Coach Derek Dooley and his staff are hot on the trail of many of the nation's top defensive linemen to help coordinator Justin Wilcox's defense take another step forward in 2012.
Below is a small portion of the names Tennessee is targeting to round out its recruiting class, which doesn't have many scholarships remaining.
Darius Hamilton, DE
Hamilton, a five-star defensive end prospect, is among the most sought after athletes in the 2012 recruiting class. A 6-foot-4, 245-pound specimen, Hamilton is one of Tennessee's top remaining targets.
A New Jersey native, Hamilton attends Don Bosco Prep School in Ramsey, N.J. Bosco is among some of the more elite high schools in the nation, ranked No. 2 by the Scout.com preseason poll.
Originally, Hamilton planned to make his official visits during the summer, but due to a busy schedule he was unable to do so. Tennessee remains among his most top schools, but he will shift his focus to his senior season.
"There isn't time for me to take my visits before October," Hamilton told Sam Hellman of Scout.com. "My team and my school come first and that's my focus right now."
Following his final high school season, Hamilton plans to make official visits to Tennessee, California, Florida and Oregon. The state school, Rutgers, has already had the luxury of Hamilton's presence.
Jordan Jenkins, DE
Jenkins, the No. 6 ranked defensive end in the 2012 class according to Scout.com is still considering the Volunteers. After camping with Tennessee in June, the five-star prospect lumped Tennessee into his top four with Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.
"In no particular order, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are his top four," Ronald Jenkins, Jordan's father told InsideTennessee.com. "Just slightly behind those are Auburn and Georgia Tech."
Jenkins pointed to Lance Thompson (the defensive line coach) as an edge for the Volunteers. The Vols also have early playing time to offer as well, which Jenkins says will be a major factor in his recruitment.
Jenkins goal for his senior season — 100 or more tackles. As a junior, the Harris County (Ga.) High product racked up 89 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He plans to make his decision in January or February of 2012, which makes the Under Armour All-America game a possibility for his announcement.
Jonathan Bullard, DE
Bullard, a four-star defensive end out of Crest High School in Shelby, N.C., listed Tennessee in his top school as recently as Aug. 4. Listed at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds Bullard has excellent pass-rush ability off the edge.
"He is a man at defensive end. He is very mobile and is great against the run and pass. Jonathan has tremendous range; we do everything from dropping him into pass coverage, to sliding him down to a 3 technique along the defensive line," head coach Mark Barnes told Michael Clark of Scout.com.
The good news for Tennessee staff and its fans — Bullard has expressed to multiple sources that he hopes to pursue his college football outside of his home state.
|East Mississippi Community College defensive end Denico Autry coudl earn immediate playing time should he choose the Vols.|
Denico Autry, DE
Autry, a four-star East Mississippi Community College prospect, already has a Tennessee presence in his everyday life, fellow teammate and defensive lineman Damien Jacobs. Jacobs, a three-star prospect, gave his pledge to the Volunteers back in July.
Autry has placed the Vols amongst his top three schools, which also include Mississippi State and Alabama.
"They just surprised me. I just felt wanted by them," Autry told Gene Swindoll. "Yes sir, I visited them. And I enjoyed it."
At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Autry would likely be an immediate help to the Volunteers defensive front. Scout ranks him No. 2 among all JUCO prospects in the 2012 class.
Danny O'Brien, DT
O'Brien, a Flint, Mich., product, is high on the list of defensive tackles being pursued by the Volunteers, but it may be tough to beat the state school.
It is said that O'Brien's recruitment is now a two-horse race with Tennessee and Michigan pulling away from the pack. The good news for Tennessee — during his visit this past spring, O'Brien father noted that Tennessee is the measuring stick for all others in the recruiting process.
O'Brien has said that he will be taking his official visits and will likely push his decision date into 2012.
Trent Taylor, DE
Taylor, a Miami commitment, has opened up his recruitment in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Lakeland, Fla., native has decided to visit Rocky Top over the weekend as a part of his second time around the recruiting block. As a junior, Taylor finished the year with 96 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 15 sacks.
Stay tuned to InsideTennessee.com when it comes to Taylor. We will attempt to catch up with the Miami commitment as soon as he departs the 865.
Korren Kirven, DT
Kirven, a Lynchburg, Va., native, ranks No.17 among the 2012 prospects at defensive tackle and is rated four-stars by Scout.com. The Brookville High School product hoped to visit the Volunteers over the summer, but was unable to make it in for unknown reasons.
"I am just trying to narrow down my list," Kirven told Kristen Kenny of Scout.com. "Maryland this weekend, Oregon around July 5th, Rutgers before that, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia Tech and Tennessee in July and Notre Dame and Stanford the last week of July."
With a 6-foot-4, 260-pound frame, Kirven would give depth to a defensive line that will lose its only returning starter in Malik Jackson following the 2011 season.
Daniel McCullers, DT
McCullers, a redshirt sophomore at Georgia Military College, is rated three-stars by Scout.com and offers incredible size at 6-foot-5, 340 pounds.
"I am open to everyone and I am going to look at all of the schools that offer me," McCullers told Chad Simmons of Scout.com. "I hope to get out this summer and visit Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and a few others to see what it is like. I just want to weigh all of my options."
McCullers weighed in with 29 tackles and five sacks during his 2009 season.