Of the more pressing needs is rebuilding the linebacker corps as the entire starting lineup figures to vanish between the graduation of Brent Brewer and Dontavis Sapp paired with the likely early departure to the NFL Draft by junior A.J. Johnson.
A giant piece to the puzzle set to arrive in the summer time is Dillon Bates of Ponte Vedra (Fla.) High School.
Bates made his verbal declaration to join the Orange & White while competing at The Opening in Beaverton, Ore., back on July 3.
The Scout four-star prospect tripped with his parents and a family friend from Ponte Vedra, Fla., to Knoxville, Tenn., last weekend to continue building the relationship with the Tennessee coaching staff and to see the home finale versus Vanderbilt. While he doesn't have a stake in how the Volunteers fared this fall, he still feels a heavy heart for his future teammates and VFLs.
Instant replay reversed a call that allowed Vanderbilt to continue marching on what became the game-winning touchdown drive.
"That was definitely the toughest," said Bates, whose father Bill grew up right down the road in Farragut. "Everybody going crazy and then 5 minutes later everybody is dead silent and everybody's back in their seat and just can't believe what just happened. It was one of those turns and kind of flip of emotions. You just have to look ahead to where (Tennessee) coach (Butch) Jones has brought us and where we can contend with these bowls and hopefully contend with more BCS games in the near future."
Bates has seen three games at Neyland Stadium in the last 12 months after seeing the Big Orange play Missouri last year before catching Georgia (official visit) and Vanderbilt contests this fall.
"It's always the best atmosphere that you can get to. whether it's against Vanderbilt or against Georgia. Any SEC game that you come to Knoxville for, it's going to be the best."
Plans to finish his prep career at Ponte Vedra High with a championship ring didn't come to fruition as the Sharks finished 2-8 after a 42-0 loss to Merritt Island in their last contest.
"It was tough," the nation's No. 18 outside linebacker said. "I still had a great time with my teammates, still created a lot of memories but it wasn't really the outcome that we wanted. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I had a great time, I had a great time my whole high-school career. It's kind of sad that we didn't make the most out of our senior season."
Bates says he currently checks in at 6 feet 3, 220 pounds. He started training Monday with James Coleman at God Speed Elite with firm plans to raise his weight to a solid 230 before enrolling on Rocky Top in May.
"I'm excited to get back there and get back to work," Bates said.
Between workouts and enrolling the future Vol will compete at the Under Armour All-American week in early January.
"Definitely looking forward to that," the All-American said. "Not another time when I'm going to be playing with that kind of talent. I'm just excited to make friends with all those guys and hopefully do a little recruiting.
The four-star plans to team up with fellow Tennessee commit Aaron Medley to spread the gospel about the direction Jones has the Vols heading while the pair are in the Sunshine State. Targets include but are not limited to five-star athlete Adoree Jackson, four-star wide receiver Travis Rudolph and four-star running back Bo Scarbrough.
Kickoff for the 2014 Under Armour All-American game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., is set for Jan. 2 at 4 p.m. EST.