Tennessee signed four five-star players in 2007 after failing to sign any in 2006. The fab four is likely to make early contributions and a couple could go on to become impact players. However the real strength of UT's highly rated class is found among the 16 four-star and the 10 three-star talents it signed.
Much like last year UT has started off making what could easily be preceived as reaches into a prospect market that remains largely undefined. Yet this is also when some of the best value is available, particularly if you recognize a role within your system that a lower profile prospect might fill.
Often it's the small pieces that form the cohension required to connect the larger pieces and complete the picture. On any 85-player roster it's necessary to have a blend of personnel assuming both starring and supporting roles. That's all the more pertinent on special teams where future starters combine forces with grizzled veteran back-ups to form a group that is as much about attitude and pride as it is speed and athleticism. It's the balance between the two that makes special teams truly special.
It's all about relative worth which means there are instances in which a three-star prospect motivated to play a supporting role at a big school instead of a starting role at a smaller school is worth as much, if not more, than a five-star talent who is unhappy as a part-time player.
When the May evaluation period is concluded the market will take shape, but while it's still in a state of flux it's a good time to find underrated talent and ideals fits.
Here are summaries on three prospects Tennessee has recently either seen in person or on film and like. Two of the three have been offered.
CASEY KELLY, QB, 6-4, 195, of Sarasota (Fla.) High School is a star in baseball and football and could have a professional future in either sport. As a junior last fall he connected on 128 of 223 passes for 1,809 yards and 15 touchdowns. He had a 97-yard TD completion and hit on 57 percent of his attempts. He also managed a positive rushing total (sacks included) of 95 yards in 54 carries with five TDs. Kelly, who runs a 4.6, is the second quarterback the Vols are known to have offered. The other is D.C. Jefferson of Winter Haven, Fla. Alabama, Duke and Ole Miss have also offered Kelly.
NICK BASS, WR, 5-11, 195, of Northside High School in Warner Robbins, Ga., had 39 receptions for 525 yards and 13 TDs last year to help lead his team to the Class-4A state title. He has good ball skills, speed and strength. Solid blocker and sound route runner. He has been offered by Tennessee and Indiana and is being recruited by Georgia, Auburn, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Clemson and Illinois. "I really haven't been to very many schools yet, but right now, I would have to say Tennessee is my favorite," Bass told John Merchant of GAVSV. "I grew up watching them and everything. They have a great football program and they offered me as well."
CHANDLER BURDEN, OG, 6-5, 290, of La Salle High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, saw his stock soar after the Scout Combine in the Queen City last month. A very agile big man who was a standout in one-on-one drills, Burden nearly came away with MVP honors. He turned an impressive 5.06 time and is excellent running interference in open space. He caught Tennessee's notice last fall when the Vols were recruiting Ben Martin, who also played at La Salle. He's also being recruited by Cincinnati, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Miami (Ohio).