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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Tennessee Wins The Week

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxAlmost every decision by Tennessee’s first-year coaching staff has been made with recruiting in mind.

That includes their continuous use of the “brick by brick” slogan and last week’s debut of the “Smokey gray” uniforms against Georgia.

So far, it all seems to be paying off.

Tennessee received commitments this week from defensive end Derek Barnett from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy and offensive lineman Dontavius Blair from Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

Blair, who chose Tennessee over Auburn and Texas A&M, is a key commitment for the Vols. They will likely have to replace the entire offensive line next season, which means Blair will be asked to help right away.

Barnett’s commitment is another example of Tennessee’s improved in-state recruiting. Three of the top four in-state prospects are committed to Tennessee, according to 247Sports.

It was coach Butch Jones and his staff who made the difference in Barnett’s decision.

“I love Coach Jones,” Barnett told “Coach Jones, I feel like, is changing the program around and I trust him a lot and I think he’s a loyal coach and I really want to play for Coach Jones and no one else right now.

“I can’t explain it. I just have a good feeling he’s going to turn the program around and he’s doing that right now. I can’t explain it to you, but I just know.”

Wide receiver Josh Malone from Gallatin, Tenn., knew something was different about Tennessee when he visited Knoxville last weekend. Malone told Volquest he saw an improved game-day atmosphere at Neyland Stadium during his official visit.

“The difference is the atmosphere is a lot more … it’s just a better atmosphere and it wasn’t like going through the motions of just doing things,” Malone said. “They’re doing things the right way.”

Tennessee safety commitment Todd Kelly Jr. agreed. He attended the game during an unofficial visit.

“That game on Saturday speaks for itself,” Kelly told WNML Radio. “Even though we didn’t get the win, just the atmosphere was entirely different. I’ve never seen Neyland Stadium like that, basically in my life. It was just so loud. The fans were enthusiastic.”

Tennessee, which has 26 commitments for the 2014 class, is hoping to see more positive results from last weekend. Uncommitted defensive prospects Clifton Garrett, Dewayne Hendrix and Charles Mosley were all in attendance and expressed positive reactions to their trip to Knoxville.

Mosley, a lineman from Brighton (Tenn.) High School, named Tennessee his leader during the summer. He told Volquest this week he will likely wait to make a decision after he visits other schools, including Alabama, Auburn and Georgia.

Garrett, who has previously named LSU his leader, raved about his trip to Tennessee on social media while he was in Knoxville. The Vols will hope to continue that momentum when defensive coordinator John Jancek visits Garrett on Friday.


Tennessee hopes that trip will pay off for the Vols. Everything else seems to be working right now.


Stanley set to announce

Offensive lineman Donell Stanley from Latta (S.C.) High School will announce his decision on Friday afternoon at 1 ET.

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Will Dooley’s Firing Boost Tennessee’s Recruiting?

A coaching change will always make an immediate impact on recruiting.

Tennessee announced Sunday that Derek Dooley will no longer be the Vols’ head coach. With a bowl game no longer a possibility for 4-7 Tennessee, fans’ thoughts immediately turned to recruiting. How will prospects react?

The truth is Tennessee’s recruiting for the 2013 class has been struggling. There was the “hot seat” talk of the offseason that put the Vols behind most of their SEC competition. The exit of seven assistant coaches and continued struggles on the field only made matters worse this fall.

Tennessee’s current class ranks no better than ninth in the SEC if you look at the major recruiting services (ESPN, Rivals, Scout, 247Sports). Expect that to change after a new head coach is announced.

That’s because top-level prospects were weary of committing to Dooley when it looked like he would no longer be Tennessee’s coach. His replacement should be able to bring confidence back to the recruiting trail.

Vonn Bell from Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Ga., is one example. The highly-touted safety has been considering Tennessee, Alabama and Ohio State. He grew up a Tennessee fan but was concerned about Tennessee’s future under Dooley.

The Vols have plenty of time to make up ground with Bell, according to Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis.

“Vonn is just going to wait to see what happens with the coaching search at Tennessee,” Mariakis told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “He has said he won’t do anything more with the recruiting process until after our season.”

Florida State linebacker commit E.J. Levenberry from Woodbridge, Va., has long been impressed by Tennessee. But the Vols stopped recruiting Levenberry when Sal Sunseri replaced Justin Wilcox as defensive coordinator.

Renewed interested from Tennessee could put the Vols back in the running for Levenberry.

“Only other school that he is interested in,” Levenberry’s father, Eric Levenberry, told ESPN RecruitingNation.

Tennessee will have to work to hold on to its 18 commitments. But the truth is several of those prospects don’t have great options elsewhere.

Some commitments to watch include defensive tackle Ben Bradley, defensive end Jason Carr and wide receiver Paul Harris.

Keeping all 18 commitments will be difficult. But replacing some of them will be easier than most realize.

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Vols Commit Miles ‘Really Considering’ Texas A&M

Texas A&M is making a strong push for Tennessee safety commitment Kameron Miles.

The Mesquite, Texas, standout recently received a scholarship offer from Texas A&M. The new interest from the Aggies has Miles rethinking his recruitment.

“I have a lot of interest in them,” he told “I like how they’re playing right now. I’ve been watching a lot of their games and they’re competing. I’m very interested in them right now.”

Miles is trying to decide when he’ll take an official visit to Texas A&M. He said co-defensive coordinator Marcel Yates is hoping Miles will visit sometime this month.

“He wants me to come down there for a game but I told him I’ll most likely come down after the season is over for a regular official visit,” Miles said. “I’ve never been to Kyle Field for a game so that’s something I’m trying to do.”

Miles is also waiting to learn what will happen with Tennessee’s coaching staff. The status of head coach Derek Dooley is in question with three games remaining in the Vols’ season.

“If something goes down with the coaching staff then I’ll have to open up my recruitment and explore all my options,” Miles said. “It all depends on who stays and who leaves if something goes down over there.”

Miles, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 13 safety by 247Sports, has already taken official visits to Tennessee and Arizona State.

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Jalen Hurd Favors Three Schools

Running back Jalen Hurd from Beech Senior High School in Hendersonville, Tenn., is one of the nation’s top prospects in the class of 2014.

So it’s no surprise that he favors three of the nation’s top programs: Florida, Georgia and Ohio State. Hurd spoke to ESPN RecruitingNation recently after visiting Florida.

“Florida is great,” Hurd said. “I love the atmosphere and I love the weather. The coaches are also great. They’re very successful right now. Coach (Will) Muschamp is doing a great job with the program and I think they’ll be successful.”

Hurd is familiar with Georgia’s history of producing successful running backs, including current freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. That’s one reason the Bulldogs remain high on Hurd’s list.

“Georgia is great,” said Hurd, who plans to visit Athens, Ga., this fall. “I know they have a history of great running backs.”

Tennessee has a successful history but has struggled on the field in recent years. Those issues have appeared to hurt the Vols in their pursuit of one of the state’s top prospects in the 2014 class.

“As an athlete, you want a program that’s successful and has it all together,” Hurd told ESPN. “UT isn’t doing as well as they want to right now. If they start to do well, then they might be more with me but right now, UT is not the highest on my list.”

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Alabama, Georgia Continue Pursuit Of Kamara

Alabama and Georgia remain the top two candidates to land 2013 running back prospect Alvin Kamara from Norcross (Ga.) High School.

And both schools are making a strong push as Kamara prepares to schedule his official visits.

“Georgia is definitely recruiting me the hardest, with (UGA commitments) Shaq Wiggins, Tray Matthews and all of them,” Kamara told ESPN RecruitingNation. “(Alabama defensive coordinator) Kirby Smart and them are really persistent, so Alabama’s coaching staff is on me harder.”

Other schools are, too. While Alabama and Georgia lead the race for Kamara’s services, he told ESPN he’s still considering other schools.

“Oregon is still in the mix, as is Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Florida State,” he said. “But Georgia and Alabama are definitely the top two.”

Kamara said earlier this month he would like to make a final decision before October. That plan appears to have changed.

“It is still early in September, so I just want to visit each school, set my officials and go from there,” Kamara told ESPN.

Alabama already has two running backs committed to the 2013 class and could have a third by Sept. 27. That’s when Yulee, Fla., running back Derrick Henry plans to announce his decision.

Henry, who’s also considering Tennessee, plans to visit Alabama this weekend before he makes his final decision. Henry has continued to call the Crimson Tide his leader.

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Hatcher: ‘You Lose To UK, You Lose To Everybody’

Tennessee’s loss to Kentucky in November has been a common topic of conversation in Knoxville this offseason.

It was Tennessee’s first loss to Kentucky since 1984. Tennessee fans were understandably unhappy.

And prospects on the recruiting trail noticed. Questions about coach Derek Dooley’s job security filled up the “hot seat” columns during the offseason.

That’s why defensive end Jason Hatcher, who committed to Southern California last week, expressed concern about the loss to Kentucky with Tennessee’s coaches during the recruiting process.

“I told them, ‘You lost to the University of Kentucky. You lose to UK, you lose to everybody because UK finishes last in the SEC every year,” Hatcher told ESPN RecruitingNation.

Hatcher, who attends Louisville (Ky.) Trinity High School, committed to USC last week over Louisville. Tennessee had been in great shape with Hatcher before it lost to Kentucky, he said.

It’s a reminder that Tennessee’s loss to Kentucky and the Vols’ two losing seasons during Dooley’s first two years in Knoxville have negatively affected the Vols’ recruiting. A successful 2012 season for Tennessee is a must if the Vols plan to catch up in recruiting with the 2013 class.

Hatcher’s comments also shed light on the perception of Kentucky football versus Louisville among in-state prospects.

Hatcher, ESPNU’s No. 4 player in the state of Kentucky for the 2013 class, views Kentucky as a “bottom of the barrel” program. Meanwhile, Louisville continues to make a favorable impression on prospects in the state of Kentucky.

“I don’t think Louisville needs to do anything (better in recruiting nearby prospects),” Hatcher told ESPN. “They’re doing good. I’ve just known my whole life that I didn’t want to stay home, that I wanted to explore.”

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Ramsey Sets Announcement Date; USC, Vandy Top List

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy intends to announce his college decision on July 16, according to Greg Biggins of ESPN RecruitingNation.

Ramsey is considering eight schools: Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Southern California and Washington. But Ramsey told Biggins two schools stand out to him: Vanderbilt and USC.

The Trojans have long been considered a favorite to land Ramsey, who’s heard from several USC commits during his time at The Opening in Beaverton, Ore.

“I think he’s going to be in Cardinal and Gold,” USC wide receiver commit Eldridge Massington said during an chat last week.

Ramsey, who visited USC twice in June, has been one of the defensive standouts this week during The Opening. He’s a unanimous pick as the top prospect in the state of Tennessee and might be the nation’s top cornerback, according to other highly-touted players at the same position.

It’s a strong statement by Ramsey to put Vanderbilt near the top of his list. The Commodores have recruited at a high level – especially inside the state of Tennessee – since head coach James Franklin arrived in Nashville before the 2011 season.

“They’re trying to recruit the best players and they’re out there coaching,” Ramsey said of Vanderbilt, according to 247Sports.

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SEC Headlines 6/26/2011

1. Parks and Rec scandal at Pawnee the University of Georgia puts eligibility of two players at risk.

2. Will it be baseball, Auburn or Wisconsin?  Russell Wilson hopes to decide by Friday.

3. Kevin Scarbinsky: “Finally. At last. We found someone that can keep up with SEC football. It’s SEC baseball.”

4. David Climer on the business of college sports: “It has proved to be one of the few true recession-proof lines of work in the U.S.”

5. John Clay: “Try resolving the current fractured relationship that is Kentucky vs. the NCAA. You might have a better chance getting Charlie Sheen back on Two and a Half Men.”

6. Florida’s relationship with the NCAA is just fine, thank you.

7. What’s the harder job - SEC defensive lineman or NASCAR jackman? Former Kentucky Wildcat Mark Jacobs has done both.

8. Rapid ticket sales have Mississippi State thinking stadium expansion – soon.

9. Does LSU need a bigger stadium?

10. Florida vs. Alabama in October – never too early for a preview.

11. Early recruiting rankings - Tennessee is a disappointment, Vanderbilt a surprise.

12. What is is that makes Mark Richt cry?

13. Mark Fox’s assistant coaches get pay raises – he gets some buyout protection.

14. Keeping track of more than 600 athletes in the wake of a deadly storm. Former Alabama player Le’Ron McClain is doing his part to help.

15. Malik Jackson shows off his new VOLS tattoo.

16. Brandon Knight gets introduced in Detroit.

17. Damon Stoudamire told Terrance Jones to return to school at Kentucky.


18. Five best weekday games in college football this fall.

19.  Best NBA mock drafter.

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