Future is now for some Tennessee Vols

Future is now for some Tennessee Vols

January 9th, 2014 by Patrick Brown in Sportscollege

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KNOXVILLE - For Tennessee's football program, the future is now the present.

By the end of the week, nearly half of a highly-touted and much-anticipated 2014 recruiting class will be in Knoxville and working toward next season.

The Volunteers confirmed 14 mid-term enrollees on Wednesday, and Butch Jones, who's pointed to the early arrivals since before his first season ended last fall, will welcome the added talent and competition as his second year as Tennessee's coach gets fully underway.

"They actually gain half a year of eligibility," he said last month. "When August camp rolls around, they understand the standards, the expectations, the style of play. Physically, they're able to develop. Mentally, they're able to develop from a mental toughness standpoint, but also understanding the playbook.

"It really helps the learning curve and all that you do mentally and physically. It builds bonds and team chemistry. It builds an overall comfort level. The advantages are endless. It's invaluable."

In addition to three junior college players signed in December -- receiver Von Pearson, offensive tackle Dontavius Blair and defensive tackle Owen Williams -- the following recruits enrolled this week: tailback Jalen Hurd, receiver Josh Malone, tight ends Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf, offensive linemen Coleman Thomas and Ray Raulerson, defensive linemen Joe Henderson and Dimarya Mixon, linebacker Jakob Johnson and cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley and D'Andre Payne.

The early arrivals are especially important for a roster short on talent and shorter on depth. Tennessee's need for help across the board is evidenced by the makeup and positional variety of the 14 new additions. They'll go through the winter workout program, adapt to college life during the spring semester and participate in spring football.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

A look at the early enrollees for Tennessee Vols football

OFFENSE

OT DONTAVIUS BLAIR

Anniston, Ala.

(Garden City (Kan.) Community College)

6-8/300

Rivals: 4 stars

One of the top junior college prospects in the country, Blair signed with Tennessee back in December. He'll have a chance to be an immediate starter at tackle, a position where the Vols need instant help after losing Ja'Wuan James and Antonio "Tiny" Richardson. Blair is athletic for a player of his size, and a handful of big-time programs courted him for his ability.

TE DANIEL HELM

Chatham, Ill.

(Glenwood)

6-4/225

Rivals: 4 stars

The top tight end in the country per Rivals.com caught 35 career touchdown passes in high school and finished a productive senior season with 35 catches for 565 yards and 13 scores. "He will bring a new dynamic to the position in the passing game," Vols tight ends coach Mark Elder said. "We expect Daniel to come in and compete for a role in our offense immediately."

RB JALEN HURD

Hendersonville, Tenn.

(Beech)

6-3/227

Rivals: 5 stars

The nation's No. 28 overall prospect per Rivals.com, Hurd registered a massive junior season -- he ran for a state record 3,357 yards, scored 43 touchdowns and averaged more than 10 yards per carry -- before a shoulder injury prompted surgery and an end to his senior year. Despite his size, Hurd has impressive burst and top-end speed.

WR JOSH MALONE

Gallatin, Tenn.

(Station Camp)

6-3/195

Rivals: 5 stars

A strong season -- 71 catches for 1,404 yards and 31 total touchdowns scored four different ways (receiving, rushing, kickoff and interception returns) -- vaulted Malone into the nation's elite. Tennessee's Class AAA Mr. Football and a U.S. Army All-American, Malone was a big coup for the Vols, who will welcome his talents after last season's struggles at receiver.

WR VON PEARSON

Newport News, Va.

(Feather River (Calif.) College)

6-3/185

Rivals: 4 stars

A top-five junior college prospect, Pearson put up gaudy numbers (93 catches for 1,601 yards and 12 touchdowns) and a dazzling highlight film this past season. Whether it was after catching a bubble screen or taking off on a deep route, Pearson oozes big-play ability. He'll have to fine-tune his skills, but his raw talent excited Tennessee's coaching staff.

OL RAY RAULERSON

Tampa, Fla.

(Plant)

6-5/275

Rivals: 3 stars

Raulerson comes from a successful program in Florida, and he'll play on the interior of the offensive line for Tennessee. "Ray is an athletic, tough and smart player," Vols offensive line coach Don Mahoney said. "He understands that time goes into being a winner, and he is very driven and mentally strong."

OL COLEMAN THOMAS

Max Meadows, Va.

(Fort Chiswell)

6-6/299

Rivals: 3 stars

The three-sport star, who played both ways for the football team, earned all-county honors in basketball and pitched for the baseball team, has the versatility to play anywhere on the line. "Coleman is extremely athletic and played very physical as a senior," Mahoney said. "He has great size and strength. We are very excited about his mental makeup and his maturity."

TE ETHAN WOLF

Minster, Ohio

(Minster)

6-5/243

Rivals: 3 stars

Wolf caught 41 passes for 475 yards and five touchdowns to earn second-team All-Ohio honors as a senior. "Ethan is a complete tight end," Elder said. "He has good size, physicality and athletic ability. He will be good both at blocking at the point of attack and flexed out as a receiver. He will compete for playing time right away."

DEFENSE

DE JOE HENDERSON

Shaker Heights, Ohio

(Shaker Heights)

6-3/222

Rivals: 4 stars

Henderson's stock shot up after he performed well at a Nike camp last summer, as the Cleveland-area product attracted interest from Michigan and Ohio State and offers from Ole Miss, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Louisville and Arkansas. He possesses "outstanding quickness," said Vols defensive line coach Steve Stripling, and gives the Vols a boost on the edge.

LB JAKOB JOHNSON

Jacksonville, Fla.

(Jean Ribault)

6-4/240

Rivals: 3 stars

In his first year of football after moving from Germany, Johnson recorded 112 tackles, 15 for loss and six sacks. He's a four-star prospect according to 247sports.com. "Jakob is a smart and tough player who has high character and all of the measurables to be a great SEC linebacker," said Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen.

DE DIMARYA MIXON

Compton, Calif.

(West Mesquite (Texas) High School)

6-3/263

Rivals: Unrated

Mixon signed with Nebraska last year, but he failed to qualify academically and sat out this past season. Back on the market, Mixon, a three-star recruit according to 247sports.com, collected offers from Oklahoma, Auburn, Baylor, Missouri, Arizona State and others. "He is a motivated young man who we hope can contribute quickly," Stripling said.

CB EMMANUEL MOSELEY

Greensboro, N.C.

(Dudley)

5-11/165

Rivals: 3 stars

Moseley was a two-star player committed to Charlotte when the Vols offered, and since then he's won a state title, earned defensive MVP honors for one all-star game and performed well at another. While his speed was very attractive to the Vols, Moseley will need some time this offseason to add weight and strength to his frame.

CB D'ANDRE PAYNE

Washington, D.C.

(H.D. Woodson)

5-9/176

Rivals: 4 stars

The Gatorade player of the year in the nation's capital made 70 tackles, intercepted four passes and scored 11 touchdowns this past season for a powerhouse program. Payne's scholarship offer list included six SEC programs, Florida State Stanford, Ohio State, Clemson, and Michigan. "He has amazing speed and ball skills," said Tennessee secondary coach Willie Martinez.

DL OWEN WILLIAMS

Macon, Ga.

(Butler (Kan.) Community College)

6-2/285

Rivals: 3 stars

A second-team junior college All-American this season, Williams signed with Tennessee in December. Though Mixon has the ability to slide inside, Williams and Charles Mosley are the only true defensive tackle prospects in Tennessee's class. It's critical to the Vols that Williams develops this offseason and performs well in spring practice.