All week we’ll be examining how each team in the SEC performed on national signing day. Up next: Tennessee.
Biggest need heading into signing day: Coach Butch Jones and his staff have signed a ton of prospects since arriving at Tennessee late in 2012. The phrase they coined way back then — “#BrickByBrick” — was easy to poke fun at, too. But what they’ve actually done is put together a very balanced roster. Comb through it and you won’t find many holes, especially on offense. But if you’re looking for an area that needs help, look no further than the secondary where the Vols must replace starting safeties Brian Randolph and LaDarrell McNeil.
How it was addressed: For nearly a year, Tyler Byrd was committed to Miami. Then on signing day, the four-star athlete flipped to Tennessee, giving the Vols not just their highest-rated athlete in the class but potentially their next starting cornerback for years to come. And even without that last-minute surprise, Jones’ secondary was in good shape with their next highest-rated signee, No. 8-ranked cornerback Marquill Osborne, already enrolled. Before signing day was over, the Vols would further stockpile the secondary by signing a pair of top-10 safeties: Marquez Callaway and Nigel Warrior.
Position of strength: Jones isn’t leaving anything to chance for when it comes time to replace Josh Dobbs at quarterback. In each of the Vols’ past two signing classes, he’s brought in the same type of dual-threat signal-caller Dobbs embodies. Last year it was 6-foot-3 California product Sheriron Jones, whom ESPN ranked as the No. 6 dual-threat QB in the country. This year, Tennessee did better on paper, inking No. 4 dual-threat QB Jarrett Guarantano, a 6-4 athlete from New Jersey who had offers from Alabama, Auburn and Clemson.
Biggest remaining question mark: If you asked around a year ago about who had the best group of receivers in the SEC, you would have had more than a few people tell you to look at Tennessee. But things didn’t go according to plan. Marquez North missed six games due to injuries and decided to enter the NFL draft anyways. And now, with Von Pearson gone as well, the Vols need to reload. Junior college top-50 prospect Jeff George is intriguing, especially given his height at 6-5, but he’s a short-term answer. Getting four-star signees Corey Henderson, Brandon Johnson and Latrell Williams developed will be the key to ensuring stability at the position for years to come.