Smoke Signals: Which Tennessee 3-star commits could ultimately earn a higher ranking?


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —  Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us at SEC Country for the latest recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers.

Checkout is the latest installment of the Tennessee recruiting mailbag.

I’ll do this regularly, so submit any questions for future mailbags on Twitter (@JesseReSimonton), email (, in the comment section below or on our Tennessee Insiders Facebook page.

On the questions…

Chad asks: “How many of these 3-stars will end up 4-stars?”

An intriguing rankings question. Tennessee has 20 prospects currently ranked as 3-stars — tied for the most in the country.

Now, as I’ve stated more than once, rankings are fluid. Following summer camps, players move up and down lists. This fall, some will again see their stocks rise after strong senior seasons, while others will drop due to injuries, subpar showings, etc.

As for Tennessee’s commits who could reasonably earn a composite 4th star this fall: Florida athlete CJ Cotman, who is ranked just outside the Top 300 and was once a consensus 4-star prospect, versatile linebacker Jaquan Henderson from Newton High (Ga.), Hattiesburg wideout Jordan Murphy, Louisiana cornerback Cheyenne Labruzza and Hardin County defensive end LaTrell Bumphus.

Cotman, Labruzza and Murphy likely have the best shot, but everyone listed is a strong candidate to see their ranking’s rise.

Lots of running back questions with Kenny asking: “How are we lining up with the top running backs around the South and nationally?

Easy. Can I interest you in 5-star tailback Cam Akers (Clinton, Miss.) or 4-star Nashville native Ty Chandler? Perhaps both?!?!?

Ok, the latter is a longshot, but Tennessee still stands a good chance of adding at least one elite tailback to the fold before February.

With Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara likely headed to the league after the season, Tennessee has made the position a priority in the 2017 class — and many of the nation’s best are interested because of the Vols future depth chart uncertainty.

The Vols secured an early commitment from 3-star Trey Coleman — an underrated runner from Louisiana powerhouse West Monroe. Tennessee wants to pair Coleman with a blue-chip tailback, aiming high for either Akers, the nation’s No. 7 overall prospect, or Chandler, the top-ranked running back in Tennessee.

Akers lists the Vols in his top group, while Chandler has been considered a slight UT-lean for months. Tennessee continues to monitor other top tailbacks, too, including 3-star Fort Myers (Fla.) product Darrian Felix.

So as always, stay tuned.

Chad asks: Did we go away from (offensive lineman Billy) Ross because we feel that good about Trey (Smith)?

The situations aren’t directly related, but it does speak to the delicate dance Tennessee is doing to close out its 2017 class.

For those who don’t know, Ross is a 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle from Huntington High and the No. 1 rated player in West Virginia. He committed to North Carolina over UT at the end of July.

The Vols want to add two more offensive linemen to the 2017 class, and with 5-star University School tackle Trey Smith trending toward UT, they’re going to be selective with how they finish out that group.

Now, it’s unclear if Ross was actually a take for Tennessee when he committed to UNC, anyway. Ross certainly garnered legitimate interest from UT, but late in his process, the Vols turned their attention to 4-star offensive lineman T.J. Moore, who ultimately committed to South Carolina. With both players now off the board, Tennessee will reassess its options, with new names potentially popping up over the next couple months.

Derek asks: “If we don’t get (Jeremiah) Holloman, who else are we looking at?”

A wide receiver question. Holloman is a 4-star wideout from Newton High (Ga.) and is teammates with Vols linebacker commit Jaquan Henderson.

Tennessee remains very much in the mix for Holloman, despite most believing the wideout is ultimately going to Georgia. But if the Vols miss on Holloman, they’ve done well lately to gain momentum with 4-star receiver Jaylen Harris.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound prospect from Cleveland Heights (Ohio) has already visited UT four times and will likely take an official visit to Knoxville sometime this fall. Although most assumed Harris would head to Ohio State, the Buckeyes seem to be prioritizing other receivers, so it could become a two-horse race for the Top-200 prospect between Tennessee and Michigan State.

All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.

Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 

Follow @JesseReSimonton

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