’s the worst in-state player in the class means that he could be part of a very productive group.
Defensive End, Savannah, Tenn.
LaTrell Bumphus was a four-star defensive end on Rivals, so for us to have him all the way down at No. 6 on this list should give you an idea of how deep we view the group of in-state prospects for the 2017 Tennessee football recruiting class to be.
Bumphus adds immediate and much-needed depth to the Vols’ defensive line, and he’s one of the top defensive linemen in the class.
With Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen gone, he could immediately step in and be a contributor.
As a guy who also played tight end in college, Bumphus understands the nuances of both sides of the ball playing in the trenches and in the open field.
At 6’4″ 230 pounds, he already is a decent size and will likely put on some weight after he begins practicing and working out with the team.
Bumphus would be a weakside defensive end, so he would help to fill Vereen’s void. But with a couple of elite linebackers that could be edge rushers and multiple ends on the roster already, it’s still unlikely that he will see a ton of action this year.
He’ll need a year to develop despite his four-star ranking, and that’s why we have him at No. 6 on the list.
Kicker, Franklin, Tenn.
Maybe this is a stretch, but yes, we are putting a kicker at No. 5 on this list. With Aaron Medley entering his senior year as a kicker, Butch Jones needed a kicker this year or next year, and he luckily already got that out of the way.
As a three-star kicker, Brent Cimaglia is the one guy on this list who is almost sure to work out. Tennessee football fans don’t have to worry about anything, and the only reason he isn’t higher on this list is because, well, he’s a kicker.
He has a ton of power on his kicks and is extremely consistent, something that Medley is lacking.
The one thing Cimaglia has to work on is his accuracy, so with a year to redshirt and improve there, he could immediately become one of the most elite kickers in all of college football.
Yes, we have that much faith in him.
Given that the power is already there, half the battle has been fought. Give Cimaglia two years at the Vols’ specialist camp, two offseasons to work under new special teams coordinator Charlton Warren, and some in-game experience in 2018, and he could be the top kicker in football by 2019.
Defensive Back, La Vergne, Tenn.
While Princeton Fant will blueshirt, fellow La Vergne, Tenn. skill prospect Maleik Gray is a huge pickup for the 2017 Tennessee football recruiting class.
A four-star on Rivals, Gray brings some much-needed help and depth to a secondary that struggled significantly down the stretch of last season and could be in even more trouble this year with the loss of Cameron Sutton.
Gray will fill in at safety, and he’s going to be a fun one to watch.
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That’s because he’s a physical safety, something Tennessee football needs back there. After all, he spent his years in high school as a linebacker and an edge rusher at 6’1″ 196 pounds.
So it will fall on defensive genius Bob Shoop and his new defensive backs coach to develop Gray.
Transitioning to the position will probably take a year, so he’ll spend time on special teams this season picking up some tackles.
But once he makes the full transition, because of his experience already as a tackler, Gray could become a very elite safety very quickly.
Think what Gibril Wilson was back in the day. His upside is incredible because of that, and learning the nuances of playing safety could actually make him look like more of a five-star when he is ready.
Offensive Lineman, McMinnville, Tenn.
We now go to the elite members in the 2017 Tennessee football recruiting class, and with that we start with a three-star recruit. Many other people would probably have K’Rojhn Calbert at No. 6 or No. 7 on this list.
But we have him at No. 3, and there’s a chance he could be No. 1.
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After all, we already considered him one of the most underrated recruits in this class. Remember, Calbert got hurt his freshman year, and botched recovery processes cut short his junior and senior years.
As a result, he only got his senior year to focus on football and play fully healthy on the offensive line. Because he was so raw, he could only achieve a three-star ranking.
And he certainly has some developing to do before he figures it out.
But with a year or two as a backup, we are almost certain that Calbert will be able to step in and become an elite offensive lineman. Heck, he might be the most elite lineman in this class even though he’s only a three-star.
At 6’6″ 285 pounds, he clocked in a 4.9 40-time, which is incredible. If he can add 20 pounds and keep that speed while developing, watch out for this guy’s future.
It’s hard for us to not put him at No. 1 because he actually has the best upside. But the next two guys are more sure prospects.
Running Back, Nashville, Tenn.
Of all the people from the state of Tennessee who could see action immediately as a freshman in 2017, Ty Chandler leads the pack.
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The surprise departure of Jalen Hurd midseason and then the loss of Alvin Kamara to the NFL leaves only John Kelly as the main back, and Butch Jones likes to run two or even three guys back there at times.
In addition to Kelly, Carlin Fils-Aime is the only other guy on the roster.
So there will be an open competition for the other starter, and Chandler is the perfect guy to step into that role.
He joins Trey Coleman and Tim Jordan as the three backs in this class, but all signs point to Chandler being the guy to step in and star immediately.
A four-star on Rivals out of Nashville, the 5’11” 194-pound prospect is one of the most dynamic running backs in the nation. He was the No. 6 ranked running back in the country and is a Top 100 player overall.
Chandler is great as a running back catching balls in the passing game, and he has amazing cuts when running with the ball. But while he has quick cuts, he also hits the hole quickly. He is durable, athletic, and quick.
It’s the perfect combination for a back, and he could step in and be a playmaker immediately. This is a home run commitment for the program.
Offensive Lineman, Jackson, Tenn.
With no five-stars, Trey Smith is the prized bull of the recruiting class. It’s the third time in four years the prized bull for Tennessee football recruiting comes from the state of Tennessee.
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Smith is part of the Jackson, Tenn. pipeline. That pipeline has produced some of the most elite players in school history, most notably Al Wilson.
A four-star on Rivals, Smith is considered a Top 50 player in the country and the No. 8 ranked offensive lineman.
If you ask other recruiting services, however, that’s too low, as some actually rank him as the No. 1 player in the nation.
Wherever they rank him, he looks ready to be a star and add more depth to an already loaded offensive line. Smith enters college already the perfect size, at 6’5″ and 305 pounds.
A two-time Tennessee Mr. Football and Bobby Dodd award winner in high school, Smith has extremely quick feet to go along with his impressive size. That’s the perfect combination for playing tackle.
And it’s why, despite the depth, he could actually play early for Tennessee football. It’s a wait and see thing, but Smith looks like a superstar ready to step on the field immediately.
Being an early enrollee in the Spring is going to be a huge plus for that as well.
Simply put, he is clearly the top player in the state to commit to the Vols for the 2017 Tennessee football recruiting class.