Photo by Chad Simmons

Top 5 sleepers in Tennessee's 2017 class

Don't sleep on these talented Tennessee signees. Let InsideTennessee explain what future Volunteers may far exceed expectations.

Recruiting rankings don't win national championships...but they sure don't hurt in giving an idea of who might be playing for all the marbles down the road.

Having said that, although Tennessee's 2017 class ranks at No. 16 in the nation, being the seventh-highest rated group in the Southeastern Conference has some wondering if enough talent is en route to Knoxville.

Star gazers stop reading now.

Sometimes even the most talented recruiting analysts either miss on gauging a player's ability or flat don't get the information they need to accurately project the upside. (Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Dak Prescott was the Scout No. 70 quarterback in the 2011 class.)

Here's a look at some of Tennessee's signees that IT believes could exceed expectations:

Marquez Bembry

The Stone Mountain native is pure electricity coming off the edge that figures to weaponize Tennessee’s pass rush in 2018 or 2019 once he is completely healthy and packed on 30-plus pounds. It’ll take time and patience but Bembry will be worth it. We’ve seen a similar path taken by Darrell Taylor, who could be a redshirt sophomore starter this fall. The major question with those types is can they help out with run support? Can they evolve into a three-down player? If Bembry’s repaired knee is right and those two questions are eventually answered by a “yes,” look the heck out.

James Brown

The patch on the leather-sleeved letterman’s jacket has “QB” on the upper arm. It’s got a hit of a poor stench because it’s even been worn in warmer seasons. Being QB1 is special to a teenager. Keep that in mind with Brown as he gave all that up to be a tight end of all things, which includes not only giving up the control of the offense but having to help block defensive ends and linebackers. But Brown did what he had to do, and he’s now a signee for a Southeastern Conference program. He has the raw tools to be something special at Tennessee and there’s a reason why the Florida Gators tried feverishly to get the Orlando native to flip in January. Put on the tape and it’s impressive to see a former quarterback cradle in passes and get upfield quickly as a brand new tight end. What we don’t see is how Brown practices to gauge if he can catch the football with consistency, and we don’t yet know how much he will buy into base blocking LaBryan Ray or Zachary Carter. If those boxes are checked, then the Vols have a mismatch in their favor waiting to happen.

Tim Jordan

Jordan ranks by Scout as the least talented signee in Tennessee’s class as a two-star prospect. That could be due to a lack of knowledge about the Bartow, Florida, product. Jordan didn’t hit the camp circuit hard in the summer months and played quite a bit of basketball in high school. His football team also didn’t make the FHSAA playoffs and saw a game canceled his senior year. So the exposure was minimal. Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie compares his new toy to John Kelly. It’s a fair comp as Jordan runs passionately and won’t go to the ground easily. Jordan doesn’t have the home-run speed to outsprint SEC defensive backs who have the angle on him, and he could use some meat on his bones like most teenagers showing up for college, but we’ve called him the South’s most underrated talent for two months for a reason.

Joshua Palmer

Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni had a target on players such as Tee Higgins, Jeremiah Holloman, Jerry Jeudy and Jeff Thomas, who all wound up elsewhere. What he did get was a 6-foot-2 pass catcher that’s not afraid of contact, keeps his cool in pressure situations, understands where the sticks are owns state championship rings and experience hauling in BBs from a DI quarterback. Palmer, who’s originally from Canada, will climb right into the mix in the Tennessee receivers room with other South Florida products like Tyler Byrd, Brandon Johnson, Jacquez Jones and Latrell Williams. Palmer is also over 6 feet tall and over 180 pounds. Those dimensions lend themselves to his being on the field sooner than some might expect.

Shawn Shamburger

Some Tennessee fans believe in Butch Jones. Some don’t. Offering and accepting the commitment of a lesser known player like Shamburger is was displeasing to some, however, people tend to fear the unknown. Shamburger’s ranking as the No. 60 cornerback in the nation is one of the Scout network’s greatest misses of the entire class. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder has as strong of a fundamental base as any incoming defensive back Tennessee’s had in years and the physical stature to contribute Year 1. Vols coaches compared Baylen Buchanan to a young Cameron Sutton last August. Shamburger is a more fair comp. Vols cornerbacks totaled two interceptions last season and the players who had those picks graduated. Opportunity is there and current players will have just a 15-practice advantage under the tutelage of new defensive backs coach Charlton Warren.

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