Tennessee fans didn’t have a lot to be excited about last December.
The Vols had just finished 3-7 with a head coach that had signed a contract extension a few months prior. He would soon be fired for cause after investigations into misconduct were opened at the administrative level.
Simply put, Tennessee was not an attractive destination. Several key players transferred, and newly-named head coach Josh Heupel from UCF was brought in with one goal – save the ship from completely sinking.
Now, Tennessee sits at 7-5 on the year with a bowl game against Purdue on the horizon. Dec. 15 – National Signing Day – saw the Vols retain a top-15 class with 20 high school athletes signing their letter of intent to build the Volunteers’ future.
“Great day for Tennessee football and the future of Tennessee football,” Heupel said. “Want to thank the families and the high school coaches that we’ve gotten the opportunity to know in the last 10 and a half months. Appreciate your support and trusting us with your young men.”
“We don’t take that lightly, and so excited about being able to add the 20 young men to Tennessee football today.”
The class is comprised of 11 offensive players and nine defensive players through the early signing period Wednesday.
QB - Tayven Jackson
Perhaps the most illustrious signee of the 2022 class so far is four-star quarterback Tayven Jackson. The Indiana native committed to Tennessee on April 28, 2020 and was an accomplished winner at the high school level.
“(Jackson is a) two-time state champion,” Heupel said. “Comes from an elite program. Understands the work habits you have to have on a daily basis to go achieve something individually and collectively as a team.”
Jackson’s brother Trayce Jackson-Davis is one of the top college basketball players in the nation at Indiana University.
RB - Justin Williams
An unknown heading into the early signing period was whether or not Tennessee would be able to sway 247Sports composite four-star running back Justin Williams from Auburn.
The Vols did just that, adding one of two four-star backs from the state of Georgia alongside Dylan Sampson.
Williams is fresh off an official visit to Tennessee on Dec. 10.
WR – Marquarius ‘Squirrel’ White
Tennessee held on to earn White’s signature in the stretch, fighting off official visits to Georgia and recently Auburn to score the speedy wide receiver from Alabama.
White is regarded as the No. 72 receiver in the nation and the No. 21 overall player from the state of Alabama.
OL - Addison Nichols
Multiple outlets rank Addison Nichols as Tennessee’s highest rated prospect in the class of 2022 thus far. Nichols committed to Tennessee in August of 2021, picking the Vols over the likes of USC, Ohio State and Florida.
Nichols will go a long way replacing key pieces on the offensive line were they to forgo their final season at UT, such as Cade Mays, Jerome Carvin and Ollie Lane.
WR - Kaleb Webb
Webb verbally committed to Tennessee just days after an official visit to Knoxville, flipping his intentions from East Carolina. Webb is ranked as a top-50 wide receiver in the class, spearheading the group including talented additions such as White, Chas Nimrod and Cameron Miller.
“They’re an up-and-coming program with Heupel,” Webb said after an official visit to Tennessee on Dec. 3. “I feel like I can thrive at Tennessee and put up great numbers.”
WR - Cameron Miller
Instate wide receiver Cameron Miller has been verbally committed to Tennessee for quite some time. Miller, a three-star prospect from Memphis, is ranked as the No. 15 player in the state of Tennessee, per 247Sports composite rankings.
WR - Chas Nimrod
Tennessee received a verbal commitment from Nimrod on Aug. 5, 2021. The three-star receiver out of Bentonville, Arkansas, ran track and field in high school and represents the greatest vertical threat at receiver among the four additions Tennessee added to the 2022 class Wednesday.
RB - Dylan Sampson
Three-star running back Dylan Sampson has been one Vols fans have circled for quite some time. The lightning quick, all-purpose Sampson recently broke former NFL running back Eddie Lacy’s all time rushing record at Dutchtown high school in Geismar, Louisiana.
Sampson chose the Vols over the likes of Louisville and Vanderbilt and rushed for 22 touchdowns as a senior.
OL - Mo Clipper
Tennessee’s second signee of the day was three-star interior offensive lineman Maurice Clipper. The Georgia lineman chose Tennessee over Virginia Tech and Louisville and committed to Tennessee in June of 2021.
OL - Brian Grant
It’s often said football is won in the trenches, and future offensive lineman Brian Grant would agree. Though it is unlikely any freshman offensive lineman will see playing time next season apart from Nichols, depth at the position is always a vital piece to any offense that moves as quickly as Tennessee.
OL - Massai Reddick
Reddick is one of four offensive lineman signed to the 2022 class by Heupel and company and the third to sign Wednesday.
Like other linemen on this list, Reddick is a work in progress that could likely redshirt were he given the opportunity.
DB - Dee Williams
Williams is rated as the No. 3 cornerback at the JUCO level, as well as the eighth best overall JUCO prospect.
Williams collected 7 interceptions at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi, and committed to Tennessee on Dec. 6. The jump from JUCO to Division I is always tough, but depth at a position where there will be a lot of future turnover is important.
DE - James Pearce
The last signee of Wednesday afternoon was a big one. The Vols won Pearce over Florida and Georgia.
Pearce is listed as the No. 22 EDGE defender in the nation, as well as the No. 9 prospect from the state of North Carolina.
DL - Tyre West
The surprise of the day came in the form of ESPN top-300 prospect Tyre West. The former Georgia commit chose the Vols over the Bulldogs and Florida State.
West represents Tennessee’s top signee of the day, ranked as the No. 111 player in the nation and the No. 12 player from the state of Georgia.
West has a chance to make an immediate impact in the coming seasons on the defensive line.
“There was a great trust in who we are and what we are about,” Heupel said on the recruitment of West. “Tyre and who was around him trusted who we were. He believed in Tennessee.”
OLB - Elijah Herring
Heupel had a lot to say about the signing of outside linebacker Elijah Herring in his National Signing Day press conference.
“Elijah was important to me and our staff for a lot of reasons,” Heupel said. “Really believe in who he is and believe he has an extremely bright future for Tennessee football.”
Herring was one of Tennessee’s earliest commits dating back to April of 2021 and is ranked as the No. 26 player in the state of Tennessee.
LB - Kalib Perry
Three-star prospect Kalib Perry is listed as a linebacker from Georgetown, Kentucky. His versatility on either side of the ball could make him a heavy contributor at any position of need for Tennessee in the coming seasons.
Perry played quarterback and running back for his high school.
DE - Joshua Josephs
Josephs is another blue-chip recruit from the state of Georgia that committed to Tennessee Wednesday joining Webb, West, Nichols, Clipper and Herring all per 247Sports, Rivals or ESPN rankings.
Josephs chose Tennessee over Michigan, Penn State and Auburn among others and is ranked as the 312th player in the nation per 247.
DB - Christian Harrison
The son of former NFL great Rodney Harrison verbally committed to Tennessee in November and fills a position of need in a spot losing Alontae Taylor and Theo Jackson.
Harrison would not usually be a candidate to see playing time any day soon, but his athleticism and bloodline could make for an interesting camp come next spring.
DB - Jourdan Thomas
Tennessee hosted five of its last 20 signees within two weeks of National Signing Day for official visits, including Thomas. The former Mississippi State commit verbally committed to Tennessee on Dec. 4 after an official visit on Dec. 3.
DL - Jordan Phillips
Tennessee’s first signee early Wednesday morning was Orlando defensive lineman Jordan Phillips, a three-star prospect with explosive power that can make an immediate impact with proper conditioning.
Phillips was a three-sport athlete at Ocoee high school in Florida, playing football and succeeding in weightlifting and wrestling.