The opening week of college football’s season was filled with many upsets, and the University of Tennessee barely survived its opener unscathed. The Volunteers hosted Appalachian State for week one, and then took care of Virginia Tech in week two in the Battle at Bristol.
Right now, Tennessee lays claim to the No. 11 recruiting class in the country for the 2017 edition based on 247Sports.com‘s ranking, but Jones and his staff have already zeroed in on several primary targets in 2018 as well. To keep the defensive focus rolling in Rocky Top country, Tennessee offered Greenville (S.C.) Byrnes inside linebacker Khalid Jones, a four-star recruit with early offers from some power programs.
As one of the top junior recruits in the state of South Carolina, Jones has netted scholarship offers from Duke and Wake Forest in addition to Tennessee. If his early season tape is any indication, which can be viewed here, more offers are soon to follow for the 6-foot-1, 225-pound run stopper.
Oregon, Clemson, South Carolina and Kentucky, among others, have shown interest in Jones due to his quick first step and ability to fight off blockers in pursuit of the ball. Jones is a sure-tackling inside linebacker, but he moves sideline to sideline well for a player of his size. In game one of his season, Jones notched 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and two pressures, which is a positive start to his junior campaign.
“I really like their facilities a lot,” Jones told Scout.com. “They probably have the best facilities I have seen so far. Their stadium is great too, and the Tennessee uniforms stood out to me also. I really hit it off with [linebackers] coach [Tommy] Thigpen too. He is a cool guy.”
Jones will have a long list of suitors involved in his recruitment by the time his senior year starts, so it is important for Tennessee to get involved early in order to start building a rapport with the talented future MIKE ‘backer.
The Volunteers have their sights focused on other talents in the 2018 cycle as well. The list includes four-star defensive tackle Trevor Trout.
Stationed in St. Louis Chaminade College Prep School, Trout is a highly coveted defensive lineman in the Midwest region. As of now, Trout holds 10 Division I offers, and Tennessee is the most recent school to step in with an offer.
Blessed to receive an offer from the University of Tennessee! pic.twitter.com/dZJmQBje6l
— Trevor Trout™ (@totaltroutmove) September 8, 2016
Trout stands at 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, and the Missouri native is listed as the No. 10 defensive tackle in his class by 247Sports.com. During a conversation with Today’s U last month, Trout outlined his plans to visit Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska during the football season this year. With an offer from the Volunteers under his belt now, Tennessee may have moved up that list and it will be a situation to monitor.
Another junior recruit, one who lives much closer to Knoxville, who may be a Tennessee target sooner rather than later is Pearl Cohn defensive back Jonathan Mercer. In his first season playing cornerback, Mercer is yet to allow a pass through three games in 2016.
“I grew up a large fan of Tennessee,” Mercer told Today’s U. “I have family up there playing right now, Kyle Phillips, a family friend. Also my whole family really likes Tennessee.”
Phillips, who is a sophomore defensive end on the team, has shared a little bit about his take on his first two years at Tennessee with the younger Mercer.
“He really likes it,” Mercer said. “He was telling me how it’s a great place for school and the football program is very good. They develop you as a player.”
With these connections to the Volunteers in place, look for Tennessee to remain an important school in the first-year defensive back’s mind.