[title_box title=”Five biggest impact players in Tennessee’s 2016 signing class”]
As National Signing Day comes to a close, Tennessee fans can finally be excited about a reloaded roster. Even though this class was smaller than the past three, Butch Jones recruited some quality players. There were 21 players signed and the class finished at No. 14 in the 247 Sports final team rankings.
Some of UT’s key signees were Jarrett Guarantano, Jonathan Kongbo, Tyler Byrd, and Nigel Warrior. However, the entire class is full of impact players, some of whom slid under the radar of other big name colleges. Here are the top five players that will make the biggest impact on Rocky Top this upcoming football season.
Nigel Warrior: Tennessee will be one of the deepest teams in the nation next year with depth at almost every position. However, with Brian Randolph and LaDarrell McNeil graduating, the safety position was very thin before signing day. Thus, Jones went out and signed four defensive backs. Warrior was the highest rated of all the signees and was the most important signature of the class. Besides being a great athlete, Warrior is also a Tennessee legacy commitment, the son of former Vol Dale Carter. As a senior, he posted 30 tackles with three interceptions and a fumble recovery and was an Army All-American. He plays excellent coverage and has great speed, which will help him fulfill expectations.
Marquez Callaway: With Marquez North declaring for the NFL Draft and Von Pearson and Jonathan Johnson graduating, receiver was also a need in this recruiting class. Even though he is listed as an athlete, it is believed that Callaway will play offense next fall. As a senior, he had 20 receptions for 319 yards with two touchdowns and was an Army All-American. He runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and has amazing hands. He’ll be a good target as a slot receiver and will provide an improvement to a passing attack that finished ninth in the SEC this past year.
Latrell Williams: A surprising addition to this signing class, Williams was one of two Miami commits, at the time, to flip to Tennessee. Ranked as a 3-star prospect by 247 Sports, he could be the biggest steal of this recruiting class. His senior year, he caught 68 passes for 1,035 yards and nine touchdowns. Additionally, he ran the ball 20 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Williams is also a threat in the return game. Last year alone, he returned 11 kickoffs for 395 yards with two touchdowns. Three of the returns were over 90 yards. He’s been clocked to run a 4.27-second 40-yard dash and could be the fastest player on Tennessee’s talented roster. Keep an eye on him to have a big impact in the passing game and the return game.
Tyler Byrd: The other Miami commit to flip to Tennessee, Byrd is an excellent football player. He was the top-ranked athlete by ESPN, but will most likely play corner during his time in Knoxville. His senior year, he made 41 tackles, one interception and defended five passes as opponents rarely threw to his area. Byrd was an Army All-American. He plays excellent coverage and should compete for playing time with Justin Martin and Emmanuel Moseley.
Jonathan Kongbo: Last but not least, the JUCO player that every Tennessee fan can’t stop talking about. He’s only been playing football for three years but was rated as the No. 1 JUCO player and the No. 1 defensive end in the nation. He has an amazing upside and could be complimentary to Derek Barnett. This past season, Kongbo racked up 55 tackles, with 16 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. If he can learn fast, then the 2016 Tennessee defensive line could be one of the best in program history.
Featured image by Danielle Whaley
Edited by Cody McClure
Sports writer for the Tennessee journalist and sophomore Business Analytics Major at UTK. Somehow finds time to balance writing for TNJN and being in the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. Follow him on Twitter @bwoody_72