KNOXVILLE—The Vols hosted 13 official visitors this weekend in what were the most important few days of recruiting in Butch Jones’ young Tennessee career. Jones and his staff were introduced in front of 17,585 Vol fans during the Mississippi State—Tennessee basketball game. The recruits were in attendance while each coach got a rousing ovation, and Jones even took the time to give Smokey a friendly chest-bump. Below you’ll find information on each offensive prospect including our “Vol Forecast” of their chances to sign with Tennessee. If you missed it, we recapped the visits of Tennessee’s defensive visitors yesterday.
Ryan Jenkins: The 5-11, 180 pound receiver from Georgia is rated as a 4-star prospect by 247 Sports and ESPN. Jenkins has great hands, is a solid route-runner with above average speed, has as the ability to make defenders miss, and is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. He has the tools to challenge for a starting spot as a freshman.
Vol Forecast: A former Clemson commit, Jenkins switched his commitment from the Tigers to the Vols January 7th and became the first 4-star recruit to pledge to play for Butch Jones at Tennessee. Jenkins’ visit went extremely well, and he even did his part in trying to convince his friend, 5-star defensive end Carl Lawson, to join him at Tennessee. The heralded receiver picked up a recent offer from Auburn but doesn’t plan on taking any additional visits and is firmly in the Vol camp. Expect Jenkins to see playing time in the slot position this fall.
Peyton Barber: A 5-11, 220 pound running back from Georgia, Barber is rated as a 4-star recruit by ESPN. Barber is a strong, powerful runner, with a low center of gravity and good balance. Though he lacks exceptional top end speed, he has enough quickness to make defenders miss, and accelerates quickly. Barber also has good hands and can be productive catching the ball out of the backfield. With his versatility, it’s likely Barber will see early playing time wherever he signs.
Vol Forecast: Barber has been committed to Ole Miss since July and is scheduled to visit Oxford this weekend, but the Vols aren’t out of the hunt to sign him. His mother is a Tennessee alum and accompanied Peyton on his visit. He was impressed with Tennessee’s facilities and said he could see himself playing for Butch Jones. While he remains committed to Ole Miss, he won’t make his final decision until signing day, and the Vols certainly did enough to factor into that decision. Ole Miss clearly leads, but Jones and his staff believe they have a shot with him. We’ll keep you posted on any further developments.
Josh Smith: The 6-1, 190 pound receiver from Knoxville (CAK), is rated as a 3-star prospect. While Smith doesn’t have blazing speed (he runs a 4.5 40 yard dash), he’s quick enough to get open and is rarely caught from behind. Smith has terrific hands, is a mature route runner, and should play the slot position at the collegiate level.
Vol Forecast: Smith has been committed to Tennessee since June, and though Arkansas and Cincinnati have made a recent push to sign him, it would be shocking if he signs elsewhere. It may take a year or so for him to grow into a consistently productive player, but with Tennessee’s lack of depth at receiver, he could see action this fall.
Brett Kendrick: A teammate of Josh Smith, the 6-5, 290 pound offensive tackle receives a consensus 3-star rating. Kendrick is a very good athlete that also plays basketball and has quick feet for a player of his stature. He is an excellent pass blocker and has the size and tools to play offensive tackle or guard in the SEC.
Vol Forecast: Like Smith, Kendrick has been committed to UT since June, but Arkansas (where former Vol coaches Jim Chaney and Sam Pittman are on staff) has been making a push to land him. He may visit Arkansas but Kendrick’s weekend trip to UT solidified his commitment to the Vols. Kendrick plays in an uptempo spread offense at CAK and should fit well in Butch Jones’ offensive philosophy. The Vols return starters at every position on the offensive line next year and he will have a year to acclimate to the college game without being expected to contribute.
Austin Sanders: The 6-6, 300 pound offensive tackle from Cleveland, TN., is rated as a 4-star prospect by Rivals. Sanders has the size and strength necessary to play tackle or guard in college. A well-rounded lineman who excels at run blocking and is an above average pass blocker, he has the ability to play immediately for most programs.
Vol Forecast: Sanders has been committed to Tennessee since August of 2011, and isn’t wavering on that pledge. He left his weekend visit praising Tennessee’s coaches and is excited about playing for Jones and OL coach Don Mahoney. As with Kendrick, Sanders won’t be counted on to start as a freshman and may sit a year.
Shelton Gibson: A 6-0, 180 pound receiver from Ohio, Gibson is a consensus 4-star prospect. He runs a 4.42 40 yard dash, has great hands, makes defenders miss, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Gibson has the ability to step on campus and make an instant impact.
Vol Forecast: Gibson committed to West Virginia last week in a somewhat surprising decision. He is scheduled to make an unofficial visit to West Virginia this weekend and the Mountaineers lead for his services; however, the Vols gave him something to think about during his trip to Knoxville. The flashy receiver left his official visit wowed by Tennessee’s tradition, facilities, and staff. He plans to bring his family with him to UT for an unofficial visit in two weeks. It will come down to West Virginia and Tennessee, and if he makes the trip to UT in two weeks, Jones’ chances to sign him go way up. If he signs with Tennessee, he’ll compete for immediate playing time and possibly a starting spot.
A.J. Branisel: The 6-5, 225 pound tight end from Ohio is considered to be a 3-star recruit. Branisel excels in the passing game and is a threat across the middle and near the goal line. He will need to improve his run blocking and add a few pounds to be an every down player, but his hands and speed make him an offensive asset the moment he steps on campus.
Vol Forecast: Branisel committed to Tennessee earlier this month and has shown no indications of signing anywhere else. He’s the type of player that Jones and Vol OC Mike Bajakian like to feature. Branisel has tremendous speed for his size, running a 4.5 40 yard dash, and rarely drops a pass. The Vols desperately need help at the tight end position and Branisel has the potential to see immediate playing time.
Dylan Wiesman: A 6-4, 300 pound guard from Ohio, Wiesman is rated as a 3-star prospect. He is a physical lineman who is an excellent pass blocker and above average run blocker. Though he currently lacks the foot speed necessary to play tackle, he could develop into a tackle after some time in a collegiate strength and conditioning program. Regardless, he can contribute at the guard position wherever he signs.
Vol Forecast: Like Branisel, Wiesman committed to Tennessee earlier this month and has not wavered on that pledge. He’s a near lock to sign with the Vols and isn’t planning on taking visits elsewhere. Jones has the luxury of allowing Wiesman to sit behind the veteran Vol offensive line this season, which will only help prepare him for a successful career in orange.
Tomorrow morning, we’ll have updates on several Vol targets including Marquez North, Derrick Green, Vonn Bell, and Johnathan Ford.