Scouting Report: Vols' February signees

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Tennessee looks to put the finishing touches on one of the Scout network's most talented recruiting classes in the country as the fax machine at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center hums.

After enrolling 14 players in early January, the Volunteers figure to take on nearly 20 more names from the Class of 2014.

Here's a look at who has sent the Tennessee staff their signed National Letter of Intent:

Todd Kelly Jr. | S | Knoxville (Tenn.)

The first Vols legacy prospect in the class to hop on board, the two-time TSSAA Division II Class A state champion at Webb-Knoxville, Kelly verbally committed on March 10 and immediately got to work helping build one of the country's best crop of signees. At 6 feet, 195 pounds, the four-star has more than enough stature to compete for a starting spot the second he steps foot on campus. Some have suggested his future could include him moving up a level to linebacker. The U.S. Army All-American has leadership skills that should be most beneficial getting teammates aligned versus talented Southeastern Conference offense. Kelly carried the football plenty for the Webb Spartans' offense, running for 1,014 yards and 20 touchdowns on 130 carries. His production on both sides of the ball earned him two Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Back of the Year awards for his classification. He ranks in at No. 121 in the final Scout 300.

Dillon Bates | OLB | Ponte Vedra (Fla.)

Although the decision was made months beforehand, the Orange & White got plenty of positive marketing on national television when Bates put on a Tennessee hat on national television at The Opening in July. Bates' father is former Vols linebacker Bill Bates, formerly of Farragut. Dillon's mother is Denise, who was a cheerleader on Rocky Top. The family said on record several times that Dillon was allowed to make his own decision and ultimately picked Tennessee over other finalists Alabama and Florida. Football I.Q., instincts and versatility are all commonly used to describe the Under Armour All-American. At 6 feet 3, 225 pounds, Bates doesn't lack much from having the strength levels needed to bring down SEC ball carriers. Bates opened eyes last summer, clocking a laser-timed 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds. With straight-line speed to spare, the question is can he move with enough lateral quickness to cover runners flaring out of the backfield and top-notch tight ends. Scout ranks Bates as a four-star prospect and the No. 18 outside linebacker in the nation. He finished in the Scout 300 at No. 217 overall.

Vic Wharton | WR | Thompson's Station (Tenn.)

Butch Jones' first verbal commitment of the 2014 class came on Christmas Day in 2012. The Independence (Tenn.) High School wideout was one of players in the Volunteer State who knew of Jones when the university announced Jones' hiring earlier that December. That was the case because Wharton was highly coveted by the Cincinnati staff, which told Wharton it would be built around his ability. The 5-foot-10, 192-pounder has return skills that include his ability to quickly see the wedge, envisioning a path to paydirt and having the jets to make it all happen. He rarely left the field for the Eagles and teamed up with fellow future Vol RaShaan Gaulden to lead them to the quarterfinals of the TSSAA Class 6A state playoffs. Wharton finds gaps in opposing defenses and comes down with catches in traffic. He will be a test for opposing nickelbacks and should push Jacob Carter and Devrin Young in Tennessee's return game the second he's on Rocky Top. Wharton was an Offense-Defense All-American and rated by Scout as the No. 14 player in the Volunteer State.

RaShaan Gaulden | DB | Thompson's Station (Tenn.)

Gaulden teams up with Wharton not only in a talented Independence High secondary but also on the track team as both hope to sprint for TSSAA state championships at the BlueCross Spring Fling in May. That burst and explosion gives Gaulden a leg up on a majority of the defensive backs already on Tennessee's campus. It's to-be-determined if Gaulden winds up at cornerback, nickelback or safety, but he could find himself on the field quickly as a true freshman. Gaulden originally got his scholarship offer in the spring of 2012 when Derek Dooley was the head coach. The Vols held off other suitors like Ohio State and Vanderbilt to land the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder. He vaulted up the recruiting rankings 25 spots at safety after a solid performance as a Semper Fidelis All-American in Carson, Calif.

Derrell Scott | RB | Havelock (N.C.)

With just two scholarship backs returning from the 2013 roster — Alden Hill and Marlin Lane — Tennessee's depth in the offensive backfield was scary low. Thus, the addition of every talented runner the Vols could muster with the '14 class was paramount. Scott compliments other incoming backs Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk rather well. Tennessee held off South Carolina and a late-charging Florida to get the four-year starter at Haveolock (N.C.) High. Jones' in-home visit helped seal the deal. The four-star brings a different dimension to coordinator Mike Bajakian's scheme as a multi-purpose back that gets upfield in a hurry and has the ability to cut without gearing down. Scott was forced to sit out from competing at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl with a broken hand he suffered in December's title game victory. However, the cast came off Monday and Scott tells IT he intends to start packing weight onto his 5-foot-11, 184-pound frame. He is a three-time NCHSA state champion and contributed heavily to a 58-5 record in his prep years. Last fall, Scott ran for 2,147 yards on 229 carries (9.38 yards per attempt). Scott is rated the No. 17 running back in the nation and the No. 5 senior in the Tar Heel State. He finished up at No. 142 in the Scout 300. He carries a 3.8 grade point average.

Aaron Medley | K | Lewisburg (Tenn.)

It didn't take long after special teams coordinator Mark Elder saw the Marshall County High standout kick in person for the Vols to come with a scholarship offer. Oklahoma and Texas A&M had already pulled the trigger, so the pressure was on. However, Medley has orange blood and the it was only a matter of time after Tennessee offered before he declared. Former Tennessee kicker and mid-state standout himself James Wilhoit provided tutelage to Medley and the Vols signee gives considerable credit to the Hendersonville native. In 2013, the Tigers' leg hit 31 of 33 extra points and was 3-of-6 on field goals. As a junior, Medley booted 27 0f 31 extra points and was 3 of 6 on field goals with 31 of his 47 kickoffs going for touchbacks. For his prep career, he was 19 of 31 on field goal attempts. The Under Armour All-American missed both tries during a nationally televised game in early January but showed good lift on the ball and didn't miss the upright by a considerable amount.

Gavin Bryant | MLB | Jackson (Ala.)

If not for All-SEC linebacker A.J. Johnson returning for his senior year, the Jackson (Ala.) High School star would have a terrific shot at starting Day 1 on Rocky Top given his raw ability. Bryant is more advanced in his lateral movement as a prep 'backer. The question is how will he work from the neck-up in space versus talented offenses led by the likes of Gus Malzahn and Steve Spurrier. That will be up to Jones, defensive coordinator John Jancek and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen to work diligently to get him mentally ready for what lies ahead. At 6 feet, 233, he has plenty of size to shed blocks and find his way to the ball carrier. If Bryant runs through the T in August for the Utah State game that means he clocked in academically to get fully qualified. Scout ranks Bryant as the No. 279 player overall, the No. 11 middle linebacker in the nation and the No. 8 senior in the Heart of Dixie.

Treyvon Paulk | RB | Milton (Ga.)

As mentioned above with the info on Scott, adding as much ability to assistant coach Robert Gillespie's meeting room as possible was essential with this class. Paulk arrives without as much fanfare as most other Tennessee pledges, which is partially true because of a torn ACL suffered early in his senior season. The ligament tear came early enough to where Paulk could be game-ready in September with him turning the corner physically in 2015. Some assumed Paulk would waver on his pledge after Scott joined Hurd on the commit list but Paulk himself never publicly said so. He is close friends with redshirt freshman Ryan Jenkins and competed at Milton with Auburn rising sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson. InsideTennessee was on hand to see Paulk take the first handoff of his final prep campaign and sprint 80 yards to the end zone. He finished with a 233-yard season opener in a gut-wrenching victory over rival Alpharetta and junior defensive end commitment Andrew Butcher. He is a back that wants to carry the load and has drawn comparisons to Baltimore Ravens runner Ray Rice. Scout has the stocky Peach State standout as the No. 60 player in his state.

Joseph Henderson | DE | Shaker Heights (Ohio)

Coming off the edge, it's hard to think that there are many more defensive ends in the nation with more speed and explosiveness. Watching the Ohio product closely at The Opening, he was near unblockable by every tackle in Oregon except for the best one in the country, Cameron Robinson. Reports are that the three-star takes too many plays off and gets sack happy but until he packs on 30-plus pounds he will be used in a pass-rush role and told to hunt quarterbacks (similar to how Corey Vereen was used early into his freshman season). Henderson gives the Vols as much speed off the edge as its had from a player in quite some time with previous staffs hunting more stature than athleticism.

Dewayne Hendrix | DE | O'Fallon (Ill.)

Big Orange Country breathed a collective sigh of relief when Hendrix sent his paperwork to the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center on Wednesday. The Missouri Tigers came on strong down the stretch, and he had already utilized his official visit to Tennessee during the 2013 season. However, Jones used his in-home visit as late as possible, sitting down with the Semper Fidelis All-American the day before the NCAA quiet period in early February. That trip solidified things after Hendrix checked out Mizzou's campus the weekend prior. He presents Vols defensive line coach Steve Stripling with an athletic, long frame to mold into a potentially stellar career in orange. Hendrix was a Chicago Tribune second-team all-state selection after totaling 60 tackles, including seven tackles for loss his senior year. Scout slots Hendrix as the No. 149 player in the country, the No. 16 defensive end and the No. 6 player in the Land of Lincoln.

Jashon Robertson | DT | Nashville (Tenn.)

Quite possibly the most underrated signee in the class, Robertson presents a fantastic combination of skill, size and strength for an incoming freshman. What's Vanderbilt's loss is Tennessee's gain as when James Franklin left for Penn State, so did the Montgomery Bell Academy four-year starter. The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder is close friends with Vols freshman Jalen Hurd and anytime portions of a class come with chemistry intact, I have to think that's a positive thing. Some see Robertson's upside at offensive guard. While I do believe he can play there as well, I think he will push to get into the rotation at D-tackle within his first two seasons on Rocky Top. The Music City lineman is rated by Scout as the No. 9 senior in the Volunteer State.

Charles Mosley | DT | Brighton (Tenn.)

It's hard to find a better personality coming to The Hill than Mosley's. If he's not showing off his pearly whites, then he's making you show yours. It's an odd combination for someone 6 feet 5, 353 pounds that plays in the rugged trenches. Seeing his interaction with Vols coaches this summer should be quite interesting. The Brighton High standout and Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Lineman of the Year finalist saw future teammate Jack Jones claim the award and the two haven't stopped throwing hysterical shots at each other since. Mosley competed at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl earlier this year in Orlando, Fla., and forced talented blockers to double-team him. He doesn't have elite get-off or impressive quick twitch but he's an immovable object on the interior and should help Tennessee collapse pockets and force ball carriers to bounce outside. Scout places Mosley as the No. 27 D-tackle nationally and the No. 7 player in the Volunteer State.

Derek Barnett | DL | Nashville (Tenn.)

Depending on the position along the Vols' defensive front he plays, the Brentwood Academy product has potential to wreak havoc. If he's outside at end, it remains to be seen if he has the speed and agility to get around SEC offensive tackles. If he slides inside to the three-technique, his skill set plays that much more. Likely arriving to Rocky Top in the 6-foot-3, 285-pound range, the four-star has plenty of size to work out at either spot. It's a terrific problem for the staff to have as a late in-home visit and official visit kept Barnett from flipping to Missouri, Ohio State or Vanderbilt. He is a two-time Mr. Football Lineman of the Year winner for the TSSAA's Division II Class AA. In 2013, he totaled 22 solo tackles, 33 assists, 18 tackles for loss, six sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. As a point toward his athleticism, he also caught nine balls for 151 yards and a touchdown at tight end for the Eagles. Scout ranks him as the Vol State's No. 5 senior and the No. 279 recruit in the 2014 class.

Michael Sawyers | DL | Antioch (Tenn.)

As was the case with Robertson, the Vols snag much-needed help along the defensive front from a former Vanderbilt commit after all four Tennessee starters graduated following the 2013 season. On top of that, the Orange & White pick up a four-time TSSAA Division II Class AA state champion from arguably the most talent rich program within the state's borders. Sawyers most often played the five-technique for coach Ricky Bowers but figures to shift inside on Rocky Top. He was the lone scholarship addition to the '14 class on National Signing Day as schools like Ole Miss, Penn State, South Carolina and UCLA all offered after the coaching change at Vandy. The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder rates as the country's No. 56 defensive tackle and the state's No. 11 recruit.

Christopher Weatherd | LB | Carrollton (Texas.)

It seems like eons ago when the Vols were having to desperately fight off Texas A&M to keep the Weatherd. After things didn't work out for him academically to enroll in January, some thought it would be that much tougher to sign the rangy 'backer. However, Weatherd passed on taking in a gameday at College Station and maintained on social media his orange-clad future on a consistent basis. Junior college standouts don't sign with a school without a clear path to start. Tennessee graduated two of three starters at linebacker but Johnson and Curt Maggitt return. Weatherd will battle a host of others for the remaining outside linebacker spot. In 2013 for Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College, he registered 24 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks.

Elliot Berry | LB | Fairburn (Ga.)

Speed plays. Regardless of the unknown of where Berry plays, he figures to get somewhere in a hurry. The Creekside High state champion has been adamant in saying he has sub-4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash. Best guess has him winding up redshirting as a linebacker and ultimately becoming a sideline-to-sideline force that beats the opposition to the edge and forces scrambling quarterbacks into errant throws. His recruitment — along with his brother Evan's — was held behind closed doors for a majority of the process. The two refused to consider schools without programs offering the pair. In 2013, Berry was tabbed by the Associated Press and the Atlanta Journal Constitution as Class AAAAA All-State linebacker.

Evan Berry | ATH | Fairburn (Ga.)

Electric. Having seen the Seminoles play in person in Fall 2012, one of the things I walked away saying about Berry was if that's not five-star athleticism then I don't know what is. I typically look for SEC-bound prospects to have their way on the prep level. Saw plenty of that with him and that was with a year on that level to play. He says he wants the ball in his hands to at least start out his collegiate career and why not? If you can dump a ball off to the flat, get a seal from a tight end and wideout, Berry has the jets to both make a house call and make offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian look like a genius with what would normally be a scripted play to set up something later in a game. If he switches to the defensive side, he has potential to play every position in the secondary. As the son of a former Tennessee captain, James Berry, and the bother of former Vol and Jim Thorpe Award winner, Eric Berry, Evan has enough Big Orange pride in his gut to will teammates to make plays down the road. In his senior campaign, was named all-state at defensive back. Last spring, he was GHSA Class AAAAA state champion in the 100-meter dash. Scout lists him as the No. 25 safety in country and the No. 293 prospect overall.

Cortez McDowell | S | Locust Grove (Ga.)

Will it be hardball for the hard-hitting defensive back? An impressive spring on the diamond showcasing his skills could find the Vols signee playing rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League instead of roaming center field for defensive backs coach Willie Martinez. Often times prospects that talk about being a two-sport athlete on the SEC level wind up having to concentrate on one to be productive. McDowell has the God-given ability to actually pull it off. Tennessee wasn't the only program that realized the four-star's skills as Auburn, Clemson and Georgia were among a long list of schools that placed offers on the table. The last two seasons combined at Locust Grove, he compiled 148 tackles with 90 of those being solo. He also picked off five balls and forced four fumbles. McDowell ranks as Scout's No. 185 recruit in the nation and the state of Georgia's No. 10 prospect.

Get scouting reports on Tennessee's January enrolles by CLICKING HERE

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the Scout team July 2011.
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