The recruiting cycle for the 2015 class is complete. The signed National Letters of Intent are neatly stacked at the Anderson Training Center.The coaching staff at Tennessee gets to pull the gift wrapping off the remaining 19 members of their Scout No. 4-rated class this summer after 10 enrolled into school in Knoxville in January. InsideTennessee takes a look at the top 5 names out of the 29-man group that figure to make an instant impact on Team 119:
The rule of thumb from programs that recruit nationally and have an immense recruiting budget like Tennessee’s is to not even offer a junior college prospect unless he has potential to be in the two-deep Day 1. The former Alabama redshirt has done nothing but improve since being an Under Armour All-American out of Norcross (Ga.) High School and has three seasons of eligibility.Whether Kamara or Jalen Hurd starts is beside the point. Both will play and both will get significant touches as Mike DeBord’s offense figures to be an extremely balanced attack. If the Tennessee defense can improve, then Vols runners will have more footballs stuffed into their pocket late in games to seal victories. Multiple backs are needed for the workload. Hurd ran for 899 yards as a freshman but that number should go up with the super-talented Kamara helping carry the load, which means more first downs, extended possessions and more opportunities.
Another junior college product with three seasons of eligibility. The lone hangup with the former Overton (Tenn.) High School standout is a lack of training and experience on the island. Tennessee doesn’t have another cornerback on its roster with the Scout four-star’s combination of size and raw athleticism, not even Cameron Sutton. The Vols will face Scout five-star wide receivers such as Georgia’s Terry Godwin and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley in the coming seasons. Martin should get the nod to line up over the top of those types of elite talent.Martin accelerated his academic progress by leaving Overton a semester early. Will that genius plan pay off as the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M star must obtain his associates degree before donning the orange. If Martin finishes strong in the classroom and arrives on Rocky Top in May or June, that would be huge toward his starting Game 1. If he surrounds himself with the right people once he’s at Tennessee and accepts defensive backs coach Willie Martinez’ teachings with open arms, then the sky is the limit.
Unless you head to The Capstone, the Scout network’s No. 1 player in the country doesn’t sit the bench his first season on campus. Barring injury or significant weight issues, Kahlil McKenzie won’t ride the pine in Knoxville. In fact, if he was on the roster in 2014, the five-star defensive tackle would have started. Like Kamara, whether McKenzie starts or not is moot with how teams must roll defensive linemen in and out.At 6-foot-3 and 357 pounds with a bench press max of over 400 pounds and a max squat of over 550 pounds, the Tennessee legacy immediately becomes one of the largest humans on the roster the second he puts gloves on his digits. Being an immovable force and commanding two blockers will make the entire defensive front better. When single-blocked, McKenzie will cause havoc in the backfield as he’s spectacular with leverage and has an array of moves as one might expect after being surrounded a portion of his life by Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders. McKenzie also has a thirst to learn, watching film of some of the NFL’s best on the iPad during flights.
Graduation has taken its toll on the punter position on The Hill after each of the last two seasons with Michael Palardy and Matt Darr exiting stage left. Walk-on Troy Waites is no longer on the roster. Walk-on Trevor Daniel has shown the ability to boom punts in practice but struggles with consistency. The job looks like it will be Townsend’s to lose. According to the Koh’s Kicking Camp circuit, Townsend is the nation’s No. 3 punter. He was also a U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant. He is said to have 5-second hang-time talent. When the lights come on, not all specialists rise to the occasion. But, again, Townsend will be afforded every opportunity to win the job.
The best defensive lineman to come out of the Tar Heel State in the 2015 class burst onto the scene his freshman season in 2011 with 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Only a shoulder injury suffered his junior season has slowed Tuttle since then.Tuttle showed his dominance and explosiveness at times during Under Armour All-America week. He did take some plays off and didn’t take drillwork seriously at times, however, at an all-star event that’s not uncommon. The Scout four-star has impressed teammates with his strength and conditioning work since enrolling in January. The 15 practices, as well as the workouts, should yield Tuttle cracking the two-deep as a true freshman. The combination of McKenzie and Tuttle together with a healthy Trevarris Saulsberry should offset the loss of Jordan Williams — and then some.