With the Volunteers coaching staff expecting to sign between 18-22 players in the Class of 2015 and with seven on the commitment list already, plenty of attention will go toward top targets — as well as attention toward the 2016 class.
Official visits and gameday opportunities are key to the signing of quality recruits. However, relationship building gets going much sooner every season and this is the time of year where staffs can spend ample time with targets to sell the program and give players a look at a future in orange.
The first junior day of 2014 came Feb. 15 and this Saturday marks the second.
If the staff has a clipboard loaded with pages of names of recruits to keep an eye on, to possibly offer and to recruit, every name below is on Page 1. Have a look at five names making key unofficial visits to Knoxville this weekend and why they're there:
Mark Fields | CB | Cornelius (N.C.)
Fields joins targets like Chris Clark, Torrance Gibson and Preston Williams as the No. 1 player on Tennessee's board at their respective position for the Class of 2015. Tight ends coach Mark Elder has clocked in to get his team in Fields' top 10 without the No. 18 cornerback knowing terribly much about the program on his own. That's changing quickly and this weekend will be paramount to keep the Orange & White in the back of the Hough High star's mind.
With a deep haul of defensive backs signed with the 2014 class, Tennessee may well be done with just two with the '15 group. If Fields were to commit, they'd be halfway done.
Roger Frazier might be asked by game officials to check Fields' uniform should he sign with the Vols due to the fuse he'll have dangling out of it because Fields is an explosion waiting to happen. He breaks on the ball and attacks foes in a hurry. Pair that quickness and speed with his ability to diagnose and it's easy to see why his signature is greatly desired. It's hard to say where in the secondary he should be, but that's a terrific problem to have. Considering how hard it is to find multi-dimensional corners (4.50 laser) with size (5 feet 10, 181 pounds), Fields would start on the island if he wound up a Vol.
Taj Griffin | RB | Powder Springs (Ga.)
Around a half dozen McEachern High School standouts will invade Rocky Top this weekend. The Tennessee staff would absolutely love to turn the head of each and every one of them and build a pipeline to the Indian talent. One of the best scheduled to be in town is Griffin. The Vols may sign two backs in the '15 class, but the staff will go all in to make sure it gets one elite level runner. Griffin is on that short list.
In Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian's scheme, if the quarterback has much of any athletic ability, ground yards should come fairly easy on the zone read and backside routes figure to be single-covered if Griffin is the runner. The reason is because the No. 61 player in the country attacks the edge with such quickness and speed that if he gets to the corner with a full head of steam and the safety doesn't have the angle then it's a house call. For that reason alone, Griffin is a top target in the '15 class. However, he's also dynamic in the return game and has cutting ability that cannot be taught. Scout places him as the No. 6 back in the land.
Austin Kendall | QB | Charlotte (N.C.)
Charlotte Christian capped off a terrific season with a championship last season and doesn't figure to lose any games (barring a tough public school foe on the schedule) either of the next two seasons. Why? Kendall.
If Kendall wanted to commit to Butch Jones on Saturday, the head coach should stand, shake Kendall's hand and be done pursuing quarterbacks for the Class of 2016. The right-hander is that good.
The sophomore isn't yet ranked by Scout but once his film is seen by the right people, he should skyrocket and compare favorably to most every field general in the nation. Kendall has few weaknesses beyond ball security as a runner and better utilizing the left fourth of the field. He has a quick release and puts ample zip on the ball. He won't laser a sub-4.6 soon, but he has advanced footwork and pocket presence. He can roll, reset and deliver the football with the type of quickness that quarterbacks coach drool over.
Kyle Phillips | DE | Nashville (Tenn.)
Phillips saw the Vols in person several times during the 2013 season, including in Tuscaloosa. He's had positive things to say about Tennessee in every interview with InsideTennessee, but he's wisely going to be patient through the process. His mother is an athletics director at Tennessee State University, which plays a role in his being deliberate.
The Hillsboro High standout was once Scout's top-rated Volunteer State prospect for '15 before going down with a shoulder injury after four games his junior season. At 6-4, 250 and with a full year of prep ball ahead, he figures to be large enough to play early in his college career. Should the shoulder woes be behind him, he could grow into a dynamic three-technique in the latter portion of his college career.
D'Andre Walker | OLB | Fairburn (Ga.)
Walker comes from the same area of Georgia that's produced the Berry brothers. The Vols were the third program to place an offer on the table and it came almost a full year ago.
Originally, it was thought Walker would stay at defensive end like he plays for Langston Hughes High School, but Scout analysts see him as being athletic enough to slide to the second level and play in space.
Walker is ferocious and hits as hard as any player the Vols are after in the '15 class.
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