This week we will look at the defense and some of the transfers the Vols acquired during the offseason. This is a talented group of players and includes a big surprise from the Transfer Portal.
Omari Thomas, DL
The Vols made west Tennessee a priority this year, and it started with “Big O” from Briarcrest Christian. Thomas is one of the players who could go anywhere in the country. The Army All-American will have an early impact in Knoxville. His size and pursuit is what is most notable with his game.
Dominic Bailey, DL
Bailey will come to Knoxville from one of the biggest powerhouse schools in the country, St. Francis Academy. The Under Armour All-American is rated as the 20th best defensive tackle by 247Sports and was part of a defense that gave up less than five points per game.
Tyler Baron, OLB
The Vols are getting what some call a “Derek Barnett look-a-like” in Tyler Baron. Like Omaris Thomas, he could’ve chosen anyone in the country but chose to stay home. If it’s one thing you can’t have enough of in football, it’s talented pass rushers.
R.J. Perry, DL
Perry is a prospect who signed that has an extremely high ceiling but is more of a project. He is a start on the basketball court, which proves his athletic ability. Coaches wanted him because of his versatility. Some have said he could be his best at offensive tackle.
Morven Joseph, OLB
Speed off the edge is what you need to know here. The four-star prospect chose the Vols over Florida and Florida State late in the process. As a senior ,he racked up 115 tackles, 28 for loss and 13 sacks. He will be hard to keep off the field, especially if he can add a little weight.
Bryson Eason, LB
In a move that’s very rare, Tennessee was able to sign three linebackers all from the same school all, of which, are four-stars, according to Rivals. Eason is the biggest of the three and a load at 270 pounds who rarely loses when tackling a ball carrier. He is a natural leader the Vols could use after losing Daniel Bituli.
Martavius French, LB
French plays a lot like his teammate, Eason, with a ton of power and instinct. Tennessee coaches described him as a “force to be reckoned with” on the next level. French is a very smart player and called plays for his high school team. We can expect him to see some early playing time on special teams.
Tamarion McDonald, LB
McDonald may be the lowest rated of the three Whitehaven linebackers, but he comes in as the most athletic. The talented playmaker has the skill set to play the nickel role or bulk up and be a pass rusher. At the end of the day, all three of these guys are among the top-10 players in the state.
Keshawn Lawrence, DB
“Key” is the best player in the state, according to 247Sports, and one of the most explosive in the country. The Army All-American participated in “The Opening” and posted a 4.5-laser timed 40-yard dash and a 41-inch vertical. His ability to return the football could have him helping the Vols out there as well.
Doneiko Slaughter, DB
Slaughter was a late flip to the Vols from Arizona State, and coaches think they may have a gem. Slaughter is the type of player who has a nose for the football and tackles like he is twice his size. He led his high school team in sacks from his safety position as a junior.
Cade Mays, OL
Mays has seen the light and has transferred back home to play his final two years of eligibility with the Vols. He is one of the most versatile players in the country as he has played every position on the line for Georgia. If he had stayed in Athens, he was almost assured a first round NFL draft grade. If granted immediate eligibility, the Vols could have four five-stars starting this fall.
Velus Jones Jr., WR
Jones comes in as a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility remaining. He flirted with the Vols coming out of high school and decided to transfer as a senior and continue his relationship with Tee Martin. He hasn’t had a ton of production as a receiver, but he was named All-PAC 12 as a return man. With his speed, he will have an opportunity to make a big impact this upcoming season.
Football season cannot get here soon enough, and with this talented group the coaches are bringing in, the Vols should take a positive step this fall. The question is whether or not these signees will be able to enroll on time or will it be delayed and if that will impact their development. One thing is for certain, coaches are swinging for the fences for the 2021 recruiting class and beyond in hopes of landing more elite talent.