This is probably premature but I plan on updating these every week this season. Might as well do a Pre-season version. Every SEC team ranked from worst to first.
14. South Carolina
There just isn't enough talent on this team to win many games this year. Regardless of whether Muschamp starts Perry Orth or Brandon MacIlwain, this team is going to struggle against most SEC opponents this annum. 13. Missouri
Missouri is one of many teams featuring a new Head Coach this year and although Barry Odom is already familiar with his team, the many shortcomings of the roster will keep Mizzou towards the bottom of the pecking order this year. Much will depend on the growth of Drew Lock as a passer. He wasn't very impressive as a freshman, but if he can start to show why he was rated a 4 star QB on most sites Mizzou could move up this list.
Can Kentucky put together the semblence of a passing game this year? If so they could move up this list. They still lack talent and depth at most positions but will feature an above-average rushing attack. Their biggest issue will be their inability to stop the opposing team's rushing attack and that's bad news for a team competing in the SEC.
Vanderbilt's defense should again be solid under Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Derek Mason. Most of their questions are on offense. Their offensive line is thin and any further injury at that position will make it very tough to remain competitive in the SEC. I really like the ceiling of Sophomore QB Kyle Shurmur. If he can take a step and you throw in RB Ralph Webb they could be bowl-bound this season.
I just don't think Auburn will improve much from the team they were last season. They could be huge movers on this list if Malzahn can find a dependable option at QB. There's talent all over the field, but that was the case last year as well. I'll have to see Auburn win some tough ones before I believe last year was just a fluke. 9. Mississippi State
Life post-Dak Prescott looks to be a step-back from the competitive teams MSU has fielded in recent years. They also field a less-than-stellar offensive line and I could see their running game struggle. The defense should prove capable but there are 3 phases in football and MSU has a lot to prove if they are going to live up to the standards and expectations the last few years have created.
Arkansas is having to replace some key starters from last year and that will be easier said than done. Will the younger Allen brother make an adequate replacement at QB? How about that retooled offensive line. Sam Pittman left his OL Coach position to take the same position at Georgia and that's not a guy who's easy to replace. Arkansas is another candidate to move up this list but the West will not be much easier this year than in years past.
7. Texas A&M
Maybe Trevor Knight shows some consistency his senior year that he never showed at Oklahoma. Maybe Chief gets that defense to play to his standards but I will have to see it to believe it. If the above scenarios both take place, A&M can be dangerous. Right now they're a middle-of-the pack team.
Florida lost a lot of pieces from the team that won the East last year but they should again be good on defense. Their biggest question marks are OL, QB, and RB. The OL should be at least moderately better than last year but the depth is perilously thin. This is a team that can ill-afford to suffer many injuries. 5. Georgia
Lots and lots of question marks for the Bulldogs this season but Kirby Smart has passed the Coaching Staff test with the addition of some proven coordinators and solid assistant coaches. It will be an achievement to equal their regular season win total last year of 10 games but if Jacob Eason comes along like many expect they could certainly get close.
4. Ole Miss
The Rebels will be returning the SEC's best passer but are having to reload at many key positions. The passing game should be solid but there are lingering questions at QB. The defense has potential to be solid but they will not be as talented as last year's.
I'm not giving Bama the number 1 spot until they prove they can replace key starters at QB and RB with no drop-off. They may very well prove to be the best team in the league but I'm not anointing them until I see it.
Our Vols return the second-most starters in the league and appear to have no holes. Biggest question is how much the passing game has improved but we can expect at least moderate improvement there. The Vols are the king of the East for now but must prove they can close out games in the fourth quarter.
LSU is my favorite to win the West this season. They return the most starters in the SEC, hired a top-notch defensive coordinator and have sickening depth on defense. Much like the Vols, LSU will have to show improvement in the passing game but have all the tools to do so. Brandon Harris will have to be better and I think he will be.
Cam Akers - Tennessee is in a good spot. Mid term guy.
Ty Chandler - Keeping things close to the vest. Tennessee is recruiting him hard.
Chase Hayden - Vol legacy who could play multiple positions. Announcing late summer.
Trey Sermon - Supremely talented running back with interest in Tennessee. Wants to take summer visits to his top schools then announce a decision.
KD Nixon - COMMITTED
Princeton Fant - Tennessee leads. Is thinking of announcing during his senior season.
Jeremiah Holloman - Tennessee led going into his Georgia visit, now it's UGA.
Tee Higgins - Tennessee will most likely keep this superstar playmaker at home. Tee will likely take this decision all the way to December when he will be a mid term enrollee.
Chase Rogers - COMMITTED
Tre McKitty - Loved his O&W game visit. Will return soon.
Matthew Dotson - Tennessee seems to have faded somewhat as his profile grows.
N'Kosi Perry - Miami commitment that just took a Tennessee visit proving he's considering the Vols still. Hard fight to get him out of South Florida. Larry Scott is on the case though so you never know.
Jack Sears - Very accurate passer from California who left Tennessee with it being one of his top schools.
CJ Lewis - 3 star QB who visited for the Spring Game but has yet to receive an offer.
TJ Moore - Very impressive 4 star prospect who is raw but athletic and can play tackle. He likes Tennessee a lot.
Trey Smith - A lot of schools want this kid so it will be a fight. Alabama and Clemson are Tennessee's main competition. He's one of the highest priorities in Tennessee's class. UPDATE: Trey is still pretty open but Tennessee is a big factor as he knows many of the players. Trey will be another mid term guy.
Tony Gray - mutual interest there nothing more to add. Georgia leads the crystal ball
Eric Crosby - COMMITTED
Rutger Reitmaier - Tennessee leads with teams like Duke chasing 4 star prospect and a key to this recruiting class. Is thinking of announcing around the middle of summer.
Emmanuel McNeil - Coaches love this kid.
Breyon Gaddy - 330 pound behemoth who will play nose at Tennessee. Athletic for his size. Was impressed by a recent visit to Tennessee. UNC people say we are in very good shape. EDIT: Breyon says the Vols lead. His brother Brandon is a package deal.
Marquez Bembry - COMMITTED
Jordan Williams - DE who will eventually grow into a DT. He's very high on Tennessee. Crystal ball reads 100% to Tennessee with 4 predictions. Has set a commitment date for September 24th.
Elijah Conliffe - SDE who's probably a tackle at the next level. Mutual interest.
Isaiah Buggs - JUCO DE many schools are after
Malik Herring - Very versatile DE coveted by many schools. Was recently on campus for a junior day.
Robert Beal - Another talented DE several big time schools are after. Has visited the Vols a handful of times. Vols trail many teams here.
Latrell Bumphus - Tennessee is in very good shape even as he adds offers from schools such as USC and reportedly Bama.
Tyree Johnson - DC player who has Tennessee in his top 3
Trey Lawson - Loves Coach Stripling. Really looking forward to visiting Tennessee. Another DE the plan is to put weight on and move to tackle.
Michael Allen - plays things close to the vest but Tennessee is in it as is Georgia and Wake Forest.
De'Morreal Burnam - COMMITTED IMO this is a guy Tennessee will eventually part ways with.
Solon Page III - COMMITTED
Justin Foster - A guy with a lot of options. Has been to UT multiple times. UPDATE: Foster now says Tennessee has an edge over Clemson because he wants to play linebacker and they've discussed playing him at end. Stanford is 3rd and he's waiting to see if he scores high enough to be admitted. Mid term guy.
Laquan Henderson - Says Tennessee leads
Chandler Wooten - Georgia linebacker. Tennessee was in good shape. Now it's unclear. Announces May 13th. UPDATE: I expect Wooten to chose the Vols on the 13th.
Santino Marchiol - Tennessee leads. He will take an April 30th trip to Ole Miss then has a special announcement planned for the following weekend.
Tyler Taylor - Says Tennessee is up at the top with a few other schools. Plans to return to Knoxville "probably" before summer.
Cheyenne Labruzza - COMMITTED but LSU still has the full court press on him. Gonna be a fight to hang on.
Lamont Wade - Tennessee has as good a shot at this 5 star as anyone in his top group. He has a special bond with Bob Shoop which may ultimately play in our favor.
Gentry Bonds - doesn't talk much and I haven't heard his reaction to visiting the spring game but I feel like we're in good shape to land this instate target.
Yusuf Corker - Tennessee is in real good shape and he's discussed doing something soon.
Jacobe Clement - Recently announced a top 5 of N.C. State, Wake Forest, Tennessee, North Carolina and Clemson.
TJ Carter - Talented instate CB who knows a lot of the instate guys and really could help recruiting from that standpoint.
Deangelo Gibbs - cousin to Nigel Warrior and nephew to Tennessee great Dale Carter, Gibbs has seen Tennessee many times. Most think it will come down to a UGA/Tennessee battle. Gibbs is also a mid-term guy.
Theo Jackson - From Overton in Nashville. Likes the Vols a great deal.
Maleik Gray - Vols are in great position with Maleik who probably ultimately plays linebacker here as well as his teammate WR Princeton Fant. Maleik may wait for his all-star game to decide.
Jacoby Stevens - Tennessee sits 3rd on his list behind UGA and LSU. Wants to play DB at the next level though some think he'll grow into a linebacker.
CJ Holmes - Tennessee moved to CJ's top group after attending the spring game. Probably a DB at the next level.
Kam White - Teammate of Cam Akers. The two want to play at the same college.
Here are the list of Rivals 100 members in the state of Tennessee alone. We are recruiting all of these
ATH Jacoby Stevens #30
ATH Maleik Gray #31
WR Tee Higgins #69
RB Cordarrian Richardson #88
Stevens was once committed to LSU, his childhood favorite, but decommitted once the buzz around Les Miles intensified. He now claims he's open to Tennessee and has a former teammate on the Tennessee team recruiting him in Jack Jones. Many schools in the mix here but you gotta like where Tennessee is early.
Makleik Gray seems to be favoring FSU currently with USC in second place but he's said some nice things about Tennessee and has been a frequent visitor on campus this past year. He mentioned to Rivals.com that he's discussed with some other Middle Tennessee players all playing for the same school at the next level.
Tee Higgins grew up loving the Vols but may have committed a little too early in the process as other schools have started recruiting him hard including Clemson where he just came off a visit from with a guy we'll mention later, Tee Martin's son Amari Rodgers. Tennessee will be in the thick of it til the end which will be much later down the road I predict.
We are in really good shape, if not the favorites, for top runningback Cordarrian Richardson. Richardson is an explosive running back and deserving of his top 100 rating. He claims a top 8 of Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Oklahoma, Alabama, Michigan State,
Clemson and Florida State.
The rest of the 250 shakes out like this:
RB Ty Chandler #145
WR Amari Rodgers #180
LB Jacob Phillips #182
CB Gentry Bonds #207
WR Princeton Fant #216
There are many who would make the argument that Ty Chandler, and not Cordarrian Richardson is the top runningback in the state and I wouldn't argue with them. He's got prototypical runningback size at 5'11" 190 and is a bruising style runner for his High School. His father briefly played for Ole Miss and that's a school he is considering but Tennessee is also very much in the mix.
Amari Rodgers is a slot wide receiver and the son of Vol legend Tee Martin. He committed to his dad on a visit to USC while he was still the wide receiver coach but has since backed off that pledge. Tennessee was thought to be in the mix but many have suspected he would end up at his childhood favorite Clemson where, as mentioned above, he just came off a visit. He announced via Twitter that he would be doing a Bleacher Report commitment within a month and a half.
Jacob Phillips is out of
Nashville Magnet School in Nashville and formerly of Beech
High School in Hendersonville, Jalen Hurd's alma mater. Vols are in the thick
of things here.
I like where Tennessee is with Gentry Bonds after a recent
Princeton Fant, I expect to be a Vol.
Just outside of the Rivals 250, but still a 4 star instate prospect is offensive tackle Trey Smith. He's the 10th best prospect in the state of Tennessee and a Vols target. In addition to Tennessee he is listening to Alabama and Clemson.
Here are the rest of the top 100 guys we are in on. These guys are not neccesarily instate but are big targets for Tennessee in the class.
CB Lamont Wade #6
S Jeffery Okudah #9
CB William Poole III #14
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones #20
RB Cam Akers #21 (Bama commit)
S Deangelo GIbbs #45
LB Justin Foster #53
Lamont Wade is one of the top 10 players in the class and a guy which the "who's who" of college football are all pursuing. He is already very familiar with Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop having been recruited by him at Penn State. He's taken two very recent visits to Ohio State who some consider the team to beat. One thing to note is Ohio State already has two very good corner backs committed in this class.
Jeffery Okudah is one of the top safeties in the country and has been on Tennessee's campus and has come away impressed. Tough to get a kid out of Texas but he's one to watch.
William Poole III is a georgia prospect who Tennessee is after but so are the in-state Dawgs.
Donovon Peoples-Jones is one of the top wide receivers in the country and his offer list reflects that. Out of Detroit, he will be tough to keep away from Michigan but Tennessee made a recent list of his top schools.
Cam Akers is a Bama commit who is leaving the door cracked for Tennessee. Sources tell me that, if he were to decommit from Alabama, Tennessee would be the destination. He sees the opportunity for immediate playing time on Tennessee's roster and it doesn't help Bama that they have two other top running backs committed in his class.
Deangelo Gibbs, the nephew of Tennessee legend Dale Carter and cousin to Nigel Warrior, is one of the top prospects in the state of Georgia. He's been on Tennessee's campus multiple times and almost every time Warrior was on campus, so was Deangelo. It's hard to see him getting away from the Vols.
Justin Foster is one of the top linebacker prospects in the country and is a guy Tommy Thigpen is heavily involved with. The North Carolina product has been on campus several times and Tennesse is dogged in their pursuit of him.