Tuesday, September 30, 2014 · 7:52 a.m.
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Butch Jones looks on at the Orange and White Game. (Photo: David Johnston)

Defensive line

Returning: DT: Seniors: Maurice Couch; Daniel McCullers; Daniel Hood…Junior: Greg Clark…Sophomores: Trevarris Saulsberry; Allan Carson…RS Freshman: Danny O’Brien///DE: Seniors: Jacques Smith; Corey Miller; Marlon Walls…Junior: Jordan Williams…RS Freshman: LaTroy Lewis

Incoming: DE: Jason Carr (4-star); Corey Vereen (3-star); Malik Brown (3-star); Jaylen Miller (3-star); Kendal Vickers (3-star)

Current 2014 commitments:

• Joe Henderson (6-4/225/Cleveland, Ohio/3-star): Henderson recently made news by winning the defensive line MVP at the Nike Football Training Camp in Columbus, Ohio over some of the top defensive line prospects in the nation. He chose UT over offers from Arkansas, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ole Miss.

Level of need: Defensive end: Moderate. With five defensive ends coming in via the 2013 class and Henderson already in the fold for 2014, defensive end won’t be a top priority going forward. But with three contributors ­– Smith, Walls and Miller – set to graduate after 2013, adding another player or two is a possibility.

Joe Henderson camp highlights (via ESPN)

Defensive tackle: Very high. Finding help at DT will be crucial going forward. The Vols are scheduled to return just four scholarship defensive tackles in 2014 – Carson, Clark, Saulsberry and O’Brien – none of whom have extensive game experience at this point. The last two signing classes have been thin at DT. None were signed in 2013, while 2012 had four, but only one (O’Brien) will be left by 2014.

This class should consist of at least three or four defensive tackles with a mix of junior college players who can help immediately and prep players who can build depth for the future.

Top Uncommitted Targets:

• DT Poona Ford (6-0/285/Hilton Head S.C./4-star): He’s a little undersized, but that hasn’t stopped him from receiving around 20 offers and becoming one of UT’s top targets. South Carolina and Ohio State are the other top contenders for Ford at this point.

• DT Charles Mosley (6-5/350/Brighton, Tenn./4-star): There are no size issues with Mosley, a West Tennessee product. The good news for Tennessee is that it looks like a two-team race, with UT in the top two. The bad news is that the other team is Alabama, a team known for having its way in recruiting.

DE Dewayne Hendrix (6-5/255/O’Fallon, Ill./4-star): A consensus Top-200 player, Hendrix has a big frame reminiscent of 2013 signee Jason Carr. UT is in good shape at this point, but plenty of major suitors such as Florida, Cal and USC are still pursuing.

• DE Derek Barnett (6-4/265/Brentwood, Tenn./3-star): UT looked to be in decent shape for the in-state defensive end until Ohio State offered recently. Barnett has called Ohio State his childhood favorite team and the Buckeyes could be tough to overcome despite his strong relationship with UT coaches.

Others to keep an eye on:  

• DT Abu Lamin (6-3/300/Fort Scott C.C./3-star): The top-rated JUCO DT has UT in his final eight.

DT Travonte Valentine (6-4/300/Champagnat Catholic, Fla./4-star): Valentine is one of the best in the nation and has offers from nearly every elite program. He has UT in his Top 10 right now.

• DT Cory Johnson (6-3/290/ASA (NY) College/4-star): Miami and Penn State are among the other top suitors for the highly-ranked JUCO prospect.

• DT Michael Sawyers (6-2/300/Nashville, Tenn./3-star): UT is in his Top 10 for now. Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Florida State are some of the top contenders for the Ensworth product.

• DE Lorenzo Featherston (6-7/220/Greensboro, N.C./4-star): One of the top DEs in the nation, Featherston has visited UT and seems to like the Vols, but Clemson is the team to beat.

• DE/DT Davonte Lambert (6-3/275/Georgia Military College/3-star): Lambert attends the same junior college as did current Vol DT Daniel McCullers. UT is in the mix here, but Georgia is the leader.

• DE Cory Thomas (6-6/270/McCalla, Ala./3-star): Another oversized defensive end who could be used in multiple ways on the defensive line. He just visited UT and currently has Mississippi State in front.

• DE Carnell Simon (6-4/260/Hutchinson C.C./NR): UT is the first and only to offer Simon at this point. Hutchinson is the same junior college that former UT receiver Cordarrelle Patterson attended.

• DE/DT Jeremiah Clarke (6-6/275/Alexandria, Va./3-star): The Virginia native visited UT this week. The home-state Cavs are in front right now.

• DE Dante Sawyer (6-3/240/Suwanee, Ga./4-star): The Atlanta-area native has Georgia and Alabama on top with Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee trailing.

*All rankings are from the 247Sports Composite.

Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga

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