If there's anything Tennessee could use on defense it's an infusion of toughness, and it just so happens there's a couple of hard as nails New Jersey DBs who remain very interested in volunteering their gridiron services to the Big Orange.
Teammates at Winslow Township in Atco, N.J. are Reuben Johnson, the nation's No. 11 cornerback prospect according to Scout.com, and safety Tyrone McBride who is ranked No. 44 at his position and is the first cousin of Turk McBride.
Johnson is one of the country's most rapid rising prospects having made the improbable leap from No. 38 to No. 11 after a consortium of Scout.com analysts evaluated film from his senior campaign. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound athlete runs a 4.4 time in the 40 and appears to be a prototypical cover corner.
As his stock has risen so have his suitors. The four-star athlete currently has offers from Marshall, Connecticut, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, Boston College, Maryland, Michigan State, Kentucky, Akron, Temple, Minnesota and Iowa. Among those schools he is most interested in are Boston College, Iowa, Kentucky, Marshall, Maryland and Syracuse.
"I also like Tennessee a lot because they have a great tradition and also because I have great friends like Turk McBride who have gone there and been treated well, so I know that I could trust the coaches with my future there," Johnson recently told Scout.com recruiting analyst Matt Alkire about his official visit to the Tennessee-South Carolina game. "I know it is far from home and that is something we are trying to avoid, but sometimes when the ball goes off the court you have to go and get it. Another thing is that Tyrone McBride and I have always talked about trying to go to school together and that is a place that could give us an opportunity to do that."
Johnson has good strength as his 275-pound bench press and a 425-pound squat clearly attests. He played both running back and in the secondary for Winslow Township. As a junior he intercepted seven passes, returning three for touchdowns. He also returned two punts and a kickoff the distance and gained 400 yards rushing.
At 6-1, 200 pounds, McBride is a big safety who could develop into a linebacker. He runs a 4.60 and intercepted four passes as a junior while recording 51 tackles.
"I feel as though I'm a good downhill-and-hit type guy," he told Scout. "I'm also very good when the ball is in the air. I'm very physical and like to hit, but I want to improve my footwork and movement. I'd like to get better at breaking on the ball and my hips."
In addition to Tennessee, McBride is looking at Akron, Connecticut, Eastern Michigan and Minnesota. However the only visit he has taken to this point was to Knoxville. He also attended several UT home games when Turk played for the Vols.
There is talk of Johnson and McBride taking other visits this month, but sources close to the situation believe they will end up at UT, assuming each qualifies.
Undoubtedly, they are qualified to add some pop and toughness to the secondary.