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Tennessee head coach Butch Jones at his press conference on national signing day 2017.

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2017 Class

NAMES YOU KNOW

Offensive lineman Trey Smith, ESPN’s No. 1-ranked prospect, is one of Tennessee’s early enrollees, along with offensive lineman Riley Locklear, linebacker Shanon Reid, defensive end Deandre Johnson and quarterback Will McBride. Running back Ty Chandler, linebacker Will Ignont and safety Maleik Gray headline Wednesday’s signees and should be factors for early playing time. The same goes for any of the cornerbacks or defensive linemen in this class, given Tennessee’s needs at those positions. Cornerbacks Cheyenne Labruzza, Terrell Bailey and Shawn Shamburger are underrated prospects with upside and will have the chance to impress new defensive backs coach Charlton Warren as the Vols look to replace Cameron Sutton and Malik Foreman. Tennessee needs help at defensive end after losing Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen and LaTroy Lewis. Jordan Murphy and Josh Palmer could factor into the rotation at receiver.

NAMES YOU WILL KNOW

Tennessee’s class is full of developmental prospects. Offensive linemen Riley Locklear and K’Rojhn Calbert are clear redshirt candidates, following the path of the Vols’ three 2016 offensive linemen. Converted quarterback James Brown has upside at tight end, and Marquez Bembry oozes athletic ability and potential. The defensive linemen such as Matthew Butler, Eric Crosby and Kivon Bennett all will need rounding into shape in terms of conditioning and technique as they adjust to the college level. On paper there aren’t many obvious instant-impact players in this class as there have been in Tennessee’s previous classes, so it will be up to the coaching staff to develop them. The Vols believe many of these players, particularly the cornerbacks and linebacker Solon Page, are better than their recruiting rankings, and it’s in their hands to prove it.

NAMES YOU WILL MISS

The state of Tennessee produced three five-star prospects in 2017 according to Rivals.com, and the Vols landed zero of them. Receiver Tee Higgins chose Clemson after originally committing to the Vols, safety JaCoby Stevens enrolled at LSU after not giving Tennessee the time of day and Jacob Phillips flipped from Oklahoma to LSU after the Vols slow-played the late-developing linebacker. Among Tennessee’s more high-profile misses were running backs Cam Akers (Florida State) and Travis Etienne (Clemson), quarterback Hunter Johnson (Clemson after originally committing to the Vols), defensive end LaBryan Ray (Alabama), defensive tackles Elijah Conliffe (Florida) and Rutger Reitmaier (Oregon), cornerbacks Lamont Wade (Penn State) and Yusuf Corker (Kentucky), safety Deangelo Gibbs (Georgia), offensive tackle T.J. Moore (Florida), wide receivers Jeremiah Holloman (Georgia) and Jaylen Harris (Ohio State) and a trio of legacy prospects in running back Chase Hayden (Arkansas), receiver Amari Rodgers (Clemson) and offensive lineman Jalen McKenzie (Southern California).

POSITION BREAKDOWN

QB: 1

RB: 3

WR: 3

TE: 2

OL: 3

DL: 6

LB: 3

DB: 5

K: 1

 

TENNESSEE SIGNEES

CB TERRELL BAILEY

- Town: Marrero, La. (John Ehret)

- Height/Weight: 5-11/180

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- The Vols were the second program to make an offer to Bailey, and he committed in September from a top nine of Texas A&M, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, Arizona State, Colorado and North Carolina. He received a Notre Dame offer in January but declined to visit. Bailey isn't a burner but is solid with fundamentals, sound in his technique and physical in man coverage.

ATH MARQUEZ BEMBRY

- Town: Atlanta (Mount Vernon Presbyterian)

- Height/Weight: 6-2/215

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- Bembry projects as a defensive end in college, and what attracted the Vols was his speed. Bembry ran a 10.68-second 100-meter dash and clocked 21.93 in the 200 in the state track meet last May. He had 110 tackles and 20 sacks as a junior and committed to Tennessee before receiving offers from Florida and Georgia. Bembry tore his meniscus in September.

DT KIVON BENNETT

- Town: Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

- Height/Weight: 6-2/285

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- As the son of former Crimson Tide All-American and NFL Pro Bowler Cornelius Bennett, Kivon has Alabama in his blood, but he picked the Vols. Kivon helped his Florida powerhouse program win a third straight state title and earned MVP honors with three tackles for loss, one sacks and two forced fumbles in a high school showcase bowl game. His offer list included nearly every major program in college football.

TE JAMES BROWN

- Town: Orlando, Fla. (Jones)

- Height/Weight: 6-3/220

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- The Vols hope this hidden gem pans out. A converted quarterback, Brown had just one Football Bowl Subdivision offer (Massachusetts) when Tennessee called in October. He then garnered an Auburn offer and late interest from Florida, Oregon and South Florida. In 2016 the versatile Brown caught 11 passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns, ran for 170 yards and three scores on 15 carries and completed 16 of 19 passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns.

TE LATRELL BUMPHUS

- Town: Savannah, Tenn. (Hardin County)

- Height/Weight: 6-4/245

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- A two-way standout, Bumphus chose the Vols in the summer over Alabama and offers from Auburn, Florida, Oregon, Penn State, Texas A&M, USC and others. After he visited with promoted offensive coordinator Larry Scott during his in-home and official visits in January, it's no surprise Bumphus, a potential defensive end, was announced as a tight end.

DL MATTHEW BUTLER

- Town: Raleigh, N.C. (Garner)

- Height/Weight: 6-4/285

- 247Sports.com: 4 stars

- Butler was named a Parade All-American after racking up 96 tackles, 44 tackles for loss and 26 sacks during an outstanding senior season. He picked Tennessee over South Carolina, Penn State, Texas A&M, N.C. State and Duke in December. His cousin, Anthony Richardson, played basketball at Tennessee in the 1980s. With his power and quickness, Butler has the potential to be a disruptive tackle.

OL K'ROJHN CALBERT

- Town: McMinnville, Tenn. (Warren County)

- Height/Weight: 6-5/290

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- Calbert looks like an offensive tackle created in a lab, but he's as raw as a prospect as you can get. Due to multiple knee injuries, he barely played his first three years of high school and nearly gave up football, but interest in him blew up on the camp circuit last summer. He picked the Vols over South Carolina, Florida and multiple other SEC offers. He's potentially the sleeper of the class if he can be developed.

RB TY CHANDLER

- Town: Nashville (Montgomery Bell Academy)

- Height/Weight: 5-11/190

- 247Sports.com: 4 stars

- The No. 79 player according to 247sports, Chandler is one of the crown jewels of the class and should make an instant impact. The two-time Mr. Football winner rushed for 2,252 yards and 39 touchdowns as senior while guiding MBA to a state title game for the second straight season. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant accounted for 616 all-purpose yards and seven total touchdowns in those two championship games.

K BRENT CIMAGLIA

- Town: Franklin, Tenn. (Page)

- Height/Weight: 6-0/215

- 247Sports.com: 2 stars

- Tennessee added a third midstate specialist to its incumbent duo of kicker Aaron Medley (Lewisburg) and punter Trevor Daniel (Dickson). Cimaglia flipped from his longtime commitment to Southern Mississippi after earning an offer from the Vols at a camp in Knoxville last summer. He's the No. 6 kicker nationally according to both 247Sports and the respected Kohl's Kicking Camps.

RB TREY COLEMAN

- Town: West Monroe, La. (West Monroe)

- Height/Weight: 5-11/215

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- Coleman actually was the first running back in the class when he picked Tennessee over Arkansas and Mississippi State in June. He rushed for more than 2,700 yards and 22 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons for one of Louisiana's top programs. In 2016 he averaged more than 7 yards per carry and showed nice hands by catching 10 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns.

DT ERIC CROSBY

- Town: Virginia Beach, Va. (Ocean Lakes)

- Height/Weight: 6-1/325

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- A potential immediate impact player if he can manage his weight and conditioning, Crosby is a powerful inside defender who picked Tennessee over Virginia Tech last spring. He played running back in high school and had a 120-yard, four-touchdown performance in a regional title game as a sophomore. His early offers included Ohio State, Florida State, Clemson, South Carolina, Penn State and West Virginia.

S MALEIK GRAY

- Town: LaVergne, Tenn. (LaVergne)

- Height/Weight: 6-2/195

- 247Sports.com: 4 stars

- The Under Armour All-American flirted with taking a late visit to Florida State — he grew up a Seminoles fan and was close with former Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey and his family — but decided to stay home. Gray chose Tennessee, which offered him a scholarship way back in 2013, over Florida State, USC and Alabama in June. The No. 140 overall player according to 247Sports could grow into a linebacker.

LB WILL IGNONT

- Town: New Market, Ala. (Buckhorn)

- Height/Weight: 6-1/235

- 247Sports.com: 4 stars

- The No. 114 player in the class according to 247Sports, Ignont is what Tennessee director of player personnel Bob Welton called a "thumper" of a linebacker. "He can run and he can hit," Welton added. "He's a big, physically imposing kid. He's got that right mentality to play middle linebacker." Ignont picked Tennessee over Auburn, Michigan and UCLA and declined late interest from LSU. He had 131 tackles, 22 for loss and 10 sacks in 2016.

S THEO JACKSON

- Town: Nashville (Overton)

- Height/Weight: 6-2/180

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- He chose Tennessee over LSU and Vanderbilt in June. Jackson, who intercepted five passes and earned regional defensive MVP honors as a senior, projects as a safety, though he could play anywhere in the secondary.

WR JACQUEZ JONES

- Town: Clearwater, Fla. (Clearwater)

- Height/Weight: 5-10/165

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- Jones gives Tennessee another dose of Florida speed. After a 974-yard, eight-touchdown junior year, the slot receiver picked the Vols in May over offers from Miami, Louisville, Wisconsin and others. As a senior Jones caught 57 passes for 1,004 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 244 yards and four scores on 23 carries.

RB TIMOTHY JORDAN

- Town: Bartow, Fla. (Bartow)

- Height/Weight: 5-10/190

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- The Vols pursued a few different options for their third running back once the ship for five-star recruit Cam Akers sailed to Florida State in December, and they landed Jordan. Formerly committed to Western Kentucky, he chose Tennessee over North Carolina in January. He rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016.

CB CHEYENNE LABRUZZA

- Town: Albany, La. (Albany)

- Height/Weight: 5-11/190

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- It's rare for in-state players wanted by LSU to leave Louisiana, but Tennessee convinced Labruzza to do so in a legitimate recruiting win against the Tigers last spring. Labruzza is an underrated prospect with perhaps the highest upside in this class. He had knee surgery in October and turned down making a late visit to Baton Rouge after committing in April.

WR JORDAN MURPHY

- Town: Hattiesburg, Miss. (Hattiesburg)

- Height/Weight: 5-11/170

- 247Sports.com: 4 stars

- Tennessee held off a late push from Ole Miss to hold on to Murphy, who rose to No. 232 in the 247Sports national rankings after totaling 78 catches, 1,695 yards and 21 touchdowns — with a 312-yard game — during his senior season. "His whole year's a highlight tape," Vols director of player personnel Bob Welton said. "He's a special athlete. He just knows how to get open. He's a dynamic, dynamic football player."

LB SOLON PAGE III

- Town: Marietta, Ga. (Kell)

- Height/Weight: 6-2/207

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- Page might as well be Brian Randolph 2.0. He starred at the same high school as the former Tennessee safety and earned Parade All-American honorable mention (Randolph was a first-team selection) after a gaudy senior season in which he racked up 178 tackles, 23 for loss, two sacks, four forced fumbles and a touchdown on an interception return. Both were under-the-radar, three-star recruits, and the Vols believe Page is a steal.

WR JOSH PALMER

- Town: Brampton, Ontario, Canada (St. Thomas Aquinas)

- Height/Weight: 6-2/200

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- The Canadian moved to Florida prior to his junior year with his football future in mind. Playing for a powerhouse program, Palmer caught just five passes for 30 yards in 2015, but he made 32 catches, 506 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. The former Syracuse commitment picked Tennessee in January over UCLA, Penn State and Ohio State.

CB SHAWN SHAMBURGER

- Town: Moultrie, Ga. (Colquitt County)

- Height/Weight: 5-11/190

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- Shamburger originally committed to Louisiana-Lafayette until some big-time offers rolled in during the summer, and he picked Tennessee over Auburn and Ole Miss in November. He considered a January visit to Georgia after racking up 51 tackles and five interceptions and two forced fumbles as a senior. The Alabama native was a possible fallback option for the home-state Crimson Tide.

DE RYAN THAXTON

- Town: Alexandria, Va. (St. Stephen's & St. Agnes)

- Height/Weight: 6-5/230

- 247Sports.com: 3 stars

- The former Virginia commitment picked Tennessee in January over Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Rutgers, and the Vols hope he can develop into an effective edge rusher.

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