National signing day is Wednesday, but the February signing period is almost an afterthought nowadays.
Division I programs sign most of their recruits during the December signing period, and then the offseason focus gives way to acquiring transfers.
With the Vols not expected to make much noise Wednesday, let’s shift the focus to the freshmen who already are on campus. Tennessee has 18 early enrollees, a number that includes four walk-on players.
On this edition of “The Volunteer State,” Blake Toppmeyer of the USA TODAY Network and the News Sentinel’s Adam Sparks and John Adams consider the likeliest candidates from this batch of newcomers to make a quick impact.
Among the top choices: running back Justin Williams, offensive lineman Gerald Mincey and cornerback Dee Williams.
Justin Williams is a four-star prospect who could join Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright in a running back rotation that ideally will include three options.
Mincey is a 6-foot-6, 317-pound Florida transfer, while Dee Williams is regarded as one of the nation’s top junior college prospects.
And what about four-star quarterback Tayven Jackson, another early enrollee?
Sparks and Adams say there’s no need to rush Jackson into duty with the return of starting quarterback Hendon Hooker. Another veteran, Joe Milton, can handle backup duties, Sparks said.
But Toppmeyer thinks a better scenario is to develop Jackson to be the backup in 2022, because given the rate at which quarterbacks transfer, if freshmen don’t get a chance for early playing time, they might not be around the following season.
Where to listen to The Volunteer State
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is a senior columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Adam Sparks is the Tennessee football beat writer for the News Sentinel. If you enjoy their coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Also, you can subscribe to The Volunteer State podcast for free so you won’t miss an episode, or check out SEC Football Unfiltered, another podcast from Toppmeyer and Adams.