Photo by Chad Simmons

8 for '18: Vols offensive targets

Don't fall behind in your interest of Tennessee football. Sign in to learn about some of the nation's top junior playmakers that have the interest of Vols coaches.

Before it's all said and done, Tennessee may have in the neighborhood of 300 scholarship offers out to members of the Class of 2018.

Some will have immediate interest in the Volunteers. Some will not.

Have a look at some of the playmakers hearing plenty from coach Butch Jones' staff and have reciprocated by reading the offensive version of "8 for '18" below.

Nana Asiedu

The state of Virginia’s No. 1-ranked senior defensive tackle is already signed, sealed and set to be delivered to Rocky Top this summer in Eric Crosby. Tennessee will attempt to go back into Virginia to haul out the premier tackle on the offensive side of the ball this class in Asiedu. The North Stafford High School standout is extremely athletic for an offensive lineman. He doubles as a defensive tackle and has even lined up both with his hand on the ground and flexed out wide as a tight end. As a blocker, he sometimes grabs and holds while engaged but that can be corrected. Body-wise he has the frame to pack on quite a bit of weight without losing the athleticism as a bookend.

Asiedu said as late as November that Tennessee's coaching staff consistently helps him on improving his craft. He also went on to say that the Volunteers and Clemson stand the best chance to make his top 5 when he releases it this spring. The 6-foot-6, 270-pounder already has a top 10 and both are included. Going toe-to-toe with the national champions won’t be easy, and we could find out quickly about the recruiting prowess of new Tennessee offensive line coach Walt Wells. Asiedu plans to choose a school that will allow him to prosper both academically and as a person.

Williams Barnes

Tennessee went to the Sunshine State for seven signees with the 2017 class. With yet another assistant coach having ties there — quarterbacks coach Mike Canales — expect the Big Orange to continue reaching into specific regions for talent. Barnes’ Apopka High is 23 miles from the Jones High School that produced Tennessee signee James Brown. Apopka is also 21 miles from the Winter Park High school were wide receiver Jordan Pouncey played. Pouncey ultimately signed with Texas but had the Vols in his top 3. Players don’t always have a personal relationship with their counterparts in the same region, but they’ve usually at least heard of them and put some stock in the schools they consider.

At 6-feet-4, Barnes is probably more of a guard in college, but Tennessee has already shown that it can kick tackles inside where the athleticism plays in its up-tempo, spread attack. Expect Barnes to stay high atop the recruiting board for months to come and efforts to be made to get him to come up from the Orlando area for a junior day.

Fabian Franklin

It’s not terribly common for a junior to be invited for one of Tennessee’s Orange Carpet Day events but Franklin is an exception, joining the likes of Mecole Hardman and Trey Sermon having done so previously. Having a ride to Knoxville doesn’t hurt and the No. 1 junior in the Magnolia State came with Hattiesburg High teammate Jordan Murphy, who committed to the Orange & White later that July evening. That’s also the prep program that churned out now-Tennessee recruiting coordinator Robert Gillespie. As a sophomore, Franklin toted the rock 168 times for 1,036 yards with 12 touchdowns on top of catching 12 passes for 183 yards and two more TDs.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder hasn’t been quiet about wanting Louisiana State to turn up its recruitment of him. The longer it takes for that to happen, the better chance Tennessee has of signing the No. 7 runner in the 2018 class.

Camron Johnson

Johnson is a prospect who’s seemingly been on Tennessee’s recruiting radar since former coach J.A. Pierce was first setting up his office in Knoxville, following in the footsteps of C.J. Sanders as a Brentwood Academy standout to get a Vols scholarship offer as an underclassman. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder is considered by many to be the most skilled pass catcher in the Volunteer State’s 2018 class but not quite the upside of the previous title holder, Tee Higgins. Johnson is a winner and made pivotal plays in helping the Eagles secure TSSAA Division II Class AA state championships both his sophomore and junior seasons. That’s the same program that produced Volunteers such as Derek Barnett and Ryan Johnson.

While we’d give Tennessee the edge on the competition at the moment, Camron Johnson has said on record with IT that his recruitment is open, and he’s giving offering programs a chance to open his eyes. He has been to Knoxville numerous times for recruiting events as well as seeing some big-time games at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni will play a key role in the Big Orange pursuit of the mid-state playmaker.

Tykee Ogle-Kellogg

It’s hard not to stick out as a 6-foot-5 wide receiver…well, anywhere. Ogle-Kellogg has no problem doing that, but it’s not just because of his exceptional length. IT saw 10 quarters of the Alcoa (Tenn.) High School junior last fall, and he rarely struggled to make plays once he eventually got his hands on the football. The Tornadoes’ ground game was noticeably more advanced than their throw game, so Ogle-Kellogg didn’t and doesn’t get a ton of targets. For example, in the 2016 TSSAA Class 3A state championship against Liberty Magnet, Alcoa attempted just five passes with two completions both going to Ogle-Kellogg, including a 70-yard score. Coach Gary Rankin and the Alcoa staff do hand Ogle-Kellogg the football at times to keep their Mr. Football winner involved, but they don’t typically need to operate at “all systems go” in order to throttle foes.

Ogle-Kellogg went from appearing disappointed and frustrated that Tennessee had not offered him during his junior season to being clearly excited to hear from the Vols recently. Mississippi and Missouri have since offered as well. Louisville and South Carolina offered months prior and Ogle-Kellogg smiles when speaking about Clemson and Louisiana State. His being a local product by no means he’s a slam dunk to sign with the Orange & White.

Justin Rogers

Rogers isn’t the average field general that grew up playing the position but has taken off since he started taking snaps in high school. Thus his footwork and weight transfer could use some development, but he has slick arm action that provides him with ample velocity to make all the throws. When he tucks it, he’s a weapon and will scare defenses.

In 2016, he threw for 3,022 yards with 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions on 182-of-288 passing in 13 contests. Quarterbacks sometimes have less gaudy yards per carry numbers but Rogers ran for just over 6 yards per tote with 848 yards on 139 attempts with 11 TDs. Rogers led Parkway (La.) High School to the 2016 LHSAA Class 5A state quarterfinals before falling to eventual runner-up Landry-Walker.

The list of junior quarterbacks with Tennessee offers continues to lengthen. Most of them are verbally committed elsewhere, including Justin Fields (Penn State), Emory Jones (Ohio State), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) and Jarren Williams (Kentucky). Rogers got his scholarship opportunity from Tennessee on Nov. 30.

Master Teague

It’s hard not to get excited watching Teague on tape. The runner who hails from the same Blackman High School in Murfreesboro that produced Vols wide receiver Jauan Jennings runs behind his pads, isn’t afraid to lower a shoulder on a defender and has enough speed to run away from prep defensive backs. Teague trucked for 284 yards and four TDs in his junior finale at Maryville in a state playoff quarterfinal. He also was voted All-State for Class 6A by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association. To top if off, the soft-spoken back is relentless in the weightroom, power cleaning 320 pounds this winter.

Speaking with Teague, it’s hard to figure out just how interested he is in Tennessee and vice-versa. The offer is there. They communicate with one another. But, is there a passion for the two to wed? Answers to at least a portion of these questions should start to arrive soon as we look to see if Teague is invited for junior days and makes more 3-hour trips over to Knoxville.

Jacob Warren

The days of the 280-pound tight end that is allowed to touch the football about four times a year are all but over. From base-blocking defensive ends, to coming in motion, hitting the hole and getting hands on a linebacker, to outmaneuvering safeties to be an open target for a quarterback under duress, the modern-day use of the tight end is among the most complex of all positions in football. Players must check several boxes before a staff is to believe in their ability to punch the clock on all the jobs. Warren is among the junior tight ends that Tennessee sees as someone who is up to the task. He's a natural pass catcher and can use his 6-foot-6 frame to high point the football in traffic, making him a quarterback's best friend and nearly indefensible.

The TSSAA Class 5A state champion is a hot commodity. Duke, Missouri, Oklahoma State and South Carolina have all offered and don't plan on allowing the Vols to easily swoop in and sign him. Warren has made a pair of trips to Columbia to check out the Gamecocks. As is the case with Teague, South Carolina is a serious player in this recruitment.

Tennessee offensive commitments

Cade Mays

Alontae Taylor

Panther Primer Top Stories