Tennessee Vols' recruits continue to build excitement

Tennessee Vols' recruits continue to build excitement

October 13th, 2013 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

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Jack Jones was in Chattanooga on Friday night helping his Oakland High School football beat Baylor.

Six days earlier, the junior offensive lineman was one of a handful of recruits in attendance for Tennessee's overtime loss to Georgia.

Though the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Jones became the third prospect to make a commitment for 2015 to the Volunteers -- that was back in May -- he still was impressed by the atmosphere of Neyland Stadium.

"It was incredible and kind of brought back the old times at the University of Tennessee," Jones told the Times Free Press after Oakland's 31-7 win at Baylor. "It was so loud, and all the recruits were excited, especially with the gray uniforms and everything. After Georgia missing that field goal off the upright, it just went berserk.

"We were all giving each other high-fives, and from there it got really wild."

The Vols trailed 17-3 in the third quarter before rallying to take a late lead, but the Bulldogs pulled through despite losing three offensive playmakers.

Three days later, Tennessee nabbed two of the top remaining targets for its 2014 class.

Garden City (Kan.) Community College offensive lineman Dontavius Blair is one of the nation's top junior college players and figures to provide immediate help for an offensive line that could be replacing all five starters next season.

The Vols continued to flourish with their in-state recruiting Wednesday, when Brentwood Academy defensive end Derek Barnett -- a prospect with offers from Ohio State, Florida State, LSU and others -- pulled the trigger.

Shortly after Barnett went public with his commitment, first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones posted a picture of him and his staff gathered around a computer smiling and clapping.

"Just added another brick to the foundation!" read the accompanying vague-but-obvious tweet.

With Coach Jones in attendance, Barnett helped his team beat McCallie 39-16 on Friday night in Brentwood.

"There was a lot of yelling, cheering and all that," he told the Tennessean of his call to Tennessee's coaching staff. "They're building a heck of a class right now. The team is taking steps, and I just know they're going to be great in a few years."

As is customary on open dates, the Vols' assistant coaches scattered across the country to take in high school games Friday night. Defensive coordinator John Jancek was in the Chicago area watching a game including Clifton Garrett, one of the nation's top linebackers and one of eight official visitors for the Georgia game. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie was in the Atlanta area.

For Jack Jones, last week's trip to Knoxville was his second of the season, and many of the Vols' 2014 and 2015 commitments were in attendance and have come to games all season.

"It's such a great environment," Jones said, "and I want to support Coach Jones as much as possible."

Tennessee's 2014 class, in particular, seems to be a pretty tight-knit group, and so far only three players (receiver Lawrence Lee, athlete Brandon Powell and junior college receiver Eric Lauderdale) have decommitted from the Vols.

The 26-player class currently is ranked second behind only Alabama according to Rivals.com, and 247sports.com ranks the Vols' class fourth behind the Crimson Tide, Ohio State and Georgia.

Jones, rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com, is part of a 2015 class for which the Vols have secured very early commitments from Hampton (Ga.) Lovejoy High School's Preston Williams, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound receiver, and Cecil Cherry, one of the nation's top linebacker prospects out of Frostproof High School in Florida.

"He's doing a great job and is a great recruiter, but I like him because he has his priorities in order," Jack Jones said of Tennessee's first-year coach. "He puts God first, and then academics and then football. That's one of the big reasons I've committed to the University of Tennessee."

Staff writer David Paschall contributed to this story.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.