KNOXVILLE—The 2013 Vol recruiting class stands at 21 signees, yet could add a handful of players in the next few weeks. Under Derek Dooley last season, the Vols inked 4-star lineman Omari Phillips (no longer with the team) and 3-star linebacker Kenny Bynum (who will compete for a starting spot) after Signing Day. Likewise, look for Jones to pursue several quality unsigned prospects in the next few weeks, but he’s not going to offer scholarships to players just to fill slots. “It will be an ongoing process. If we can find a prospective student-athlete that fits our profile of what we want, we will recruit him,” Jones said in his Signing Day press conference.
Several names have popped up in the rumor mill, while one prospect with confirmed interest in the Vols remains on the board.
Malique Belfort: A 6-3, 175 pound receiver from New York, Belfort is given a 3-star rating by 247 Sports. He is a good possession receiver who has soft hands, good height, is a solid route runner, and isn’t afraid to work the middle of the field. Belfort wasn’t thought to be considering the Vols until a report from Chris Anderson, a beat writer for West Virginia’s 247 Sports site, stated that Belfort’s recruitment was down to West Virginia and Tennessee. He was recruited by Jones at Cincinnati, so his late emergence on Tennessee’s radar makes sense on that level. The talented receiver still has not signed a letter of intent, and sounds like he’d sign with the Vols if offered. You can view highlights from his senior season here.
Michael Dyer: The former BCS Championship Game MVP rushed for 2,335 yards and 15 touchdowns in his two years at Auburn. Since then, he has been plagued by off the field problems. He was suspended for Auburn’s 2011 Peach Bowl appearance due to an unspecified violation of team rules. Months later, it became public that Dyer’s .45 pistol was used by four teammates in a robbery, and that he regularly smoked both real and synthetic marijuana. He transferred to Arkansas State but never saw the field. In July, Dyer was pulled over for going 96 in a 70 mph zone. Officers confiscated an unloaded handgun and found evidence of marijuana in the car; Dyer was dismissed from the team shortly thereafter.
Since then, he’s stayed out of trouble. The former All-SEC running back is pursuing an associates degree at Arkansas Baptist College, with the goal of being eligible to immediately play for a BCS program this fall. His uncle Andre Dyer, a police officer, has been mentoring Michael, and encouraging him to stay clear of bad influences. If he stays out of trouble and graduates, he should be scoring touchdowns for a major program this season.
Could he play for the Vols? Is there any mutual interest there? It seems the “Dyer to Tennessee” rumors started with various reports on message boards that Dyer and Butch Jones follow each other on Twitter. Certainly seems like there’s mutual interest, right? That isn’t as clear as some think. Two accounts have been associated with Dyer, yet Jones follows neither of them. The lone active Twitter account known to belong to Dyer, @Michael5Dyer, hasn’t tweeted in 17 months and doesn’t follow coach Jones. In fact, no one has been able to establish or confirm any form of contact between Jones and Dyer. If there’s mutual interest in him playing for the Vols, it certainly isn’t public.
There is serious doubt Jones would be willing to take a chance on Dyer, as he’s placed a high priority on signing players without character issues. Dyer would have to prove he’s a completely changed man before Jones would let him in, and the Tennessee staff likes the running backs on the roster. This whole situation appears to be nothing more than a rumor at this point, but Dyer is one to continue to watch closely. For more info on what Dyer has been up to off the field, the USA Today ran a nice piece on him in October.
Isaiah Crowell: Another former SEC running back, Crowell has been suggested as a late addition by some. He was named SEC freshman of the year in 2011, but dismissed from Georgia on several gun charges shortly before the season. Crowell enrolled at Alabama State and carried the ball 159 times for 842 yards (5.3 yards per carry). He appears primed to make it back to a BCS program, but is probably more of a risk than Dyer. No contact between Crowell and the Tennessee staff has been confirmed, and all talk of him joining the Vols appears to be nothing more than a rumor at this stage. He’s another one worth monitoring moving forward.
Tennessee needs linebackers and linemen more than receivers and running backs. Are there any linebackers or linemen who may fit Jones’ criteria left in this class? An additional post (coming soon) will examine a few prospects in those areas.