Tennessee Football: The Volquest War Room

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We begin this edition of the War Room as we always do. The War Room is a collective effort of Tennessee notes and news collected throughout the week by Volquest staff. And now it’s time for the news.

Recruitment

Tennessee coaches are obviously on the road but not recruiting. Willie Martinez watched Jordan Matthews earlier in the year and with Matthews playing Thursday, it wasn’t going to work out this week.

Fontana, California. Offensive tackle Tavake Tuikolovatu is someone Tennessee is looking at extensively as we enter October. He and Arizona offensive tackle Caleb Lomu are two tackles that have garnered interest from staff.

Next week, Tennessee will officially welcome Samuel M’Pemba and Keldric Faulk. There is some optimism among the staff regarding Faulk ahead of next weekend. He’s obviously not super strong with Florida St. as he visits most weekends.

M’Pemba has long been considered a scrawny Georgian, but the Vols will take a hit here to see if they can get some traction.

Both officials are worth watching, but it will be hard to label Tennessee as serious contenders until they come to see how the visit goes. Either way, getting both on campus is still a major plus, as the caliber of the Tennessee rookie right now is much more impressive than it was last year.

Most of the same prospects who were here for the game against Florida will be back in town next weekend. This includes many current commitments, but they will be joined next week by Jalen Smith, Tyree Weathersby and Chandavion Bradley.

Daevin Hobbs will also be back in town next week. After receiving an offer from Ohio State, Hobbs visited Columbus last weekend with a trip to Michigan. If anyone is going to capture his interest, it’s going to be the Buckeyes, who could be worth an official visit to Alabama or Georgia in stride. If that happens, you won’t eliminate either of those two, because he would just be taking an official to Ohio State, as he’s been to Alabama and Georgia several times on his own.

Smyrna linebacker Arion Carter will officially travel to Tennessee for the Kentucky game. He will also officially visit Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and Michigan. He plans to announce a decision at the end of November or the first days of December from then on.

Iowa Western has a few defensive linemen that Tennessee is watching closely right now. Quientrail Jamison-Travis and Anterio Thompson are names to watch as Tennessee’s scouting department searches for more defensive line talent.

One name that has resurfaced is JUCO defensive lineman Will Whitson. The Cincinnati product did some class work and gave himself a chance that warranted another long look. He’s a monster athlete.

Tomarion Parker continues to indicate that he will be in town next weekend. Looks like Tennessee is the main competition for Clemson who is currently the team to beat for Parker.

Mississippi wide receiver Ayden Williams was visited last weekend by Alex Golesh and he continues to engage with Golesh, Kelsey Pope and the rest of the offensive staff. We’ll see if Tennessee can get Ole Miss’ commitment to campus for a game in the coming weeks.

Commitment Kentucky running back Khalifa Keith will be in Lexington this weekend, but he’s certainly enjoying the attention he’s getting from Tennessee. Tennessee has yet to offer, but we believe it will happen in the next 10 days or so. Tennessee wants to add a bigger back in this class and although they have signed Will Stallings, we think Keith might end up being a better option in the long run.

Crew

The opening date was good for the Flights from a health perspective. Now Warren Burrell is out for the year, but Tennessee found out the week after the game against Pitt. Burrell underwent shoulder surgery and will begin the rehabilitation process.

Dylan Sampson has been healthy for two weeks after spraining his ankle against Akron. Sampson should be available on Saturday. It’s unclear if he will play, but all signs point to him being healthy enough to be called up.

The open date was especially good for Hendon Hooker who had the chance to rest and get some treatment on his tender non-throwing shoulder. Hooker would have played last week had there been a game, but a week to heal the bumps and bruises was good for the senior.

Hooker will be counted on to be a key part of Tennessee’s race game on Saturday against LSU. He has been reminded all week to protect himself when he can and not to pull his body unnecessarily. He is reminded of this every week, but Hooker does not always honor this request.

“We’ve always discussed the intelligence of the situation in terms of taking care of yourself. We talk to him a lot about it before the game, on the sidelines, but at the end of the day, one of the best things about Hendon is that he’s the fiercest competitor I’ve ever known. You can’t take that away from a guy either. He’s smart the way he carries himself. There might be times when he would have could protect himself, but there are also plays that he does where if he’s just worried about trying to protect himself, he doesn’t do them. So you can never take that away from a guy either.

Cedric Tillman has been in a regular shoe this week and out of the boot. He’s been in rehab all week, but looks unlikely to be available for Saturday. The Alabama game has always been the more realistic option, but not a guaranteed return date, given he has 16 days out of tightrope surgery.

There is hope that junior college transfer Dee Williams could give the Vols some shots on Saturday. Williams was close to being able to play against Florida as he went through warm-ups. Williams has been working on the training ground for a few weeks.

It’s unclear how much Williams can help as he obviously hasn’t played in a game and he hasn’t scrambled much at all during pre-season.

Tennessee will wear their Smokey Gray uniforms on Saturday and look for dark mode uniforms later in the year, possibly Kentucky.

But don’t look for them in match/rival games or championship games. The Tennessee administration’s branding accent is orange and white. Tennessee wore traditional home uniforms against Florida to match the plaid Neyland and because those are their school colors. So you’ll regularly see alternate uniforms across all sports, but it’s understood they’re not going to stray from tradition, especially on the big stage.

hoops

Basketball practice is in full swing now and at first it looks like Rick Barnes really likes his team’s potential.

We’ll stop short of making any big statements for now, but it looks like this has a chance to be Barnes’ most versatile team yet. We mean in how many different types of personnel combinations the head coach should have the option to implement if they wish.

Barnes has already looked at some formations that basically consist of five guards. Those rosters would include Josiah James and Julian Phillips on the floor to give the Vols a few guys who are basically perimeter players but have the kind of length that can get you by being short. Another player in this same mold is Jahmai Mashack. The second has improved his shooting somewhat, although he’s still not an extinct shooter. But with the way he’s able to defend four positions and bounce the basketball for a guard, it’s going to be tough to keep him out of the rotation.

Speaking of Phillips, to us he looks like the most gifted of all the five-star freshmen Barnes landed during his time here. It’s because of several things. He is a gifted athlete. He is 6 feet 8 inches tall with a “plus” wingspan. He’s pretty polished offensively for a freshman and he brings the mental approach to defensive play that’s rare for a freshman.

We’re not making wild predictions on his stat line because you never know what a freshman you’ll get from game to game, but Phillips clearly has all the potential in the world.

Sage scout Barnes and assistant coach Justin Gainey were in Missouri this week for a school visit with engagement Cade Phillips. While there, they watched practice and made an offer to point guard Cameron Carr.

Next week is shaping up to be the biggest recruiting weekend of the year, but there really isn’t much drama involved.

Tennessee will host all three of its 2023 engagements; Phillips, Freddie Dillione and JP Estrella on an official visit. They will also welcome 2024 priority target Juke Harris on an official visit and 2024 goalkeeper Cam Scott will also be an unofficial visitor.

We would be looking for other subclasses to add to this guest list and we are getting closer to next weekend.

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